Father O’Shea’s Diocesan Reflections #36

January 16, 2019

Spotlight  Parish: St. Peter’s Bay

St. Peter’s Church

            The first settlers in these parts were Scottish Catholic Highlanders who arrived along the North Shore there in 1792.   In 1830 the first church was erected, 30 x 50 feet, and in 1868 a long-lasting rectory was added.   In 1881 on the same site a magnificent church in brick was opened, although not completely finished.   It measured 47 x 104 feet with an attached sacristy/side chapel 23 x 34.   The architect for this was a Mr. Raymond from Quebec.  This church at that time was likely the most splendid in the diocese, visible for miles around, overlooking the peaceful waters of the Bay.   Alas, a major lightning strike in October of 1926 reduced this impressive structure to ashes, except for the attached side chapel which was saved.    Work began immediately on a new church which was opened in 1928, quite similar in size and appearance to its predecessor.   However, due to weak construction (poor brick) that church in the 1950s required major surgery.   For this, the weak brick walls were removed and replaced with wood, a remarkable procedure for its day, engineered for the most part by local brawn and brains.

Bishop Peter MacIntyre

            The most prominent native of St. Peter’s Bay was Peter MacIntyre from nearby Cable Head who in 1843 became its first native son ordained to the priesthood.  He was immediately sent to Tignish and missions where he served until 1860 when he was named the third bishop of Charlottetown.  Consecrated in St. Dunstan Cathedral, he was the longest-serving bishop of our diocese.  For most of his episcopal years he was practically the acting pastor at St. Peter’s, his native parish, looking after it with an eagle eye no matter who the serving priest was.  He it was, of course, who had arranged the building of the rectory and that beautiful 1881 church mentioned above.  On a visit to Antigonish, Bishop MacIntyre died unexpectedly in the home of Bishop Cameron there on April 30, 1891 at the age of 73.  Following an impressive funeral Mass at our cathedral, his remains were brought by special train to St. Peter’s Bay for burial in the church basement crypt where they remain today.

Dr. Roddie MacDonald

            No doubt the most prominent lay person of St. Peter’s Bay Parish was Dr. Roddie MacDonald, born at nearby St. Andrews in 1858, who began the practice of medicine at the Bay in 1888.     Bishop Boyle in 1952 announced that Dr. Roddie was to receive the Church’s highest honour for laity, “Knight Commander of the Order of St. Gregory the Great.”   At that time Dr. Roddie was 94 years old, hale and hearty,  having served the medical needs of St. Peter’s and surrounding country for 64 years.   He was still on active duty, driving his car and ready for sick calls day or night.   On November 9, 1952 the venerable doctor was invested with his new papal honor in the parish church filled with well-wishers.   In May of 1958 Sir Roddie celebrated his 100th birthday.  Bishop MacEachern celebrated Mass in the parish church which was filled to capacity.  On that afternoon this St. Peter’s medical wonder was in excellent health and still driving his car.  Sir Roddie died at his home on June 4, 1961 in his 104th year.  What a story!

            Besides these two above-mentioned very visible individuals, the Bay parish was dotted with men and women of deep faith who over long years have kept the parish alive without any particular honors through happy marriages, large families and hard work in the interests of Christ’s Gospel.   Seven priests, including Bishop MacIntyre, have come from the Bay parish, as well as 16 religious sisters. In terms of population, the St. Peter’s Bay wider area is believed to have had the highest enlistment rate (300) and sadly the highest death rate (40) of any place in Canada during World Wars I and II.   With recent diocesan updates, St. Peter’s Bay Parish is clustered as a unit along with Morell and Green Meadows with the pastor living in Morell.  The old Bay rectory was recently sold and moved. (A parish story from St. Peter’s which is kept alive today states that when the beautiful parish church was burning from that lightning strike in 1926 the cross, atop the very high tower,  came crashing down and deeply embedded itself underground and has never been found!!)

Chancery Office/Bishop’s Residence

The Palace

            From the year 1875 our new bishop’s residence on Great George Street also served as the chancery office, as well as accommodation for parish and visiting clergy.   Often referred to as “the Palace,” it was sold a few years ago and is now known as “SDU Place.”   In the early 1960s discussions centered on building a new bishop’s residence/chancery.  The diocese then owned the former orphanage farm that ran from University Avenue to the North River.   A block of about five acres of this land fronting on the North River Road was chosen and in 1963 construction began on the new complex there.   Bishop MacEachern said that the priests were pushing this project forward but before shovels went into the ground it was determined that the building’s cost would not exceed $100,000 and an assessment of two dollars per family was set in place to pay for it over time.   But “the best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft agley” (Bobby Burns).   The building all completed cost $255,000.  Ouch.  Maybe the plans got shifted along the way or perhaps a higher cost overrun set in.  It was an embarrassment at the time, the bishop and priests not wanting to talk about that high cost outside of quiet circles.  The contractor for the new residence was Hazelton Phelan from Morell and the architect was Peter McNeil from Charlottetown.   There was a three-car garage at the end, over which was the bishop’s dwelling.  A lovely chapel and about five extra bedrooms were included, as well as a chancellor’s space and more.  (The garage was eventually converted to the marriage tribunal offices.)   A large parlour and equally spacious dining room beautified the first floor while a deep full basement was there for the taking.  Two walk-in vaults added their quiet dignity overall. 

Dun Glaston Today

            Bishop MacEachern christened the new structure Dun Glaston, “dun” in Gaelic meaning a small hill and “Glaston” referring to Glastonbury, the British birthplace of St. Dunstan.    At the time some of the priests over tea nicknamed the new residence as “Mal’s Motel.”   Bishop Spence lived all his twelve ears there and on the occasion of his installation in 1970, over supper, he remarked that two visiting bishops from Ontario had arrived that afternoon and on seeing the grandeur of his residence Bishop Reding said that his heart fell while Archbishop Wilhelm stated that the place reminded him of the old Benediction hymn “O What Could My Jesus Do More.”   Gradually, due to many meetings being held at Dun Glaston, especially in evenings, it was decided that the bishop should have a more private residence.  So in the fall of 1984 Bishop MacDonald moved to new quarters at York Point.    Dun Glaston then became the diocesan office complex under the new name of Diocesan Pastoral Centre.   More recently it has been called the Catholic Centre.  A month or so ago Bishop Grecco moved to downtown SDU Place where our bishops had resided for 89 years.  What goes around comes around.  Newer priests among us now should feel free to explore the Catholic Centre from top to bottom, truly a grand structure.

The oldest active priests’ residence in our diocese?

Priest’s House Rustico

            This question was asked recently by a priest.  That honor goes to South Rustico where the present rectory was built in 1844, no doubt with a few changes over time.  The second oldest would be Tignish which was built in 1872.  (The Grand River house also dates back to 1844 but priests have not lived there for some time.)  Parish houses that have been sold include Baie Egmont, Brae, cathedral, Emyvale, East Point, Foxley River, Georgetown, Green Meadows, Iona, Rollo Bay, St. Andrew’s, St. Charles, St. George’s, St. Margaret’s, St. Peter’s Bay, Seven Mile Bay, Sturgeon, Summerfield and Summerside.  Parish houses demolished were Cardigan and North Rustico.

The pastor was stressing the importance of good singing and stronger spoken responses at Mass.  The results were very positive.  This Sunday just before Mass he was tapping the microphones for their sound quality but found the one at the pulpit dead.  At that point he remarked loudly:” There’s something wrong with this mic” to which the assembly responded just as loudly “and also with you.”

Nicknames for some of our diocesan priests

Aylward – Big Frank

Cass – Laddie

Corcoran – Bish

Dan Croken – Dapper Dan

Ellsworth – the Doc

Ray Gallant – Ezra

P. Hughes – Holy Peter

Kiggins – Holy Ownie

Landrigan – Larry

Allan MacDonald – Peewee

Charlie MacDonald – Shanks 

Francis MacDonald – PF    

John A. MacDonald – John Archie

John A. MacDonald – Black Jack

Alex MacDougall – Father Mac

Wendell MacIntyre – Pono

MacKenzie – the Bear

Gregory MacLellan – Vicar

Tom MacLellan – Tammy

Peter McGuigan – PD

Walter McGuigan – Bulliger

William Monaghan – Wee Willie

P. Murnaghan – Pie

E. O’Hanley – Angelic Doctor

Pineau – Sam

Ed Roche – the can

M. Rooney – Mickey

Simpson – Suitcase Bill

M.J. Smith – Matt

Sullivan – Red Jack

van de Ven – Willy

Wood – Par

+ MacEachern – Long Mal

                           – the High Priest

+ J. MacDonald – Plus James

                            – Jimmy Hector

Clergy quiz: no winners last month either.  One gave the name of Emmett O’Hanley but his doctoral studies took place in Rome.  We’ll save all unanswered quizzes for future trials. 

You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” — (Ps 110,4)

January 16, 2019