Project Canterbury

Handbooks of English Church Expansion

Western Canada

By L. Norman Tucker

Toronto: The Musson Book Company, 1907.

Chapter VII. Missionaries

THE following brief sketches are only meant to illustrate some of the types of character that have been produced in the Canadian mission-field. The list could be indefinitely extended; for there is no field that has been more fruitful in the production of versatile, self-denying, and heroic men.

"Father Pat"

"He gave himself."--Titus ii. 14.

One of the most striking and romantic figures ever seen on the Pacific coast, or even in the Dominion of Canada, was the Rev. Henry Irwin, familiarly and lovingly known in all the West as "Father Pat." He was everywhere known as the miner's friend. Utterly regardless of self, he certainly shortened his days, if he did not actually lose his life, through reckless unselfishness. He thought nothing of tramping forty miles to hold [129/130] a service, perform a marriage, or nurse a sick man. If self-denial for the welfare of others be one of the brands of the LORD JESUS, then Father Pat deserves a high place among missionary heroes.

The most unconventional of men was Father Pat, in his attire and deportment. His conduct often shocked the sense of propriety of those good people who think that the conventions of civilized life are like a second edition of the Ten Commandments. But in the eyes of the miner and the railway man he was a sacred personage, and woe betide the man who uttered a word against him. He laboured for years at Kamloops during the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway, and soon became the idol of all the railwaymen on the line. If, as often happened, a snow-slide engulfed a party of workmen, Father Pat was sure to be at the head of the rescue party and to wield a shovel with the sturdiest, and he never rested till the poor buried railwaymen were disinterred from their icy tomb.

When gold was discovered in Rossland in 1895, and thousands of people rushed to that Eldorado, the Church appealed for a missionary when it had no stipend to offer him. That was just the call which Father Pat could not resist. He had [130/131] returned to Ireland on account of his father's death; but the very next steamer brought him on his way to Rossland, where he did a work that will live as long as men preserve the memory of noble deeds. His boundless energy overflowed into all the surrounding country, and round all the camp fires no name was more frequently spoken with respect and affection than that of Father Pat.

To Father Pat was granted a brief taste of domestic bliss, but the cup was broken or ever it reached his lips. After less than a year of wedded happiness, his wife and infant child were taken from him. He erected a modest stone cross, to mark the spot where his loved ones lay, in the hope of a glorious reunion. Those who knew him best say he never recovered fully from that blow. But he found a solace for his sorrow in greater devotion to the need of others, and he literally poured out the affection of his bereaved but warm and loving heart upon the lonely, the sorrowful, and the sick.

After several years of unremitting toil he asked for a well-earned holiday to return to his native land. He had no sooner taken his departure than the whole community was startled by the [131/132] intelligence that Father Pat was dead. He must have left the train near Montreal on a bitterly-cold day, and was found by a French farmer, sitting on a snow-bank, almost frozen to death. The ways of GOD are sometimes mysterious. That he, who for years had lived as a pioneer in the frosts and the snows of the Rocky Mountains, should perish of cold within sight of the city of Montreal, is a dispensation that must be left hidden in the deep counsels of God. And so this friend of the stranger, by a mysterious fate, was taken, as an unknown stranger, to the Hotel Dieu, Montreal, where he succumbed to his injuries. It was only with the greatest difficulty that he could be identified.

No sooner did the news of his sad fate become known in British Columbia than the wish spontaneously arose in the whole community that his remains should be enshrined in the province to which he had consecrated the best years of his life. The casket in which his mortal remains were encased lay in the cathedral in New Westminster, where he had officiated as chaplain to Bishop Sillitoe. Crowds of people came to pay the last sad office of respect to all that was mortal of Father Pat. On a lovely afternoon, [132/133] amid a large concourse of sorrowing friends, he was laid to rest by the side of the wife and child he had loved so fondly. And though his bodily presence is removed, it will be many a long day before his name is forgotten, and his unselfish devotion cease to live as an influence for good, in the grateful memory of many a miner and railwayman in British Columbia.

Bishop Sillitoe

"Full of grace and truth."--S. John i. 14.

Many are the gifts which the eternal Spirit bestows upon His servants when He wishes to use them in difficult and important service for the Church. In few men could as many of those gifts be found, combined in harmonious union, as in Arthur Windeyer Sillitoe, the first Bishop of New Westminster.

Like many others who could be mentioned, he possessed in a high degree the sterling qualities that are the foundation of all true character. He could efface himself or merge himself in the great cause of which he was so distinguished an exponent. He could accomplish toilsome journeys, undergo trials and dangers, bear [133/134] hardships and discomforts, as though they were the joyous things of life; and he never flinched before any ordeal when duty called. He had wisdom to lay solid foundations for the Church in one of the most difficult of modern mission-fields. He had a faith to remove mountains, which enabled him to bear for years the burden of a heart-breaking episcopate. His fine spiritual nature was endowed with deep insight into the things of GOD, and a power to draw from the treasures of the Divine Word things new and old. An accomplished musician, he made the services of his cathedral a real model for the churches in his diocese. In all these things he was supremely gifted for the work of a Missionary Bishop. But most of these he possessed in common with many other men who have been called to fill a like position.

Where Bishop Sillitoe stood unrivalled was in a certain charm of manner--the outcome of a loving, winning personality--that might fairly be called irresistible. His house in New Westminster was facetiously called "Hotel Sillitoe," because of its unbounded exercise of the episcopal gift of hospitality. Here his charm as a host was equally inimitable, whether he entertained the Princess Louise, an Indian chief, or a rustic from [134/135] the backwoods. The most charming host, he was an equally delightful guest. "No one was so popular up the Cariboo road or among the Cariboo people," summed up the estimation in which he was held throughout his diocese. And he won all hearts wherever he went. This proved an invaluable gift in a new country to win men to the Church; but it was equally effective in higher and wider spheres. When the General Synod met in Toronto in 1893, and its conflicting elements produced a dead-lock, it was Bishop Sillitoe who steered the Church safely over the rocks. It was his strength of conviction, his soundness of judgment, his force of character, translated into an irresistible persuasiveness of manner and of speech, that disarmed all opposition, and rendered this signal service to the Church.

To be the spiritual guide of many anxious souls, to live in the memory of many grateful hearts, to found a new diocese, and to pilot a growing Church through a crisis in its history, that was service enough for one man to render. And this was the service rendered by Bishop Sillitoe to the Church in Canada, and to the whole Anglican communion.

[136] Born in Sydney, New South Wales, in 1840, he came to England with his parents in 1854, and proceeded first to King's College School, London, then to Pembroke College, Cambridge, where he took his degree of B.A. in 1862, and of M.A. in 1866. Ordained deacon in 1869, and priest in 1870, he served several curacies in England till 1876, when he became British chaplain at Geneva, from which he removed in 1877 to the chaplaincy of the British Legation at Darmstadt. Consecrated in 1879, he began the active duties of his episcopate in 1880, in connection with which he opened up several missions, which have become strong centres of the Church's life and work in New Westminster. The story of his visits to Cariboo, Nicola, Okanagan and Kootenay, read like ancient history, so great are the changes that recent years have wrought in the country. At imminent risk of life and limb, he travelled on the Cariboo road, along which now run the palatial Canadian Pacific Railway trains. In 1881 he dedicated the first church in what might be called the logging camp of Granville, where now the city of Vancouver counts 70,000 inhabitants, and seven churches, nearly all self-supporting. Wearied with toil and undermined by illness, [136/137] he sank to rest in 1894, and was buried in the cemetery of S. Mary's, Sapperton, which has a commanding view of the Fraser River, the Gulf of Georgia, and the glorious mountains of British Columbia.

Bishop Bompas

"In journeyings often."--2 Cor. xi. 26.

For self-abnegation, total and complete, and for lifelong, unchanging devotion to duty, no one, since the days of S. Paul, has realized the Christian ideal in a higher degree than did Bishop Bompas. From the moment when, as a young Lincolnshire curate, he offered himself for work in the far North, to the day when his remains were laid to rest on the banks of the Yukon, he never once faltered in his course or looked back. Once only in an episcopate of thirty years did he come out to civilization, and that at the call of paramount duty. Once only besides, in a missionary career of forty years, did he leave the dreary home of his adoption, and that was to receive his marching orders with his consecration as Bishop of Athabasca. And twice when he had the opportunity of choosing the easier lot he chose the harder [137/138] and more lonely one: when Mackenzie River was carved out of Athabasca in 1884, and Selkirk out of Mackenzie River in 1891.

His was a peripatetic episcopate. He sojourned in many places, but never resided in any one--Vermilion, Chipewyan, Simpson, Norman, Wrigley, Peel River, Rampart House, Selkirk, Carcross--moving continually from place to place. His love for the Indians was all-absorbing. To serve them and to save them, he not only lived with them, but he lived like them; and at the last he so felt the burden of the Indian work pressing on his soul, that he was wont to consider himself the Bishop and missionary of the Indians, almost to the exclusion of his own kith and kin. Never was a mission more fully and more heartily embraced, and never was a work more conscientiously and more perseveringly done.

A life of loneliness and of entire self-sacrifice, it was crowned and glorified as a life of toil. His constant and toilsome travels are probably unique in the history of Missions. His trip out was one of one hundred and seventy-seven days from Liverpool to New York, through Rochester, Niagara, Detroit, Chicago, and S. Paul; thence to Red River, Portage La Loche, Chipewyan, [138/139] Resolution, and Fort Simpson; much of the way in a canoe against drifting ice, amid cold and hunger, fatigue and hardship. His second great journey was down the Mackenzie, up the Peel, over the Rockies to Fort Yukon, back again to Peel River, then ten weeks spent in ascending the Mackenzie River to Lake Athabasca, and six weeks more to reach Vermilion. Here were more than five thousand miles travelled in a canoe. His trip to England for consecration was only a pendant to a wonderful expedition extending over two years. Crossing overland from the Peace River to Flay River, he descended the Mackenzie to its mouth, and went through Fort McPherson, and over the Rockies as far west as Fort Yukon; returned to Fort McPherson, after having walked more than a thousand miles with the Indians; went back in the early summer to the Yukon, which he ascended three hundred miles; came back to Fort McPherson over the summit of the Rockies, and went up the Mackenzie River to Fort Simpson before the winter; then started immediately for England. This meant two years of almost constant travel on snow-shoes, in canoes, or with sleigh and dogs. The return journey from England was equally wonderful. He was consecrated, [139/140] married, and he sailed, all in one week; reached New York, Chicago, Niagara, S. Paul, and Red River; thence two months in an open boat to Fort Simpson, to find starvation staring the Mission in the face. And a climax in these wonderful journeys was reached in what has been called his race with winter. Unexpectedly called in the interest of the peace of the Church to visit the Pacific coast, late in the autumn, he set out to attempt the impossible, and to accomplish what had never been done before, and what has not been done since. Leaving Dunvegan on the Peace River on October 8th, he battled for eight days against moving ice, and reached Rocky Mountain House, October 17th; poled for eleven days against the stream of the Parsnip River; made a portage of eighty miles to Stuart Lake; reached Fort Babine, November 14th; once again overland amid a terrific snowstorm to the forks of the Skeena River; reached Fort Essington on November 23rd, and Metlakatla on November 24th.

The above astonishing record is symptomatic of his whole life. He was ever on the move. His sphere of labour was one of the largest ever committed to man, in which every journey meant [140/141] hundreds if not thousands of miles. His only means of conveyance were dog-sleds, canoes, or snow-shoes. Rivers had to be ascended, mountains climbed, rapids and portages overcome. There were no roads, no inns, no settlements. It is safe to say that never in the history of the world were such journeys accomplished by the efforts and endurance of one man. Indeed what served to immortalize such men as Mackenzie and Franklin, were to him the incidents of a season. It is little short of wonderful that amid such travels he should have found time for study. In those desolate regions of the far North he kept in touch with the ever-changing currents of religious thought, made a special study of the Syriac language, and was induced to publish learned articles and books, in which he sought to prove that the habits and modes of thought of the Indians, and the physical conditions that prevailed in the Arctic circle, shed peculiar light on some of the obscure passages of the Bible.

Having run well and finished his course after forty years of unparalleled isolation, privation, and hardship, during which he sought to place an impassable distance between himself and [141/142] civilization--where for months he did not see the face of a white man, and only once a year received news from the outside world--by a singular irony of fate, he found this remotest and most isolated of all the regions of the globe, through the unexpected discovery of gold, was brought well within the range of the world's activities. He saw steam-engines plying at Dawson; he went up and down the Yukon in a steamboat, and he spent his last days in sight of a railway station. One of his daily experiences at the close of his life was to go and meet the incoming train and receive his daily mails. He sleeps on the banks of the Yukon; and his modest grave will tell to all future generations, "Here lies a man who for the sake of CHRIST, and of the poor Indian of the far North, left everything behind him, that he might live and preach the Gospel of redeeming love."

Bishop Sullivan

"A prince . . . with God and with men."--Gen. xxxii. 28.

Edward Sullivan rendered invaluable service to the Canadian Church. A commanding presence, a deep, strong, melodious voice, an unrivalled [142/143] power of word-painting, a logical mind that pursued its subject to its farthest ramifications, this was the equipment that made him a finished orator. Thoughtful men found in him an illuminating teacher. Men buffeted by the doubts and temptations of life found in him a sympathetic adviser and friend. Little children loved him because they saw their own innocence, faith, and enthusiasm reflected in his generous nature. University students gave him their confidence, because he led them onward and upward through the dark and perplexing problems of life and destiny. He was a man who seemed to be specially sent by God to satisfy the needs of anxious souls in an age of doubt and questioning, and in the great intellectual centres of the world.

It was not surprising that his career should have been one of steady, uninterrupted advance from the lowest to the highest positions. Born in Ireland in 1832, he graduated at Trinity College, Dublin, in 1857. He came to Canada in 1858, when he was ordained to the diaconate, and he was raised to the priesthood in 1859. In 1862 he was called by S. George's Church, Montreal, to assist its rector, Mr. (afterwards Archbishop) Bond. In 1868 he accepted the rectorship of Trinity [143/144] Church, Chicago; but his love of Canada and his loyalty to Britain never allowed him to feel quite at home in the American Republic; and he was glad of the opportunity of returning to Montreal, when, on the consecration of Bishop Bond, he accepted the rectorship of S. George's Church. Here his ministry was greatly blessed; but at the height of his popularity and success the voice of the Church called him to one of the most anxious and arduous tasks that ever confronted a pioneer Bishop. This call meant the sacrifice of his happy home-life, and parting from a congregation that was devoted to him, and from a community by means of which his power was felt through the length and breadth of the land. But the Church had called. Without a moment's hesitation he made the sacrifice and assumed the burden; and Dr. Sullivan became the second Bishop of Algoma.

It was here that his most trying, and, at the same time, his best work was done. To many it seemed a waste of precious ointment to take this pre-eminently gifted man from the students of McGill University, and the hard-headed business men of Montreal, and send him to minister to the scattered settlers, or, to preach [144/145] through an interpreter, to the roving Indians, on the northern shores of Lake Huron and Lake Superior. But a spirit of divine wisdom often presides over the councils of the Church, and overrules the folly and shortsightedness of men for the glory of God and the spread of His kingdom. It required the cares and trials of his new and difficult position to bring out his character and gifts at their best, and, as Bishop of Algoma, Dr. Sullivan shone as a star of the first magnitude. From his lips Algoma became a household word throughout Eastern Canada. He had the gift of investing his episcopal visitations with so much eloquence and poetry, that people forgot the agonies of the Bishop in the triumphs of the artist; and a visit from the Missionary Bishop of Algoma, notwithstanding its inevitable appeals, was looked forward to by many congregations as one of the events of the season. Even the motherland, so rich in eloquent voices, and so inured to moving appeals from the four quarters of the globe, acknowledged that his words rang out with a force and pathos that could not be surpassed. Then he returned, laden with spoils, to provide ministrations for the newer portions of his diocese. The work advanced by [145/146] leaps and bounds. His clergy were doubled in the course of his short episcopate. Churches and parsonages sprang up on every side. And, under the most unpromising circumstances, the Missionary Diocese of Algoma was launched on a career of progress that bids fair to make it one of the most interesting, and, it may be, in due time, one of the most important of our Canadian dioceses.

There remained but one distinction that could be added to such a life, such an episcopate, and that was the halo that surrounds the death-bed of a saint. The care of all the churches in Algoma had proved too much even for his iron frame. Enfeebled health drove him to seek much-needed rest, and he spent the winter of 1895 as chaplain at Christ Church, Mentone, in the South of France. A return to Algoma seemed to be like a return to certain death, but he bravely faced the emergency. A solution of the difficulty came from an unexpected quarter. The Rector of S. James's Cathedral, Toronto, was elected to the See of Niagara, and he was called to fill the vacancy. Once again were overflowing congregations, and the warm affections of a devoted people. Once again the power of his eloquence [146/147] extended beyond S. James's congregation and the city of Toronto. But on December 29, 1897, he was called to suffer the loss of a lovely and accomplished daughter. It may, perhaps, be said that his affectionate nature never fully recovered from that blow. On December 15, 1899, he paid his last pastoral visit to a very poor woman. On December 17th he finished preparing his last sermon, which he was unable to preach. It was during these last days that his simple trust in God and his ardent love of Jesus Christ shone forth in all their beauty. He seemed to live in that other world to which he was hastening. He died on January 6, 1900.

On June 29, 1882, the day of his consecration, the congregation of S. George's, Montreal, presented him with two sets of robes, one of satin lawn, the other of rougher material, more suited to the work of his missionary diocese. These latter were called the "Algoma robes." Many hundreds of times, during the fourteen years of his episcopate, had the settler's cabin, the fisherman's shanty, the lumber camp, the miner's hut, the Indian wigwam, the bush, the forest, the lake shore been his robing-room. Once again the "Algoma robes" were put on, but by other hands than his. [147/148] On January 9, 1900, his remains lay in quiet state in the cathedral, while a continuous stream of people, young and old, rich and poor, passed, and paused to take a last lingering look at the features of one so long and well known in pulpit, on platform, on the streets of the city, in the homes of the poor, wherever GOD'S work needed help and advocacy. Here an aged workman, or an infirm old woman, there a hardy son of toil, beside the citizen of wealth, yonder a child of the Sunday School; all were found in that great stream of humanity, which sadly and solemnly defiled through the sacred building. The procession formed and reached S. James's Cemetery. The final words were spoken, and all that was mortal of the noble and good man, beloved of so many, was laid to rest "in sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life."

Archbishop Machray.

"A wise master builder."--1 Cor. in. 10.

The life of Archbishop Machray would alone fill a volume. Space forbids us to do more than indicate the main lines of his life, his character, and his work.

[149] Born in Aberdeen in 1832, he graduated with the highest honours, in 1855, from Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, of which he was soon after elected Fellow. Ordained deacon in 1855, priest in 1856, he became Dean of the College in 1860, and Ramsden University preacher in 1865. Appointed Rector of Madingley in 1862, and consecrated Bishop of Rupert's Land in 1865, he successively became Metropolitan of the ecclesiastical Province of Rupert's Land in 1874, Chancellor of the University of Manitoba in 1877, and in 1893 he was elected Primate of all Canada, and appointed Prelate of the Most Distinguished Order of S. Michael and S. George.

What wonder that such a man with such a record should have become distinguished in many lines of work, as an educationalist, as a statesman, as an ecclesiastic, as a missionary. Though he began his life-work in an obscure corner of the world, his lot was cast in a most eventful period, and he soon became recognized as one of the great men of Canada and of the Empire. He stood erect like a granite pillar carved with deep lines of courage, perseverance, judgment, energy, self-denial, and unflinching devotion to duty.

[150] His personal history reads like a list of honours, rising gradually from college prizes to Imperial distinctions; and his work was as complete and well-rounded as his life. He saw at a glance that if the Church was to succeed it must become self-supporting; and even in the almost complete dearth of population and material wealth he set on foot a scheme of systematic giving. He saw, as a necessary consequence of self-support, that the Church must be self-governing; and he accepted a Synod as a settled question, and exerted all his energies to make it efficient. He saw that the strength of self-government lay in the intelligence of the people; and he set to work to establish a system of common schools. Anticipating the evils inherent in a purely secular education, he made provision for religious instruction in the common schools, and in Sunday Schools. Knowing that the pivot of the whole educational system lay in the teachers, he established centres where an efficient teaching staff could be trained. Applying the same principles to the Church, he founded a Divinity School which, to the end of his episcopate, he cherished as the keystone of his policy. Coming from one of the greatest seats of learning in Europe, he did [150/151] not fail to realize that theological training needs the broadening influence of classics and mathematics, science and art; and he sowed the seeds, whose ripened harvest was seen a few years later in the University of Manitoba. Never once losing touch with fact and life and nature, his vigilant eye saw that behind every system and organization there must be a living man to give it vigour and efficiency; and he instituted a staff of dean and canons to conduct services in the cathedral, to act as professors of theology in the college, and to hold missionary services in the outlying portions of the diocese. Here was a system, complete in all its parts, and bound together in logical connection, that could only have been devised by the brain and carried out by the energy of a truly great man.

And he had the singular good fortune to sec the fruition of his plans and of his toils. He saw Fort Garry, with a population of three hundred souls, expand into the city of Winnipeg with a population of eighty thousand. He saw the advent of the telegraph and the railway; he saw the inauguration and successful working of the Provincial University; he saw twenty clergy grow into two hundred, and non-existent offertories into [151/152] scores of thousands of dollars; he saw S. John's College become a true seminary of the Church, whose graduates went forth to the Peace River and the Athabasca, the Saskatchewan and the Mackenzie; he saw his vast diocese subdivided, and himself surrounded by eight suffragans; and, as the crowning experience of his wonderful life, he saw the unification of the whole Canadian Church from ocean to ocean, the Missionary Society become a living force in supplying the sinews of war for his wide jurisdiction, and himself installed as the first incumbent of the elevated position of Primate of all Canada. It is given to few men to lead so full a life, and to see in old age so full a realization of the hopes and plans that were formed in early manhood.

After a lingering illness he died in Winnipeg in 1904, where Church and State combined to do him honour. And he was laid to rest on the banks of the Red River, in the beautiful graveyard of S. John's Cathedral, which he had made the centre of his missionary and educational activities.

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