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BISHOP RONALD McDONALD
Our Third Shepherd
The Right Reverend Dr. McDonald, Third Bishop of the Diocese of Harbor Grace, was consecrated at Pictou, Nova Scotia, August 21, 1881. He had been parish priest of Pictou for many years previously. Upon his arrival in Harbor Grace on September 29, 1881, Bishop McDonald received a great reception. Besides being a man of solid learning, he possessed good administrative ability, at the same time being prudent and charitable. He continued the work on the Cathedral, by completing the nave. Up to this time the transepts were used for Mass and Benediction.
During his episcopacy others churches were built, for example St. Joseph's in Riverhead, Harbor Grace, the Bishop opening this Church on November 13, 1886. In addition he did much for his flock by erecting and improving schools buildings, and by promoting better pupil attendance at school.
The tranquility of the town at the time was symbolized by the monumental Cathedral, eloquent of virile Catholicity. On Sunday September 1 1889, after the evening prayers, the sun for the last time kissed its glistening dome; and with this benediction, disappeared. Tomorrow came, but its dawn disclosed only heart-breaking desolation.
Bishop McDonald was preparing to go to Salmon Cove by the train starting at 4 o'clock in the morning. He arose at a quarter to 3, and, after attending to his morning devotions, went down to his study and was ready to leave when he heard the Convent bell. The Bishop thought it was the usual bell rings at 5 o'clock, and that somehow he had missed the train. He went out, only to discover flame coming from the eastern wing of the sacristy. The Bishop immediately hurried back to Father Rowe. They got the key of the western wing of the Cathedral and unlocked the door. The Bishop tried to reach the Tabernacle on the Altar of the Blessed Sacrament in the eastern transept; but because of smoke and darkness he mistook the Altar of the Sacred Heart for the Blessed Sacrament Altar. Then he fell to the floor, as he was almost suffocated, but managed to get up and guided by the altar-rail, he was able to find an exit. Meantime Father Rowe had gone to give the alarm: and soon the firebells of the town were ringing, and 15 minutes later he return with the first detachment of the fire brigade. Their efforts were in vain, however, and an hour and half after the alarm sounded, the magnificent dome fell with a tremendous crash, driving sparks skyward in brilliant volume.
On the following Sunday, September 8, a meeting of the Catholics of the town was convened by order of the Bishop, to determine the best means to be adopted to replace the Cathedral. At this meeting this meeting the Bishop presided. The response was magnificent, so much so that ten years after the destruction of the Cathedral, another was dedicated on November 8, 1899.
Due to failing health Bishop McDonald resigned the See on March 27, 1906, and returned to Nova Scotia, being appointed to the Archbishopric of Gortyna.
Transcribed by John Baird.
Page Revised: July 2002 (Don Tate)
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