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THE NORTH-WEST COAST-THE SOUTH COAST
As has already been pointed out, Monsignor Sears paid his first visit to Bonne Bay on the 20th May, 1879. On the occasion of the first trip of the Packet Steamer as far north as that point.
A few years later he was enabled to penetrate further along this coast northwards towards the Straits of Belle Isle to visit the Catholics engaged in the fishery scattered here and there in little coves along that bleak and desolate coast. He thus speaks of this visit on voyage of discovery in a letter to the Propagation of the Faith written in 1878:
" Since my last report I was enabled to visit the most distant parts of the Prefecture to the northwards as far as the Straits of Belle Isle. The places thus reached were: Daniels Harbor, Port au Choix, New Ferrole and Brig Bay. In the latter of these I found two families, and a few single men. One of the families was that of a Frenchman who, some years ago, settled in that Bay and married a protestant woman, by whom he had a number of children. She having died, he married an Irish woman who, in accordance with the pertinacity of her race, in attachment to their faith, was the means of bringing at least his children to the faith. The second is the family of an aged man who has lived in this isolated place for the last thirty years, the same remarkable attachment to the faith was evident in his case. Although during, that long period he saw a priest but some three or four times, still so strong
has his faith been that in the event of a devastating fire coming towards his premises, driven by a strong breeze, and when he saw that there was no means of escape with his effects, his confidence in the mercy of God was enkindled he made the Sign of the emblem of man's redemption, when on looking round he found the flames subdued." He gives several other instances of the deep faith of those he found along this section of his mission and gives more than one instance of what he calls "the conservatism of the Irish race in regard to discipline of not joining in Sacris with those not in communion with the Church."
Later on he continues: " In Port-au-Choix, St. John's Island and New Ferrole I found a number of Catholic families visited of late years by Rev. E. Bonneau and other priests from Quebec.
"In New Ferrole I found about five families, all descended from one Catholic woman who married an Englishman, bringing him and subsequently a son-in-law into the Church. Their form altogether a small Catholic community, and still these poor isolated people were only visited two or three times in thirty years by a priest.
"Thank God there are good hopes now that the isolation will not continue much longer. Now that the English Government is to send an official to organize the scattered inhabitants into civil communities."
In a letter to Bishop Power of St. John's he makes a brief reference to another scattered and desolate region which was part of his charge. This may be regarded as perhaps the most hopeless part of the entire Prefecture on account of its boisterous seas, bold coasts and hungry land. The few missions that he had to
attend to in this section were round Ramea Island. The places where he held stations and where he administered Confirmation in 1883 were: Burgeo, Ramea Island, about twelve miles from Burgeo in a south-east direction, and White Bear Bay, about the same distance from Ramea Island to the north-east On the mainland. I give his own words from the letter:
"The first section between Cape la Hune and Cape Anguille contains about one hundred families of Catholics, the greater number being located between Codroy and Cape Ray in the valley of the Rivers. There are but twenty families on the Coast of the Atlantic sea-board of 100 miles. The larger number of these live at Channel, Port-au-Basque, where we have a small chapel, 26 X 38, in course of erection.
"I find that the other few Catholics scattered along, the Coast are disposing of their little holdings and making the best of their way towards Channel when they hear a chapel is about being built there. The only source of industry along this coast is fishing. The land is so very rocky and sterile that there is no possibility of cultivating it."
I have no doubt that this was not the end of his reference to the South Coast district, the remainder of the letter is missing. It is remarkable, however, that in his subsequent reports no mention is made of this section except to include it in the limits of the Prefecture. Nevertheless it was visited regularly.
I am of the opinion that this letter was written about l870 as it is not likely that he would submit a formal report of his charge after it had been cut off from the jurisdiction of the Diocese of St. John's.
Very full details are given, however, about Channel and Port-aux-Basque, which are found in the different Reports to the Society of the Propagation of the Faith, already given at length.
Transcribed by Bill Crant, Elmsdale, NS Canada, by permission of St. George's Diocese, St. George's, Newfoundland
Page Revised: February - 2003 (Don Tate)
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