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PIONEER HISTORY OF ST. GEORGE'S DIOCESE

CHAPTER VIII

NOMINATION AS PREFECT APOSTOLIC OF ST. GEORGE'S
BAY, 17TH SEPTEMBER, 1871

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Perusal of the foregoing extracts from his own writings gives a very clear idea of the nature of the place and people Fr. Sears had to evangelize. It is well to keep this in mind as no better way of judging of a man s accomplishments can be found than by a judicious use of the laws of Contrast. The importance of his work is more easily seen when we, on the one hand clearly understand what he found on his coming and then note the changes accomplished during his work To help the reader in coming to his own conclusions on this point is the principal reason why in this narrative I have striven to avoid too much comment and to concentrate on living contemporary and temperate accounts of the line of advance.

We must indeed find it hard fully to appreciate the difficulties he was faced with at every turn. Indeed a lay reader can hardly expect to fully enter into the mental agony that often hangs like a cloud over the life of a missionary priest who sees so much to be done for starving souls and so little means to accomplish it. In the case of man, such men the greatest cross is not the personal inconvenience that they undergo but the good they are prevented from doing through temporal impediments which they seem powerless to remove. Lack of means of communication keeps the priest from giving the distant members of his flock the benefits of frequent visits. He cannot attend the dying, he cannot

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see the young often enough to instruct them sufficiently. And so his voice is raised with vehemence for better means of communication. Who will blame him for so doing? Who will dare say that in doing so he is going outside his true sphere. And so it is that the actions of Fr. Sears in crying out for those things need no apology.

The death of Bishop Mullock must have been felt by Fr. Sears as a personal loss. It must have damped his spirits not a little. That great prelate had shared with him high hopes for the future of Newfoundland and was always ready and able to speed the day when his hopes would come true. According to Bishop Howley the last official act performed by Bishop Mullock was to advocate with Rome the appointment of Fr. Sears as Prefect-Apostolic of The West as well as suggesting that his promotion to Vicar with Episcopal title be kept in view. He did not live, however, to see his intrepid friend in the enjoyment of this honor.

Fr. Sears came to St. John's in 1870 to meet Dr. Mullock's successor, Bishop Thomas Joseph Power, formerly President of Clonliffe College, Dublin, who had been consecrated at the Irish College, Rome, by Cardinal Cullen. In the Apostolic letters of the appointment of Bishop Power it was stated that the Holy Father had consented to the erection of a Prefecture-Apostolic "In occidentali Plaga Dio. Set. Joannis." These letters were related June 2, 1870. It was not until over a year after this date, 17th September, 1871, that the Rev. Fr. Sayers (sic) was nominated as; Prefect-Apostolic. Almost immediately following this appointment Monsignor Sears (it was through want of better knowledge as to the spelling of his name, as Bishop Power later apologetically told the Monsignor, that Sayers appeared in the document) began to seek with added zest for new helpers for the

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work in the Prefecture. In this department as we shall see he had many keen disappointments but nevertheless he found a few men who gave of their best under his guiding hand to the wild and desolate missions of the West. Of these outstanding from first to last in zeal and capacity was Dr. Michael Howley, a priest of St. John's diocese.

Even as early as 1870 we find Dr. Howley giving valuable aid to the Monsignor, going to the extent of helping him to erect a little Chapel at Channel in spite of many difficulties. This little building was afterwards, no doubt as a compliment to Dr. Howley, dedicated to St. Michael. In 1871 Dr. Howley with the permission of Dr. Power spent a great part of his time with Fr. Sears. But even when detailed by work in his own Diocese he seemed to have the hardworking Prefect and his needs ever in his mind. Much of Fr. Sears correspondence was destroyed in the conflagration which destroyed his house in '84. In fact what has been discovered must represent only a mere fragment of his voluminous writings and letters. But in this small collection many letters from Dr. Howley remain all indicating the keen and practical interest he took in the Mission in the West. He was always at hand to help in little schemes which had for their object financial help for Bay St. George. He never missed an opportunity to act as commissary for the Monsignor in the City when material of various kinds had to be purchased. He frequently acted as his representative with the Government and was not afraid to administer reproof to the adverse critics of the Prefect in his demands for amelioration for the West.

There actually was a body of opinion which disputed the rights of the West to an! financial consideration There was also a body which asked, What is the use? It may appear strange to us today who know

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the West so well who have scaled its hills and looked at its enchanting valleys wandered through its luxuriant forests and seen the ploughman turn up its golden soil, that men criticized Fr. Sears and other distinguished men such as James Howley who knew whereof they spoke when they declared by word and pen that Newfoundland had a greater destiny than that of a fishing station moored to the Grand Bankss. But such was the case. Time has given its verdict however. One of his great contributions to the material progress of his adopted country was in keeping before the minds of the people and the Government the conclusions he had come to as to the agricultural future of the country both from his own observation and the scientific observations of geologists and surveyors. Later I shall offer some letters and lectures in which he voiced these sentiments.

One very important mission which Dr. Howley undertook in the interest of the Prefecture was in connection with the property left by Fr. Belanger which was as I have already said transferred after this mans death to Quebec together with his mortal remains by some men from Sandy Point. This property included a large collection of vestments chalices books as well as a considerable amount of money. It had been deposited in the College of St. Anne.

Dr. Howley on behalf of Monsignor Sears approached the authorities of this institution with a view to securing some of the late priests money for the benefit of the West Coast missions or at least for the right of sending a student to the College. Dr. How1ey himself has left in record that this Mission was not a financial success. A great deal of valuable information however was secured which later proved sufficient to found a well-grounded claim to a much larger sum than was procured in the first instance.

 

 

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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