Past and Present

John Francis Maguire
CHAPTER IV (11) start of chapter

When the present estimable prelate first came on the mission in 1844, he had to travel distances of from sixty to eighty miles to attend 'sick calls,' and was frequently absent for more than six weeks at a time, travelling from mission to mission, saying Mass in log huts, and administering the sacrament to flocks scattered throughout a wide and thinly-populated district. There are now several resident clergymen in that district—outside St. John: and instead of the rude log hut of the past, there are now sixteen good churches, with large congregations. And all this change in the comparatively short space of two-and-twenty years.

There are two dioceses in the same province in which, fifty years since, there were but four missionaries. That of Chatham is presided over by Dr. Rogers, that of St. John by Dr. Sweeny. In the two dioceses there were in 1860 ninety churches and forty-five priests; and as rapidly as priests can be ordained, or obtained from the colleges in Ireland, there are missions awaiting their labours. When Dr. Sweeny was consecrated, in 1860, he had but nineteen priests in his diocese, whereas in 1866 the number had increased to thirty, and two young candidates for the ministry were to be ordained before the spring of 1867.

'Bishop, when we were boys, and when the old church of St. Malachy took so long in building, and when it was so many years before it could be closed in, little did the Catholics of that day think of building cathedrals and palaces for their bishops, and schools and convents.' This was the remark made in 1866 by an Episcopalian clergyman to Dr. Sweeny, as they stood near the group of buildings that present the most eloquent evidences of the numerical strength, material progress, and devoted zeal of the Irish Catholics of St. John. Little did those who listened to the Sunday readings of Andy Sullivan, the tailor from Bandon, or of 'one Flanagan, the college-bred man,' dream of the possibility of a revolution so miraculous. And yet it has come to pass.

The Irish in America, first published in 1868, provides an invaluable account of the extreme difficulties that 19th Century Irish immigrants faced in their new homeland and the progress which they had nonetheless made in the years since arriving on a foreign shore. A new edition, including additional notes and an index, has been published by Books Ulster/LibraryIreland:

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