Friday 6 May 2016

Records of the Week: Catholics Helping Their Neighbours

This week we have seen the devastating reports of the destructive wildfire burning in Fort McMurray, Alberta. Cardinal Collins is asking Archdiocese of Toronto Catholics to help their Albertan neighbours.

Catholics have a long tradition of donating to disaster relief funds. They donate millions every year. In 2013 alone Catholics in this Archdiocese gave $2.724 million for humanitarian aid.

We were curious to see if there were any records in the archives to show how Toronto Catholics responded when their neighbours were in need. Below are just a few examples out of many.

In 1866 Bishop Farrell appealed to Hamilton Catholics to help after portions of Quebec City were destroyed by a fire. Over 2000 homes were burned and 18,000 - 20,000 people were left homeless.

L AD02.24
Archbishop Lynch Fonds

In this 1909 letter, Archbishop McEvay was raising funds for victims of the 1908 Sicilian earthquake that destroyed the city of Messina.

ME AA05.08
Archbishop McEvay Fonds

This letter from the Apostolic Delegate thanks Cardinal McGuigan for Toronto's contribution of $17,335 (almost $144,000 in 2016 dollars) for disaster relief after the Chilean Valdivia earthquake, which is the strongest earthquake ever recorded.

MG DS 62.20b
Cardinal McGuigan Fonds

In 1950 the Red River flooded, causing much damage to Winnipeg. Cardinal McGuigan sent a cheque for $15,000 ($156,000 in 2016 dollars) to the Archdiocese of Winnipeg.

MG FA16.35b
Cardinal McGuigan Fonds

In 1917 Halifax was devastated when a munitions ship exploded in the harbour. Archbishop McNeil instructed the Pastors of Archdiocese to take up a special collection to send to Nova Scotia.

MN PC05.04
Archbishop McNeil Fonds

In this letter, Archbishop McNeil asked the Pastors of the Archdiocese to take up a special collection for victims of the 1923 earthquake on Japan's main island. He asked the Pastors to discuss the catechism with parishioners: "If we are bound to help our neighbor in case of material need, no matter how far that neighbor may be from us in race or creed or distance, much more are we bound to extend to him the charity of prayer and other spiritual benefits."

MN PC11.15
Archbishop McNeil Fonds

In the words of Bishop Farrell: "If you are rich, give generously; if you are poor, give willingly the little you can afford, remembering that in giving to the poor you are lending to the Lord, who will not fail to pay you back a thousand fold."

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