Friday 3 March 2017

"Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much." – Helen Keller

On this date 130 years ago, Anne Sullivan began teaching Helen Keller. Helen was six years old. She had lost her sight and hearing due to a severe illness at just 19 months old. Anne worked with Helen for nearly 50 years. It is a story of perseverance, determination, and friendship. Over time, Helen learned to read, write, and speak. She graduated from college and became an author, public speaker, and activist. Without Anne  and, therefore, without education  it is unlikely that Helen would have flourished as she did. This week's blog features a few items in ARCAT's collection about the religious and academic education of people who are blind and/or deaf in the Archdiocese of Toronto.

The Ontario Institution for the Education of the Deaf and Dumb (renamed Ontario School for the Deaf in 1913 and currently Sir James Whitney School for the Deaf) opened in Belleville in October 1870. Its principal, Wesley "Willie" J. Palmer, was eager to recruit students. He sent Archbishop Lynch a circular about the new school and was hoping to spread the word as far as possible:

Belleville, January 20th, 1871

Rev & Dear Sir.
I beg leave to call your attention to the enclosed circular which I am sending out to many clergymen and prominent citizens of the Province. I would be pleased to send you about 50 copies if you would distribute them among the clergy in your diocese. I am not acquainted with the Bishop of Kingston. Could I take the liberty of sending him some of these circulars? The school is opening quite favorably. I expect to be in Toronto within a month accompanied by some of my pupils to give an exhibition before the members of the Legislature and Citizens showing our method of instruction &c. Do you think the pupils I spoke to you about will be sent to our Institution? I would be glad to have them here as soon as possible. Please let me hear from you at your earliest convenience. I have the honor to be 
Your obedient Servant
W. J. Palmer, Principal

L AE10.03
Archbishop Lynch fonds

Circular re: recruitment for the new Ontario Institution for the Education of the Deaf and Dumb
(shortened to Ontario Institution for the Deaf and Dumb on letterhead)

L AE10.02
Archbishop Lynch fonds

Paul Denys, a teacher at the Ontario Institution for the Deaf and Dumb, provided Archbishop Lynch with an update on the progress of the Catholic students at the school:

"I take much pleasure every now and then in informing Your Grace of the number of Catholic children in the Institution, of their progress and doings. ... I have now under my care 33 Catholic pupils -- 21 boys and 12 girls -- eight of whom will have the 
happiness of being confirmed tomorrow in the church, along with a number of the speaking children."

January 8, 1879

L AE10.13
Archbishop Lynch fonds

The Ontario School for the Blind (now W. Ross Macdonald School) was founded in March 1872 in Brantford as the Ontario Institution for the Education of the Blind. Over the years, prospective teachers would write to the current archbishop for help in obtaining teaching positions:

Collegiate Institute
Barrie, July 3, 1884

Most Rev. J. J. Lynch D.D.
Archbp of Toronto

Your Grace:
I take the liberty in soliciting your kind assistance in procuring for me a position which has become vacant in the Blind Institute of Brantford through the resignation of Mr. Shannon[,] a Catholic teacher of the Inst. The salary being in the neighborhood of five hundred dollars a year with board[,] room and other advantages[,] I consider the situation more lucrative than the average High School position. I enclose Your Grace a copy of my Testimonials. Knowing well the interest Your Grace has always taken in promoting the welfare of Catholic young men, I feel certain that if this request be practically within Your Grace's province[,] you will kindly accede to it.
I Remain
With profound esteem
Your Grace's obt servt--
Thomas O'Hagan

L AE10.10
Archbishop Lynch fonds

Periodically, the archbishop would also recommend individuals for vacancies:

Letter from C. W. James to Abp. McNeil,
September 13, 1916

MN AH05.81
Archbishop McNeil fonds

Groups in the United States provided assistance to the Archdiocese regarding the education of people who are blind and/or deaf:

Letter from Rev. William F. Jenks to Abp. McGuigan,
May 18, 1948

MG DA34.50(a)
Archbishop McGuigan fonds

Letter from M. A. Warnier to Abp. McGuigan,
October 7, 1948

MG SO11.04a
Archbishop McGuigan fonds

The International Catholic Deaf Association was founded in Toronto in 1949. In July 1956, a group of priests at the International Catholic Deaf Convention in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, prepared this statement concerning the religious education of Catholic deaf children:

"The Religious Education of Catholic Deaf Children"

ED SC04.36
Education fonds

St. Bernadette's Family Resource Centre is a member of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Toronto that provides assistance to children, youth, and adults with developmental and/or physical challenges, including blindness.

Silent Voice, also a member agency of Catholic Charities, raises awareness of and addresses the difficulties faced by the Deaf community. Click here for a list of signed or interpreted Catholic masses in Ontario. Click here to see the four masses that are located in the Archdiocese of Toronto.

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