Thursday, 20 November 2014

The Life of an Early Seminarian: Work Hard and Play Hard

In the mail we recently received an amazing gift: a collection of photographs belonging to longtime Toronto priest Monsignor James McCulley Clair. They had been in possession of his niece.

Monsignor Clair was born in Cayuga, Ontario. He attended St. Augustine's Seminary from 1915-1921. After he was ordained, he served as a diocesan priest. From 1925 - 1938 he served as Chancellor and Secretary to the Archbishop. From 1938 until his retirement he served as Dean of Barrie.

Included in Monsignor Clair's collection were albums containing photos of life as a seminarian. The photos reveal a heartwarming sense of camaraderie among the young priests-to-be. It is apparent that they are great friends during times of study, times of labour and during times of recreation. 

At the time, St. Augustine's was practically in the middle of nowhere. They farmed the land, and used the space for a variety of other activities. They also had access to Lake Ontario and the Scarborough Bluffs. They were able to spend a lot of time outdoors year round.  

Below are just a few of the photos in the collection. They capture the essence of the era, and elicit a certain nostalgia for a time when instead of being distracted by television, smartphones, computers, and video games, people interacted with each other. 

Presqu'isle - Preparing Breakfast
Playing cards.... I wonder what game? Is that allowed for seminarians?
Lunchtime in the Sugar Camp

The Rival Company & their camp

Hockey was as popular a pastime in the early part of the century as it is today.

Can you imagine a plane landing at the seminary now?

Ready to weigh anchor for Montreal.

Orchestra - St. Augustine's Seminary

Fancy a game of tennis?

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Record of the Week: A letter from the firing line

Today is Remembrance Day and we have chosen a record from the First World War to commemorate 100 years since the beginning of that great conflict.

ARCAT has a series of letters written to Archbishop Neil McNeil from a Toronto soldier with the 3rd Division of the Canadian Expeditionary Forces. Gunner Gilbert Sim had been studying for the priesthood before enlisting in 1915.  Periodically, Sim wrote to the archbishop of the conditions in the trenches, asking for His Grace's remembrance and blessing:

"August 1916...I am now at the firing line.  I have had many adventures since leaving Toronto but my heart ever turns to that fair city to which I feel I belong.  Day and night a constant stream of troops, wagons, and timbers are moving up the line. It is very sad to see the beautiful  churches all blown to ruins.  Of course I cannot write much.  I beg your Grace will remember me.  I am learning lessons in the very hard school in which I find myself..."
First World War, FWGC02.04
After being in action during the Battle of Arras, the storming of Vimy Ridge, and the taking of Passchendaele, Sim wrote of his desire to be discharged.  He wanted to continue his clerical studies in order to return to the front as a military chaplain.

You can see Gilbert Sim's personnel records on the Library and Archives Canada website, and search the digitized records of soldiers of the First World War.

Archbishop Neil McNeil was the ordinary of Toronto during the Great War and he is known for defending the Pope's neutral position.  McNeil is also credited with delivering one of the war's shortest patriotic speeches to a Toronto regiment about to be deployed.  At the non-denominational meeting he simply said:
“You are tired and anxious to spend these last hours with your friends and I will not keep you long.
If I were a young man I would be going with you. But I am an old man and must stay home.
Keep yourselves physically fit to fight and spiritually fit to die. God bless you.”*
*Boyle, George. Pioneer in Purple (Montreal: Palm Publishers, 1951), pp. 139-40.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

New exhibit on Military Chaplains

Today, St. James Anglican Cathedral in Toronto opens a new exhibit to mark the centenary of the Great War.  Called to Serve presents records and artifacts from chaplains of numerous faiths serving Canada's military from the nineteenth century to present day.

ARCAT contributed photographs to the exhibit, including the image on the poster below.

According to the media release:
"The first ever of its kind in Canada, this exhibit will chronicle and pay tribute to the
brave service of the padres who donned battle dress and joined members of the armed
forces on the front lines of past wars and still walk with them today in regions of armed
conflict and natural disasters. Unarmed and often working alongside medical field
personnel, chaplains lend spiritual support to fighting troops, comfort the wounded and
bereaved, console the dying and provide dignified burial for the dead. They also care
spiritually for the families of military personnel. 
"Reaching back into history, the comprehensive display will chronicle the Canadian
chaplaincy’s evolution from its largely Christian origins before the Boer War to the
inclusive multi-faith mosaic of men and women it is today. Called to Serve will tell its
powerful story through photographs, paintings, press clippings, posters, letters, poems,
uniforms, insignia, embroidery, liturgical apparel and artifacts, as well as testimonies
from across generations and across the land."
If you are looking for a unique way to observe Remembrance Day, stop by this unprecedented (and free!) exhibit in the heart of Toronto from now until November 16th.