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Michael Power: The Struggle to Build the Catholic Church on the Canadian Frontier (McGill-Queen's Studies in the History of Religion) Hardcover – April 28, 2005
"In a carefully researched and elegantly written biography, McGowan artistically paints the historical context of the events from Power's youth to his leadership of the Toronto church. A pleasure to read!" Terence J. Fay, St Augustine's Seminary, Toronto School of Theology, University of Toronto, and the author of "A History of Canadian Catholics" "This polished work, written in fluent and agreeable prose, paints a coherent and vivid picture of its subject and his times." Terrence Murphy, VP-Academic and Research, Saint Mary's University
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Power's diocese contained a rich mixture of cultures and faiths, European and native. There was the established Anglican Church, itinerent Protestant ministers and sects, aboriginal culture based largely on animistic worship and the struggling Catholic faith formed largely of Irish and transplanted Quebecers. The Church itself was staffed by priests of spotty calibre, many faithful apostles, but also some rogue elements with a penchant for drinking, womanizing and brawling in pubs.. and one who ran his hogs in the local burial ground, scandalizing his parishioners. A significant challenge for the Church existing in simply sacralizing frontier marriages, often of mixed denomination.
His was a frontier ministry, replete with the hardships of frontier life in the harsh Canadian climate. Canada was also the inheritor of a turbulent period in European history, formed of the rebellion around Enlightenment thought. And those of reactionary counter movements, notably in the Ultramontane Catholic traditionalist movement.
Powers was himself Irish, of Maritime roots. He was a man with a legalistic and organized frame of mind, with a lifelong interest in Canon Law and strict principles of observance. He was always a voice for the established order, in Church and in society at a time where rebellion seethed in both. But he was also a voice for harmony amongst denominations, of charity in a society of polarized wealth and grinding poverty for some, and evangalization of First Nations. He dealt with many of the same issues the Church deals with today, a shortage of priests, and certainly a critical shortage of good priests. He brought immense energy and a store of compassion to his dioceses as well as sense of order to times of rampant apostacy and apocalyptic visions.
He was only 43 when the Irish Potato Famine brought hordes of dispossessed to the city, famished and disease ridden. He contracted typhus while giving aid and pastoral care to his new flock. This book is a beautifully descriptive narrative of life in early upper Canada, from the unique perspective, of a dedicated bishop. But it also provides a colourful lens, well crafted, of the ermerging and increasingly cosmopolitan city of Toronto from a priest and one who sacrificed his life for his cause.