Recruitment of Catholic Priests for the Wilderness
of Eastern Ontario

1850's to 1871

August 18, 2007:

Hi Al,
These following letters, from a Father Michael Byrne, born in County Wicklow but
serving in the Diocese of Ottawa, to the director of All Hallows College,
a seminary in Dublin, Ireland, offer an interesting narrative on the 
workings of the pioneer Catholic church in eastern Ontario. Father Michael Byrne, living in 
a remote location in Renfrew County (and later in Eganville) seems to have been charged 
by Archbishop Guigues (Ottawa) with the task of acquiring Irish priests for the 
Canadian diocese by a sort of scholarship scheme: Dr. Guigues would fund their 
seminary training in Dublin, and in exchange, they would serve in the Ontario 
wilderness upon ordination.
The letters describe both the process and the outcome.

Father Michael Byrne graduated from the University of Ottawa in 1852, then called St. Joseph's College.

Source: Transcribed here by Anne Burgess with permission of All Hallows College.
Renfrew, 7th Oct. 1858 

Very Revd. Dr. Woodlock 

Very Revd/ dear Sir, 

            As I have heard there are places at All Hallows for ecclesiastical students at 10 
			pounds a year, I write to say that if you can procure one subject for the Bishop 
			of Bytown (Notre Dame Cathedral), and place him in the college for his ecclesiastical course, I will 
			send you 10 pounds a year. 

            You will of course understand that before introducing this subject I have had 
			the permission and approbation of his Lordship Rt. Revd. Dr. Guigues to whose 
			diocese I belong. You are probably aware that his spiritual jurisdiction extends 
			over that part of Canada generally known as the “Ottawa Country” through which 
			the River Ottawa flows, dividing the Upper from the Lower Province. Although 
			not the richest, I consider it the healthiest part of Canada.  

            The Catholic portion of the inhabitants are for the most [part?] French Canadians. 

            As many parts of the Country have been only lately settled, there is a wide 
			field for the exercise of the young missionary’s zeal to build churches and 
			establish parishes in the backwoods. 

            A few lines in reply mentioning the particular terms of your regulation will 
			much oblige 

Your most obedt. in J.C.
Michael Byrne



Canada West

1st July 1859 

Very Revd. dear Sir 

            As I have not heard from you since last Autumn, I am inclined to suppose 
			that you have not as yet succeeded in finding a subject for his Lordship, 
			the Bishop of Bytown. However, I am hoping you will be able to find one 
			to commence with the next Collegiate year. And lest it might be difficult 
			to find one willing to come alone to a strange country, will you have 
			the goodness to obtain a second, if you possibly can. Enclosed are two 
			drafts for 20 pounds, which will pay two places for the ensuing year. I 
			hope with God’s help to [be] able to send you as much next winter and 
			shall continue sending from time to time as I shall be able until the 
			two places for the course of studies shall have been cleared. I sent 
			your letter to His Lordship Rt. Revd. Dr. Guigues; in his reply he 
			expressed great satisfaction, and encouraged me to persevere in so 
			great a work as that of being the means of procuring even one pious and 
			zealous priest for his diocese would be. 

            Praying and wishing the greatest success to the heavenly work which you 
			have in hands, I remain, Very Revd. dear Sir, 

Your Obedt. Servt. in J.C.
Michael Byrne


Eganville, Canada West          

14th Oct. 1864 

Very Revd. J.J. Bennett 

Very Revd. dear Sir

            I enclose you a Bill of Exchange on London for 15 pounds, to pay Mr. 
			James McCormick’s (McCormac) pension for the present Collegiate year. 
			Lest any accident should occur to it, I will remit you a second in about 
			a month. I am very glad to learn that Mr. John McCormick (brother of James) 
			has been probably ordained priest ere now and will soon be here working 
			amongst us. I suppose his Lordship the Bishop has made arrangements for 
			his coming. 

            I have the honor to be
            Very Revd. dear Sir
            Your Obedt. Servt.
            Michl. Byrne



Eganville, Ontario, Canada

14th April 1871 

Very Revd. Father Fortune 

Very Revd. dear Sir, 

            I am happy to learn by your letter that you have found another subject 
			for this diocese. His Lordship the Bishop feels great pleasure in sending 
			the documents required for Mr. Stenson’s ordination. 

            The two Messrs. McCormac are well; they are each after building a 
			respectable stone church in their respective parishes. We all get the 
			best of good health and are hardly ever sick. Plenty of outdoor exercise 
			serves instead of Doctors’ drugs to keep the system in good condition. 

            The snow is just now away and the winter roads formed by it are consequently 
			broken up, and as may be well imagined travelling is not very agreeable, 
			for the roads are so bad from the mud that a horse is obliged to pick his 
			steps the most of the way. 

            Yet on [Spy?—meaning Ash?] Wednesday I rode a horse back 34 miles, and on 
			the following day Holy Thursday after the offices of the Church were over, 
			I left at one o’clock and rode 35 miles; I was home by 10 o’clock the 
			same evening without being much fatigued. When an old man of over 50 years 
			can do so, what might not any of your supple young men from All Hallows 
			do if they were out here. 

            The climate is very healthy, the water being excellent and the air pure. It 
			is true the cold in winter is sometimes intense and the heat in summer 
			excessive; but these intervals of severe cold in winter and oppressive heat 
			in summer last but a short time, so that for the most part of the year the 
			climate is temperate. It is very remarkable that the first winter an 
			Irishman spends here he can bear the cold far better than the winters 
			that follow.

            Hoping you are in the enjoyment of good health and wishing your noble 
			Institution continued prosperity,
I remain,

Very Revd. dear Sir
Your Obedt. Servt. in J.C.
M. Byrne


... Anne Burgess

Father McCormac who was recruited to work in Renfrew County (Mount St. Patrick, 
Eganville, and the village of Cormac (named after him) also worked
in the Parish at Brudenell.

Source: The photo and text were scanned from the book "People of St. Patrick's"
by Carol Bennett McQuaig, page 14, ISBN 0-919137-29-6 (see our bibliography)

Father McNulty and Father McCormac -- Renfrew County

August 19, 2007:
Death Certificate -- Father Michael Byrne Father Michael Byrne's Death Certificate

New August 31, 2013:
Father Michael Byrne, County Wicklow, Ireland to the Ottawa Valley in 1852 Father Michael Byrne, County Wicklow, Ireland to the Ottawa Valley in 1852
Father Byrne is buried at St. Michael's Church in Douglas, Ontario, not far from Eganville.
E-mail Anne Burgess and Al Lewis
Back to Bytown or Bust - History and Genealogy in the Ottawa, Canada area