President Jacqueline Gresko on Tuesday morning, May 31st welcomed the participants and auditors to Saint Thomas University for the seventy-eighth CCHA Annual Meeting. Edward Jackman OP asked the Lord’s blessing on the conference.
The first session on the Reception of Vatican Two was moderated by Terence Fay SJ. From interviews with women religious, Elizabeth Smyth and Patricia Kmiec of the University of Toronto reflected on the renewal of Canadian religious life after Vatican Two and the changing identity of religious sisters. From the lessons of Quebec missionary work, Catherine Foisy of Concordia University recognized that lay workers were essential for the continuation of the work.
Elizabeth McGahan moderated the second session Commemorating Religious Women. Archivist Patti Bannister related how the Sisters of Charity of Halifax received a national heritage garden for their work in the schools and hospitals in the Maritime Provinces and the founding of Mount Saint Vincent University. Historian Dianne Dodd of Parks Canada explained how women religious communities were in the process of being recognized by their immense contribution from sea to sea to sea. Historian Brigitte Violette of Parks Canada uncovered many sources for analyzing hospital and nursing history in Quebec.
The former African missionary, Edward Jackman OP chaired the session on African Canadian Catholics. Marie-Claire Arseneau of the Atlantic School of Theology from her research unveiled the Africadian Catholics she discovered in Southville, Nova Scotia. Their roots go back to 1800 but with Acadian help in the 1930s the Africadians constructed their own parish of St Theresa in Southville.
Iheanyi Enwerem OP of St Thomas More College, University of Saskatchewan explained that African Catholics were received by Canadian Catholics with “social silence,” that is treated as if they were non-persons and did not exist. African Catholics had to rely on home Masses. Canadian religious history continues to be silent on African Canadian Catholics. The globalism of recent times has changed this with the existence of African clergy, sisters, and laity in Canadian cities. Joseph Nnadi of the University of Winnipeg related that African Canadian Catholics in western Canada were rejected by other Catholics and they had to assume responsibility for their own spirituality. This shunning of African Canadian Catholics ended with Archbishops Hacault and Goulet of St Boniface in the 1990s.
The CCHA annual commemorative Eucharist was celebrated by Bishop Robert Harris of Saint John. A social and dinner followed in the Forest Hills Dining Room of the university. At the dinner, Father Jackman reflected on his missionary experience in Africa and how he learned from the Africans. Editors of Historical Studies, Elizabeth McGahan and Indre Cuplinskas, and president Jacqueline Gresko presented Peter Meehan the Paul Bator Award for the best journal article in 2010-2011.
The Conference sessions continued on Wednesday, 1 June, with The Antigonish Movement and Its Legacy. Peter Ludlow of Queen’s University of Belfast demythologized the common perception that Fathers Jimmy Tompkins and Moses Coady were the only drivers of the Antingonish Movement. Ludow showed us that Bishop Morrison, sisters, and the laity also made major contributions to the movement. Archivist Kathleen MacKenzie of St Francis Xavier University revealed the amount of resources which are available on line and in the university archives.
A session on the Social Economy – Reaching Out was moderated by Heidi MacDonald from the University of Lethbridge. Bob McKeon of St Joseph’s College and Deb Schrader of the University of Alberta spoke on Catholic religious orders and the Mennonites engaged in the social economy. Sarah Jardine of St Paul University examined the Catholic Women’s League of Canada in the 1920s as reaching out to Canadian and immigrant women.
The CCHA members were taken on a tour of St Anthony’s Church, the only wooden Gothic-Style Catholic Church remaining in Fredericton. Parishioner Bob McNeil led the tour and presented the commentary on the history of the parish.