Two Notable Priests. By Monsignor Vincent Foy

Two Notable Priests

by Msgr. Vincent Foy, P.H., J.C.D.

 Toronto Archdiocese can boast many talented, dedicated and holy priests whose lives are now almost forgotten. It seems right to remember them and recall with gratitude their priesthood among us.

In 1923 a large two-volume work was published by the Dominion Publishing Co. in Toronto entitled “The Municipality of Toronto – a History”. It contains a number of items of interest to Catholics. In Vol. II we find “Biographical Sketches of Eminent Citizens”. Two priests are mentioned. Since the 1923 volumes are now rare it seems appropriate to reprint here the sketches of the lives of two of our priests.

Rev. Dean Harris, Litt.D.

In 1870 Dean Harris was ordained a priest of the Roman Catholic church, and in St.Michael’s Cathedral, Toronto, on June 10, 1920, hundreds of citizens, including men in his ecclesiastical position and in humble walks of life gathered about him in the celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood. Three years later he passed away, and Toronto mourned the loss of an eminent citizen.

Rev. Dean Harris was born in Cork, Ireland, March 3, 1845, was brought to Canada by his parents at an early age, and died in St.Michael’s Hospital, Toronto, Ontario, March 5, 1923, at the age of seventy-eight years. He was educated at St. Michael’s College, Toronto, and later was a student at the College of the Propaganda, Rome, Italy, where in 1870 he was ordained to the priesthood. He also received the degree of Litt.D. from the Universities of Toronto, and Laval, and also was honored by the University of Ottawa. In the earliest years of his ministry he was rector of St. Adjala  in Ontario.

In 1875 Rev. Dean Harris was made rector of St. Michael’s Cathedral, Toronto, and after a number of years there became dean of the Deanery of St. Catharines. He served as dean until ill health caused his resignation, then traveled extensively. He visited the Azores, Spain, Portugal, the West Indies, Mexico, Central America, and South America, where he explored the ancient Spanish ruins. Later he resided for a time in Salt Lake City, Utah, where he edited the “Intermountain Monthly”, and wrote a “History of the Catholic Church in Utah”.

Rev. Dean Harris was the author of several historical essays and also was author and publisher of “Days and Nights in the Tropics”. “By Path and Trail; a Book of Southern Travel”, and “The Catholic Church in the Niagara Peninsula”. In 1912, he returned to Toronto and accepted the chaplaincy of St.John’s Industrial School. Later he published “The Cross-bearers of the Sagueny”. In recognition of his valuable contribution to archaeological research Rev. Dean Harris, in 1919, was elected president  of the Ontario Archaeological Society”.

Rev. James B. Dollard.

Rev James B. Dollard is one of the most distinguished lyric poets of the day, whose residence in this country must be regarded as fortunate for the cause of Canadian letters, though he is not a native of this country. He was born in Kilkenny county, Ireland, on August 30, 1872, the son of Michael Dollard, a farmer and Anastasia (Quinn) Dollard. He was not without Canadian connections, however, since a great uncle, Bishop Dollard, of Fredericton, New Brunswick, had had a distinguished career in the Roman Catholic Church in this country. His early education was received in Kilkenny, and he later qualified for admission to the priesthood at the Grand Seminary, Montreal, Canada. He holds the scholastic degrees of Bachelor of Theology, Bachelor of Canon Law, and Doctor of Letters (Laval University). He was ordained as a priest in 1896, and his later years have been spent in the city of Toronto, where he is now parish priest of St. Monica’s Church, Forty-four Broadway avenue. Despite the duties of a hard-working clergyman, zealous for the welfare of his parish, he has employed his leisure in literary activity which has won him fame on both sides of the Atlantic.

He has published three volumes of poems and one book of short stories. His literary work is nearly all Irish in theme and inspiration, for he has never forgotten the happy days he spent as a lad in the beautiful isle that holds the enduring love of so many patriots, whose duties have called them far from its shores. The growth of his fame as a lyric poet is the more notable in that he is of modest, retiring nature and has never sought publicity of any kind. Irish legend and Irish scenery are woven by him into the most delicate and rhythmical verse, verse that is instinct with music and alive with lovely imagery.

One tribute to him from the pen of the late Joyce Kilmer, himself a poet of distinction, and prior to his death with the American troops at Chateau Thierry, the literary critic of the “New York Times”, may be quoted. Of the poem “Fairy Anvils”, which appeared in the volume entitled, “Irish Lyrics and Ballads”, Kilmer wrote: “Here is some genuine Celtic magic-a beautiful blend of melody and fancy. It should be set to music-the words almost carry a tune with them- and sung by John McCormack”. The same tribute could be paid to many other lyrics by Father Dollard.  He is a member of the Poetry Society of America and of the Arts and Letters Club, Toronto”.

In his later years Father Dollard, as Msgr. Dollard, served as parish priest of Our Lady of Lourdes parish, Toronto.. He died on April 28, 1946.

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