Catholic Encyclopedia (1913)/Vicariate Apostolic of Mackenzie

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Catholic Encyclopedia (1913), Volume 9
Vicariate Apostolic of Mackenzie

by Constant Hilaire Alaric Giroux


This vicariate which was detached from the Athabaska-Mackenzie Vicariate in 1901 and intrusted to Mgr Gabriel Breynat, Titular Bishop of Adramytus, consecrated 6 April 1902, is bounded on the west by the Rocky Mountains, on the south by 60º latitude, on the east by the water-shed and is unlimited on the north towards the pole. It comprised the Yukon, which was not erected into a prefecture Apostolic until 1908. Through this immense territory, which has an area of over half a million square miles, are scattered six nomad tribes: the Montagnais, the Slave, the Flat-dog-side, the Hare Indian, the Loucheux, and the Eskimo, making a total population of 6000 souls. Leaving out the Eskimo trite which is still pagan and nearly four hundred Protestant red-skins, all the other tribes embraced the Catholic Faith which was introduced by the Oblates, who began mission work here in 1858. The difficulties of Christianizing this land of perpetual snow and long winters, when the thermometer sometimes falls to 68º below zero, are readily understood when one knows that the only means of travel are dogs trained to harness and that the heavens are the only roof. Means of communication are so poor that from September to July there is but one mail delivery in Lower Mackenzie and provisions are brought by steamboat but once a year. Hence the difficulties of travel, the absolute lack of local resources, the severity of the climate contribute to make this vicariate the poorest in the whole world, living on charity, more especially on pecuniary help sent from France by the Propagation of Faith. Owing to this assistance the vicar Apostolic with his twenty Oblate fathers and twenty-one brothers can maintain twelve missions where the Indians gather every year. In 1867 the Montreal Gray Nuns came and shared the hardships of the missionaries, establishing an orphanage at the Providence Mission, where they are now teaching seventy-six children under their care. In 1903 they opened another orphanage at the St. Joseph Mission, Fort Resolution, the vicar Apostolic's residence, where forty-five children are being instructed. There are twenty-one nuns working in the mission.

PIOLET, Les missions catholiques, VI (Paris, 1903), 51-130; TACHÉ, Vingt années de missions dans le Nord-Ouest de l'Amérique (Montreal, 1866); IDEM, Esquisse sur le nord-ouest de l'Amérique (Montreal, 1869), tr. CAMERON (1870); Annales des missions de la congrégation des Oblats de Marie-Immaculée (1862-1910); Catholic Directory (Milwaukee, 1910).

C. H. A. GIROUX.