A Very Vivid Childhood Memory

Even when our family went through it’s toughest times I never saw my father scared other than when he was facing cancer. Worried? Yes.  Scared… no.

Except for November 22nd, 1963.

I will never forget watching my parents on the sofa in our house on Guelph Street watching the news on our television. My mother was clutching my father’s arm so hard at one point he had to ask her to let go because it was hurting him. When she started crying I asked what was wrong.

My father called me over by his side, lifted my onto the couch and tried his best to help a 9 year old understand the significance of the fact the president of the United States had been shot. He tried hard to explain assassination in terms I could understand, and further to explain communism, capitalism, and the whole gamut of world politics. He failed of course; I was only 9. But then again he didn’t fail… entirely.

No, the 9 year old Dennis took a few weeks to figure it out. His grade school teachers struggled almost as much as my father to explain it to us. As the drama unfolded on television and radio the full impact  of the event became clearer. We could hardly help it, it was all there was to watch a lot of the time. Even the other kids in my class talked back and forth about it at recess and on the way to and from school, mostly just echoing what we overheard or parents saying.


Official White House web site photo of America’s 35th President.

But there was one thing I understood right from the start. It was abundantly clear to me that this was a big deal. A very big deal; one that mattered more than I could possibly imagine. I understood how big it was because of my father.

It was the only time I ever saw him truly scared!

Who’s Macdonell and Why Does He Get a Street?

It’s been a while since I have written a history post and with Canada Day upon us I figured it was a good time to do so; especially since today is an anniversary with a solid connection to my home town.

Bishop Macdonell (image courtesy Wikipedia Commons)

On this date, July 29th, in 1786 over 500 highlanders left the shores of Scotland for Upper Canada to establish a new settlement in Glengarry County. They were the remains of the Glengarry Fencibles, the last Catholic regiment in Britain at the time. When the regiment was disbanded after the Treaty of Amiens had been signed, their chaplain appealed to the government for a tract of land in Canada where they could settle. That chaplain was one Alexander Macdonell, who accompanied the group to their new home. The following year Macdonell would be ordained and made priest of the parish. It seemed for all the world that his military career was over;  but such was not exactly the case.

In December of 1811, when it became clear that war with the United States was pretty much a done deal, Sir George Prevost wrote to Lord Liverpool, the Colonial Secretary:

I have sent Capt. Macdonell, of the King’s Regiment, into the townships where the Glengarry emigrants are settled in Upper Canada, to ascertain their ability to form a regiment of light infantry. Capt. Macdonell is selected for his zeal, ability and intelligence, with a name and national character acceptable to them, and the same religious persuasion, as they are all Roman Catholics.”1

That captain was not our friend Alexander, but rather bright young fellow named George. However, while George was in Glengarry County he collaborated with Father Macdonell, who proved to be a valuable ally in the formation of the regiment, once again referred to as the Glengarry Fencibles. In return for his efforts Macdonell was once again named the regimental chaplain with the understanding that he would never have to accompany them into battle.

After the war, in 1815, Alexander began his service as a Roman Catholic Bishop at St. Raphael’s Parish. In 1819 he was appointed Vicar Apostolic of Upper Canada, a position that was elevated to a bishopric in 1826, making Alexander Macdonell the first Bishop of Upper Canada.

It was during this time that the Bishop became involved in supporting the work of his friend John Galt, a novelist working for the Canada Company, in establishing new settlements throughout what is now southern Ontario. To express his gratitude for the Bishop’s assistance Galt chose a prime hilltop in the centre of the new settlement of Guelph which he “reserved for the Catholics, in compliment to my friend, Bishop Macdonell, for his advice in the formation of the Company.” It was Galt’s hope that his friend would move the seat of the bishopric to Guelph. The road leading up to the hill was named Macdonell Street and in the autumn of 1827 Bishop Macdonell was one of the first visitors to the “Royal City” (okay, at this point it was more like ‘Royal Village’). The monumental, gothic-style Church of Our Lady Immaculate would subsequently be erected on the hill where it still stands today; undeniably the most prominent landmark in the city.

To pay further tribute to the Bishop, in 1962, Notre Dame Catholic High School and the Loretto Academy for Girls, located on that same hill, were collectively renamed Bishop Macdonell Catholic High School (locally referred to as simply Bishop Mac). The two buildings were joined into one in 1967, and the school was moved to its new location in the south end of the city in 2004. The original building has been demolished.

Church of our Lady Immaculate

Looking up Macdonell Street at the Church of our Lady Immaculate in Guelph

So, there you have it. If you moved to Guelph recently and have wondered who Bishop Macdonell was and why he had a school and a street named after him, now you know.

Why so many people constantly mispronounce Macdonell Street as ‘MacDonald’ however, remains a mystery.

Till next time… Shalom.


1. From Glengarry Light Infantry web site (http://glengarrylightinfantry.ca/index.php)

The Truth about Knowledge

“I think the Net generation is beginning to see knowledge in a way that is closer to the truth about knowledge — a truth we’ve long known but couldn’t instantiate. My generation, and the many generations before mine, have thought about knowledge as being the collected set of trusted content, typically expressed in libraries full of books. Our tradition has taken the trans-generational project of building this Library of Knowledge book by book as our God-given task as humans. Yet, for the coming generation, knowing looks less like capturing truths in books than engaging in never-settled networks of discussion and argument. That social activity — collaborative and contentious, often at the same time — is a more accurate reflection of our condition as imperfect social creatures trying to understand a world that is too big and too complex for even the biggest-headed expert.

“This new topology of knowledge reflects the topology of the Net. The Net (and especially the Web) is constructed quite literally out of links, each of which expresses some human interest. If I link to a site, it’s because I think it matters in some way, and I want it to matter that way to you. The result is a World Wide Web with billions of pages and probably trillions of links that is a direct reflection of what matters to us humans, for better or worse. The knowledge networks that live in this new ecosystem share in that property; they are built out of, and reflect, human interest. Like our collective interests, the Web and the knowledge that resides there is at odds and linked in conversation. That’s why the Internet, for all its weirdness, feels so familiar and comfortable to so many of us. And that’s the sense in which I think networked knowledge is more “natural.” ”

– “What the Internet Means for How We Think About the World” by Rebecca J. Rosen, January 5, 2012.

First published by The Atlantic.

via Google Reader.

The Scientific Foreknowledge of the Jewish Sages

There’s a new book out by Israeli professor of engineering at Ben Gurion University, Haim Shore, called “Coincidences in the Bible and in Biblical Hebrew” that I think I’m going to see if I can get a digital download for my reader. In it Shore examines a number of remarkable instances of ancient Jewish sages contemplating notions passed down through their scriptures and traditions that lead them to some remarkably accurate scientific conclusions. And they did it all without experimentation or even clinical observation hundreds and even thousands of years before scientific discipline caught up with them.

Author Adam Jacobs give an intriguing review of the book in the following article for The Algemeiner. You can check out Jacobs’ review at the following link…

The Scientific Foreknowledge of the Jewish Sages.

My thanks to Dr. Claude Mariottini for bringing the article to my attention.

What Would MLK Do? Christians and Climate Change

In Canada, Martin Luther King Day is all but ignored. Oh, it is mentioned on talk radio and on the news; but it is rarely forefront in our collective consciousness because it is, after all, a U.S. holiday. With it falling on a Sunday this year, yesterday I barely noticed it, being wrapped up in my duties surrounding two morning services at Kortright Church.

I am grateful then for this article by Jarrod McKenna on Tony Campolo’s Red Letter Christians blog. It is my hope that I will be deeply considering his message for some time to come.

Red Letter Christians » What Would MLK Do? Christians and Climate Change.