Master of Arts (MA)
Faculty of Arts
The historical advantage the Roman Catholic Church held over its Anglican counterpart in the Athabasca region militated against the latter’s success. Owing to the dominant position established by the Oblates a generation prior to a resolute effort by the Church Missionary Society to evangelize the native population, the Anglicans were at a distinct disadvantage. Bishop Richard Young’s policies were shaped not by a master plan but rather by the necessity of having to react to the activities of the Catholics. Despite expansion, the Church of England was able to establish a firm base only in those areas which, initially, the Romanists had virtually ignored.
Continuous missionary activity was brought to the Athabasca region in the 1840’s with the coming of the Oblates. Upon acquiring a satisfactory degree of proficiency in the native languages and becoming knowledgeable in the customs and traditions of the Indians, the Roman Catholic priests set forth to baptize the adult natives inhabiting the vicariate of Athabasca-Mackenzie. The Indian population, for a variety of reasons, embraced the teachings of the Oblates, were converted to Catholicism, and established a certain rapport with the Oblates.
The Church of England, on the other hand, did not enter this region until the late 1860’s. Although the Anglican Diocese of Athabasca was established in 1874, little missionary activity was undertaken during the episcopacy of W.C. Bompas. With the elevation of Richard Young to Bishop of Athabasca in 1884, a new era dawned for Anglican missionary work in the region. The Anglican missionaries set about learning the language, customs and traditions of the native peoples. They were men who possessed what appeared to be the requisite characteristics for bringing Christianity and civilization to the Indians. And yet, despite their dedication and perseverance, they enjoyed little success in bringing the native population into the Church of England.
A thorough examination of the Letterbooks of Bishop Young and the Incoming and Outgoing Correspondence of the Church Missionary Society and the Diocese of Athabasca was undertaken in order to discover a legitimate explanation for the relative failure of the Anglicans to obtain converts among the native population in the Diocese of Athabasca. Although the development of the thesis was not dependent upon a thorough examination of Oblate sources, pertinent information on Catholic missionary activity was obtained from the works of E.J. Champagne, Fernand-Michel, E. Grouard, and A.G. Morice, and Missions de la Congrégation des Missionaires Oblates de Marie Immaculée, a periodical published by the Oblates of Mary Immaculate.
Brandak, George Michael, "A Study of Missionary Activity in the Diocese of Athabasca, 1884-1903" (1972). Theses and Dissertations (Comprehensive). 1483.