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Diocese of Victoria
(VICTORIEN. IN INS. VANCOUVER.)
Diocese in southwestern British Columbia, of which province it is the capital, was known until recently, first, as the Diocese, and later, as the Archdiocese of Vancouver. It is the mother-diocese of British Columbia, for at its establishment in 1847 it comprised the mainland of this province and all the coast island, including the Queen Charlotte group. In 1863 the mainland became an Apostolic vicariate, and was afterwards erected into the Diocese of New Westminster, at which time the diocese of Vancouver was restricted to Vancouver Island and adjacent islands. Alaska, after its cession to the United States in 1867, was attached to this see, and remained so until 1894 when it became a prefecture Apostolic (see ALASKA). In 1904 the title was changed to that of the archdiocese, and in 1909 to that of the Diocese of Victoria, the Archdiocese of Vancouver being then transferred to Vancouver City, B.C.
As early as 1778 Franciscan missionaries reached Nootka on the west coast of the island. Later, a sprinkling of settlers established themselves in the southern part, in what was known as Fort Camosun, a name afterwards changed to Victoria, in honour of the reigning Queen of England. In 1843 Father Bolduc volunteered to minister to the spiritual necessities of these pioneers. In 1847 Rev. Modeste Demers (q.v.), a missionary of Oregon, was called to take charge of the newly created See of Vancouver. He had already acquired personal knowledge and experience regarding the territory known as British Columbia, and, before taking possession of his see, he went to Europe to secure priests and means for his needy diocese. Father, afterwards Bishop, Lootens was one of the generous volunteers. With characteristic energy, foresight, and wisdom, Bishop Demers soon organized the district assigned him. To aid him, he brought the Sisters of St. Ann in 1858, and, the following year, the Oblates of Mary Immaculate. The latter were given charge of the natives of the entire diocese, and established themselves with headquarters at Esquimalt; they remained until 1864. The former, devotedly both to education and the care of the sick, are still actively engaged in various parts of the diocese, and have two institutions in Victoria, St. Ann's Academy for girls and St. Joseph's Hospital.
Before the death of Bishop Demers in 1871, he appointed as his administrator, the Reverend C. J. Seghers, (q.v.), who two years later became bishop. The apostolic zeal of his saintly predecessor marked his six years' tenure of office, when Bulls from Rome appointed him coadjutor to Archbishop Blanchet of Oregon, with right of succession, and the Rev. J. B. Brondel succeeded him in Victoria. Five years later, the latter was transferred to Helena, Montana, and Archbishop Seghers, at his own suggestion, was appointed to the vacant see of Vancouver. Right Rev. J. N. Lemmens (b. in Schimmert, Holland, in 1850) was ordained at the American College of Louvain, Belgium, in 1875, and came the following year to Victoria. In 1884, he was sent to represent the diocese at the Third Plenary Council of Baltimore. After the tragic death of Archbishop Seghers, Father Lemmens was consecrated Bishop of Vancouver, in 1888. A lasting monument to his energetic efforts is the Gothic cathedral, which was completed in 1892. He died in 1897 in Guatemala, Central America, where he was spending some months for the double purpose of soliciting contributions towards the payment of the cathedral debt, and of aiding the exiled Archbishop of Guatemala by administering confirmation throughout the diocese. His successor, Right Rev. Alexander Christie, took possession of his see in 1898, and the following year was promoted to the Archdiocese of Oregon City. Right Rev. Bertram Orth succeeded in 1899, and in 1903 was raised to the dignity of archbishop of the newly established ecclesiastical province of British Columbia. Owing to failing health, he resigned in 1908, and in 1909 Right Rev. Alexander MacDonald, of Antigonish, Nova Scotia, was consecrated in Rome under the title of Bishop of Victoria. Bishop MacDonald is well-known as a writer on religious subjects and questions of the day.
The Indian missions both on the east and on the west coast of the island were established by the secular clergy of the diocese, and were, until recently, under their sole direction. In 1900, the Benedictine Fathers of Mount Angel, Oregon, and in 1903, the Fathers of the Company of Mary, came to take a share in the work of the diocese. There are 2,500 Catholic Indians, and the total Catholic population is 10,000. There are 8 schools, 1 college, 5 convents, 24 churches, 13 missions, 19 priests, and 40 stations.
A. J. Brabant.