The Farmers' Bank of Rustico
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St. Augustine's Church

 

The Church

The Roman Catholic Church on PEI

The French settlers emigrating to Acadia in the 17th century were devote Roman Catholics. The Catholic religion was the state religion in France and the church held a great deal of both social and political power. When a French colony was founded, the recruitment of a priest was always a priority.

Acadian settlers on Ile Saint Jean were strongly attached to their religion. In 1751, the engineer Franquet made an inspection tour of the Island and noted that the settlers were "zealous with regard to religion and even a bit superstitious". His observations proved that the presence of a priest was of prime importance to the inhabitants. Everywhere he went, they begged him to obtain a priest for them.

Treaty of Paris

Since the Acadians were devote Catholics, the church exercised a great deal of influence in shaping their lives. The Treaty of Paris in 1763 guaranteed Acadians the right to practise the Catholic religion, but only within the context of the laws of Great Britain. Catholics were excluded from the House of Parliament, deprived of the right to vote and the right to purchase or inherit real estate. Gradually, these constraints were lifted. An amendment to the law in 1786 on Prince Edward Island granted Catholics the right to own land. It would not be until 1830 that they gained the right to vote and to sit in the Legislature.

From 1763 to 1772 there were no priests to serve the people of Prince Edward Island. The prolonged absence of priests amongst the Acadians following the expulsion affected the way they practised their religion. Missionaries only visited two or three times a year. Because of this laymen were called upon to replace the priest for certain duties. On Sundays and Feast Days people went to church, even if there was no priest, and would celebrate "White Mass" and Vespers. One of the more educated and respected men in the parish would preside over the reading of the prayers for mass. The Church authorized laymen to give private baptism to infants who were in danger of dying rather than waiting for solemn Baptism to be performed by a priest.

The clergy were held in great esteem. If there was a missionary located in a nearby community, people did not hesitate to go and find him in order to receive the sacraments. The inhabitants of Tignish would often travel as far as Rustico, over a distance of about 160 kilometres, in order to have their marriage blessed or to have one of their children baptized.

A priest had a very demanding ministry on Prince Edward Island which he carried out in isolation, far away from his ecclesiastical superiors. He would administer the sacraments, teach catechism, organize schools and instruction, direct the worldly business of the parish, often serve as justice of the peace, combat social problems such as drunkenness, and more! He was responsible for these in all of his missions.

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View of interior of the Vatican's St. Peter's Basilica

Interior of Vatican, St. Pierre Interior. 2006. Wikipedia Image Archives.

Painting of Pope Pius VII

Pope Pius VII. circa 1830. Wikipedia Image Archives.

Crucifix from Doucet House

Crucifix from Doucet House. Farmers' Bank Collection. 2008, Barry King.

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