The Year 1935: The Threadbare 30s

The year is 1935, midway through the Threadbare Thirties. Depressed prices for land, sea and factory products, failed businesses, job layoffs and prairie drought bring severe poverty to millions of Canadians. Mackenzie King’s Liberals defeat Prime Minister R.B. Bennett’s Conservatives. The new CCF party elects its first seven MPs. In China General Chiang Kai-shek heads a Nationalist government. His main rival, Mao Tse-tung, is the Communist leader. Adolf Hitler is chancellor of a rearming Germany and Joseph Stalin is dictator of the Soviet Union. Pius XI continues as Roman pontiff.

Editor of China is Fr. Alphonsus Chafe. The Scarboro journal has 25,000 subscribers who pay .50 cents yearly. At Scarboro Bluffs east of Toronto, 50 students at the St. Francis Xavier China Missions Seminary prepare to join 18 Scarboro priests already ministering to about 3,000 Catholics in the district of Chuchow; Chekiang Province, not far south of Shanghai. An estimated 1,500,000 Chinese live in this 10,000 square mile prefecture, most of them in cities, towns and villages. The Canadian missionaries have seven mission stations. Scarboro headquarters are at Lishui (formerly called Chuchow) where Monsignor McGrath and six colleagues work. Also in Lishui are five Grey Sisters of the Immaculate Conception from Pembroke, Ontario. The first members of -the nursing and teaching order had arrived in 1930. Only infrequently were their experiences reported in the Scarboro monthly.

As in previous years, mission accounts from these Chinese outposts provided the main theme in 1935 issues. From Kinhwa, Monsignor Fraser continued to send reports of his endeavours and also photographs; often pictures of large groups of Chinese adults and chi1dren, formally posed. Other writers included Frs. Gerald Doyle, John McDonald (“who saved a Chinese girl from a pagan marriage”), Larry Beal, W .H. McNabb, Craig Strang (who described a “triumphant Corpus Christi celebration the first great public demonstration of Catholic faith in Chuchow”), Joseph Venini and William A. Amyot.

After a brief illness, Fr. James Duncan McGillivray, 42, was the first Scarboro missionary to die abroad. “May his death be fruitful unto the salvation of souls for whom he sacrificed his life,” China’s editor wrote in tribute. The community of Grey Sisters at the Lishui mission composed an eloquent “Appreciation” of Fr. McGil1ivray who had been their confessor.

Some regular magazine features in 1935 were carryovers from previous years. The Nonsense collection of jokes still commanded a full page each month. Little Flower’s Rose Garden edited by “Father Jim” invited young readers to pray for the conversion of China, asking for the intercession of Saint Therese of the Child Jesus, who had been named patroness of missions by Pius XI. Sample quotations from 1935 pages:

  • “Donations and contributions to foreign mission work have fallen off alarmingly in recent years.”
  • A three-part article on Catholic missions by a Vatican sinologist criticized the Chinese republic as “exasperatingly patriotic” and for its “unmistakable links with communism.”
  • “The Dragon At Close Range”, an interpretation of the Chinese situation by Monsignor McGrath, and “The Anvil of the Cross “, a collection of poems by Fr. Hugh F.X. Sharkey, was promoted frequently in 1935 issues. In a review of the McGrath book, Henry Somerville, editor of The Catholic Register, wrote: “It can be called emphatically an enrichment of the national literature” of Canada.
  • From Fr. Desmond Stringer’s open letter to seminarians: “The motive urging you to spend your life here is charity and love of God and neighbour… In the final reckoning it will be the extent of your love and not the results which will determine the reward.”
  • “Nearly 50 converts have been received into the Church and the average attendance at Sunday school is 85,” said a December report on the Chinese mission in Vancouver. Fr. Roland Roberts had replaced Fr. Sharkey who was returning to Lishui. British Columbia had “upwards of 50,000 Orientals.”

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