The following article is a decade-by-decade look at our story as told in the pages of Scarboro Missions magazine and its precursor China magazine from the inaugural issue in 1919 to the 1990s. Written by Grant Maxwell, this article appeared in two instalments in the January and February 1993 issues of Scarboro Missions magazine as part of the Society’s 75th anniversary celebrations.
Through the Years: 1919-1999
By Grant Maxwell
More than 800 issues of the Scarboro Foreign Mission Society’s monthly voice preceded the issue you are now reading. Since 1919 the continuing story of this made-in-Canada missionary community has been told in thousands of articles, regular features, photographs, maps and other items covering some 20,000 pages. Given these mammoth numbers, is an adequate report and analysis possible in two articles? Perhaps, if we limit ourselves to a bird’s-eye view of what China and Scarboro Missions reported and commented upon in one typical year of each decade. I promise to be as objective as possible in selecting typical examples of magazine content. So join me for this flying visit, first to the inaugural issue published in 1919 and then to more than 70 editions published since the middle 1920s.
The Year 1919: The Inaugural Issue
Fr. John Mary Fraser, the Society’s founder and first editor of China, set a lively editorial pace for his successors. His buoyant confidence and dramatic flair are seen in the main news story published in the inaugural issue of October 1919: “China Mission College Meets With Universal Approval” the headline proclaimed. The story reported that Fr. Fraser had “traversed the length and breadth of Canada, preaching in the churches and lecturing in the seminaries, colleges and schools; and everywhere finds the people prepared and eager” to support the proposed college, which first opened in Almonte, Ontario.
The Year 1926: The Boom-to-Bust 20s
Now it’s 1926. The Boom-to-Bust Twenties are half over. The stock market crash that triggered the Great Depression is only a few years ahead. During most of the decade W.L. Mackenzie King is Canada’s prime minister. Sun Yat-sen, founder of China’s first republic, has died. Two of his associates, Chiang Kai-shek and Mao Tse-tung, are rivals. George V reigns as monarch of the British Empire. Pope Pius XI occupies the Chair of St. Peter.
Fr. William C. McGrath is editor of China. In its seventh year the magazine has 15,000 subscribers. An annual subscription costs .50 cents.
Glowing reports from the Society’s first mission band to China was the predominant theme in 1926 issues. Typical headlines:
- “A Glorious Send-Off: Our Missionaries Reach Chuchow” (having travelled 10,000 miles in 46 days);
- “Father Fraser’s First Mission Tour” (in three installments);
- “Father Morrison’s First Convert” (“a lad of exceptional ability”);
- “Father Serra’s First Mission Tour”.
Regular features that year: editorials; News from Far and Near; numerous sepia-coloured photographs of people and places; Our Little Missionaries, a section for younger readers that included stories, poems, riddles, tricks, jokes and appeals to support the missions with pennies, nickels and dimes (“Have you a mite box?”); excerpts from readers’ letters but without names; Nonsense (jokes); appeals for adult donations; lists of contributions received; and advertisements, mostly by Toronto firms. Sample quotations indicated the tone of these 1926 pages:
- “Our three departing heroes are but the vanguard of the Canadian missionary army.”
- “Today we set out to take possession of and to evangelize Chuchow, the district teeming with immortal souls in ‘darkness and the shadow of death.”‘ (A message to readers from Fr. Fraser, who first went to China in 1902.)
- “During Lent, many of our Chinese Christians eat nothing until evening. They work hard all day… I wonder will you find such faith in Canada? (Fr. Vincent Morrison’s Diary.)
- Easter Appeal: “The greatest thing you can do for the salvation of those teeming millions in the darkness of paganism is to go yourself as a missionary, to buy souls with your very life, even as Jesus did.”
- Joke: “It isn’t always those who cough during the sermon who are ready to ‘cough up’ when the collection plate is passed around.”
- “After you are gone will your work continue? It will if you make provision in your will for those who are working to win souls in China.”
- “There’s a battlefield in China; there’s a war that’s raging now. There’s a mighty army mustering; won’t you join us in Chuchow?” From a poem by “H.F.X.S” (Fr. Hugh Sharkey).
- “In this picture (of Chinese youths) you see the three seminarians who were recently sent from our school in Chuchow to the seminary at Ningpo. They are the first fruits, in vocations, of our missionaries there.”
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.”
The Year 1945: War and Peace
War and Peace in the Forties; 1945 is the turning point. Six years of global conflict end after claiming 50-60 million lives. The Axis powers, Germany, Italy and Japan, surrender. The allies, led by U.S. presidents Roosevelt and Truman, Britain’s Churchill and the Soviets’ Sta1in, preside over an uneasy truce, which the new United Nations is to safeguard. Mackenzie King is still Canadian prime minister. George VI is king of the now shaky British Commonwealth. Pius XII has been Pope since 1939.
China has 49,000 subscribers who pay $1 annually. Fr. Sharkey is editor. Monsignor John E. McRae is the first superior general of the Scarboro Society. Monsignor Fraser is back in Canada, temporarily, after his safe refuge in Manila during the Japanese occupation of the Philippines. Several Scarboro priests survived Japanese internment in China during the war years. Other Scarboro members and Grey Sisters also returned safely to their postings in 1944 after having evacuated missions during the Japanese invasion.
In 1943 the Society began mission work in the Dominican Republic, the first of many new fields of service to come in Latin America, the West Indies and Asia.
Some representative headlines from 1945 editions: “Calling All Catholics” (text of a radio address by Fr. John McGoey); “Chinatown, My Chinatown” (“The colourful story of Vancouver’s Chinese Catholic parish” where Fr. Charles Murphy is pastor); “Letter From Internment” (delayed account from Frs. Michael Carey, Joseph Murphy and Thomas McQuaid, since released by their Japanese captors); “Dominican Days” (in which Fr. Frank Diemert shares some Latin American mission impressions); and “God Is Charity” (“The story of the Grey Sisters of Pembroke in China,” written by an unnamed sister).
Besides major articles, 1945 issues carried a variety of regular features, some of them perennials from previous years. Examples: The Bulletin Board, which reported the whereabouts of Scarboro personnel; The Little Flower’s Rose Garden, including a comic-strip telling of “The Miracle at Fatima” where the Blessed Virgin was said to have appeared to three poor Portuguese children in 1917; and Monsignor McGrath’s opinion column, From the Crow’s Nest. His booklet, “Fatima, Hope of the World”, an interpretation of the prayers for peace attributed to the Blessed Virgin, was advertised extensively in 1945 editions. Samplings from these pages:
- From an unidentified religious who described the Grey Sisters’ nursing apostolate in Lishui, where they also operated a boarding and day school for Chinese girls: “Nursing the sick poor is the precious privilege of all missionary Sisters, and in Lishui it is our chief occupation. Early each morning the Sisters disperse to their different fields, some to the hospital dispensary where hundreds of patients flock daily; others to make the rounds of the city homes where bed-ridden patients anxiously await them; others again are off to an early start to the outlying villages.”
- Scarboro appeal: “Lend Lease For Christ; Invest In Eternal Happiness”: “We are desperately in need of your help! After 25 years of sacrifice, suffering and toil in our prefecture of Lishui, Chekiang, our poor missionaries are homeless, our churches, schools and residences bomb-blasted ruins… We make this urgent appeal to all our friends in Canada and Newfoundland.”
- From Fr. McGoey’s radio address to Edmonton youth: “It is safe to say that Christianity, for China or any other pagan country, is the key to progress, to the elevating of the people to a higher physical as well as higher spiritual life. It is this which will cultivate in these nations a way of thought similar to our own, and put them on a plane with other nations.”
- Fr. R. Reeve described the stoic endurance he had observed among Chinese civilians during the conflict with Japan: “War, shortage of food, death, destruction, sickness, disease, and sorrow. There was something about these people that you couldn’t help but admire. They tried to smile in spite of everything.”
The Year 1955: The Complacent 50s
Now it’s 1955 in the Complacent Fifties. Many Canadians are enjoying relative prosperity after the economic depression and wartime shortages of the two previous decades. Louis St. Laurent is Canadian prime minister. Elizabeth II has been queen for three years. Mao Tse-tung’s Peoples’ Republic of China is in its sixth year.
By 1954 the last Scarboro priests and Grey Sisters were exiled home from their Chinese missions. In 1955 more than 100 Scarboro priests are serving in six other nations of Asia, Latin America and the West Indies. China magazine was renamed Scarboro Missions in April 1950 in recognition of this widening apostolate to other lands. Fr. Stringer is editor in 1955 and a subscription still costs $1 annually.
The contents of 1955 issues and those a decade earlier are similar in many respects; understandably so, given the similar hazards and reversals the Society experienced in China in the 1940s and 1950s. In both decades Scarboro editors were preoccupied with these traumatic developments and ideological dangers they feared closer at hand. A sampling of the magazine’s advocacy:
- “Wake Up Canada!” “This month we present for the serious consideration of our readers the revealing story of Fr. Arthur Venedam, S.F.M., who was expelled recently from China after spending two years in Red jails… Here is a graphic and gripping preview of what all of us can expect from Communism wherever it gains mastery.”
- Fr. Venedam’s account, entitled “Away With Him!” concluded: “The miserable leaders of the West who connived at China’s undoing will one day go down in ignominy and despair for their share in handing over these millions of peaceful peasants into the hands of the new Imperialists, misnamed Communists.”
- In a piece headlined “Through Pain To Paradise”, Fr. Pat Moore told of his “labour of love” in leading the Fatima statue pilgrimage across Canada and beyond. The Diocese of Victoria was one stopping-place on his tour.
- “Her Plan For Peace”, Fr. Stringer’s book-length interpretation of the Marian messages revealed at Fatima, was promoted and favourably reviewed. Monsignor McGrath added his endorsement in the monthly column, “From the Crow’s Nest”.
- The death of Monsignor McRae, first superior general, received extensive coverage. Fr. Chafe wrote: “It is noteworthy that right to the day of his death he had a young man’s enthusiasm for life around him… Anything that interested a student was also of interest to this old and lately blind monsignor.”
- An eight-page photo feature introduced Japanese women to Scarboro readers. “Women in Japanese society still lack the degree of freedom had by their sisters in the West,” the text stated. “Nevertheless, Japanese women, with their untiring selflessness, exquisite modesty, keen intelligence, patience, courage and heroism, are considered among the finest in the world.”
- A Scarboro seminarian, John Benoit, gave readers “a look at what goes on behind seminary walls,” including photos of seminarians at work, prayer and play. One observation: “Definite periods of manual labour, out-of-doors and indoors, are on the program for our students. Everyone is trained to use a hammer and saw, a pick, shovel, compass, square and level; thus a future Scarboro missioner is well prepared for any emergency.”
The Year 1965: The Turbulent 60s
The year is 1965 in the Turbulent Sixties – a decade of both creative and destructive changes. In China, Mao’s Red Guards spearhead a violent ‘counter revolution’. In North America and Western Europe the ‘sexual revolution’ and ‘Beatle mania’ are two among many significant signs of changing times. In Canada, Prime Minister Mike Pearson’s minority Liberal government, with New Democratic support, introduces national Medicare. In Rome, Pope Paul VI presides at the final session of the Second Vatican Council where over 2,000 bishops are initiating a far-reaching renewal of Catholicism. Just before the Council was to open in September 1962, Scarboro’s founding father, Monsignor Fraser, had died in Osaka, Japan, 60 years after his first mission journey to the Orient.
Still costing only $1 a year, Scarboro Missions is edited by Harold Oxley.
The social upheavals of the 1960s and especially Vatican II had a lasting impact on the monthly magazine. In 1965 and succeeding years, readers witnessed an accelerating transformation in the periodical. Compared to what subscribers had read in previous years, the editorial emphasis, much of the content and eventually the overall appearance changed dramatically.
A January editorial, titled “Thinking Of You”, signaled the changes underway and still to come: “You unsuspecting lay folk may not know it, but we priests have been thinking a lot about you lately. We feel that you might bring some original approaches to the work we have been trying to do for years… And it’s not just coincidence that we are all thinking this way; we’ve been told to – especially by Pope John XXIII and Pope Paul VI.”
Mission experiences far beyond Canada still received priority attention. Instances: Fr. Tim Ryan described the maiden voyage of the Santa Teresena, Scarboro’s 40-foot houseboat on Brazil’s Amazon River. From Japan, Fr. Thomas O’Toole reported that Western customs had become so common they were no longer considered novelties. Fr. John Bolger described a coal miners’ retreat at Kaize, Japan. Fr. Vincent Daniel wrote about the training of lay catechists in the Brazilian jungle. Editor Oxley found time to compose several articles on Scarboro mission efforts in British Guyana.
In shock and sadness, Scarboro members and magazine readers learned that Fr. Arthur MacKinnon had been murdered June 22 in the Dominican Republic. ” A Martyr For Social Justice” by Fr. Paul Ouellette, Scarboro’s regional superior in that Latin American republic, introduced a detailed account of the tragedy. An excerpt: “Fr. Art truly sympathized with the aims of the revolution in the Dominican Republic – although not with the Communist elements involved in it. He recognized, as all of us do, the many social injustices, which have existed so long in the country, and he saw the urgent need to correct these abuses… Since Fr. Art was very outspoken, the police and army in Monte Plata had listed him as a ‘rebel’ and even as a Communist. (The police still do not make any distinction between ‘rebel’ and ‘Communist’, but the fact is that most rebels are not Communist.)” Issues of social justice and peace were a recurring theme in editorials that year. Examples:
- “Christ sanctified poverty of spirit, not the poverty that degrades… Having been so blessed by God, what right have we (Canadians) to be relieved of guilt we have brought on ourselves by our refusal to share our good fortune with others? May God have mercy on us. And may the poor of the world also have mercy when they sit in judgement on us.”
- “A missionary lives and works in a world of real people and real problems. And he must bring the personal interest of Christ to all of these problems even when they seem unrelated to the work of conversion.”
- “If our work is really to advance, priests must do much more than beef up the manpower statistics wherever they are sent… One thing we hope from them is that they will take some original thinking to the problems of their missions… Each generation must make its own contribution to the solution of our problems.”
Besides the monthly editorial, other regular features (departments) in 1965 included I Remember, one-page accounts of vivid experiences by Scarboro members; Come Follow Me, reflections by Fr. George Courtright, vocation director; short items of Mission News, and Scarboro’s Junior Missionaries, now reduced to one page.
The Year 1975: The Indulgent 70s
It’s 1975 in the Indulgent Seventies. Washington and Moscow are the main adversaries in the Cold War’s escalating arms race. Pierre Trudeau is Canadian prime minister. Governments and citizens alike are spending freely. Paul VI calls on Catholics to observe a Holy Year by practicing reconciliation of differences and injustices.
Scarboro Missions begins the year with Fr. John Walsh as editor, soon to be succeeded by Fr. Gerald Curry. Writes the outgoing editor: “I wish Fr. Curry many miracles, and hope he will perform a few of his own.” When he takes the chair, Editor Curry promises readers he will aim for “a balanced diet” of magazine fare. Annual subscriptions cost $2. Subscribers number 41,000.
The ecumenical and interfaith outreach of the periodical in 1975 and the appearance of many guest contributors in its pages stand in sharp contrast to the nearly exclusive Catholic content of Scarboro editions in the 1940s and 1950s. Instances of the new openness:
- Dr. Katherine Hockin, previously a Protestant missionary to China and now director of the Ecumenical Institute in Toronto told a Scarboro interviewer: “North America is itself very much a mission, and people who have been overseas see this new image very clearly.”
- “Church, what do you say of your future? Are you going to give up the means of power, the compromises with political and financial power?” asked world youth assembled in Taize, France. Scarboro published their “Letter to the People of God”.
- Janet Somerville, well-known Catholic journalist, concluded a four-part series on world development and the Bible. “Can we expect the spiritual blessings of renewal and reconciliation if we are not willing to live brotherhood in an economic sense?” was her challenge for the 1975 Holy Year.
- Theologian Gregory Baum analyzed the relationship between personal and social sin.
- After a tour through Southeast Asia, Scarboro’s Fr. Don Boyle described his findings in several articles. One Indonesian host was Fr. Mangunjiwaya who told him: “We respect all religions and we revere all prophets. Buddha, Mohammed, Brahman and Jesus are all respected and revered.”
As in past years, Scarboro events and reflections still predominated in the Society’s house organ. Examples:
- The June issue was dedicated to the memory of Fr. Art MacKinnon, shot to death 10 years before in the Dominican Republic. There were accounts of his martyrdom and that of 10 other priests and religious in Latin America.
- Fr. Frank Hawkshaw described the Society’s Fifth General Chapter in 1974. One major decision invited single men to join Scarboro’s missionary apostolate whether they chose to be ordained or remain laymen. In coming years the Society would train and commission both men and women as lay missioners, dozens of whom would serve alongside the declining ranks of Scarboro priests.
- Scarboro’s Book Department advertised five works by Fr. McGoey, including his Nor Scrip nor Shoes, and Agent for Change, author Gary MacEoin’s account of Fr. Harvey Steele’s apostolate of cooperatives and credit unions in Panama.
- A survey of Scarboro Missions readers found the majority were “veteran mission supporters.” Readers said personal stories about individual missionaries were the most favoured articles. Similarly, “Faces in Focus” and “I Remember” were “overwhelming favourites” among the magazine’s regular features.
The Year 1985: The Uneasy 80s
Year 1985 in the Uneasy Eighties. President Reagan has a new opposite number in Moscow: Mikhail Gorbachev, who soon calls for an end to the Cold War, including its runaway arms race. Meanwhile famine, disease, debt, oppression and civil strife escalate in most Third World countries. Canada’s Prime Minister Brian Mulroney leads a new Progressive Conservative government. Pope John Paul II continues papal visits to every continent.
Fr. Jack Lynch is editor of Scarboro Missions, now a full-colour publication. Subscribers total 43,000 and pay $5 annually.
Various global themes were examined in most 1985 issues. The United Nations’ International Youth Year was the first cover story. The state of the Catholic Church in Cuba was examined in articles reprinted from Missions Etrangeres, published by the Quebec Foreign Mission Society. Several Latin American bishops who witnessed to “the faith that does justice” were profiled, and tribute was paid to Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador, assassinated five years before. The justice themes Pope John Paul stressed during his 1984 Canadian visit were recalled.
The editor shared some reflections on social justice when he called for a “comprehensive” pro-life ethic: “To promote life we must also promote quality of life. We can’t, for example, argue with any consistency for the rights of the unborn without an equally diligent commitment to the unwed mother. Nor can we feed the hungry through piecemeal efforts – a food basket at Christmas simply will not do. The quality of life also entails that we work to see that our government’s policies, church structures and institutions address the needs of the powerless – the unemployed, elderly, handicapped, homeless and hungry.”
Some of that year’s regular features: The Global Parish reproduced reports and talks from many quarters. Focus on Facts provided data on missions around the world. The Word offered various contributors’ insights on the Scriptures. Fr. David Warren examined the Missionary Vocation issue by issue. The ever-popular I Remember column continued as before. Scarboro members who shared memories included Frs. Charles Gervais, Frank Moylan, Rogers Pelow, John O’Connor, John Gault and Robert Cranley. As well, Scarboro personnel, including lay men and women missioners, shared Personal Reflections.
“My mission has me returning to the fundamentals,” Louise Malnachuk wrote in one such Reflections column. She described her experiences in Taiwan and Hong Kong where Christians are a tiny minority. During two years in Chiapas, Mexico, Ron MacDonnell discovered that “the Amerindian culture is something deep and special within the Latin American context… We can learn from their profound spirituality, about the ways God is alive in another culture.” And Fr. John Carten, serving in Japan, shared the tension he experienced “between a desire to share with others my own belief in a God who is creator of all, and the need to recognize and learn from the presence of the Spirit already present among Buddhists and Shintoists.” This mission experience “moves me to look at Canada differently, recognizing our gifts but also our blindness.”
The Year 1990: The Uncertain 90s
Five years on we reach the Uncertain Nineties – a new decade of much promise and peril. In 1990 the old ‘world order’ is crumbling and a so-called ‘new world order’ supposedly is emerging. In Canada Prime Minister Mulroney’s government is in its second term. Constitutional renewal based on a Meech Lake agreement is heading for failure.
Fr. Gerald Curry again is editor of Scarboro Missions. Subscriptions are $5 annually.
There are 36,000 subscribers. “Creation Spirituality” was the main theme of the first 1990 issue. Sr. Anne Lonergan, RC, began a three-part series. Fr. Bob Ogle’s guest editorial declared: “I believe that our culture misread the Biblical story, and the care that our Creator demanded became the abuse of creation. I feel that a new acceptance of the ‘gospel of Genesis’ is a key to any turnaround.” Other contributors to this ecological theme included Mark Hathaway, lay missioner in Peru, and Rene Fumoleau, OMI missionary and supporter of the Dene Nation in the Northwest Territories.
Other global themes explored in succeeding editions included the debt, crisis in the Third World, “Third World Solidarity Day”, and “Interfaith Dialogue”, which presented an interview with Professor Ovey N. Mohammed, SJ. “Not only can people from different religions pray together, they can also teach each other how to pray better,” he said. Paul McKenna wrote on “Understanding Hinduism” and Toronto teacher Ted Schmidt contributed a two-part article on “Education for Justice”.
One issue was devoted to “Scarboro in Japan”. A dozen Scarboro members shared mission experiences and insights. They included Frs. Dave Fitzpatrick, Cleary Villeneuve, Ben Schultz, James Gauthier, Alex McDonald, John Bolger, Thomas Morrissey, Edgar Geier, and Don Boyle, who coordinated the issue. By 1990 a total of 32 members had served in Japan, including the current editor.
The June issue honoured the memory of Fr. Art MacKinnon on the 25th anniversary of his martyrdom in the Dominican Republic. Monsignor Robert Hymus summarized the 47-year Scarboro presence in the island republic, where 62 members had served in past years. Eight Scarboro missioners, including Monsignor Hymus, were serving there in 1990. More highlights:
- In noting social injustices abroad and at home, the editor deplored “the apathy of middleclass Canadian Catholics who seem to settle for anything so long as it does not affect or hurt them… Our God is not a fence-sitter. God does not accept the evil of hunger or homelessness or injustice or oppression. God has clearly taken a stand. Have you?”
- Scarboro missioner Bishop George Marskell decried reckless development projects in Brazil’s Amazonia. “These mega-projects – dams, roads, lumbering, gold and tin mining, predatory fishing – are violent forms of aggression against nature. They destroy rain forests, pollute the atmosphere, poison rivers and destroy entire populations.”
- Tom Walsh, coordinator of Scarboro’s Department of Lay Association, described 12 years of mission life he, his wife Julia and children had experienced in Peru and Panama.
- Fr. Joe Curcio, now retired, dedicated a tribute to Canada’s first citizens to Bernadette, an Native child of five who had asked him, “What you no talk Chipewyan?”
As well in 1990, as a new member of the Canadian Church Press, an ecumenical group of over 70 Christian publications in Canada, Scarboro Missions won recognition among colleagues at the annual Church Press convention.
It’s noteworthy that the Society’s mandate for its periodical was spelled out in the masthead of each 1990 issue: “Scarboro Missions presents a global vision of faith; one which promotes within the Canadian church a dialogue and understanding of the faiths, cultures and struggles of the people among whom the Society works…”
Preparation of this overview prompts a few reflections I wish to share with readers. Equally, I hope to read your reactions in future letters to the editor.
The dramatic evolution of the Scarboro monthly is clearly revealed by this survey of some 70 past issues. Covers, inside layouts and the range of topics have changed substantially over the decades. I would say two factors the changing times and changing editors are mainly responsible for this ongoing development.
The impact of world events on magazine content, for example, is very evident in the 1955 editions. That decade saw a rapid escalation in the ideological Cold War between the Capitalist West and Soviet-led Communist bloc. In China, Scarboro missionaries suffered harassment, imprisonment and then exile from the missions they had so carefully tended for 30 years. In the United States and Canada, too, the news media reported the stormy hearings of congressional committees into “un-American activities.” “Better dead than Red” was a popular slogan. Many Canadian Catholics joined in the Fatima-inspired prayer crusade for “the conversion of Russia.” These events influenced many pages of the Scarboro journal that year.
Similarly, each of the 17 men who edited China and Scarboro Missions left his personal signature on the issues he shepherded to publication. Each brought a unique personality and individual background to the editorial chair. And each, of course, was affected in distinctive ways by the changing world he lived in.
All Scarboro editors have been committed to the call of the Gospel, to the Christian values that Jesus Christ taught, lived and died for. While these Gospel norms do not change, perceptions and applications of them have been developing from one generation to the next, particularly since Vatican II. Moreover, each editor had his own sincere convictions as to what these Gospel values required in terms of daily living, pastoral priorities and public policies. Yet, however much their interpretations differed, each editor, from John Mary Fraser to Gerald Curry, served the will of God and observed the teachings of the Church as faithfully as he could.
To sum up: Whoever wants to know more about the Scarboro Foreign Mission Society – relative, friend, supporter, researcher or interested onlooker – cannot afford to ignore its monthly voice. Here we find the continuing story of this very Canadian missionary movement as told by the members themselves. Hundreds of Scarboro priests, lay men and women missioners and occasionally other men and women religious have described their diverse mission experiences and shared their personal reflections from more than a dozen lands on three continents. As a result, the history of Scarboro Missions, founded in November 1918, and the history of its periodical are almost as one.
In reporting this living history, one essential has remained constant in over 800 issues of the Society’s public voice. The focus on Christian mission has never wavered from the first issue of October 1919 to the edition you are reading today. Whatever else may change in future editions, the focus on mission is certain to remain constant, especially as the church engages in the “new evangelization” John Paul II prescribes.
The author of this article, Grant Maxwell, died in 2003 at the age of 81. He had a 50-year career as a journalist and was familiar with our Society’s monthly magazine having spent many hours poring over past issues, an excellent source for a detailed recording of Scarboro’s mission history. Grant first researched Scarboro’s early years in China, which he described in the book, Assignment in Chekiang, published in 1981. Grant again researched many issues up to the 1990s in order to prepare this two-part article.