Confessions of an English Opium-Eater - Rev. John J. MacDonald

Rev. John J. MacDonald

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Rev. John J. MacDonald (1864-1931)

John J. MacDonald was born on 3 December 1864 to parents Charles and Isabelle MacDonald of Prince Edward Island.

John attended St. Dunstan’s College and later went on to teach English and Mathematics.

He would also attend Laval University for Graduate studies in Theology. While in Quebec, he was called to Fargo, North Dakota by Reverend John Shanley, D.D. Bishop of Fargo. John completed his studies for Priesthood at St. Paul’s Seminary in North Dakota.

On 1 August 1899, at Devil’s Lake, North Dakota, John was ordained by Bishop Shanley. He was first appointed as an assistant in Jamestown, North Dakota. On 1 December 1899, he would be appointed Pastor of Michigan and Missions. John would celebrate a Silver Jubilee on 1 August 1923 which was thought to be “an outstanding event.”

John would spend most of his grown life in Michigan and was well known as a poet. He wrote two published books titled, Christ of the Andes and Other Poems and Charm of the Lake Region. He was also involved in the community and became a charter member of the Michigan Lions Club on the evening of his death.

Reverend John J. MacDonald died on 21 May 1931, and was buried in Michigan Cemetery, Michigan, Nelson County, North Dakota.

John was well loved by everyone, over 1,500 people, and not only parishioners, went to St. Lawrence Catholic Church to pay their respects. A public address system was installed so the many people could witness the service for John.

His Excellency Rt. Rev. James O’Reilly, Bishop of Fargo gave the sermon and praised the many strengths of John, "Father McDonald's lips were so formed that they could not utter an uncharitable word of any living thing." He emphasized the qualities of an excellent priest, which found their exemplification in the life of Father McDonald, who for 33 years had lived and labored among the people of this parish.” (Rev John McDonald, Find a Grave).

Interment at the cemetery was officiated at the grave by Rt. Rev James O’Reilly, “The funeral procession was the largest ever witnessed in the city. Automobiles were still falling in line at the church when the head of the procession was at the cemetery. It is estimated that over 400 cars were in the city Monday morning.” (FaG).

At the close of the service, final absolution of the casket was given by His Excellency Most Rev A.A. Sinnott, Archbishop of Winnipeg, with Fourth Degree Knight of Columbus standing as guard of honor.

UPEI's Provenance Collection holds the book Confessions of an English Opium-Eater by Thomas De Quincey, which was signed by Rev John J MacDonald, “A souvenir of Rev. John J. MacDonald.”


Rev John MacDonald. Find A Grave.

Bolger, Francis W.P. (1977). The history of Vernon River Parish,1877-1977.

Donahoe, Rev. James. Prince Edward Island Priests Who have Labored or are Laboring in the Sacred Ministry outside the Diocese of Charlottetown. 2nd Edition.

Whitman, Mapes. Michigan City North Dakota Centennial 1883-1983.

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