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John Holmes

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Catholic educator and priest ; born at Windsor, Vermont, in 1799; died at Lorette, near Quebec, Canada, in 1852.

After a few years' schooling at Dartmouth College, he left home for Canada, bent on prosecuting his studies and converting Catholics. His own eyes were opened to the true Faith, which he embraced at Yamachiche, Province of Quebec, in 1817, where the pastor, Abbé Lecuyer, had housed and instructed him. He studied philosophy at Montreal Seminary, and theology at Nicolet College. Shortly after his ordination in 1823 he was appointed pastor of Drummondville, the centre during the four years of his ministry of a field of labour extending over a district now comprising fifteen or twenty parishes.

He then went as professor to Quebec Seminary, which was to reap such benefit from his talents and devotedness. Abbé Holmes, a born pedagogue, infused new life into the antiquated curriculum, introducing Greek, English, and all the branches of experimental science. His inventive genius and winning style lent a charm to all his teaching, especially that of geography. His "Traité de Géographie", first published in 1832, many times re-edited and even translated into English and German, is a model text-book. He first conceived the plan of a Catholic University, since realized in Laval, the charter of which was signed shortly after his death.

His zeal for education was not limited to the seminary. In 1836, when the Legislature of Lower Canada voted grants for the first normal schools, the task of organizing and equipping these institutions was entrusted to Abbé Holmes.

No patriot was more devoted to the country of his adoption. His experience in the eastern townships inspired him to promote colonization in that direction, so as to stem the tide of French Canadian emigration beyond the border-line. He also foresaw the possibility of a commercial union of all the British provinces in North America, a plan afterwards more completely realized by the confederation in 1867.

Abbé Holmes was an orator in the full sense of the word. His deep and varied knowledge, expressive mien and gesture, sonorous voice, and perfect mastery of the French tongue all combined to charm and convince the audiences that crowded the vast cathedral to overflowing, and produced on his hearers a life-long impression. His "Conférences de Notre-Dame" were first published in 1850. His friendly relations with his family soon reconciled them to his conversion. A brother and all his six sisters followed him into the Church.

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