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The Chippawas occupied the Saugeen and Huron Peninsula in the beginning of the 18th century. Chippawas communities also settled at Brooke (Owen Sound) during the 19th century, and then at Cape Croker. When Indigenous Catholic communities moved to Cape Croker, the Indian Department approached the Jesuit fathers, then stationed at Berlin, Ontario, and requested that a priest visit them. George Falhuber, S.J., arrived in the summer of 1857, and alongside Indigenous peoples, built a log church where the present church is located.
The Jesuit presence was sporadic in the subsequent years, but from 1860 until 1902, Jesuit missionaries located in Wikwemikong visited Cape Croker regularly. These missionaries came three or four times a year, while also visiting surrounding communities of the Bruce Peninsula. In 1902, Gaston J. Artus, S.J., was appointed to the mission at Cape Croker and subsequently established a more permanent Jesuit presence in the area. Joseph Cadot, S.J., replaced Father Artus and stayed in the region for twenty-seven years. In 1907, a stone church was erected. Indigenous peoples contributed to the building of the church, then named St. Mary’s. In 1931, Father Cadot moved to Saugeen and resided there until his retirement at the Jesuit Novitiate in 1936. The Cape Croker Mission included the activities of priests in the area. The St. John’s Catholic Church at Waubaushene was part of the activities of the Cape Croker Mission.
Michael Karhaienton Jacobs, S.J. was born in Kahnawà:ke May 11, 1902 to Ann Jacobs and Joseph Jacobs, a steel-worker who specialized in bridges. He was baptized several days later by Reverend William Forbes at the Church of the Saint-François-Xavier Mission—the same reverend and church that would host his ordination 32 years later. Father Jacobs’ family had been registered members of the Saint-François-Xavier Mission since 1715, and are descendants of Big Chief Te-wa-te-ron-hio-ko-aga (Piercing the Clouds).
Father Jacobs was initially one of eleven children, though only six siblings survived beyond childhood: brothers Thomas, Angus, and Frank (all former ironworkers in New York), and sisters Cecilia, Lottie, and Mary. Growing up between Kahnawà:ke and Lachine—an arrangement necessary to Jacobs’ father’s bridge work—Father Jacobs attended public school where he became fluent in English and Kanien’kéha. At 16 years old, after expressing interest in St. Isaac Joques (patron saint of Christian Iroquois Indians), he was sent by Joseph Gras, S.J. to study at Sacred Heart College in Sudbury, Ontario, over 500 kilometres from his home in Kahnawà:ke.
During his final year at Sacred Heart, Father Jacobs decided to enter the Society of Jesus. On August 14, 1922, he entered the Jesuit novitiate at Sault-au-Récollet, Quebec, and became the first member of the Mohawk Nation to join the Society of Jesus. From 1923 to 1926, he studied Rhetoric at Sault-au-Récollet. In 1926 and until 1929, he pursued philosophy at Collège de l’Immaculaée-Conception; from 1929 to 1931, he taught at Seminaire Gaspé, to return to Collège de l’Immaculaée-Conception in 1931 to study theology until 1935. In 1934, Father Jacobs was ordained by Reverend William Forbes, now Archbishop of Ottawa, in his childhood church of Saint-François-Xavier. The event was widely attended and publicized, and attracted numerous Kahnawà:ke community members as well as fellow Jesuits. Father Jacobs’ tertianship, which followed the end of his theology studies, took place in Chicoutimi, Quebec, from 1934 to 1936.
In 1937, after the completion of his tertianship, he began preaching to and teaching fellow Kahnawà:ke community members in Kanien’kéha. The following year, in 1938, he was relocated to the St. Regis-Ahkwesáhsne community at the Quebec/Ontario/New York border to serve as pastor for St. John Francis Regis Church—a position which he filled for 27 years. Due to the unique territorial context of the community, Father Jacobs claimed to serve in two nations (the United States and Canada), two Jesuit Provinces, and three dioceses (Valleyfield, Quebec; Alexandria, Ontario; and Ogdensburg, New York).
Over the course of his long career at St. Regis, Father Jacobs maintained an active parish life. He took part in many of the events at the parish activities center at Hogansburg (on the American side of the community). His firm belief that sports were at the heart of the community’s youth compelled him to put great emphasis on athletic programs, including working to revive lacrosse at St. Regis. His particular interest in Saint Kateri Tekakwitha led to his developing a Kateri Hall at his parish, which was host to ongoing educational opportunities like performances and festivals. He is also said to have encouraged Kanien’kehá:ka construction workers to build improved homes for their own families. His devotion to education in St. Regis prompted a relationship with the Sisters of Saint Anne, who he invited to St. Regis to teach from the years 1942 to 1973.
During his early years in the Society of Jesus, in the mid-1930s, Father Jacobs had spent summers serving as assistant director of the National Shrine of the North American Martyrs located in Auriesville, New York. The National Shrine continued to have a strong relationship with St. Regis throughout Father Jacobs’ career. In 1972, he received the Tekakwitha Award at the National Shrine’s Coliseum, accompanied by hundreds of Kanien’kehá:ka community members from St. Regis and Kahnawà:ke.
In 1972, Father Jacobs’ Golden Jubilee was celebrated by a widely attended ceremony at St. Regis Mission and the Kateri Tekakwitha Center, officiated by Bishop Stanislas Brzana of Ogdensburg, New York, Bishop Guy Belanger of Valleyfield, Quebec, and Bishop Adolph Proulx of Alexandria, Ontario (representing all three of Fr. Jacobs’ dioceses), marking fifty years in the Society of Jesus.
In 1965, he Jacobs assumed the role of assistant pastor at St. Regis with Francis Arsenault, S.J. taking his place as head pastor. He maintained this position until his health began to decline in 1982, at which point he moved to the Jesuit Province Infirmary in St. Jerome, Quebec. Father Jacobs died there six years later on September 8, 1988.
Timothy Dwyer, S.J. was born in Eganville, Ontario on January 19, 1898 to a family of many priests and Sisters. He entered the St. Stanislaus Novitiate in Guelph, Ontario in June of 1919 and proceeded to complete his studies between Guelph and Immaculée-Conception in Montreal. From 1926 to 1928, Father Dwyer served as the prefect of recreation and discipline at the residential school in Spanish, Ontario, where he learned Ojibwe. He was ordained in 1931, spent a year studying at St. Beuno’s College in Wales, and then a year again immersing himself in Ojibwe language at the Holy Cross Mission in Wikwemikong.
In 1934, Father Dwyer was given responsibility for the mission stations along the north shore of the Georgian Bay and the Spanish River Indian Reserve. In 1937, he was appointed parish priest in Little Current, but he resigned within two years due to poor health to recover at the Guelph novitiate and at St. Andrew’s Parish in Port Athur, Ontario. In 1942 he returned to work as pastor at Garden River, but his poor health returned and, in 1947, a series of heart attacks led to his hospitalization in Sault Ste. Marie, where he soon passed away.
John Raymond Oliver was born in Canso, Nova Scotia on April 3, 1908, and entered the Society of Jesus in 1927. While studying at the Jesuit Seminary in Toronto, he learned Ojibwe and French. In 1934, he went to Spanish, Ontario to teach at the residential school followed by a year of teaching at Regiopolis College in Kingston, Ontario. He completed his studies at Immaculée-Conception in Montreal and was ordained a priest in August of 1940.
In 1942, Father Oliver returned to Northern Ontario to work with the Ojibwe people in small parishes along the north shore of the Georgian Bay. He was named minister and prefect of discipline at the residential school at Spanish, and in 1945 was appointed Superior and principal there. He is credited with implementing high school classes at the residential school, which officially opened in 1948 with the help of the Daughters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. In the last four of seven years at Spanish, he was official advisor to the Provincial Superior, making monthly trips to Toronto to fulfill the duty.
In 1952, Father Oliver was assigned to the Holy Cross Mission at Wikwemikong in Ontario where he served as pastor and Superior of a small community. When two fires at Wikwemikong nearly destroyed several of the parish’s buildings, Father Oliver oversaw their reconstruction. In 1959, however, Father Oliver was directed to leave the Northern Missions to become Superior of Bellarmine Hall in Toronto, where he remained for five years before returning to pastoral ministry as a parish priest of St. John Brebeuf Parish in Winnipeg in 1964. In 1972, he was assigned to Ignatius College in Guelph, giving assistance to nearby parishes and ministering at the Loyola House. He died suddenly of a heart attack in 1980.