John's Canadians

The Guiding Star

Mary Louise showed her warmth and strength early.  For one thing, she and her sister survived years of boarding school.  As a young woman, she sometimes tended the needy in the poorer areas of Dublin; she spoke of an old lady in particular whose faith edified her. The squalor in which the poor lived appalled her and moved her throughout her life to help impoverished families personally.  Mary remembers accompanying her to Eaton's to buy First Communion clothes for children who could not afford them.  "I remember winning a set of baby clothes at the St. Ignatius Bazaar raffle that I wanted for my doll and being made to bring them to the crêche the Sisters of Providence had downtown."

Her children remember during the Depression Mother giving sandwiches at the back door to men off boxcars from the CNR rail yard a mile south. As the family grew, she was active in parish affairs, the Catholic Women's League and the St. Paul's College Ladies' Auxiliary.

After her love for her husband, Mother's greatest strength was surely her faith which created a North Star for her children and many others around her. Dad, as in most things, was less demonstrative. But Mother's earthy humour matched her convictions: she told us about the time in her first year in Winnipeg how, after shopping, she ventured into Trinity Anglican Church at Donald and Graham across from Eaton's believing it to be Roman Catholic. She sped out on realizing her mistake!

During most of those early years Mother suffered terribly from varicose veins, had a bandage over the wound in her leg much of the time, and frequently wore support stockings to ease the discomfort.  Before sulpha, we depended on Mother's hot-bread poultice to cure infected abrasions and she occasionally walked about with the same treatment on her leg.  She never complained in our hearing.

John remembers when Mother was taken from the house in a stretcher, about 1935, stricken by the infection and a heavy fever.  At the time our physician, Dr. McNulty, urged an operation but Mother dismissed the idea for years.  She finally submitted;  in December 1947, in a letter to Ted and Helen, Dad wrote, "Mother is marvelously well – better than she has been for years.  It is scarcely credible that an operation could have had such a rejuvenating effect, not only physically but mentally."

St. Ignatius Church

This church, old and new, was an extension of their lifetime alliance with the Jesuit Order, and, with the exception of three years in Deer Lodge, they lived well inside the parish boundaries for the rest of their lives.  Patrick had attended Mass at the original frame church near his boarding house on Gertrude Ave. near Daly St.  The church was built first by an evangelical sect then used by the Catholics for several years until the first stage of the grand new St. Ignatius Church on Stafford St. at Jessie Ave. was completed about 1920.  The main Tyndall stone building had to wait, partly for financing but also because the architect's plan was simply too ambitious and had to be scaled back.  For the first few years the congregation held its services in the basement while construction continued overhead.  Frank remembered clambering around the unfinished upper structure, holding Dad's hand.

Pastor Father O'Gara, S.J., was a sturdy, opinionated individual who presided over most of the baptisms and confirmations of our generation.  He established the parish school which he once described as an island of hope in a sea of mud, and each Burke-Gaffney felt his stern presence.  (In 1950, Des and John visited Father O'Gara at the Loyola College infirmary in Montreal where he lay dying but he recognized and blessed us.)

The family connection with the Jesuit Order was reinforced by Patrick's brother Noel, who had entered the Jesuits in 1914 and transferred to Australia in 1920, and by his young brother, Michael Walter, who emigrated to Canada in 1921 as an engineer before joining the Canadian Jesuits.

The Growing Family

Patrick and Mary Louise chose the Maple Leaf Apartments on Corydon Ave. for their first city residence; their first son, Thomas Edward, was born there on July 16, 1915.  We have a photograph of Mary Louise in toque and scarf, in front of the apartment block.

In September 1916 they moved a few blocks north and east, to the Panama Court apartments on Dorchester Ave., still close to St. Ignatius, when Mary Louise became pregnant with their second child.  Desmond Patrick was born March 14, 1917.  There are pictures from this time of the two boys with Mother and Dad in "Peanut Park" nearby where young couples wheeled their baby carriages around a pleasant elliptical path shaded by trees.

Shortly after this, Dad was persuaded by Mr. Lyons to move to Linwood St. in Deer Lodge, a few doors down the street from the Lyons home.  Ted attended St. Anne's School and Patrick became involved in Boy Scouts, was a cub master, and curled at Deer Lodge Rink.  Ted remembered the family being quarantined with measles.  Uncle Walter visited them, stayed with them, probably, because he too was employed with Manitoba Good Roads until he entered the Jesuits.  John was born there June 5, 1921.

Coming from a totally Catholic homeland to a community sharply divided on religious matters such as school funding, the parents felt uncomfortable during the few years they spent on Linwood Ave.  As soon as Patrick left the government service in 1922, the family moved back to St. Ignatius Parish.  At first they lived in a rented house quite close to the CNR tracks on Garwood St., just west of Stafford St., only a short walk on wooden sidewalks to the street car and a brief ride to the church.  For the first time, the growing family spent the summer of 1923 on Lake Winnipeg at Gull Harbour with its sandy beaches in a cottage rented from one of Dad's business associates, a Dr. Wallace.

Francis Noel was born October 3, 1924.  In the same year, Patrick joined Johns-Manville as regional engineer.  That year also marked the purchase of his first car, a second-hand Ford, probably because his new position required more travel.  In 1926 the family rented a larger house at 784 Jessie Ave., likely in anticipation of the birth of Mary Louise on January 19, 1927.  That was also the year, six months after Mary's birth, that Grandmother Joan Burke-Gaffney, then 64 (she was 24 years younger than her late husband) visited the Canadians.  We have a good photograph of that family group, somewhat solemn, in the front yard of 784.

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