DEVINE, EDWARD JAMES, Roman Catholic priest, Jesuit, editor, and author; b. 3 March 1860 in Bonnechere Point (Castleford), Upper Canada, son of John Devine and Maria McDonnell; d. 5 Nov. 1927 in Toronto.
After a public school education in Ottawa and experience as a printer in New York City, Edward James Devine returned to Canada to enter the Society of Jesus on 4 Sept. 1879 at Sault-au-Récollet (Montreal). During ten years of studies, including a year, 1882–83, near London, England, headaches interrupted his work and made his priestly education difficult for him. His taste for church history began at Trois-Rivières in 1883 when he examined the parish registers which included entries of Jesuit missionaries Paul Le Jeune* and Jacques Buteux* from as early as 1634. In 1885, with other Jesuit students, Devine moved to the newly founded Scolasticat de l'Immaculée-Conception in Montreal. He was able to persuade the rector to buy a Peerless Press to print the college calendar, the Canadian Jesuits' yearly Catalogus . . . , and eventually and most important of all, the Canadian Messenger of the Sacred Heart.
Between 1885 and 1889 Devine worked at the Collège Sainte-Marie with Jesuit archivist Arthur Edward Jones, who was classifying Jesuit documents from the 17th and 18th centuries. From material in these archives, Devine estimated the actual value of the Jesuit estates [see Antoine-Nicolas Braun*] confiscated in 1800 to be worth $7,000,000. The society in fact received compensation of $160,000 from the provincial government of Honoré Mercier* in January 1889 after the passage of the Jesuits’ Estates Act the previous year. In March 1889 a bill prepared by mps D’Alton McCarthy* and William Edward O’Brien calling for federal disallowance of the act was introduced in the House of Commons. Jones and Devine supplied members of the house, especially the minister of justice, Sir John Sparrow David Thompson*, with facts and documents that helped defeat the motion. Devine was ordained to the priesthood in Montreal on 14 July 1889.
Devine welcomed the opportunity in 1893 to replace the legendary Jesuit Richard Baxter* in the missions along the Canadian Pacific Railway on the north shore of Lake Superior. Like Baxter, he lived modestly, and when in Schreiber, Ont., he stayed in a small shed he constructed up against the church. He completed churches in West Fort William and Murillo. Averaging around 30,000 miles of railway travel a year, he published a number of articles about the CPR in the Month (London, England). They came to the attention of Thomas George Shaughnessy, vice-president of the CPR, who extended free passes to Jesuit missionaries in appreciation for their work in inspiring and stabilizing the railway communities.
In 1899 Devine returned to Montreal, where he took up the editorship of the Canadian Messenger. Subsequently he gave many retreats across the country and was well known as a spiritual guide and an entertaining speaker. He was preaching at St John’s, Nfld, in 1902 when he was assigned to the Alaska mission on the opposite side of the continent. His adventures travelling to the Pacific coast were described in a series of articles, “Alaskan letters,” which appeared in the Canadian Messenger in 1903–4. They formed the basis of Across widest America, Newfoundland to Alaska, with the impressions of two years’ sojourn on the Bering coast, which he published when he returned to Montreal in 1905 and reissued in New York City the following year. At this time as well he brought out a novel, The training of Silas (Montreal and New York, 1906). Most of the remainder of his works were published in Montreal. To deepen appreciation of Christian life and family values for Catholics, he wrote Fireside messages: adapted for reading in Catholic homes in 1911. Historic Caughnawaga followed in 1922. After leading a pilgrimage to the major shrines of Europe in the summer of 1922, he published Our tour through Europe the next year. Also in 1923 he gathered together a series of pamphlets he had written on Jesuit martyrs, added a preface, and published the manuscript as The Canadian martyrs. It would go through another edition two years later as The Jesuit martyrs of Canada. To mark the erection of the Martyrs’ Shrine Church near Midland, Ont., in 1925–26 he wrote the slim volume Old Fort Ste. Marie: home of the Jesuit martyrs. He was a longtime member of the Canadian Authors Association.
Devine had edited the Canadian Messenger until his departure for Alaska in 1902 and on his return three years later he again took the helm of this important publication to promote Catholic literature and devotion to the Sacred Heart across Canada. A separate French monthly, Le Messager canadien du Sacré-Cœur de Jésus (Montréal), edited by Jean-Baptiste Nolin*, had been founded in 1892. Each month the pope would select a general intention which would be disseminated in the magazines and prayed for by the members and friends of the Apostleship of Prayer [see Nolin]. By 1920 members and friends numbered more than 6,000,000 around the world and 180,000 in Canada. The articles on monthly intentions, many of which Devine wrote, gave the Canadian Messenger an ultramontane ring, since they emphasized missionary zeal, love of Roman devotions, and papal loyalty. Under his leadership the magazine discussed other topics of concern to Catholics, such as family spirituality, personal holiness, and community devotions, but prudently tempered them with a consideration of Catholic social thought, workers’ rights, and higher education for Catholics.
After his return to Montreal, Devine also became a principal organizer of the Catholic Sailors’ Club, the Catholic Women’s League, and the Montreal Convalescent Home. The most celebrated service he rendered to the Canadian Catholic Church was his appearance before the apostolic commission on the holiness of the Jesuit martyrs held in Quebec City in 1922. Presented with great clarity, his lengthy testimony advanced the process of their beatification. This work came to fruition in Rome in 1925, two years before his own death, when the Catholic Church beatified the eight Jesuit martyrs, Jean de Brébeuf*, Gabriel Lalemant*, Isaac Jogues*, Antoine Daniel*, Charles Garnier*, Noël Chabanel*, René Goupil*, and Jean de La Lande*.
Devine’s brief work in the missions maintained the Jesuit tradition of service for navvies, miners, and native peoples. His research on Jesuit history publicized the importance of religion in early Canada. His editorial and organizational skills helped to establish the Canadian Messenger, which was to become the longest-running Canadian Catholic monthly in English, a magazine published continually from 1891 to this day. Probably the best known Canadian Jesuit at the time of his death, Devine was the youngest of a group of conspicuous Jesuits who were recognized as skilled writers and preachers (among the others were George B. Kenny, William J. Doherty, Arthur Edward Jones, and Gregory O’Bryan*). While not a trained historian, Devine was an energetic author who provided information and inspiration to many. His memoirs reveal a sensitive person who enjoyed a humorous story well told.
In addition to the publications mentioned above, and numerous articles in the Canadian Messenger of the Sacred Heart, Edward James Devine’s writings include: “An ancient Jesuit shrine restored,” Woodstock Letters (Woodstock, Md), 55 (1926): 397–404; “The end of the Jesuit estate affair,” Woodstock Letters, 19 (1890): 85-91; Irish soldiers in Canada, 1755–60: contribution to a disputed chapter in Canadian history (Montreal, 1912); “Les Jésuites et les Iroquois,” Le Canada français (Québec), 2e sér., 12 (1924–25): 763–72; “Jesuits versus Orangemen,” Woodstock Letters, 18 (1889): 233–44, 285–304; “Masters and workmen,” Catholic Record (London, Ont.), 6 July 1918.
Arch. de la Compagnie de Jésus, Prov. du Canada Français (Saint-Jérôme, Qué.), D-7 (E. J. Devine), E. J. Devine, lettres d’Alaska. Soc. of Jesus, Upper Canada Prov. Arch., Regis College (Toronto), A-126, A-217a (E. J. Devine file). Catholic Record, 19 Nov. 1927. Montreal Daily Star, 7 Nov. 1927. Les Nouvelles (Montréal), novembre 1927. True Witness and Catholic Chronicle (Montreal), 18 Nov. 1896. Dictionary of Jesuit biography: ministry to English Canada, 1842–1987 (Toronto, 1991). T. J. Fay, “The Canadian Messenger of the Sacred Heart, 1905–1927: window on ultramontane spirituality,” CCHA, Hist. studies, 64 (1998): 9–26. P. J. Mulrooney, “A modern apostle of the Jesuit martyrs: Father Devine, S.J., 1860–1927,” Martyrs’ Shrine Message (Midland, Ont.), 5 (1941), no.1: 18–19. T. P. Slattery, Loyola and Montreal (Montreal, 1962). Woodstock Letters, 57 (1928): 260–64.
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Cite This Article
Terence J. Fay, “DEVINE, EDWARD JAMES,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 15, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed June 2, 2023, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/devine_edward_james_15E.html.
The citation above shows the format for footnotes and endnotes according to the Chicago manual of style (16th edition). Information to be used in other citation formats:
|Author of Article:||Terence J. Fay|
|Title of Article:||DEVINE, EDWARD JAMES|
|Publication Name:||Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 15|
|Publisher:||University of Toronto/Université Laval|
|Year of publication:||2005|
|Year of revision:||2005|
|Access Date:||June 2, 2023|