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DOWD, PATRICK. Roman Catholic priest and Sulpician; baptized 24 Nov. 1813 in Dunleer (Republic lic of Ireland), son of Patrick Dowd and Mary McDonald; d. 19 Dec. 1891 in Montreal.

Patrick Dowd studied at the junior seminary in Newry (Northern Ireland). Wishing to become a priest and missionary, he entered the Irish college in Paris in 1832. Tonsured on 20 Dec. 1834 and made a deacon on 17 Dec. 1836, he was ordained to the priesthood on 20 May 1837 at the Séminaire de Saint-Sulpice in Paris. He stayed at the Irish college until August 1838, when he was assigned to parish ministry in Drogheda (Republic of Ireland). From 1840 to 1843 he worked at the seminary in Armagh (Northern Ireland). He served at Drogheda again from 1843 to 1847. After submitting several requests to his bishop, he finally received permission to enter the Society of Saint-Sulpice. He began his year of solitude (noviciate) at Issy-les-Moulineaux, near Paris, in August 1847 and was made a member of the community of Saint-Sulpice the following year.

Dowd arrived at Montreal in June 1848. He was immediately appointed to serve the Irish community centred at St Patrick’s Church, which had been opened on 17 March 1847 and was owned by the fabrique of Notre-Dame. The Irish, who for the most part were recent immigrants, lived in the poor neighbourhoods of the faubourgs Sainte-Anne and Saint-Laurent and of Griffintown, renting modest homes. Energetic and hard-working, they nevertheless earned low wages. In 1848, according to Dowd’s account, only three parishioners were able to contribute $20 each to support his work.

The typhus epidemic that had swept over the Irish in 1847 had left many orphans, whom the Sisters of Charity (Grey Nuns) did their best to take in and care for. In 1851 Dowd, with the help of these nuns, founded the Montreal St Patrick’s Orphan Asylum, which by 1900 had admitted some 5,000 children. In support of this charity, he set up a committee to organize an annual bazaar for raising the necessary funds.

Dowd soon figured prominently in the plans of the Sulpician superiors and in the community, enjoying an influence that displeased some of his colleagues. The scope of his activities, the success of his charitable initiatives, and the quality of his apostolate won him an enviable reputation, and so he was considered for an episcopal seat. Bishop Armand-François-Marie de Charbonnel of Toronto, a former member of Saint-Sulpice, urged Rome to appoint Dowd coadjutor bishop of Toronto with residence at Hamilton, but made no mention of his request to Dowd himself. On 17 Dec. 1852 Pius IX issued the bulls appointing him titular bishop of Canée and coadjutor to the bishop of Toronto. Dowd declined the honour, for he wanted to stay at St Patrick’s. But he had difficulty putting his point of view across and it took six months of discussion for Rome to accept his refusal. He was to receive offers of the episcopal seats of Kingston and Halifax but refused them also.

Although Dowd was on good terms with Bishop Ignace Bourget* of Montreal, he supported the Sulpicians in opposing the territorial division of Notre-Dame parish which the bishop advocated. Dowd took advantage of the fact that the fabrique of Notre-Dame assumed financial responsibility for St Patrick’s Church and for much of its deficit. In 1866–67, however, despite the opposition of the Sulpicians, Bourget had ten new parishes created within the boundaries of Notre-Dame, including St Patrick’s. Dowd was its first curé. In 1865 Dowd had founded the Montreal St Bridget’s Refuge, a huge establishment where the most indigent could find temporary shelter. In 1868 he opened a school for girls, which he entrusted to the sisters of the Congregation of Notre-Dame.

Dowd was well known for his superior intelligence, his unshakeable firmness, his inexhaustible charity, his selflessness, and his extraordinary self-effacement. These qualities no doubt explain why he was so revered by his parishioners. On 19 May 1887, the 50th anniversary of his ordination and that of his curate, Sulpician Joseph Toupin, the parishioners organized a celebration to honour the two priests. Three archbishops and two bishops, along with 42 priests, and representatives of governments and of the charitable organizations in the parish, paid homage to them. Dowd was presented with a purse of $22,000, which he used to reduce the debt of the fabrique.

Patrick Dowd’s attachment to the Séminaire de Saint-Sulpice never wavered. He always joined his colleagues for the annual retreats, the spiritual conferences, and the weekly periods of relaxation. When he fell ill, he entered the seminary infirmary, on 12 Dec. 1891, and died there seven days later of pneumonia. Twenty thousand people filed past his remains. His funeral, which was held in Notre-Dame, was attended by 4 bishops and 200 priests. He was buried in the crypt of the Grand Séminaire among his fellow Sulpicians.

Bruno Harel

ACAM, 355.121, 875-4, 877-2; 468.101; 901.145. ANQ-M, CE1-51, 22 déc. 1891. Arch. du séminaire de Saint-Sulpice (Paris), Cahiers des conseils, 3: 715, 770, 777, 784; 4: 21, 82; Fonds canadien, dossier 116, nos.54–61; dossier 135, no.28. ASSM, Cahiers des conseils; 13, B; 15; 21; 22; 27; 35. St Brigid’s Church (Roman Catholic) (Dunleer, Republic of Ireland), Dunleer, reg. of baptisms, 24 Nov. 1813. The case of StPatricks congregation, as to the erection of the new canonical parish of StPatricks, Montreal (Montreal, 1866). Golden jubilee of the reverend fathers Dowd and Toupin . . . , ed. J. J. Curran (Montreal, 1887). Objections and remonstrances against the dismemberment of the ancient parish of Montreal . . . (Montreal, 1867). Le diocèse de Montréal à la fin du dix-neuvième siècle . . . (Montréal, 1900). [J.-L.-]O. Maurault, Marges dhistoire; lart au Canada ([Montréal], 1929), 146–88. Pouliot, Mgr Bourget et son temps, vol.4. Robert Rumilly, Histoire de Montréal (5v., Montréal, 1970–74), 2. Gerald Berry, “A critical period in St Patrick’s parish, Montreal – 1866–74,” CCHA Report, 11 (1943–44): 117–28; “Father Patrick Dowd refuses to be a bishop,” 14 (1946–47): 95–104. G. R. C. Keep, “The Irish adjustment in Montreal,” CHR, 31 (1950): 39–46. [J.-L.-]O. Maurault, “La congrégation irlandaise de Montréal,” Rev. trimestrielle canadienne (Montréal), 8 (1922): 267–90.

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Bruno Harel, “DOWD, PATRICK,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 12, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed October 4, 2023, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/dowd_patrick_12E.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:

Permalink:   http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/dowd_patrick_12E.html
Author of Article:   Bruno Harel
Title of Article:   DOWD, PATRICK
Publication Name:   Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 12
Publisher:   University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication:   1990
Year of revision:   1990
Access Date:   October 4, 2023