QUINAN, JOHN JOSEPH, Roman Catholic priest; b. 1834 at Halifax, N.S., son of Joseph W. Quinan; d. 7 April 1870 at Church Point, Digby County, N.S.
John Joseph Quinan was one of at least three brothers who entered the priesthood. A promising student at Saint Mary’s College in Halifax, he was sent to Rome in 1850 by Bishop William Walsh* to study at the College of Propaganda. He returned to Nova Scotia in 1855 and spent nearly 18 months at Tracadie where he received further training for the priesthood under his uncle, Father John Quinan. It was here that he learned to speak French, a skill which contributed to his posting in 1857 to southwestern Nova Scotia. Quinan was ordained to the priesthood on 21 June of that year by Thomas L. Connolly*, bishop of Saint John, N.B., and soon after was sent to Yarmouth County.
He served there in the predominantly Acadian parishes of Saint-Michel at Tusket, Sainte-Anne at Eel Brook (Sainte-Anne du Ruisseau), and in the town of Yarmouth. It was at Eel Brook that he supervised the construction of a new church and a school. In 1867 he was transferred to the parish of Church Point, Digby County, and here, in April 1870, he died following a severe and lengthy throat ailment. He was buried in Halifax.
A popular personality among his parishioners, Quinan was one of the few priests of Irish background to serve successfully in a predominantly Acadian parish. The Catholic hierarchy in Nova Scotia, oriented more to the urban Irish community, had in the past neglected the faithful in southwestern Nova Scotia if they were unable to find French-speaking priests from within the archdiocese or from Quebec. In an obituary of Quinan, Le Moniteur acadien wrote: “. . . he was a model of the pious virtues which distinguish every good Christian, and displayed all possible zeal for religion and education.” A further tribute was paid him on 15 May 1885 when a public meeting of the inhabitants of Tusket Forks, Yarmouth County, voted unanimously to change the name of their community to Quinan, in honour of one “who had greatly endeared himself to them and [who] was highly esteemed by all classes of the people of this County.”
PANS, MG 5, Holy Cross Cemetery (Halifax), 10 April 1870 (mfm.). Casket (Antigonish, N.S.), 2 July 1857. Evening Express (Halifax), 8 April 1870. Le Moniteur acadien (Shédiac, N.-B.), 22 avril 1870. Yarmouth Herald (Yarmouth, N.S.), 20 May 1885. T. J. Brown, Place-names of the province of Nova Scotia ([Halifax], 1922). Place-names of N.S. William Foley, The centenary of St. Mary’s Cathedral, Halifax, N.S., 1820–1920: a souvenir memorial (Halifax, 1920). A. A. Johnston, A history of the Catholic Church in eastern Nova Scotia (2v., Antigonish, N.S., 1960–71), II.