UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Belief, backbone, and bulldozers! : Fergus O’Grady’s vision of Catholic, "integrated" education in northern British Columbia, 1956-1989 Beliveau, Kevin Edward Vicente


Little has been written of either parochial or integrated educational history in northern British Columbia. Prince George College, founded in 1956 by Bishop Fergus O'Grady of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, represents a. particular attempt by the Catholic community of the Diocese of Prince George to offer a Catholic education for both Aboriginal and white students in northern British Columbia. Using the personal and professional files of the late Bishop O'Grady and other documentary evidence made available to me by the Archives of the Diocese of Prince George an attempt has been made to construct an image of Bishop 0'Grady's "vision" for Prince George College. Using letters, memos, minutes, personal notes, and a number of available monographs on the subject of parochial, Aboriginal, integrated,- and northern Canadian education, this thesis begins the process of piecing together some of the bishop's plans and visions for the school from its founding to its change of name in 1989 to "O'Grady Catholic High School" and eventual closing in June, 2001. Chapter One details the bishop's construction of not only the school's financial groundwork, but more importantly its ethos - a narrative rooted in century's old stories of the Oblates and their pioneering efforts to establish Christianity in northern B.C. The second chapter examines the role of volunteerism and parental support in staffing the school. In'particular, much credit must be given to the Frontier Apostles - a lay, volunteer organization started by Bishop 0'Grady - for the day-to-day running of the school for most of its thirty years. The third chapter looks specifically at the "integrated" nature of the school - the supposed presence of integration of both Aboriginal and white students. What is constructed is an image of the bishop's vision that finally provides some context to his plans for the school. The school lay on a foundation of a carefully constructed ethos, the sacrifices of hundreds of lay volunteers, and the involuntary financial subsidies provided by Aboriginal students from approximately 1960 to 1989. The school finally closed its doors in 2001 citing both financial difficulties and a lack of local parental support. Much can be learned from the mistakes of the past in any future attempts to re-open the institution.

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