Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of May 12, 2003
Priest honoured for 70 years
Blind and nearly 98, Fr. Holland still active at Youville Home
By RAMON GONZALEZ
The priesthood "is the finest profession anyone could choose."
- Fr. James Holland
He enjoyed theology, Sacred Scripture and Church history. And it showed. His marks were in the high 80s and 90s.
Holland was ordained a priest at St. Joseph's Basilica April 23, 1933 along with seven other graduates of St. Joseph's Seminary. Soon afterwards, Archbishop O'Leary appointed the young priest to a seminary professor position in charge of teaching catechetics, liturgy and Church history to the seminarians.
He also made Holland the chaplain at the General Hospital. Over the years, Holland would also serve as chaplain at the Misericordia Hospital and of various religious orders of women.
Dupuis says Holland knew his Church history well, often making his students aware of the divine nature of the Church. "Had it been a mere human enterprise, the Church would have crumbled and disappeared a long, long time ago," he used to tell them.
"(As a seminary professor) he was a friendly, open-minded person, gentle in manner and speech, with a delightful and unique sense of humour," Dupuis says. "He was well loved for his sincerity, authenticity and devotedness."
To Holland, his teaching days were the most fulfilling because he was helping prepare young men for what he calls "the greatest profession in the world." Five of his former students were ordained bishops, including the late Archbishop James Carney of Vancouver, Bishop emeritus Paul O'Byrne of Calgary and Bishop Eugene Cooney of Nelson.
In August 1967, after 34 years as a seminary professor, Holland took up residency at St. Andrew's Parish and became the archdiocesan archivist. Soon he was also serving as vice-chancellor.
In December 1971, Holland resigned from his offices for health reasons. A couple of weeks later, on Jan. 1, 1972, he was appointed associate pastor of St. Andrew's Parish under Father John Hesse.
Close to 11 years later, on Nov. 26, 1982, Holland, then 77, was diagnosed with Parkinson's and was hospitalized at Youville Home.
He is a loved figure there, respected by residents, staff and sisters.
"Father Holland is a cheerful, pleasant companion, known for his prayer life, attending daily Mass, assuring his hour of adoration in the afternoons, making frequent visits to the chapel to pray the rosary or recite his breviary," Dupuis writes in her biography.
"Because of his spontaneous acts of charity, visiting the sick residents and responding to the spiritual needs of staff and residents alike, Father has become the unofficial chaplain at Youville Home. He continues, in his special way, to minister to the needs of others, even when he is not well. The interests of others always pass before his own."
The priest, who lost his sight five years ago, also has many friends outside Youville Home who come to visit him and are always ready to do things for him. Some drive him to Mass or social activities outside the home, others read for him or accompany him in his prayers.
Holland will celebrate his 98th birthday May 27.
(With files from Sister Cecile Dupuis, F J.)
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