Rogers, James, Bishop of Chatham

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Rogers, James, Bishop of Chatham

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Roman Catholic priest and first bishop of Chatham James Rogers, son of John and Mary (Briton) Rogers, was born 11 July 1826 at Mountcharles, County Donegal, Ireland. He emigrated with his parents to Nova Scotia and grew up in Halifax. Rogers trained for the priesthood at the Sulpicians' seminary in Montreal, being ordained in 1851. Early in his career he served as a missionary in Cumberland County, Nova Scotia, as a priest in Bermuda where he played a role in the construction of the first Catholic church, and in 1859 as secretary to Bishop Thomas L. Connolly of Halifax.

On 22 August 1860 Rogers was installed as the first bishop of the newly-created Diocese of Chatham. He set as his primary objects: the creation of a boys' school and the acquisition of more priests. A few months after his arrival, St. Michael's male academy was opened at the bishop's residence in Chatham, New Brunswick. The school served as a preliminary training ground for priests, the boys being sent to Montreal to complete their studies. Eventually, some trainees returned to New Brunswick to serve as missionaries or to take charge of parishes.

Rogers also took steps to improve the temporal welfare of his flock. In 1864 he arranged for the Sisters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul of Halifax to open schools at Bathurst and Newcastle. In 1868 six members of the Religious Hospitallers of St. Joseph arrived from Montreal to manage the leprosy hospital at Tracadie. The following year, three sisters of the latter order established Hotel Dieu Hospital in Chatham. During his tenure, he took other measures to provide schooling for the children of his diocese.

Rogers spent much of his time raising money for educational and building projects and overseeing the activities of his flock. He also became involved in political issues, supporting Confederation and initially opposing the New Brunswick Common Schools Act of 1871. After 42 years of service as bishop of Chatham, Rogers retired in February 1902. He died 13 months later at Hotel Dieu Hospital in Chatham.

Source: Hamilton, W. D., Dictionary of Miramichi Biography, 1997


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