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About this commemoration
Robert McDonald was a priest, missionary, and archdeacon, who served among the First Nations peoples of Canada.
McDonald was born in 1829 in Point Douglas, Manitoba. He attended local schools, worked alongside his father on the family farm,and married Julia Kuttag with whom he had nine children.
Although McDonald showed initial reluctance, he responded to the church’s call to mission service among the native peoples of Canada. He was ordained a priest in 1853 and took charge of the Islington Mission on the Winnipeg River. It was there that he discovered his gift for languages and it was there that he became fluent in the language of the Ojibway Tribe and began to translate the Bible.
In 1862, the Church Missionary Society persuaded McDonald to establish a new mission at Fort Yukon. It was here, as later at Fort McPherson, where McDonald made his enduring contribution to the tribes of the Tinjiyzoo Nation. He developed a written alphabet for the Tukudh language so that the people could read the texts of the Christian tradition. He also published a grammar and dictionary in Tukudh, both of which remain standard reference works. Over the next forty years, working together with his wife, Julia, and other translators, he accomplished the translation of the whole of the Bible, the Book of Common Prayer, a hymnal and other texts. Possessing these commons texts was critical not only to the Christian mission, but also had a unifying impact on the common life of the various tribes in the region.
McDonald retired from the Church Missionary Society in 1904 and lived in Winnipeg, Manitoba, until his death in 1913. He is buried in the cemetery of St. John’s Anglican Cathedral.
I God of ice, sea and sky, who didst call thy servant Robert McDonald, making him strong to endure all hardships for the sake of serving thee in the Arctic: Send us forth as laborers into thy harvest, that by patience in our duties and compassion in our dealings, many may be gathered to thy kingdom; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who is alive and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
II God of ice, sea and sky, you called your servant Robert McDonald and made him strong to endure all hardships for the sake of serving you in the Arctic: Send us forth as laborers into your harvest, that by patience in our duties and compassion in our dealings, many may be gathered to your kingdom; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
1 Thessalonians 1:2–8
Preface of a Saint (3)
Text from Holy, Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints © 2010 by The Church Pension Fund. Used by permission.
We invite your reflections about this commemoration and its suitability for the official calendar and worship of The Episcopal Church. How did this person’s life witness to the Gospel? How does this person inspire us in Christian life today?
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