Feast of Robert McDonald (December 15)   Leave a comment


Above:  The Flag of the Northwest Territories

Image in the Public Domain



Anglican Priest and Missionary 

Anglican Church of Canada feast day = August 30

Episcopal Church feast day = December 15


Robert McDonald was of Scottish and Ojibwa ancestry.  He, born at Point Douglas, Manitoba, on November 7, 1829, was a son of Neil McDonald and Ann Logan.  Until the age of 15 years our saint attended Red River Academy.  Then, for four years, he worked on the family farm.  At age 19 McDonald began to teach at Norway House, a Methodist mission.  Later he studied at St. John’s College.

McDonald became an Anglican missionary among the indigenous people of British North America (later Canada).  He, ordained to the diaconate on December 15, 1852, became a priest the following June.  In October 1853 our saint took charge of Islington Mission, on the Winnipeg River.  At Islington Mission McDonald began to translate the Bible, focusing on the minor prophets at first.

In 1862 the Church Missionary Society convinced our saint to found a mission at Fort Yukon (in Alaska after the settlement of a border dispute in 1872).  He worked among members of the Tinjiyzoo Nation, translated works from English into Tudukh (a dialect of Gwitch’in), discovered gold in the Yukon, and became the first missionary in the Klondike region.  In 1872 McDonald relocated to Fort McPherson, on the Peel River, in the Northwest Territories.  There he remained until his retirement, in 1904.

Our saint’s partner in life, love, and ministry, starting on November 7, 1876, was Julia Kuttag, a Gwich’in.  The couple had nine children.  Husband and wife translated the Bible and The Book of Common Prayer into Tudukh.  They also prepared a Tudukh hymnal.  McDonald shared the translations freely with Roman Catholic and Russian Orthodox priests.  He also baptized more than 2000 people.

McDonald retired from the Church Missionary Society in 1904 and moved to Winnipeg, Manitoba.  In retirement he prepared a grammar and dictionary (1911) of the Tudukh dialect, having already developed the alphabet for that tongue.  Our saint died at Winnipeg on August 29, 1913.  He was 84 years old.





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.

Isaiah 66:18-23

Psalm 57:4-11

1 Thessalonians 1:2-8

Luke 9:1-6

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 121


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