Nestled between Sacred Heart church and the former St. Edward’s Elementary is Our Lady of Angels/Presentation Convent. It’s now a well loved building quietly enriching the Placentia area landscape. No doubt all the memories are not fond, for the experience of some at convent school is mixed. Nonetheless, its presence remains a recognition of not only its longevity. There are also merits to its deep reach into the history of the Placentia area.
Much of its former locale has dramatically changed. St. Edward’s School has both come and gone leaving a green space again along the front of the convent. Likewise, it is surrounded now by modern homes that emerged as the decades passed.
Origins of the Convent
It was Nano Nagle who, in 1776, in Cork, Ireland, founded the Congregation of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Four of their members had journeyed to Newfoundland in 1833, the goal being, at the behest of Bishop Michael Anthony Fleming, to establish schools.
Accordingly, with the encouragement of Reverend Edward Condon, Our Lady of Angels Convent was built in 1864 for the Presentation Sisters, an organisation which was led by Sister Mary de Sales Condren.
It was a two and a half story building which boasted architectural qualities which lent to its uniqueness. Hence, its current contribution to the heritage of Canada, Newfoundland and Labrador in addition to the Placentia area was undeniable. Hence, Canada’s Historic Places recognised it as a place of note.
Constructed primarily of locally quarried stone, the designers and builders also added other touches which collectively signify its undeniable value. For instance, a keystone trim helps to accentuate the windows, a feature that works in accordance with the quoining used at the corners of the building.
Alongside being an attribute to the built heritage of the Placentia area, its history also honours the less palpable, yet no less fervent intangible heritage of the town. For instance, the name “Our Lady of Angels” is a nod to the Franciscan friars of Quebec who established the first monastery in Newfoundland and Labrador in 1689.
At this time, the Second Bishop of Québec, Jean St. Vallier helped lay the groundwork for an ecclesiastical presence in Plaisance (Placentia). In so doing, St. Vallier also established the first Newfoundland parish, “Our Lady of Angels.”
Since the initial period of occupation of the Placentia area in the 1500s by the Basque and later, the establishment of the French garrison in 1662, Roman Catholicism has held an important place in the Placentia area. Our Lady of Angels Convent stands as a symbol of this quality.
And no matter how modernised our lives become, it will always be worth our while to take a step back. The lives led in the past are not as different from our own as we may think. Education and religion remain two key lifeways that are still strongly with us today.
The Presentation Convent is merely a symbol of how it was done a little more than a century and a half ago. Looking at buildings such as the convent provides us with an inkling of the values of the day. Do we have anything to learn? What is it they did we’d like to emulate? Perhaps there are elements we’d like to leave in the past. In any case, history will always be a keen navigator for the future.
When the Proclamation was sent out on August 22, 1914, a few weeks after the United Kingdom had declared war on Germany, the request was simple yet intense — “King and Country Need You.” And it was men such as Franz Lüttge, a resident of Placentia, Newfoundland1 who responded unhesitatingly. He had been a member of the Canadian militia and given this experience, he knew he must answer the call. However, Lüttge’s well-intentioned offer to potentially give his life for the Empire would bring him face-to-face with growing fear and uncertainty. It was a sign of the times.
Volunteering for the War
Franz Lüttge, a Canadian of German origin, was from Manitoba. A man of “means and leisure,” he had decided to settle in Placentia near the marine cable station that was situated along what is now known as the Orcan River. It is entirely possible his mother was his connection with Placentia. She was a Smith.
When Lüttge decided to volunteer, recognising how his name might be a problem, he enlisted using the name of his mother. He no doubt also opted to exchange Franz for Francis. It was best to avoid any unnecessary and unwanted scrutiny. After all, the origins of his name were linked to the country whom he would be fighting. Regardless, his loyalty to the British Empire was unquestionable. He was Canadian and like Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, he wanted to support and fight for the “Mother Country.”
Struggling to Stand for Your Country
Lüttge could not have known that just one day after the declaration of war on August 4, the United Kingdom had taken measures to ensure its safety and that of its colonies. The threat of spies was considered to be great. Thus, on August 5, 1914, the Aliens Restriction Act 1914 was passed. This gave British governments legislative power to deal with “enemy aliens.” One of the clauses in this Act prohibited enemy aliens from changing their names. This would prove to be a downfall for Lüttge.
Although he had sought to join the First Newfoundland Contingent, fears and incrimination would ultimately block his attempts. The fact that he had changed his name was the primary concern. While Lüttge was Canadian, his name spoke otherwise and threw open the door to the fears and paranoia that had come to define the period. After discovering his true name, his fellow recruits objected to his presence.
Germanophobia was widespread in British society and it was only normal for this to have spread to colonies such as Newfoundland. Despite his attempts to join the First Newfoundland Contingent, he was asked to resign from the regiment.
The Push for Patriotism
Meanwhile, the leaders in Placentia were strongly urging the young men of the district to fight for their King and Country and ironically, follow the lead of men such as Lüttge. Early in November, a meeting, “packed with a loyal and enthusiastic audience,” took place at the Placentia Courthouse. In attendance were individuals such as the Rt. Reverend Monsignor Reardon, F.J. Morris, Secretary of the Patriotic Nominating Committee of St. John’s and a member of the Recruiting Committee.
As reported on November 5, 1914 in The Evening Telegram, F.J. Morris made a passionately patriotic speech, exclaiming how the time had arrived for Newfoundland to stand shoulder to shoulder with Britain. He was sure that the young men of Placentia-St. Mary’s district would be more than willing to answer the “call to the Motherland.” Morris expressed his faith in the young men of the region. He spoke fervently, stating how “it could never be said of a Newfoundland fisherman that he was afraid to go to sea.” Leading community members responded with a resolution that was unanimously passed.
BE IT THEREFORE RESOLVED, That we the citizens of the Ancient Capital of His Majesty’s Oldest Colony, in this patriotic public meeting convened, hereby individually and collectively pledge ourselves to aid and encourage our young fishermen from all parts of the district to promptly enlist in the Royal Naval Reserve and rally round the old flag.
Men such as Franz Lüttge believed wholeheartedly in this sentiment.
Realities of the Times
So much so that in December 1914, he reapplied to be a part of the Second Contingent. Although, on December 7, 1914, the Right Honourable Lewis Harcourt informed Sir Walter Davidson, the Governor of Newfoundland of Franz Lüttge. He explained how Lüttge had “taken up his residence at Placentia.” Harcourt informed Davidson how Lüttge had been “informally watched since his arrival in Newfoundland.” However, neither the correspondence or the behaviour of Lüttge suggested anything of an “incriminatory nature.”
Nonetheless, the attempt of Lüttge to join the Second Contingent was not to be. The spy fever and distrust would remain an insurmountable barrier—the unfortunate realities of the times. Lüttge was kept under police observation and still on July 22, 1915, he was considered a “suspect at large.” Then, two and a half weeks later, Franz Lüttge was ordered to leave the colony of Newfoundland.
Like thousands of other Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, the men of the Placentia area willingly gave years of their young lives to “King and Country.” Too often, it was life itself they freely gave. There were 34 from Argentia, Dunville, Jerseyside, Placentia, and Southeast Placentia who did so. And no doubt, if given the chance, men such as Franz Lüttge would have done likewise.
“Governor’s Office — Copies of Despatches” GN 1/1/7 The Rooms Provincial Archive
“Recruiting Meeting in Placentia” November 5, 1914 in The Evening Telegram, p.7
At the time, Newfoundland was still a country and Labrador was not officially a part of that country. So, for this piece, I’m only using ‘Newfoundland’ alone.
Most of us who volunteer have a sense of the reasons why we bother. There are countless, very practical reasons why we do. Although, at a deeper level, by volunteering, we are asserting some of the essential qualities of what it means to be a part of life on Earth, this pale blue dot in the universe.
Who is Volunteering?
Volunteer work is a popular pastime in Canada. A study in 2018 stated how 79% of Canadians aged 15 and over volunteered their time. And it wasn’t a minor contribution either. Together, we volunteered around 5 billion hours. That’s the same as about 2.5 million full-time year-round jobs.
Although, when we peer a little closer, the amount of formal volunteering differed according to age.1 Formal volunteering would be the kind of work done through, say, a religious organisation or a hospital.
The oldest generations may be less likely to volunteer. Still, when they did volunteer, they gave a considerable amount of time, more than all other age groups. In contrast, the youngest had the highest volunteer rate, but the lowest average number of hours actually volunteered. The Baby Boomers, Millennials and the Gen X’s were in between.
As for more informal volunteering, this may include community improvement outside a group or organisation or just helping outside the household. Again, the volunteer rate of the youngest two groups was the highest. Yet, the number of hours the youngest group gave, in particular, was the lowest. Meanwhile, the Millennials and Gen X’s again were in the middle.
The Baby Boomers and Millennials dedicated considerably more time to volunteering than all the other groups. Again, although the eldest volunteered at the lowest rate, the number of hours they gave was still almost double that of the youngest.
The difference between the oldest and the youngest raises many issues in the realm of conjecture. The eldest have more time on their hands, admittedly, than the youngest. Although, it may also be due to mindset and perspective. Time is still an issue. The eldest have had more time to recognise and experience the virtues of volunteering as opposed to the youngest, many of who have only been alive for 16 years. In any case, there are indeed merits to giving our time.
Why We Should Find the Time to Volunteer
One of the most common justifications people give for not volunteering is our lack of time. It’s true to a certain extent. Imagine a single father or mother, juggling two or sometimes three jobs. It would certainly be a challenge to find the time to volunteer.
Nevertheless, it’s worth it to make the time. In general, one of the reasons for volunteering would be as many would expect—it makes us feel good. Life satisfaction and improved health is one of the paramount benefits for volunteering—for the person we’re helping, as well as for those of us volunteering. When we step outside of ourselves and focus on the needs of others, it has a boomerang effect. We feel good because the person we’re helping feels good.
There are countless organisations who are happy to take whatever time we can offer. Even if it’s just half an hour. What we derive from helping others in that short time, trust me, will pay in dividends.
Various reasons exist that impede our ability to naturally focus on others. It may simply be the lack of time. Sometimes it’s a persistent insecurity that nags many of us, demanding all our attention. Although, by its nature, volunteering often enhances and draws out qualities such as our humility and empathy. It demands our attention be on the needs of another ahead of our own.
The minute we focus on others, we begin to trod the path to inner strength. There are countless times while volunteering when we will be placed face-to-face with some who is less fortunate. It’s then we learn essential principles such as kindness, empathy, gratitude and compassion.
Moreover, there’s a sharp clarity people are often granted when they’re subsisting at their lowest ebb. Perhaps what it means to be human is at its sharpest definition. As a result, these individuals, may be able to share words of aching purity, words that will live with us until the day we leave this earth. It can be just a simple, yet powerfully poignant “thank you.” This serves as an utter truth functioning as one of the beautiful links that unite us as living creatures. These moments will help shape, strengthen and build our character. This is something we can go on to use while helping others in the future.
Sometimes, we not only have an opportunity to strengthen the bonds with our friends. We also have an opportunity to create new ones. So, if a friend of ours is volunteering somewhere, we may simply elect to follow their lead. We shrug, why not give a little volunteering a try. What’s another added benefit is, by volunteering, there’s every chance we’ll meet new friends.
Maybe in another quarter of our lives, we’re struggling to find a job or move to another type of work. We may be seeking something a little more fulfilling or a job that simply pays a little more. Volunteering can benefit those looking for a job, as it’s possible. At a practical level, to pick up some valuable skills.
Some of us merely seek a range of business-relevant skills. These can improve our ability in the employment market. At the same time, by volunteering, it’s not only possible to lend a helping hand. We learn the vital principle of giving and helping with no expectation of any monetary return. And whether or not we even receive a nod of appreciation, it doesn’t matter because that’s not why we helped in the first place.
Yellow Hard Hat on Brown and Yellow Fireman’s Suit (Source: Pexels).
Other reasons we may volunteer is because we possess specific skills that would be of use in a charity or other organisation. We realise how our ability to practice medicine, teach, write, build houses or undertake any number of skills can be of supreme use to others. So, we step up. Again, what we are given in return are more principles to add to our treasure chest of values.
Volunteering is often tied to our communities. We’re inherently a central component to our communities. Any work we can contribute to improving our communities is worth the time. For many, it’s simply good enough to know we’ve made a positive contribution to our communities.
Again, making this contribution and being in service to others is a testament to how we, as humanity, are one. Volunteering pares away our differences and regardless of our religion, ideologies, colour, economic status, sex or more, if another is in need of help, we as volunteers will be there to respond.
1• iGen (also referred as Generation Z): Born between 1996 and 2012 (15 to 22 years of age at the time of the survey) – 11%. Canadians younger than 15 are not included in the survey. • Millennials: Born between 1981 and 1995 (23 to 37 years of age) – 25% • Gen X: Born between 1966 and 1980 (38 to 52 years of age) – 23% • Baby Boomers: Born between 1946 and 1965 (53 to 72 years of age) – 30% • Matures: Born between 1918 and 1945 (73 to 100 years of age) – 10%
2This is from one of the articles I encountered and I thought it was very appropriate and worth sharing.
I remember my mother telling me about a friend of hers whose husband had passed away. She was now on her own. My mother told me of how, when they spoke, she could tangibly hear the loneliness and emptiness in this woman’s voice.
Then, one day this woman told my mother of how her son and his wife had let her know they were going to move in with her. The next time my mother spoke with this woman, they’d moved in and the difference it had made was clear. Her voice rang forth with a vibrancy and contentedness that previously had all but withered away. No more. Growing old is a privilege, although it often doesn’t come free of charge.
When we’re growing up, it’s understood that for a certain amount of time, we’re in need of care. That only makes sense. Anyone tending a baby, toddler, teen or tween gasping for independence still knows he or she remains the carer for this individual.
Then, even after a child has become an adult, there remain moments when the parent, the former carer, must again step in. Has the child developed an illness? Has their marriage broken up? In both these common instances, the former child is essentially again in need of care. I’m sure we’re all aware of elderly parents who have had to step in to give additional care to their children.
Things get a little tangly, however, when adults grow to an age when they are, again, increasingly, in need of care themselves. Before looking at the situation in modern times, it might be useful to better understand how things were done in the past.
Elder Care Centuries Ago
Years ago, things were much different. Newfoundland was separate from Canada until 1949. However, the treatment of the elderly would’ve likely been much the same in Newfoundland as in Canada. Both were taking their lead from Britain.
First of all, life expectancy was considerably lower than it is now So, there were fewer people in need of care than today. Plus the number of elderly relative to the younger population was far lower decades ago. In 1921 in Canada, those over the age of 65 only made up 4.8% of the population. The trend was likely much the same in Newfoundland. Ten years later, for Canada, it was 11.8% of the total. In 2022, that percentage has climbed to 18.8%.
Up until the late nineteenth century, there was little call for institutionalised care. In fact, at the time, the elderly were not identified based solely on their age. Rather it was invariably some other feature that brought them into care of some sort—poverty, physical and mental decline.
In this sense, the care of the elderly would be taken on by a hospital centred on either physical or mental health challenges. In Canada, certain institutions unexpectedly played the role of “caregiver.” At the beginning of the nineteenth century, too often, it was, the jails.
For those who lacked any family member to care for them, their only crime was simply the inability to care for themselves. Such was the final destiny for too many aged, poor, and insane. In outport Newfoundland, the elderly were cared for by their families. It was common for several generations to share the home.
Although, with the coming of the twentieth century, care for the elderly improve marginally. The government introduced the Newfoundland Old Age Pension Programme in 1911. However, it only applied to those who were aged 75 or more. Secondly, it was restricted to men. So, it had its limitations.
When Newfoundland and Labrador joined Canada in 1949, the Old Age Pension became available. It offered assistance to all British subjects (i.e. Canadians) over the age of 70. In 1965, the government lowered the eligible age for Old Age security to 65.
Elder Care in Modern Times
I’m sure we can all look around and find those 90 plus independents who are still fending for themselves. Those who are able to live in such circumstances are not only fortunate, they are rare.
It’s important to bear in mind the more bleak realities we must sometimes face when we’re older and unable to completely care for ourselves. What then are the options available to the elderly?
The most ideal circumstance has us remaining in our own home, certainly for as long as possible. Research actually indicates most elderly want to live near, but not with, their children. The goal is to hold onto their independence and freedom.
Regardless of our age, our freedom is a preeminent value. When do I want to eat? Where do I want to go today? What do I want to do? We utter these words with determination and a stab of stubbornness. Unfortunately, when individuals choose to reside in a retirement home, many of these elements of free will are lost.
There are also a host of other challenges the elderly face in these institutions. There are invariably staffing issues. Another friend of my mothers shared the difficulties of life in a senior’s residence. When staff do arrive, they are restricted in the amount of time they can spend on duties such as dressing or administering medication. This woman sometimes feels the staff’s impatience, lack of care and reluctance to lend a hand.
And we can’t help but respond to the complaints of staff shortages with a raised brow. Is this truly a lack of qualified employees or is it merely a reluctance of the owners to increase wages to draw in more skilled workers? Too often the organisations running these senior homes are for-profit businesses. So, ultimately, making money and maybe as a not caring for others is their main priority.
For some adult children, there’s a determination to ensure their parents remain free of any institutional care, until it is absolutely necessary. More need to be taking this avenue. I’m sure we’re all familiar with situations where this is working. Still, we’re likely all aware of situations where the adult children would be more than equipped and able to care for their elderly parent. With the advent of homecare, this is even easier an option. Yet, instead, the elderly parent is delivered to either a senior’s residence or a nursing home. Job done.
While the ideal would be for seniors to live independently, sometimes, it’s essential for someone, likely a family member, to be living with the senior. By its nature, this form of intergenerational living is nothing new.
Decades ago, in places such as outport Newfoundland, it was likely the understood transition for older family members, parents, uncles or aunts to remain with their families when they needed additional care. In my own family, it was my mother’s sister who took care of my grandfather, as well as my two unmarried great-aunts until they passed on. Anecdotally, I’ve heard several people explain how it was much the same in their families.
More and more, this is the approach some in our current times are choosing to adopt and live. Seniors are actively taking on young adults as renters.The agreement is the young renter will provide assistance to the elder, like taking out the garbage. Otherwise, they may help with computers or those “smart” appliances which often defy all sense, regardless of age.
There are no doubt a cauldron of challenges facing elderly care. Although, it’s fairly simple the ingredients to a fulfilling life for our elders. Whatever we choose to do, it must be guided by a love of freedom and dignity. These are ultimately the key elements to a happy and gratifying life.