By MC Havey, Archivist
In baseball terms, the North American Redemptorist history conference in September at Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré was a Canadian double play.
For the first time, the conference was held in Canada and Fr. James Mason was the first Canadian confrere to receive the Seelos award from the Institute of Redemptorist Historical Studies in recognition of “his outstanding contribution to historical research and writing.”
During four decades, Fr. Mason has striven to tell the story of the English-Canadian Redemptorists. In 1995, he wrote: “The CSsRs have made a real contribution to our people and our country and it belongs on the public record. It should stand with other critical histories that tell the story of the birth and development of Canada.”
Formally, his contribution to the history of the English-Canadian Redemptorists started with the appointment in 1977 as editor of the Co-Redemptorist Association News. In that capacity until the publication ended in 2011, he wrote profiles in the monthly issues about confreres, foundations, celebrations, events and changes in the English-Canadian Congregation. It was the unofficial general annals of the Toronto Province and later the Edmonton-Toronto Province. He wrote with knowledge of the confreres, most of whom he knew or knew of since entering the juvenate of St. Mary’s College, Brockville in September 1951.
In 1994, Fr. Mason joined the North American chapter of the Institute of the Redemptorist Historical Studies and a member of the North American task force to prepare a general history of the Congregation. A year later, he assumed the responsibility of the History Bulletin, the institute’s historical journal, and has presented papers at many of these conferences. For Canadian Redemptorists, he served on the editorial committee for Redemption and Renewal, a history of Redemptorists of English Canada, and as director of the Provincial Archives since 1996.
Upon retiring in 2002 as Provincial Treasurer after eight years, he took on the meticulous task of transcribing the Civil War diaries of Redemptorist chaplain Fr. James Sheeran and researched the biography of Fr. Sheeran for the institute’s conference in 2007. A published version of the diaries is expected later this year.
In 2006, Fr. Mason revised Cherished Memories, updating Redemptorist dates of foundings, deaths and significant events and added yearly supplements until he retired as director of archives in 2012.
At the presentation of the award at the conference dinner, it was noted: “If this was a sports award, Fr. Mason would be honoured as a player and a builder.”