Digby priest celebrates 50 years in the priesthood

Jonathan Riley, Digby Courier
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Almost exactly 50 years to the day after he was ordained in Digby, Rev. Joseph Hattie will return to say mass here.

Hattie, born in Yarmouth but raised in Digby, is returning to mark his 50 years in the priesthood by celebrating two masses – one on Saturday, May 31, at 6:30 p.m. and the other on Sunday, June 1, at 11 a.m.

His ordination on May 29, 1964, was front page news in Digby – it was the first ever ordination of a priest at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church and a total of 25 priests attended that ceremony.

The next day on Saturday, May 30, 1964, Hattie celebrated his first Low Mass, with his brother Don Hattie and Paul VanTassel as servers – the three had been altar boys together.

In a short memoir Hattie wrote last year, he remembers Digby as “a town where everyone knew you and no one locked their doors”.

He went to school at St. Patrick’s and remembers them as good years where he gave a lot of time to playing sports, including hockey, baseball, soccer, swimming, tennis and golf. 

He also worked as a caddy for several summers and “walked many a mile and met a number of good people”.

About grade 7, he remembers the Missionary Congregation of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate coming to look after two parishes in southwestern Nova Scotia, one of which was Digby.   

The Oblates of Mary Immaculate are a Roman Catholic religious community of priests and brothers and it is the order that Hattie would eventually join and serves in still.

“I was impressed with the men who were assigned to our parish and missions,” he wrote last year. “With what they did in building up the faith and bringing many people back to church.”

Hattie remembers caddying for one of the priests.

“One of the Oblates, Fr. Frank MacCarthy, OMI, was a natural born golfer,” wrote Hattie. “I caddied for him when he played at the local golf course. He usually played with the local pro and some of the best golfers in the area. They were Protestants and they loved him, even though he often beat them.”

Hattie’s career took him from Digby to Ontario to Indiana to Vancouver and Halifax, and even Lourdes and Italy. In 1984, he went to Rome to study the theology of marriage and family.

“It was a wonderful experience to be at the heart of the Church and to be able to walk through so much of its history and its suffering,” he wrote.

Since September, 2011, Hattie, who is now 78, has been serving as associate chaplain at Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Academy, a post-secondary Catholic liberal arts institution in Ontario.

“I have enjoyed my time here even though I suffered a health setback at the end of May 2012 when I was hit by two massive blood clots, one in each lung,” he wrote. “When the doctors factored in all the medical factors they did not think that I would make it.

“The one factor they missed was the prayer factor. It made all the difference.  For all of those who prayed, I will be eternally grateful.”

A reception will follow both of the Digby masses for all who may wish to offer personal congratulations to Hattie.


Organizations: Catholic Church, Wisdom Academy

Geographic location: Digby, Yarmouth, Ontario Southwestern Nova Scotia Indiana Vancouver Halifax Italy Rome

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