Fr. Maurice Alphonsus Bonia:

Events Preceeding My Vocation.
Jan 31th 1888.
Fr. M.A. Bonia

In the little town of Great Placentia, Newfoundland, on the second of August 1864 I was born. I was the second youngest of the family which numbered six boys and four girls. The town, which till then had been destitute of a religious house, received its first Nuns of the Presentation Order. It was a happy incident. Their arrival is the date of the first nus at Placentia and also the date, as I confidently hope, of the birth of the first religious priest of that town. Among those sisters was one, Sister M. Regis (or Frances Regis) who had been married and after the death of her husband which occured shortly after their union, gave herself up to serve God, in a religious order. Hearing of my birth she asked and obtained permission from the superioress to offer me up to the B.V.M. thus, after God, was the Blessed Virgin to be the first to whom I should be presented. This will account for my holy vocation after or even the midst of a sinful career as God and my directors know. O Holy Mother, I thank thee, and, here now, as I shall afterwards, consecrate myself anew to thy service for ever. This same holy nun used afterwards, when I would visit the convent, delight in calling me her son-but her spiritual son, and child of Mary. After growing up a little I was permitted to follow in the footsteps of my Brothers who were all Mass Servers. I delighted in the Cassock and suplica and was seldom or ever absent from Mass and devotions in the simple but honored little church. I went to school long before I wished to go but afterwards found much pleasure in it when I began to be able to read. Unless I err greatly I was confirmed on the second of August. My dear mother, whose inspired soul saw something in her little son which she could not express, told me to take the name Alphonsus with that of Maurice. I could scarcely pronounce the word at the time, and knew still less about it. However, according as my turn drew near and hearing most all the boys take the name Joseph and believing or thinking that Alphonsus sounded strange in my ears I almost resolved to take the name Joseph with the maJority, since I thought, too, that the Bishop had never heard the name. Fearing perhaps to displease my loving Mother I summoned up the courage and mentioned Alphonsus which was immediately taken up by my priest and repeated to his lordship who, I remember well, in clear tones articulated the formula of confirmation over me. After Confirmation the Bishop, Dr. Power, preached an instructive sermon, taking for his text from the Canticles: "Geore dimini et videte, filiae Sion, regem Salamonem" etc. In it he referred to our own glorious St Alphonsus. Then I felt glad that I had taken the name; for I felt a secret pride in hearing mentioned, especially in glowing eulogy the patron I had selected in confirmation. At length being much about the little church and becoming a favorite of the Priest, Rev Charles Irvine, since disceased, he resolved at the request of some influential friends, to send me to a normal school. This was extraordinary; since he never interested himself in any one in this way before. In Oct. 1878, I set out for St. Bonaventure's College, St. John's. N.F.Ld. There I remained 2 3/4 years. My second year there conferred no little honor upon me being made a member of "The Holy Name Society." Connected with this I enJoyed the privilege of Serving the Bishop's Mass in his private oratory on weekdays and at the different Convents or Festivals and Sundays. At the close of the second year a report was rumored that I had to leave and teach school in a bye (?) Place where I would be almost completely isolated. This could not well be refused, since the condition under which the Normal Act bounded me, required that I should teach for a time as long as I would be in training, if I were at College only two years, and for as long and a half if the time exceed two years. The vacancy was filled and this time I escaped. But a new opening soon appeared. It was the school at River Head St. John's. This was every way more pleasing and through the instrumentality of the Bishop whose esteem I had won, I succeeded in getting the position of under teacher in that school. Some time after the school at Great Placentia, my home, fell vacant, I applied immediately, for it to the Priest that sent me - but alas! "Old times were changed, old manners gone". He had a falling out with my people and avenges himself on me. Though neither they nor I could be blamed. I was therefore, obliged to keep my place at River Head. But happy, indeed, for me, The Redemptionist Father arrived there sometime after to hold a Mission. Luckily, too, I had had the care of the Church, an incident which put me in close communication with the Missionaries. Their appearance struck me and I felt a pleasure indescribable in attending the Church from the solemn opening till the close of the Mission. I saw something peculiar, yet something pleasing and agreeable to me in all the performances. Their zeal, punctuality, manner of preaching, the grand obJect of their work, in fine their gait, their speech both in and out of the pulpit and confessional, all united in planting an indelible mark upon me which, as days wore on, increased in strength till an event, apparently by chance, occurred which shaped my present destination. It is true that I intended to become a Secular Priest when I entered College, even as a Normal Student, but that thought had vanished like the flower of the daily lily. It blossomed in the morning opening wide its petals, but only with declining day to fold its leaves again and never more to open. My obligation to teach seemed to destroy every hope. In fact little thought of such a step lingered in my mind. During the Mission I learned to know more fully the vanities of life and by some unaccountable inspiration I resolved upon a new course. Speaking with Father Bausch (C.?RE.) One day, he asked me whether I would like to be a Christian Brother. Answering in the negative as stating I did not like school teaching I gave him to understand that I wished to become a Priest. There was little more about the subJect, but before their departure I spoke to Father McInnerney (?)And as he had given the address of the Provincial to one of the Sisters in the Convent, he told me I could get it from her and write to the Provencial or the Rector (Then the Superior) of St. Mary's College, North East,?. I wrote to the former and received the answer from the latter, Father Schwarz, telling me I was admitted. My Joy was to its height when I received the gladsome news of admission. I went before the Blessed Sacrament and thanked God for the signal favor bestowed upon me. I wrote then to my people at Great Placentia, and told them of my resolution. Only a few of my most intimate knew what I was doing. I prepared by furnishing all requirements and wrote again to know when I should be at College. But all that glitters is not gold. An apparently insurmountable obstacle suddenly arose and changed the whole aspect into a gloomy foreboding. The inspector of chools learned of my departure. Now it was his bounden duty to see that the law be exactly fulfilled in regard to the number of years to be spent teaching. About two years more remained for me. I was perplexed, I sought the aid of the Bishop to obtain my release-but no! He wished to retaine me and even offered me a Priest as a teacher if I would remain. The inspector resolved I should satsify the law. I applied to the Executive Council. Here I was refused receiving for answer that the Government did not educate young men for Priests. An indemnity of money would satisfy. I was not entirely deJected. I had recourse to Holy St. Joseph by a novena and vow. About the last days of the novena and unexpected proposal was offered. Mr. William Carroll, the Senior teacher, condescended to teach the remaining time which the law required. At this time, too, a generous hearted Priest, Father John Scot, influenced himself for me and by Mr. Carroll's Sacrifice and Father Scott's influence the Executive granted my freedom. Thus, through the intercession of St. Joseph, the barrier was removed and the way once more made bright and clear. Then on account of this trouble at St. John's which kept me busy till about a week before it was time to set out, I was prevented from going to see my people whom I had not visited since the year before. Bidding adieu to Terra Nova I set sail in a steamship toHalifaxN.S., thence to Boston where I met one of my Brothers and taking leave of him I went to North East, Erie Co. Pa in August 1883.

Maximus gratias tibi Deo reddo nume et Semper

Continuation of the Events Preceeding My Vocation
Fr. Bonia
Having arrived at St. Mary's College, North East Erie Co., Pa. I felt the principle part of my long desires realized. The fond hope so long entertained, the wishes of my heart so fervently seeking their fulfilment were now flashing before my view. All baffled proJects has long faded away and the sunshine of a more refulgent day had spread his beams of awakened Joy upon me. The pleasure my poor soul experienced words of mine would fail ever to depict. My happiness was at a height that my anticipations had not reached. Thus did my soul, immersed in unimagined serenity, peace and Joy, hail the hallowed walls of my sweet Alma Mater which rose higher than my expectations by its inviting and pleasing surroundings together with the still more attractive appearance within, which although bedecked with nothing gorgeous, grand or costly exerted a magic spell over my mind and heart. Its simple aspect found more charms for me thatn would the places of the rich and lordly. These I had despised without possessing them. Thses I had forsaken and abandoned for the simple grandeur that poverty had adorned in her modest attire. Such were the impressions made upon me, when the highest aspitations of my Soul had entered on that auspicious Journey that was in after years to lead me to the Novitiate of the Congergation of the Most Holy Redemer, wherein I could devote myself unreservedly to the love and service of Jesus, who had been so merciful and loving in inviting, after long preparations, his unworthy child in order thereby to dedicate himself to him and his service.

About four years I spent in making my classics. While counting the days as they hurried along, my eye constantly looked forward to another day-a day that would mark an epoch in my life-a day that would begin the execution of a design that would determine the sphere in which my life would be cast. To so important a day on which my weal of happiness depended, I must have anxiously looked forward. That day May 16th 1887, at leasdt came and opened up with its bright array of thoughts, expectations, longinging despires and fulfilments what for the preceeding years lay concealed beneath unknown futurity - A month later I entered the Novitiate when I saw all my wishes and hopes things of the past and the realization of my desires began in earnest. So here I am in the possession of desires so ardently longed for living under the revered roof and enJoying the sweetest rest of happiness found in the world - the only happiness for which the whole world should envy me. 0 happy Novitiate of Our Most Holy Redeemer! 0 happier soul that possesses it and a thousand times happier still, am I who have been "chosen out of thousands' to enter the sweet solitude. Oh! Well could I answer the poet to day that wrote:
"0 Solitude where are they charms"
Enter my humble cell today and see its attractions - oh true! There perhaps you find no charms; but stay awhile. Kneel before the Crucifix and meditate upon the love of Jesus for us. Speak to Him hanging on the gibbet and ask Him to enlighten you that you may lear what is hidden from you. He will grant more. He will teach the Joys of the cell, the false pleasures of a sinful world and will instill His love, than which there is nothing greater, into your soul. Then, 0 poet, address yourself and say: "0 Solitude there are no charms out of thee."

O God, my Love, I thank you and will ever thank you for your Mercy and Love. How my soul reJoices, how light it feels, how happy it lives and how absorbed it is in the Sweet Love of the Merciful Jesus! Make me more your own as the time fleets by, as the time for consecrating myself to you is fast approaching. May I be found worty of so great a favor, so exalted a privelige - it is my only desire. 0 light supernal, you know that I desire to love you alone. Let me be united to you under the sweet yoke of the vows and persevere therin faithfully to the end. Mary, Mother of Perseverance, will not fail to aid and obtain this grace for me. Let Heaven ratify my request. Thus in the Sacred Heart of Jesus I hope for all Holy Saints Joseph + Alphonsus be propitious to me
Feb 24th 1888
Fr. Maurice Alphonsus Bonia.

Christened in Placentia Wit Wm Corbin and Agnes Reilly

Smith Family Tree

Notes for
Fr. Maurice