Monsignor Donald MacPherson was born on October 3, 1872 in Glasgow, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia to Donald MacPherson and Ann MacNeil. The family moved to Sydney Mines, Nova Scotia when MacPherson was a child, where he completed his junior education and eventually continued on to St. Francis Xavier University (St. FX) to study theology.
Msgr. MacPherson continued his theological studies at the Séminaire de Quebec in Quebec City, Quebec and was ordained in 1901 in Antigonish, Nova Scotia. His first appointment was as pastor of Glendale, Cape Breton where he came into contact with the Mi’kmaq who lived and worshiped in that area. He studied Mi’kmaq history and culture and learned the language. He stayed for fourteen years, before leaving for Europe during World War I (WWI).
In 1915, MacPherson became the first Roman Catholic priest of the Diocese of Antigonish to sign up to serve in the Canadian Chaplain Service during the First World War. He held the rank of Major and sailed for England in May 1915 with the 25th Nova Scotia Infantry Battalion. He served as chaplain for the 2nd Canadian Division in East Sandling, England; the No. 1 Canadian Stationary Hospital on the Isle of Lemnos, Greece and Salonika, Greece; at training camps and the St. Francis Xavier Hospital unit in Bramshott, England; and to the 5th Canadian Divisional Artillery on the Western Front in France.
After returning home from the war, MacPherson became pastor of St. Peter’s Parish in Port Hood, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia in 1919. He remained there until 1957 when he was sent to New Glasgow, Nova Scotia to serve as chaplain to the Brothers of Our Lady of Sorrow. During his career, he also worked with Sister Margaret Beaton to begin Cape Bretoniana (now the Beaton Institute).
Msgr. MacPherson died on August 1, 1959 in New Glasgow. He was buried in St. Peter’s Parish Cemetery in Port Hood.
Port Hood, Antigonish, Beaver Cove, New Glasgow