Double Blue Milestones: Celebrating the Basilians at 200
With a story spanning 200 years, the rich history and tradition of the Basilian Fathers has been well documented. As the community gathers for bicentennial celebrations, we look back at a few important dates in our shared history and some of the Basilians who helped to shape St. Michael’s College School.
How It Started
Religious orders in France are abolished and clergy become employees of the state and forced to take an oath of loyalty that would override the authority of the Pope. Those who refuse are sent to the guillotine, in the period that would become known as the Reign of Terror. Fr. Joseph Lapierre, CSB publicly retracts his oath and flees to avoid arrest.
The Archbishop of Vienne asks Fr. Lapierre, who spent a number of years in hiding, to open a seminary school in secret in the village of Saint-Symphorien-de-Mahun, located in the north-central French region of Ardeche.
The school moved to Annonay, occupying a former Franciscan college, and became known as Le College des Cordeliers.
Sainte Barbe minor seminary opens in Annonay for boys whose parents could pay no tuition.
The school continues to flourish and two more schools open their doors in Annonay: Ste. Barbe and Ste. Claire. Throughout the 19th century, more schools open in the Ardeche region.
Ten priests, teachers in the Annonay school, present a petition to the Bishop of Viviers to be recognized as an Association of Priests. These men would become the Congregation’s founding fathers. On November 21 on the feast of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, they choose Fr. Lapierre as the first Superior General and St. Basil as the patron for the order.
Early Years of SMCS
Newly-appointed Bishop of Toronto, Armand-Francois-Marie de Charbonnel, a former Basilian student in Annonay, sees a need for Catholic education among the poor Irish Catholic families in his diocese and invites his former teachers to come to Canada. The Basilians sent 10 priests, 40% of their total number of available priests, to establish a school in Toronto.
Fr. Jean Soulerin, CSB with three companions come from Annonay to Toronto to establish a minor seminary. At the request of Bishop de Charbonnel, the Basilian Fathers opened a school under the name of St. Mary’s Minor Seminary, located in temporary quarters at 38 Qμeen St. East. A second school, entrusted to the brothers of the Christian Schools and called St. Michael’s College was opened in the same year.
Bishop de Charbonnel decided to merge both schools, asking the Basilian Fathers to continue operating St. Mary’s but under the name St. Michael’s College. The school was moved into the newly built wing of the Bishop’s palace adjoining St. Michael’s Cathedral on Church St.
The College soon outgrew its palace location and was moved to Clover Hill, a property donated to the Basilians by the Honourable John Elmsley. Clover Hill was outside the city at this time, in the area now bounded by Bay St., St. Joseph St., and St. Mary St.
St. Michael’s was affiliated with the University of Toronto in the post-secondary areas of its programme. This was followed by federation with the university in 1887.
The Basilian Novitiate moves to Toronto at the location where Holy Rosary Church and later St. Michael’s College School are eventually built.
Under the leadership of Fr. Henry Carr, CSB, St. Michael’s College entered the competitive hockey landscape founding the Toronto Prep School League with Upper Canada College and St. Andrew’s College, and winning the league championship in their first two years.
1915 to 1925
Fr. Henry Carr, CSB is elected superior general of the Congregation. Under his leadership as Basilian superior and president of St. Michael’s College, he made decisions that would help secure the future of Catholic education in Canada. He also strengthened the the existing affiliation of St. Michael’s College with the University of Toronto to become a ‘federated’ arts college within the university.
Fr. Henry Bellisle, CSB expanded the College School with the addition of east and west-end satellite schools to meet the demands of the Great Depression. The western campus closed in 1936 with the eastern campus lasting one more year.
A New Era for SMCS
Fr. Basil Regan, CSB carried the school from its Clover Hill location to its present site at Bathurst and St. Clair where it was christened St. Michael’s College School, a school independent of the University of St. Michael’s College.
A new school arena was opened thanks to the leadership of principal Fr. Matthew Sheedy, CSB, Fr. Ted Flanagan, CSB, and the school’s alumni quarterback club.
Led by coach Fr. David Bauer’ 44, CSB, the St. Michael’s Majors hockey team win their fourth Memorial Cup national championship. They previously won in 1934, 1945, and 1947. The City of Toronto held a parade for the Majors and the Buzzers who had also won their championship in the same year. The Majors withdrew from major junior hockey following this season.
From 1967 to 1985, St. Michael’s College School received partial government funding for Grades 9 and 10. Under the leadership of Fr. Norman Fitzpatrick, CSB, OSM, the school’s longest serving principal, SMCS rejected government funding and returned to a fully private institution for all grades.
Under the direction of Fr. Thomas Mohan’ 48, CSB, OSM, the school underwent its largest Building Fund campaign and capital expansion programme to upgrade the main school building with a new wing complete with modern classrooms, a new library, music and visual arts facilities, a design and technology facility, a 250-seat lecture hall, and an expanded gymnasium. Eugene Melnyk ’77, OSM becomes the school’s single largest donor with a gift of $1 million to name the Zenon Melnyk ’73 Art Studios in memory of his brother.
SMCS expanded its academic programme to once again include Grades 7 and 8. The preparatory school had previously been active during the early 1900s.
150th Anniversary of SM CS with celebrations under the leadership of Fr. Daniel Zorzi, CSB.
SMCS Centre for the Arts opens in April 2010 with a gala celebration of the Arts.
St. Michael’s College School hosts the inaugural Basilian Network for Education and the New Evangelization (BNENE) Conference in July 2015. The Basilians established BNENE to bring together different school communities that are under their direction, with a common mission to engage in ongoing formation and to promote the Basilian model of education in their schools.
To commemorate their 200th anniversary, the Basilian Fathers will celebrate a Bicentennial Mass on Sunday, November 20, at 12 p.m. at St. Basil’s Catholic Parish. Fr. Kevin Storey, CSB, Superior General of the Congregation will preside. All are welcome to attend.