History: The Paulists in Canada
by Stefani Manowski
June 29, 2015

The Paulists are leaving the community’s last remaining ministry in Canada, but the community has left its unique and indelible stamp in Toronto.

“Toronto is the Paulists’ first foundation in Canada, and the last,” said Father Paul Robichaud, CSP, Paulist historian. “Toronto took the Paulist mission from America to North America.”

It was March 1859 – a mere year after the founding of the community – that the Paulists first came to Canada to lead a series of missions in Quebec.

The Most Reverend Neil McNeil, who served as Archbishop of Toronto from 1912-1934

Paulist founder, Servant of God Father Isaac Hecker and his companions George Deshon, Augustine Hewit and Howard Baker, rode through a snowstorm in an open sleigh and crossed the frozen St. Lawrence River to preach a mission in Quebec City. The mission reportredly attracted between 7,000-8,000 worshippers.

Perhaps it was the adventure of literally traveling across the frozen tundra that no Paulist missions are on record in Canada until Father Walter Elliott, CSP; Father Bertrand Conway, CSP; and Father William Cartwright preached parish missions at St. Basil and St. Peter’s (in the former church building).

Archbishop Neil McNeil, the fifth Archbishop of Toronto, then invited the Paulists to direct the Newman Hall at the University of Toronto, where the Paulists served from 1913-36. In1914, the Paulists were asked to take over the pastoral ministry of St. Peter’s Parish located at Bathurst and Bloor streets. Father Michael Carey, CSP, became the first pastor of St. Peter’s.

“This was the first of three Paulist foundations in Canada, in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver,” Father Robichaud said. “We now had a Paulist mission band in Canada, media ministry and adult education in addition to the parishes and centers.”

The Paulists, keen to do the work in Canada that they did in America, but quickly adapted to the serving the needs (spiritual and otherwise) of a new country and a new culture, according to Father Robichaud.

The Catholic Information Centre, renamed the Paulist Ministry Centre for Catholic Evangelization in 1998

What was to become known as the Paulist Ministry Centre began as the Catholic Information Centre in 1938 under Father John McGinn. The centre took on its own identity and history under Father Francis W. Stone, CSP. Father Stone, a native of Ontario, asked to be given the ministry of the “convert classes” full time in 1946, and welcomed 100 people into the Church within a year. The Catholic Information Center moved from the basement of the church to a building adjacent to St. Peter’s in 1956, and was renamed the Paulist Ministry Centre for Catholic Evangelization in 1998 to better reflect the type of work being done there.

Father Francis W. Stone, CSP

In addition to the Toronto ministries, the Paulists staffed the Information Centre and the Newman Centre at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver from 1963-72, and the McGill Newman Centre and the Montreal Information Centre in Montreal from 1973-84.

And this is not to mention the countless missions through out the country given by the Paulists Canadian Mission Band.

“Being in Canada pushed the Paulists out of the boundaries of America and out of the culture of America,” Father Robichaud said. “It made the Paulists international.”

Not only that, but 32 faith-filled sons of Canada became Paulist priests throughout the years.

“The Paulists made an impression on Canada, and Canada made an impression on the Paulists,” he said.