BICENTENNIAL • 2022
Celebrating 200 years of teaching and preaching goodness, discipline, and knowledge.
Against a background of terror and persecution of the clergy in the aftermath of the French Revolution, the first Basilians come together in their commitment to provide Christian education.
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. Father Joseph Lapierre publicly retracts his oath and flees to avoid arrest.
The Archbishop of Vienne asks Father 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 Ardèche.
The school moves to the nearby city of Annonay where the population can support the school’s expected growth.
The school continues to flourish and two more schools open their doors in Annonay: Ste. Barbe and Ste. Claire. Throughout the 19 th century, more schools open in the Ardèche 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 Father Lapierre as the first Superior General and St. Basil as the patron for the order. In 1863 Pope Pius IX would raise the status of the Association to a religious congregation of simple vows.
Newly-appointed Bishop of Toronto, Armand-François-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 send four priests, a significant percentage of their total number of available priests, to establish a school in Toronto.
The Basilians open St. Michael’s College offering, in the French style, a combination of high school and post-secondary education in Toronto.
The first Canadian Basilian, who was a student at St. Michael’s College, Father Michael Ferguson, CSB, is ordained on October 23. The Basilian community in the New World continues to grow steadily.
Basilians formally assume administration of Assumption College in Windsor, Ontario. The Basilians continue to establish or staff schools and parishes in communities across North America including Owen Sound, Ontario (1863), Amherstburg, Ontario (1878), Detroit, Michigan (1886), Waco, Texas (1899), and Houston, Texas (1900).
In France, anti-clerical government decrees close most religious schools, and religious orders are dispersed. Most Basilians become diocesan priests in the Diocese of Viviers.
Father Denis O’Connor, CSB is appointed Bishop of London, Ontario and then in 1899, Archbishop of Toronto, Ontario. He is the first Basilian bishop.
The Basilian Novitiate moves to Toronto at the location where Holy Rosary Church and later St. Michael’s College School are eventually built. It is the only North American novitiate until 1942 when a novitiate is established in Rochester, New York.
The French republican government orders all religious institutes to disband. A few Basilians continue to work in the school at Annonay, but the Congregation’s religious life in France is interrupted for twenty years.
Tensions, both canonical and political, between the North American Basilian councilors and the Congregation’s French leadership result in an amicable Decree of Separation in June of 1922. The outcome is two distinct Congregations: the Basilian Fathers of Toronto and the Basilian Fathers of Viviers. In 1955 the Congregation celebrates the reunification of the French and North American Basilians.
Father Henry Carr, CSB is elected superior general of the Congregation. Under his leadership as superior and president of St. Michael’s College from 1915 to 1925 and superior general of the Congregation from 1930 to 1942, he makes many decisions to secure the future of Catholic education in Canada. He strengthens the existing affiliation of St. Michael’s College with the University of Toronto to become a “federated” arts college within the university. This model has been adopted at universities in Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and British Columbia. In 1929, he helps found the internationally renowned Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies in Toronto.
Basilians begin ministering to the Mexican migrants and Mexican Americans in the towns around Houston, Texas. Basilian high schools in the United States and Canada assist this work through financial contributions. Many of these missions develop into fully-fledged parishes in the Galveston-Houston and Victoria dioceses.
Seventeen Basilians volunteer to serve in World War II, including five who serve overseas as military chaplains, representing a large portion of available priests.
Father George Flahiff, CSB, who served as the Congregation’s superior general since 1954, is appointed Archbishop of Winnipeg, Manitoba. As one of the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council, he attends all the sessions from 1962 to 1965 and addresses the Council once, speaking on ecumenism. He is named to the Preparatory Commission on Religious Life and contributes to the Council document Perfectae Caritatis on the Renewal of Religious Life. Pope Paul VI makes him a cardinal in 1969, and he attends the conclaves that elect Popes John Paul I and John Paul II.
Encouraged by Pope John XXIII’s call to religious communities to send their people to Latin America, the Basilians expand their ministry working with Mexican migrant workers in southern Texas by establishing an apostolate in Mexico. Father Francis Launtrie, CSB and Father Max Murphy, CSB are the first Basilians sent to minister in Mexico. They begin by administering San Juan Crisóstomo parish in the barrio of San Juan de Aragón in Mexico City. Within the first ten months there are over 3000 first communions and 657 baptisms among 10,000 families.
Father David Bauer, CSB builds and coaches the Canadian hockey team for the 1964 Winter Olympics.
As a student at St. Michael’s College, Bauer was a star hockey player but did not pursue it professionally in favour of becoming a priest. He remains involved in the sport throughout his ministry by coaching at amateur and professional levels. He sees sport as a way to nourish oneself physically, but also spiritually. He is awarded the Order of Canada in June 1967 and is inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto in 1989.
(Photo: St. Michael’s College School Archives)
The Basilian Lay Associates (BLAs) are established atthe General Chapter. BLAs are Catholic women and men called to support the Basilian charism of community and education in the Church’s mission of evangelization. As lay persons not under vows, they seek to respond more fully to their baptismal call to holiness and service by formal association with the Congregation of St. Basil.
After serving as auxiliary bishop in San Antonio, Texas, Bishop Ricardo Ramírez, CSB is appointed the first Bishop of Las Cruces, New Mexico, on August 17 and is formally installed on October 18. As Bishop, he sat on many United States Conference of Catholic Bishops committees and chaired the Committee on the Church in Latin America. He remains Bishop Emeritus following his resignation in 2013 and is outspoken in defense of the marginalized, especially on issues of immigration.
(Photo: Diocese of Las Cruces)
The Basilians welcome the idea to establish another project in Latin America and are intrigued by the possibility of a human development project in Colombia that combines evangelization, catechesis, education, and social and economic development. The founding group of Basilians arrives in Colombia in July to take over a parish with a school attached in Cali, Valle. The Basilians expand on the original foundation to minister in Bogotá and Medellín.
Father Ronald P.Fabbro, CSB, who served as the Congregation’s superior general since 1997, is appointed the 10th Bishop of London, Ontario.
Toronto, Ontario welcomes Pope John Paul II for World Youth Day (WYD). Father Tom Rosica, CSB and a host of young adults from around Canada and the world prepare for the event that draws over 800,000 people. The Holy Father stays at Strawberry Island, the Basilians’ summer retreat on Lake Simcoe, for five days’ rest in advance of the final weekend of WYD festivities.(Photos: WP Wittman Ltd.)
A large contingent of Basilians travels to Rome for the episcopal ordination of Father J. Michael Miller, CSB. He is named Archbishop Secretary of the Congregation for Catholic Education. In 2007 he is appointed
Coadjutor Archbishop of Vancouver where he succeeds Archbishop Roussin in 2009.
The Basil Bowl is officially established to foster a spirit of brotherhood among students of the Basilian high schools through sport. A school team hosts its counterparts from another Basilian school for a weekend, and the students get to know one another by sharing meals, celebrating Mass, and participating in a friendly athletic competition. Basil Bowl activities have expanded beyond athletics to bring students together through music and different clubs.
St. Michael’s College School hosts the inaugural Basilian Network of Education and the New Evangelization (BNENE) Conference in July 2015. The Congregation of St. Basil established BNENE to bring together different school communities that are under theresponsibility of the Basilian Fathers in a common mission of engaging in ongoing formation and to promote a Basilian approach to education within their schools.
Pope Francis appoints Father Robert Kasun, CSB as auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Toronto on June 17. The episcopal ordination takes place on September 12 at St. Joseph’s Basilica in Edmonton, Alberta.
(Photo: Lito Soco/The Catholic Archdiocese of Edmonton)
The COVID pandemic rules every facet of life. In the interest of public safety, Basilian schools quickly adapt to offer their curricula online. Pastoral teams at Basilian parishes experiment with technology and explore new ways to continue to bring their communities together.
Please help us continue our founders’ mission. The Basilians are looking for young men who God may be calling to offer the talents He has bestowed on them to serve His people and make a difference in today’s world. Please pray for vocations to our way of life. For young men who may be interested, we invite you to discern whether God is calling you to serve his People as a Basilian. Please visit basilian.org/join to learn more.
Learn more about the past and present Apostolates where Basilians have served here.
Photos courtesy of the Archives of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Toronto; Diocese of Las Cruces, Diocese of London, General Archives of the Basilian Fathers, Lito Soco and The Catholic Archdiocese of Edmonton, WP Wittman Ltd., Vatican Media