Canada Historical Summary
The American and British Passionist Provinces vied for the opportunity to establish a foundation in Canada. In 1933, the American Province of St. Paul of the Cross won out, settling on a property at the north boundary of the city of Toronto. This served as a base for itinerant missionaries and established a Canadian Passionist identity, with some brethren of Canadian birth among those who set up the residence. The next venture was to establish the Parish of St. Gabriel of the Sorrowful Virgin in a suburb of Toronto at the request of the archdiocese in 1951. The church was dedicated in 1952.
The decade of the 1960s saw heightened development as an Information Center, with the capacity to be a small retreat center, was begun in Sudbury, Ontario. In the Diocese of London, another small retreat center, Holy Cross, was established in 1965 at Port Burwell. At this time, too, a development office was established in Rexdale, another suburb of Toronto.
In this expansionist time, when vocations from Canada were plentiful, the Canadian community achieved a status as a regional vicariate. Father Paul Cusack became the first regional superior. To consolidate the efforts of the new structure, the Sudbury foundation was phased out. Students came to Toronto for their formation program, some 18 strong. In 1978, the retreat center at Port Burwell became publicly dedicated to popularizing the ecological spirituality articulated by Father Thomas Berry, Director of the Riverdale Center in New York.
The 1980s saw a drop-off in membership, which was offset by a stronger commitment to shared ministry with the laity. However, financial constraints dictated the closing of Holy Cross Retreat Center in 1998, with the ministry project of Ecology and Spirituality moving to the Passionist Center in Toronto. St. Gabriel’s Parish is presently administered by a team of one Passionist priest and several lay persons. Future plans call for the building of a new church. At present, there are five Passionist priests in the vicariate, each responsible for various preaching and teaching ministries, with offices in the Passionist Center building, alongside St. Gabriel’s Church.