When Holy Cross first came to Canada, it was prior to Confederation, and they established themselves in primarily French Lower Canada in the heart of Quebec. They were named la Province Canadienne de Sainte-Croix.
Gradually, men whose first language was English joined the Congregation and slowly began to serve English-speaking communities within Quebec and then beyond. It was easy to recognize that English and French Canada had distinctive characteristics and challenges. Language, of course, was a fundamental difference, but there were also different political, social and cultural realities.
In 1943, fourteen Holy Cross priests formalized a commitment to educating in the faith and serving the needs of the Church in English Canada by forming a distinct English entity – later to be known as a Vice-Province – under the jurisdiction of the mother Province in Quebec. At the General Chapter of 1958, the Vice-Province became the Anglo-Canadian Province. Then, during the General Chapter of 1980, that name was modernized and officially changed to the English Canadian Province of Holy Cross.
When the English unit was formed in 1943, some of the members were teaching at St. Joseph College in Memramcook, New Brunswick. Others took up preaching missions and retreats in the Maritime Provinces and Ontario.
Just four years later, two of our number were invited by Cardinal James McGuigan to establish a high school in Welland, Ontario. This was to become Notre Dame College School, the first co-educational Catholic high school in the Niagara Region. For the next several years most of the young Province’s efforts and resources were concentrated on making the school viable. Notre Dame became the “flagship” of Catholic high schools in Niagara. Over the next several decades Holy Cross religious were establishing, administering and/or teaching in three other Catholic high schools in the Niagara Peninsula – Denis Morris and Holy Cross in St. Catharines and Saint Paul in Niagara Falls. Although all of these schools are now under the jurisdiction of the Niagara Catholic District School Board, the Holy Cross Fathers’ approach to education continues to mark the spirit and teaching commitment that is still very much alive in some of these schools.
The community used our ministry in education from which to embark on a vigourous campaign to recruit young men for the priesthood and brotherhood in the new Province.
Father Moreau’s vision of a congregation of educators in the faith did not limit the activity of education to schools. From the very early years, parishes were an equally important ministry. The English Canadian unit had almost immediate invitations to administer parishes. In 1944, Holy Cross Parish in Montreal was the first parish we accepted. Eventually we had parishes in the Maritime Provinces, Ontario and Alberta. Today we continue to administer parishes in the Dioceses of Toronto and St. Catharines in Ontario, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island and Edmonton, Alberta.
According to the last general chapter in 2007, we have a new statute : Vicariate of English Canada.