The Founding of the Basilian Fathers

Amidst the turmoil and persecution of the Catholic Church during the French Revolution and after the Reign of Terror, the Archbishop of Vienne, Charles-François d’Aviau Du Bois-de-Sanzay, encouraged Joseph Lapierre to take over the Catholic education of boys in the isolated hill commune of Saint-Symphorien-de-Mahun, Ardèche department.[6] Despite difficulties, the school grew, and in 1800, when the political climate was more favourable, the Archbishop asked Lapierre to also educate candidates for the priesthood. With the addition of Joseph Marie Actorie as director, a minor seminary was founded. Increased growth made it necessary to find a new location, and in 1802 the school moved to Annonay at the suggestion of Henri Léorat-Picansel, a pastor who had previously been in Saint-Symphorien-de-Mahun.Collège Privé Sacré-Coeur in Annonay, France

Ten men, priests and students for the priesthood, formed the staff of the school. In the ensuing years, school enrollment grew to over 300 students, and auxiliary institutions were established nearby. In the years leading up to 1820, changing French educational laws and changing Church administration meant falling enrollment. The newly appointed bishop suggested that if they formed an association and bought the property of a nearby school, Maison Seule, that they would have his support. This “coincided with a desire for closer religious life already shown by several of the priests teaching in the college.”

On November 21, 1822, The Feast of the Presentation of Our Lady, the Congregation’s first general chapter was held. Joseph Lapierre was unanimously elected Superior by the nine other priests. “To these men he was the very symbol of their determination that this work should not fail.” The schools became known for their range of teaching including humanities, rhetoric, philosophy, mathematics, physics and chemistry.

Previously known as the Teaching Priests of the Ardèche, the founders chose St. Basil as their namesake. Their new school, Maison Seule, was in the Parish of St. Basil, but he was also an appropriate choice because he was “a monastic founder, a preacher and an author of a treatise on the study of pagan classics.”

Other patrons of the Basilians are: the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Joseph, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Thomas Aquinas, and St. John Bosco.

The ten founding priests were:

  • Jacques Duret (1762–1841) was born in Annonay, the son of a physician. He studied in Paris and was a classmate of the revolutionary enemy of the Catholic Church, Maximilien Robespierre.
  • André Fayolle, (1791–1867) nephew of Pierre Tourvieille, was a teacher who studied theology before he was ordained.
  • Joseph Lapierre, (1757–1838) was a priest who fled persecution during the Revolution and secretly celebrated Mass and provided clandestine Christian education. Lapierre became the first Superior General and prepared and submitted the first draft Constitutions of the Basilians to Rome.
  • Henri Martinesche (1797–1879) was ordained in 1822 and was a teacher and chaplain.
  • Jean François Pagès (1793–1861) studied philosophy and theology and was ordained in 1818. The following year, he began teaching in Annonay.
  • Augustin Payan (1771–1847) attended the clandestine seminary college at Saint-Symphorien-de-Mahun, becoming a teacher and studying theology.
  • Jean-Baptiste Polly (1772–1846) was mayor of Saint-Symphorien-de-Mahun (then called Mahun Libre by the revolutionaries) and hid priests to protect them. He attended the clandestine seminary college where he studied theology, and was secretly ordained.
  • Pierre Tourvieille (1780–1859) who received covert education during the French Revolution from his older brother, a priest. Tourvieille became the second Basilian Superior General in 1838.
  • Julien Tracol (1796–1885) was a teacher, librarian, record keeper and first unofficial historian of the Congregation of St. Basil.
  • Jean Antoine Vallon (1775–1840) was ordained around 1800 and was a teacher at Saint-Symphorien-de-Mahun and later at Annonay.


France

In their early years, the Basilians were not a religious congregation in the canonical sense. They were an association or society of secular priests willing to live in community and pool their resources to support Christian education and preaching. The members did not take formal religious vows of poverty, chastity and obedience until later. In the early years, boundaries were somewhat fluid on membership in the association, based on who lived in the community and taught at the schools at any time. The early years of the Basilian congregation were full of challenges. The local bishop, who was prepared to suppress the congregation, died the night before signing a decree. However within a couple of generations, the Basilians had grown sufficiently to be formally approved by Pius IX in 1863. During the French Third Republic, Catholic schools were again a target, this time of the Socialists who were determined to secularize education. The decrees of 1880 targeted Jesuits but affected all teaching orders including the Basilians, and as a result of the persecution they were forced to close one of their schools in 1881 and one of their houses. The French government finally suppressed all religious orders in what was known as “La loi de Combes” in 1903. The Basilian confrères were dispersed and their property was sold at auction. The religious life of the Basilian Fathers in France was suspended for twenty years, a blow from which they never recovered.

Basilian Teachers in Canada 1886 – 1887

The Basilians first came to Canada in 1850 at the invitation of Bishop Armand-François-Marie de Charbonnel. As a Basilian student in Annonay from 1811 to 1819, the Bishop of Toronto turned to his former teacher and Irish Basilian, Father Patrick Moloney, CSB, to assist him in his work with the largely Irish Catholic community in Toronto. Eventually, the Congregation sent four of its members to the New World. In 1852, St. Michael’s College, Toronto opened its doors, offering a French style of education, a combination of high-school and university education. This effort was a large investment, risk and sacrifice as it represented a significant percentage of the total number of available Basilian priests. In ensuing years, more sacrifices were made in manpower and money to continue the mission foundations in Canada; their work took them to Sandwich in 1856 and Owen Sound in 1863. Three high schools were served by the Basilian order in Toronto including St. Michael’s College School, Michael Power/St. Joseph High School, and Father Henry Carr Catholic Secondary School. The institute also founded Assumption College School, which became Assumption University in Windsor, Ontario, now federated with the University of Windsor; St. Thomas More College in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan federated with the University of Saskatchewan; and St. Joseph’s College in Edmonton, Alberta affiliated with the University of Alberta. St. Thomas College (later St. Thomas University (New Brunswick) in Chatham, New Brunswick, was founded by the Basilians in 1910, and in 1923 the college was transferred to the local diocesan clergy. Toronto remains one of the largest centers for the Congregation and is home to the Basilian Curial Offices and the Cardinal Flahiff Basilian Centre.

Division and Reunion

Discussion between the Congregation in France and North America resulted in the amicable Decree of Separation in June 1922 creating two separate religious congregations, each with their own constitutions.

The French and North American branches were reunited in 1955, an occasion celebrated in Annonay.

Basilian Fathers in The United States

In 1899 the Basilian Fathers established a college preparatory school in the district of Waco known as Provident Heights, their first Texas school, and named it St. Basil’s College. The founder was Father James Peter Clancy, and presidents included fathers Thomas Hayes, Francis Forster, and Thomas Gignac. The catalog of 1906-07 reveals the study program as an impressive collection of subjects to be mastered by youngsters from rural backgrounds. The school offered a program in commercial subjects as well and had a heated swimming pool. An unexpected drop in enrollment made the institution financially nonviable, and the Basilians withdrew in 1915. In 1900 Basilians had established a similar school in Houston, St. Thomas College.
From 1901 to 1911, at the request of Bishop Nicholas Gallagher, the Basilians operated St. Mary’s Seminary in La Porte for the Diocese of Galveston. In a former resort hotel Father James T. Player, the rector, began with one other Basilian to teach classes of about a dozen students. The enrollment increased steadily under Basilian guidance, which continued until December 1911, when the seminary was taken over by the diocese. Subsequent Basilian rectors were E. Albert Hurley (1903-07) and Thomas F. Gignac (1907-11).

Basilian operation of parishes began in Houston in 1928 when Bishop Christopher Byrne asked the order to take charge of the fledgling St. Anne’s at Westheimer and Shepherd. The Basilians had long maintained parishes in Canada and France before that; they were thus able to fulfill this role when called upon. Byrne also requested help in seeing to the spiritual needs of Mexican people in his diocese, and so from the mid-1930s Basilians began missionary parishes in Fort Bend and Brazoria counties. In Rosenberg they assumed management of Our Lady of Guadalupe mission, which became the Basilians’ center for work among the Spanish-speaking population of the Diocese of Galveston. Later, the priests expanded this work to Angleton, Sugar Land, Missouri City, Manvel, Richmond, Wharton, Bay City, and Freeport. Many of these missions were subsequently turned over to the diocesan clergy.

In 1937, the Basilians took over Aquinas Institute in Rochester, New York, and in 1948 established St. John Fisher College in the same city. St. John Fisher remains a Basilian college and the Basilians maintain strong links to the Aquinas Institute.

In 1945 the Basilian fathers accepted Bishop Byrne’s invitation to establish a coeducational Catholic university in Houston. Thus began the University of Saint Thomasqv. The Basilians have worked for over eighty-five years in education in the Diocese of Galveston-Houston. The congregation is committed to the academic and spiritual instruction of the young and to the performance of their duties as priests.

Latin America

The Basilians started missions to Mexico in 1961 and Colombia in 1987. The Basilian Fathers have served in Mexico City and currently serve in Tehuacán, Puebla, Mexico, and Bogotá, Cali, and Medellín, Colombia in Latin America. The congregation established parishes and schools in Colombia and Mexico, and is affiliated with St. Basil’s Medical Centre in Colombia.

Present Day

Today, the Basilians practice their ministry of teaching and preaching within parishes, campus ministry, schools, and colleges located in Canada, United States, Mexico, and Colombia. They are currently serve at the following locations:

In France, Basilians still serve at Collège Privé Sacré-Coeur and in parishes in and around Annonay.
In Canada, Basilians serve at St. Michael’s College School, and St. Basil’s Catholic Parish, the University of St. Michael’s College, and the Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies in Toronto; Assumption College and Assumption Parish in Windsor; and St. Joseph’s College and St. Alphonsus and St. Clare parishes in Edmonton.
In the United States, Basilians serve at Catholic Central and Cristo Rey high schools in Detroit; St. Kateri Tekakwitha Parish and St. John Fisher College in Rochester; St. Thomas High School, the University of St. Thomas, and St. Anne’s Parish in Houston; and Most Holy Trinity Church in Angleton.
In Mexico, Basilians serve at Casa San Felipe and Parroquia San Lorenzo in Tehuacán.
In Colombia, Basilians serve at the parish and school Nuestra Señora de la Asunción in Cali; and Parroquia San Basilio in Medellín.
As well, there are Basilians engaged in Christian education, pastoral care, and media ministry in Canada and the US.
The Basilians have novitiate houses in Sugar Land, Texas and Bogotá, Colombia.
The Basilians have scholasticate (residences for Basilian seminarians) in Toronto, Ontario, and Medellín, Colombia.
The Basilians have residences for retired priests in Toronto, Ontario; Las Cruces, New Mexico; Windsor, Ontario; Rochester, New York; and Houston, Texas.

Bibliography

  • WikiPedia : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Congregation_of_St._Basil
  • TSHA: https://tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/ixb03

The Basilian Fathers in Sugar Land, TX

Fr. Vincent Dulock CSB

Mission Procurator

Father Vince Dulock was born in 1940 in rural Texas and raised in Houston. He is the second son in a family of 4 boys and two girls. He graduated from St. Thomas High School in Houston, where the Basilian Fathers were his teachers. He joined the Congregat

Aron Fernandez

Director of Operations

Aron Fernandez is an alumnus of the University of Texas at Austin with a Bachelors of Science from the College of Communications. Originally from the Houston area, he returned home to join the Basilian Fathers Missions’ administrative team in Sugarl

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