Beginning of the Order
The Congregation of St. Basil, commonly called the Basilian Fathers, was
officially founded in 1822 when ten diocesan priests at
vowed on November 21 to dedicate their lives to the education of youth and
preaching the Word of God. They created a “Basilian spirit” which focused on
fostering priestly vocations.
the outset, Basilians were familiar with tension, trial and chaos during the
dark days of the French Revolution. It was ambitious, courageous, and downright
dangerous to promote Christian education in the teeth of the Reign of Terror,
but that is exactly what Archbishop D'Aviau of
did when he first contacted Father Joseph Lapierre in 1797 to ask him to
organize a school and take care of the parish of Saint-Symphoriem-de-Mahun in
the mountains of
Nevertheless, a little band of teachers and junior masters formed around
Lapierre and his associate, Joseph Marie Actorie, to give a direction to the
future apostolate, that of evangelization, especially through
By 1799, when they came out of hiding,
such names as Jean Antoine Vallon, Auguste Payan, Pierre Tourvieille, began to
appear in the school register, together with Vincent Duret, André Fayolle, Henri
Martinesche, Jean François Pagès, Julien Tracol. This group of ten secular
priests constitute our original founding fathers. Even the benign mayor of Saint
Symphorien, Jean Baptiste Polly, was to join them and study for the priesthood.
The early years, to 1822, brought one crisis after another for the little group
of priest teachers and their associates in the extremely anti-clerical
atmosphere. In one police commissioner’s report, written in 1799, we read: “The
priests are the only enemies of the government and once extirpated from society
there will no longer be terrorism, nor royalism, nor crimes in
From the very beginning, Basilians have been involved in binding up a wounded
Church. The Church had existed in
for centuries, but much had been destroyed during the Reign of Terror – in the
spiritual as well as the physical realm.
principal patron and model for the Basilian Congregation is
St. Basil the Great.
St. Basil was born about the year 329 A.D. in Ceasarea. The second of ten
children, Basil was nourished by an outstanding Christian home life. His
grandmother - St. Macrina the elder, his parents - Basil and Emmelia, two
brothers - Gregory of Nyssa and Peter of Sebaste - and a sister - Macrina the
younger, have all been acclaimed saints. The family brought Basil and his
siblings up with a remarkable example of concern for the poor, hospitality to
strangers, and purity of soul. Although wealthy in the world’s goods, they
voluntarily led an austere life. Basil the Great was the name given him by his
friend Gregory of Nazianzus. He is also known as Basil of Ceasarea, and Basil,
Bishop of Ceasarea. Basil, along with his brother, Gregory, and his friend,
Gregory, are known as the Cappadocian Fathers.
According to the custom of the time, Basil was enrolled as a catechumen as a
youth. His decision to be Baptized in 356 marked a definite commitment to a life
dedicated to Christ. Basil was ordained a priest by Bishop Eusebius in the year
364 A.D. About 368, there was a famine in
and the city was filled with hopeless, hungry refugees. Basil organized relief
supplies of all sorts including the food which kept many alive.
Basil was appointed Bishop of Ceasarea in 370. He immediately began to build
hospitals, clinics, hospices, trade schools, and arranged for doctors, nurses,
guides, and beasts of burden to meet the needs of the poor, the sick, the needy,
and travelers. Basil worked diligently for peace in the provinces. In one letter
“There is nothing more characteristic of a Christian than to be a peacemaker.”
Basil is known for working against and bringing defeat to the Arian heresy, and
he is responsible for the victory of the Nicene Creed.
A man of great personal holiness, St. Basil's written works demonstrate his
scholarly ability and deep spirituality.
Basil died peacefully on
January 1, 379,
and was buried in
His feast day is January 2. He is a Doctor of the Church in the West and a Holy
Hierarch in the East.
The other patrons of the Basilian congregation are: the Blessed Virgin,
especially under her title of Our Lady of Guadalupe,
St. Francis of
St. Thomas Aquinas, and St. John Bosco. In her position as patroness of the
missions, St. Therese of Lisieux is venerated by the Basilian Fathers Missions.
Across the Ocean to the New World
Father Patrick Moloney joined
the Congregation on August 25, 1842.
By 1850, Father Moloney had accompanied Most Reverend Armand de Charbonnel,
Bishop of Toronto, to the
Bishop de Charbonnel requested the Basilians to establish a school in
which they did in 1852 and named it St. Michael’s College.
the first native Canadian, Michael Ferguson, was ordained in 1863, the growth of
the Basilian community in the
New World continued slowly but steadily over the rest of that
century. In 1903 there were 60 Basilians in
51 priests and 9 scholastics; by 1922 they numbered 91 members, of whom 59 were
priests and 32 scholastics. The expansion of their fields of endeavor was also
significant. St. Michael's College and St. Basil's parish in Toronto dated from
1852 and 1856 respectively, St. Mary's parish, Owen Sound, from 1863, Assumption
College and Assumption parish in Sandwich from 1870; Basilians also took on the
direction of St. John the Baptist parish, Amherstburg in 1878, St. Anne's,
Detroit, 1886, Holy Rosary, Toronto, 1892, St. Basil's College, Waco, 1899, St.
Thomas High School, Houston, 1900, St. Mary's Seminary, La Porte, 1901, St.
Thomas College, Chatham, N.B., 1910.
the Basilian Fathers serve in four Provinces and twenty-two cities in
seven states and thirty cities in the