Since their arrival to Guelph in 1852, the Jesuits have been intimately involved in developing the social infrastructure of the region. Their faith and willingness to serve inspired the early Jesuits to address many of the important social issues of the day — education, health care and ministry. They played a key role in establishing schools, convents, an orphanage, the St. Joseph's Hospital, and a number of distinguished churches.
In January 1852, Bishop Charbonnel of Toronto (see annotation below) appointed Father John Holzer, S.J., to be Pastor of the Church of our Lady Parish in Guelph. This was the same year that the town of Guelph was celebrating its 25th anniversary. The parish would be under the care of the Jesuit Order until 1931.
The Church of Our Lady Immaculate
The church was designed by a prominent Ontario architect, Joseph Connolly (1840-1904). Connolly was born in Ireland and received his professional training there under J. J. McCarthy, a leading nineteenth century Catholic church architect. The Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception — in the style of the thirteenth century French Gothic — is one of Connolly's earliest known structures and is widely considered to be his finest.
Fr. Holzer, along with other early Jesuits, established fifty-six mission stations in the area. In establishing their missions, the early Jesuits placed a focus on social and education issues — as well as religious concerns.
Most widely recognized among their many accomplishments, over–seeing construction of the Church of Our Lady. The Church, which dominates the Guelph skyline, was commissioned under the leadership of Fr. Holzer's successor, Fr. P. Hamel, S.J. in 1874.
By the beginning of the twentieth century, the Church of Our Lady was no longer a mission center, instead having become the parish for Catholics in the Guelph area. The many missions which had been founded were soon after established as individual parishes. A reflection of the growth taking place in the city.
In 1911, a chapel was opened in the district of Guelph known as “the Ward”. Subsequent growth in the district resulted in the establishment of the Sacred Heart Parish in 1930—which remains active to this day.
In 1863, Fr. Holzer had attempted to establish a pre-seminary adjacent the Church of Our Lady. His efforts met with limited success and the seminary closed in 1864. His vision for a place of worship and prayer for young novices in formation would be realized in a different setting years after his death.
The Jesuit order is the largest men's religious ministry in the Catholic Church. The term Jesuit originated with the founding of “The Society of Jesus” in 1540 by St. Ignatius Loyola. Today, there are almost 20,000 Jesuits serving the Church in 112 nations on six continents.
Jesuits arrived in Guelph in 1852, and have lived continuously in the Guelph area since that time. Jesuits have been intimately involved in developing the social network in the City of Guelph and the Guelph area.
If you would like more information on the history of the Jesuit Order in Canada, please visit www.jesuits.ca.
In 1913, a group of thirteen English-Canadian Jesuits arrived from Sault-au-Recollet to establish an English-speaking novitiate for the training of young Jesuits. They purchased a large tract of land just north of Guelph — a 240 hectare estate now known as the Ignatius Jesuit Centre. Re-designing the original farmhouse, the early Jesuits officially opened The St. Stanislaus Novitiate, named in honour of St. Stanislaus Kostka (see Annotation below).
The Novitiate was well received by the Jesuit community in Canada. In response to the growing demand for housing and classrooms, a larger building was constructed on the property in 1933. Expansion resumed again in 1949 when a secondary wing was added. In 1958, the novitiate was incorporated and renamed The Ignatius College — in honour of the founder of the Jesuits, St. Ignatius of Loyola.
Our presence in the area dates back to 1852 and we wish to honour our long history and in new ways befitting our contemporary context, to emulate the creativity of our many forefathers in that place.
St. Ignatius of Loyola
(1491 – 1556)
The curriculum of St. Stanislaus Novitiate included teaching young novices the “Spiritual Exercises”, a manual of Christian prayer and meditation developed by St. Ignatius. In honour of St. Ignatius, founder of the Jesuit Order, the Novitiate was renamed “Ignatius College”.
By 1548, Ignatius had opened schools in Italy, Portugal, the Netherlands, Spain, Germany, and India. Although these schools were intended for the education of young Jesuit, in 1548 Ignatius opened a school for lay students as well. It became clear by requests from rulers, bishops and cities that providing schools was truly one of the most effective ways to correct ignorance and corruption among the clergy and the faithful and to fulfill the motto of the Society of Jesus, “Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam”, — to the greater glory of God.
The surrounding farmland was integral to the success of the College as it provided for balance in the lives of the novices. Initially maintained solely by the Jesuit Brothers, a farm manager was gratefully hired to assist the Ignatius Farm Community. Since that time, the Ignatius Farm
has become a pioneer in organic crop management and beautifully illustrates the viability and benefits of small family run farms.
In response to a cultural malaise in religious discipline during the latter decades of the 20th century, Ignatius College struggled to fulfill its mandate. No longer in scale with the size of the Jesuit community in the region, the College was forced to close.
Adapting to changing circumstance, the local Jesuit community focused its efforts on utilizing the immense potential of the College assets. Michael Schweier was retained to transition the Ignatius College, to the Orchard Park Business Centre. Michael's efforts during the late-90’s were successful in establishing a thriving community of esteemed businesses.
While the Ignatius Jesuit Centre is no longer home to a novitiate, it is still well-known and treasured by Jesuits and their collaborators around the world. The estate, over 240 hectares, is the home and sustenance of our Ecology and Spiritual Ministries.