More on a prep. seminary

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A little more information on St. Pius X preparatory seminary. 

As I noted on the Father Bill Allen page, St. Pius X was initially opened in 1958 as a prep seminary.  One of it’s purposes was to relieve the shortage the shortage of priests in Ottawa.  In its early years all boys who attended had indicated that they felt they had a calling to the priesthood. 

Boys were ‘referred’ to the seminary by their parish priest.  In the Diocese of Hamilton Ontario boys were asked to send a letter to the Bishop indicating their desire to become priests; it seems that those who were sent on to Pius X were chosen from this letter-writing group. 

In its first year of operation (1958) the prep school offered only Grade 9 classes.  The goal was to add one grade/year until Grades 9 to 13 were offered at the school (at that time Ontario had 13 grades – Grade 13 was recognised in some jurisdictions beyond the province as the equivalent of first year university) 

St. Pius X would eventually have the ability to take a student from Grade 9 through to Grade 13 – boarding students were then able to stay in residence while attending Ottawa U for a BA (Bachelor of Arts degree) and then move on to a major seminary

In it’s first year of operation the school had an enrolment of 34 (one dropped out by Christmas).  In 1959 enrollement jumped to 94, with two Grade 9 and one grade 10 class. By 1962 St. Pius boasted an enrolment of 276. 

There were, as mentioned elsewhere, boarders at the school.  The staff lived in, as did students from Hamilton, and, it would seem, some others, primarily those who hailed from the area East of Ottawa known as the Ottawa Valley. 

Finding qualified teachers was initially an issue.  As noted, Fathers  Father William Allen, Leonard Lunney, Paul Baxter and Bob Bedard and Father Gavan were dispatched to the Ontario College of Education in Toronto for 15 weeks of courses. (Note that this group were later known as the gang of five.  I had no idea there were two gangs of five – one of clergy and the other of bishops!) 

The issue of finding qualified staff was resolved in part through  agreements worked out with the Diocese of Antigonish Nova Scotia/Saint Francis Xavier University.  There was an agreement that the latter would assist with the operation of the school by supplying two priests for the initial years of the school’s operation, one of the two occupying the position of superior. 

Fathers Anthony Johnston and John Capstick, both from St. FX  in Antigonish, were at St. Pius when it opened it’s doors, Johnston as Rector, and Capstick as Prefect for Studies.  Antigonish continued to send St. FX priests to assist at Pius for quite a number of years. 

At some point St. Pius X was no longer a prep seminary.  I’m not sure exactly when the change transpired – it seems to correlate to with the dramatic change in 1972 when the school opened its doors to welcome female students. 

Those who taught or occupied supervisory/administrative  positions at Pius X over its prep seminary days included:  Fathers Bob Bedard, J.J. MacDonald, D. Gavan, Paul Baxter, Leonard Lunney, Ed Lunney (cousins) F. Redmond, A. Fortin, Lawrence Rankin, R. King, J.T. Haley, R.J. Jenkins, J.F. Haley, W.J. Nugent, L. MacDonald, A. MacLellan, A.A. Johnston, M.J. MacLean, J.J. Capstick, J.R. Keeley and J.M. Beahen 

 Of further interest in regard to Pius X is the fact that in 1963 John Beahen, a future bishop of Ottawa and, as we now know, molester, was appointed to serve as Superior of the prep school.  

According to Living and Chosen Stones: History of St. Patrick’s Basilica 1855-1955: 

In June of 1963, Archbishop Lemieux, O.P., appointed him [Beahen] Superior of St. Pius X Preparatory Seminary on Fisher Avenue, and while there, he was again requested to pen up a new parish in Ottawa West.  The new church was completed by Easter, 1965 and it was dedicated to Saint Elizabeth 

It seems then that Beahen was superior at Pius X from the summer of 1963 until around 1965.  I wonder if a decision was made that Ottawa was capable of supplying the Superior for the school?  Was he perhaps chosen to replace the superior from SFX? I don’t know – I am speculating.  The thing which puzzles me as I put these pieces together is that Beahen had been around the diocese when the school first opened its doors and wasn’t part of the initial staff.  It would seem he was qualified.  He had taught at Ottawa University 1946-1949; he studied canon law at St. Paul’s University Ottawa and, in 1953, attained a doctorate at the Canadian College in Rome. 

Anyway, for whatever the reason,Beahen was not on staff when St. Pius X opened its doors and in 1963 was appointed Superior, a position he retained until around 1965. 

Some may recall that victims of Father Ken Keeler testified at his sex abuse trial that young boys used to barricade them themselves inside their bunk rooms at St. Brigid’s summer camp to keep Beahen at bay.  And that Keeler and Beahen were, on at least one occasion at the camp, sexually involved. 

Keeler, by the way, was a student at Pius X.  I believe Keeler was there in the late 60s/early 70s after Beahen’s days, but, Keeler was definitely there as a student.  (There are differing dates of ordination for Keeler – one Canadian Catholic Church Directory puts the year as 1971, another at 1965.  I will have to double check this. If his date ordination was ’71 then he probably would have been a student while Beahen was Superior )

That’s it for St. Pius X for now.  As a convert I find this look at a preparatory seminary interesting.  I believe it will be of interest to others 🙂 

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It looks as though comments may be getting through again.  I haven’t had a chance to phone Bell yet, but three comments made it onto the site without problem.  If you have been trying without success to blog please try again.  It looks as thought things may be working. 

Enough for now, 

Sylvia

(contact me at cornwall@theinquiry.ca)

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