CCHA Historical Studies, 66 (2000), 114-131




“The True Standing of Catholic Higher

Educational Institutions” of English

        Canada: The 1901 Falconio Survey1




Elizabeth Smyth


     In July of 1901, Monsignor Diomede Falconio (1842-1917), OFM,2 the Apostolic Delegate, dispatched a one-page survey to all superiors of institutions of Catholic Higher Education in Canada. He sought, through the eleven-item questionnaire, “to report to the Holy See on the true standing of the higher educational institutions of Canada.”3 The survey asked respondents to report on the numbers of pupils and teachers, the number of state certified teachers, the textbooks in use, and the spiritual life of the pupils.

     Falconio’s survey elicited 227 responses, which are currently filed in correspondence of the Apostolic Delegate to Canada at the Archivo Segreto Vaticano. They appear as a group, organized by ecclesiastical provinces and dioceses. There are no references to a final report being prepared, nor is there evidence that the data collected were ever compiled or utilized in any other form. The data contained in the responses detail the state of higher education in the seven ecclesiastical provinces of Canada, and the one American ecclesiastical province that includes two Canadian dioceses.4 Drawing from this rich data set, this paper deals exclusively with the information reported for English Canada.

     The Falconio Survey is an important document for Canadian historians. Its existence attests to the wealth of data on virtually all aspects of Canadian history that exist within the Vatican repositories. For historians of education (and social history in general), the data presented indicate shifts in the curricula offered in Catholic schools, changes in the profile of the teachers, and evidences the growing regulation of Catholic schools by secular forces. Finally, the survey points to new directions in research, illustrating that there are new, as yet unexamined, resources to mine.

     Canadian education in 1901 was, like Canadian society itself, at a crossroads. The impact of industrialization, immigration, and urbanization was felt in the streets and in the schools.  Technology was transforming workplaces, homes, and places of learning. As mass communication increased, theories of scientists and educational philosophers were finding their ways into Canadian classrooms. Curricula were altered as the “new subjects” of commerce and physical culture emerged to challenge the traditional “basics.” Diversity could be the descriptor best applied to the Canadian educational scene. For the majority of Canadian children attending schools, the fact that education was under provincial jurisdiction resulted in them experiencing an array of linguistic, ethnic, cultural, and religious practices.5 All of these elements were represented in Falconio’s survey and reflected in the responses that it received.

     Falconio’s survey consisted of a single sheet containing eleven items. It was printed in English and in French, and was dated 20 July 1901. The explanatory notes of introduction and the orientation of the eleven questionnaire items can lead one to speculate about Falconio’s reasoning in circulating the survey. In a four-sentence introductory paragraph, he explained his intent: “I feel bound to report to the Holy See the true standing of the higher educational institutions of Canada.  I request that you be as explicit in your answers as possible. Any other information not touched upon in these questions would be welcome.”6 As an educator himself who had participated in both the teaching and the administration of an American college, an investigation into the state of higher education in Canada would not be out of his personal and professional frame of reference. Yet, the motivation for the survey seems to go far beyond this, as Falconio, in his role as Rome’s representative, sought information on the extent to which secular and ecclesiastical issues intertwined against the background of Canadian education.

     In its English language version the survey was intended to cover “higher educational institutions,” which are identified in the first item of the questionnaire as any “college or academy.” In its introductory comments, the French version requested information on “l’état des maisons d’éducation,” and presented no additional descriptors in the first item. The answers given by the respondents, both English and French, suggest that the majority of superiors interpreted Falconio’s intent in the same way: to examine those educational institutions that credentialed their students for admission to further education or that offered students an education beyond the elementary level.

     In the aftermath of the Manitoba Schools Question, Falconio would undoubtedly have been inclined to examine what impact was felt on Catholic education across the country: were Catholic Schools catering exclusively to the needs of the Catholic population? The first question on the survey requested enrollment data – and that such information be reported along denominational lines: “Give the number of pupils who have attended the college or academy during the past year: Catholic __ Non Catholic__.” 

     The next question reflected a topic of very local interest. As a resident in Ottawa, Falconio would have heard the complaints concerning the nature of textbooks used in the Catholic schools.  One of the most vocal critics had been the Inspector of Separate Schools, J.F. White, who later became Principal of the Ottawa Normal School. Almost a decade before the Falconio survey, White wrote in his 1892 annual report on the Ottawa Separate Schools, French Section: “In many cases the pupils have too many text-books – entailing a needless expense on parents and not encouraging good teaching.”7 To ascertain what was being taught and what resources were being employed, Falconio requested that the respondents “list the different branches of study” and to “give names and authors of the text books in use.”8

     Falconio’s survey scrutinized  the spiritual lives of the pupils. The superiors were asked to report in detail on this topic; they were asked to list the frequency and duration of instruction in Christian Doctrine and the textbooks. They were requested to describe the participation of the pupils in activities of organized religion, stating how frequently the pupils took the sacraments, whether there was a Spiritual Director for the pupils, and whether the pupils undertook an annual retreat. The religious activities of non-Catholic pupils were also to be commented upon. The superiors were asked whether non-Catholic pupils were obliged to attend Catholic services or if they could attend services of their own denominations. Finally, the superiors were asked to report on the process by which the pupils’ reading materials was approved, and by whom.

     The teachers were also a subject of the survey’s scrutiny. The internal debate concerning state certification of teachers who were members of religious communities was ongoing – especially in the province of Ontario. It is not unexpected that superiors were asked to detail the qualifications of their staff: the numbers holding certificates granted by the government and granted by the religious communities. Recognizing the trend toward employment of lay teachers, Falconio asked the superiors to report on the numbers of teachers, listing them in two categories – lay and religious. As well, superiors were requested to report the numbers of non-Catholic teachers employed in the schools and the subjects they taught. Addressing  a complaint that had been lodged by his predecessors that seminarians were being used for the teaching of religious instruction thereby diluting the time they were spending on their own education, Falconio asked the superiors to report whether or not their institution employed seminarians as teachers. Finally, in recognition of the fact that the Catholic Schools in Canada were funded from a number of sources, Falconio requested the superiors to detail how the institutions supported themselves. Falconio suggested that superiors complete the form and return it “at your earliest convenience.” The majority of superiors acceded to Falconio’s request for promptness. Most of responses are dated between 25 July and 8 August 1901, and the rest trickled in over the next year, with the final one dated 28 July 1902.

     While the completeness and accuracy of the data reported varied from one form to another, the survey provides a snapshot of Catholic higher education at the turn of the century. It is important to note that levels of response varied across the regions. Many reasons account for this fact. The timing of the survey was somewhat problematic as it arrived in the midst of one of the few times in the year when communities of teachers could undertake other activities such as congregational chapters or staff development through the gaining of additional teacher qualifications.

     Within the Maritimes, twenty-five  surveys were submitted from colleges and academies in the Ecclesiastical Province of Halifax. The diocese of Charlottetown returned the most surveys (nine), reporting the highest number of pupils (1152) and teachers (fifty-nine). Three institutions in the archdiocese of Halifax, one in Antigonish, four in Saint John, and eight in the diocese of Chatham responded to the survey. The superiors’ responses represented a wide interpretations of the term “higher education.” The experience of religious in a variety of types of schools is reported. As well as what Falconio seems to have meant by “academies and colleges” – that is those institutions that prepared pupils beyond the elementary level of instruction to sit examinations for admissions to higher institutions, a number of elementary and senior elementary schools found their way into the survey. As well as reflecting the competing notions of what secondary education entailed, the survey data also point to the variety of arrangements made on behalf of Catholic schools by various local provincial government agencies. An example is the provisions that were made for sisters to gain certification and teach in the state public school system, being paid as government employees, in fact.

     Responses to the survey indicate that Catholic education in the Maritime provinces was dominated by communities of women religious. Significantly, the influence of male religious communities was at the tertiary level – those institutions preparing young men for the priesthood or credentialling young men for the professions through degree and certificate granting programs. The course of study of the Eudist Fathers’ Seminary of the Holy Heart of Mary (Halifax) prepared young men for the priesthood. The Eudist College of St. Ann, Church Point, Digby, NS, described itself as offering “commercial and classical courses” to prepare young men for university entrance.9 The College of the Sacred Heart at Caraquet offered a commercial and classical curriculum. St. Joseph’s College Memramcook, NB, administered by the Religious of the Holy Cross, was described as “the bilingual College of St. Joseph.”10 There were two diocesan colleges reported: St. Dunstan in Charlottetown and St. Francis Xavier in Antigonish. The report on St. Francis Xavier College stated that it contained both a collegiate department and a degree granting university.11  One should note that St Mary’s College, Halifax, was in hiatus at the time of this survey.12

     It is also important to note several omissions and development in the history of higher education – and especially those institutions for women, which were not reflected on the survey. The Academy of the Sisters of Charity,  Mount Saint. Vincent, established in 1873, would gain status as a university in 1907. There were other academies that did not respond to the survey – including the Religious of the Sacred Heart who had been administering a school in Halifax since 1849. There were no such provisions for young women reported in the responses to the Falconio Survey. Even the report of Mount Saint Vincent Academy, which since 1873 had conducted a Normal School, did not document its existence in the survey response. It is especially noteworthy since, with the changes in the Nova Scotia  legislation for the licensing of teachers in 1895, the program offered to pupils at Mount Saint Vincent Normal School was recognized by the Council of Public Instruction as “equivalent to that given at the Provincial Normal School at Truro.” It was not just women religious who did not  report. There was no response from the Christian brothers who operated La Salle Academy in the city of Halifax. Many explanations could be given for this – the survey was overlooked, its timing may have coincided with retreats or chapters, or response to it may have not been seen as a priority.

     Across the province of Ontario, fourteen communities of religious responded to the Falconio survey. Communities of women religious represented almost double the number of male respondents to the survey. There was one lay respondent to the survey, representing Regiopolis High School in Kingston. The profiles of some thirty schools illustrated the variety of the types of educational institutions in which communities of men and women religious taught: provincially funded separate schools, federally funded Indian Residential Schools, academies which were located within convent/motherhouses, and degree granting tertiary institutions. Unlike the respondents from the Maritime provinces, there seemed to be clearer understanding within the province of Ontario of what the Apostolic Delegate meant by higher education. With the exception of the Indian Residential Schools on Manitoulin Island and in Fort William, the twenty-eight schools represented in the survey are those institutions, which for the most part, either credentialed their pupils for post secondary study or which themselves gave post-secondary credentials. 

     As was the case in the Maritime provinces in the 1901 survey, communities of male religious were dominant in the field of post-secondary education. The Congregation of St. Basil reported two institutes of higher education: St. Michael’s College in Toronto and Assumption College in Sandwich. The Resurrectionists reported on St. Jerome’s College in Berlin. The Oblates of Mary Immaculate reported that the University of Ottawa housed a seminary program as well as one leading to secular degrees. Two male communities reported educational enterprises that did not have tertiary components. The Society of Jesus reported  two Indian Industrial Schools: one on Manitoulin Island and one in Fort William. The Christian Brothers reported on some but not all of their secondary and commercial schools.

     There were nine communities of women religious who reported their involvement in higher education. The Sisters of the Holy Cross reported one academy in Alexandria. The Ottawa Grey Nuns of the Cross reported on their work in one academy and parish school in the Ottawa diocese, but did not report their Pembroke Academy. The Daughters of the Heart of Mary reported the presence of their teaching sisters – from their Buffalo motherhouse – at St. Joseph’s Industrial School at Wikwem­ikong. The Montreal-based Congregation de Notre Dame reported on three academies located in Kingston, Peterborough, and Ottawa. 

     Two communities that delivered community-generated curriculum world wide reported on their schools: The Ursulines of the Chatham Union and The Religious of the Sacred Heart. The course of the history of these two academies would be quite different. Their commitment to their international curriculum in the face of growing Department of Education pressure for commonality among all Ontario secondary schools was a major factor in the decision of the Religious of the Sacred Heart to withdraw from their London academy in first decade of the twentieth century. The Ursulines reported on their academy, “The Pines,” in Chatham. Unlike the Religious of the Sacred Heart, the Ursulines moulded their curriculum to meet provincial regulations. In the 1930s, the Ursulines would establish a women’s college at the University of Western Ontario – Brescia College.

     The communities that would go on to establish women’s colleges at the University of Toronto reported on their academies. The Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary reported on five of their academies. The academies in Hamilton and Guelph did not report. From the  Sisters of St. Joseph, whose diocesan congregations administered academies in a number of locations (including Lindsay and St. Catharines), only one academy (Toronto) and the high school in Hamilton responded to the survey. The Toronto academy became affiliated with the University of Toronto through St. Michael’s College in 1911. Likewise, the Congregation of the Holy Name of Jesus and Mary, which would form an affiliation with Assumption University, reported on their academies at Windsor, Amherstburg, and Sarnia, but not on the academy at St. Joseph (Rivière aux Canards), which did not respond.

     The information reported from the West was the scantiest of all regions. This was not unexpected given the small numbers of Catholics, schools, and pupils. Several points should be noted. The overwhelming number of teachers reported were women religious and the vast majority of schools were overseen by women religious. Women religious catered to the needs of both the Native populations and the emerging urban populations.

     The present day provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and British Columbia were included in the region classified as the West. This region included the ecclesiastical provinces of St. Boniface and Oregon. The province of St. Boniface included the diocese of St. Boniface, which extended into Northwestern Ontario. The three schools of Northwestern Ontario located within this diocese are analyzed in this section. As well, the Diocese of St. Albert and the Vicariates of Athabaska-Mackenzie and Saskatchewan were included within this province. The coast and islands of British Columbia formed part of the American Ecclesiastical Province of Oregon. The schools of the two dioceses located in Canada, New Westminster and Victoria, are analyzed in this section.

     One can speculate, with some degree of certainty, that Falconio was familiar with the personnel and the issues of the West. Before his official residence was ready for his occupancy, Falconio had lived at the Oblate-administered University of Ottawa. Within this environment, he undoubtedly received first hand reports of the missionary needs and practices in the Canadian West.

     Six communities of religious reported on their activities in the West: five communities of women religious and one community of male religious. As was the case in the other two regions, this did not represent a complete picture of the educational activities of religious in the west for several communities of religious did not respond to the survey. Two notable communities which did not report on their schools were the Academy of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace, Nelson, BC, and the Sisters of the Instruction of the Infant Jesus Boarding school at Williams Lake.

     The Oblates were the only community of male religious who reported on schools in the Falconio survey. They reported on the activities in six schools across the West. Significantly, five of the schools were described as Indian residential Schools: Qu’appelle, Davisbourg, Onion Lake, La Nativité, and Duck Lake. As well they reported on the College of St. Louis, New Westminster, and on the Diocese of St. Albert Seminary. Although the Oblates were the only male community reporting, they were not the only community operating schools in the West. The Jesuits operated the College of St. Boniface, yet they did not report on their activities.

     Five communities of women religious reported on the activities in eleven schools. It is noteworthy that all of the communities reporting have a very close association with France or French Canada. The Congregation of the Holy Name of Jesus and Mary demonstrated their charism of instruction of girls in reporting on St. Mary’s Academy Winnipeg. The Grey Nuns of Montreal reported on their St. Albert Academy. They did not report on their work in the Qu’Appelle Indian Residential School. The Sisters of Charity of Providence reported on the Smoky River Indian Residential School, one of the four schools in the West in which the community taught. The Faithful Companions of Jesus presented the most complete set of reports on their schools. They filed surveys on three boarding schools in Northwestern Ontario: Rat Portage, Norman, and Mt. Carmel Schools, as well as boarding and separate schools in Edmonton and Calgary and the Indian Boarding School at Duck Lake. Only their Lethbridge schools were missing.

     Those communities that defined their enterprises as “Higher education” and responded to the Falconio survey were dominated by women. Double the number of communities of women religious reported their enterprises to the survey: seven communities of male religious reported compared with fifteen communities of women religious. One should also note that secular diocesan priests also played a role in education. 

     All of the communities of male religious were European in origin, the majority having been established in France. The communities of female religious represented both European foundations and Canadian foundations. There was one direct American foundation: the Sisters of Charity of Halifax. Yet, there were several communities that came to Canada through American foundations: the Ursulines, the Sisters of St. Joseph, and The Daughters of the Heart of Mary.

     Before commenting on the work of the communities reported in the survey, an analysis of the communities themselves will be presented. It is important to note that these are the data reported in the survey. The data were not complete and in some cases, represent a rather idiosyncratic understanding of what is meant by higher education. In some cases where the communities did not report on their schools, some brief comparative commentary will be given. One final comment must be made. The survey results reported only those communities that declared themselves as delivering higher education. There were significantly more communities of women religious who taught in the elementary schools of the three regions.

     According to the data presented in the 1901 survey, communities of women religious established in French Canada had a significant presence in the schools of Ontario, the West, and the Maritimes. While no community reported a presence in all three regions, the Congregation de Notre Dame and the Sisters of the Holy Name of Jesus and Mary reported a presence in two. Although they did not report on the Maritimes, the Religious of the Sacred Heart also had a presence in two regions.

     The communities of women religious who responded to the survey represented a continuum of charisms to education. Some, like the Loretto Sisters, the Ursulines, and the Religious of the Sacred Heart had been established with a prime focus on the education of girls. Others, like the Sisters of St. Joseph, included education as part of their endeavours. Still others like the Grey Nuns of Ottawa and the Religious Hospitaliers of Montreal, had grown to include education among their works to meet the needs of the communities they served.

     The case of the Faithful Companions of Jesus was an interesting one. The order made their first Canadian foundation in 1883 in the diocese of St. Albert. This was one of the few examples of a new foundation being made directly by a European community.13 The Sisters established Native Residential, industrial schools, and parish schools in Ontario, Saskatchewan, and Alberta as well as fee-for-service academies that catered to the upper classes in the growing communities of Calgary, Edmonton, and Lethbridge.

     The communities of male religious who reported to the survey could be characterized as managing educational endeavours of three types. The first were residential/industrial schools for Native boys and young men. The second were two-tiered colleges that prepared young men for tertiary education or offered them commercial credentials. The third were those that offered tertiary degree granting programs and seminary education preparing young men for reception into the priesthood. Degree granting institutions administered by communities of male religious existed in all three of the regions surveyed. One can observe that the majority of the communities of male religious devoted the majority of their human resources to the higher education of young men. While some communities, like the Christian Brothers and the Jesuits, did have some members engaged in elementary education, this was the exception.

     Unlike the communities of women religious, the male religious were stratified into communities of priests, communities of brothers, and communities that contained both priests and brothers. The differences among them centre on real and perceived power: brothers were not ordained to say mass and administer all the sacraments. 

     Although they did not report it in the survey, the Christian Brothers had a presence in two of the three regions. The Oblates accurately documented their presence in two of the three regions in the survey. The Oblates was the community of male religious that dominated educational enterprises in the Canadian West.

     As one might expect in schools administered by communities of religious, daily religious instruction was a feature of the program offered to pupils. On average, instruction occupied one-half hour per day; yet variances were reported, reflective of arrangements made between religious and secular authorities. Sister Philomene, Superior of St. Vincent’s Convent, St. John, NB, explained: “According to special arrangements made by our late lamented bishop with the Board of Trustees religious instructions are given every day, after school hours, for thirty minutes.”14

     Teachers used a variety of texts, the choice of which text was influenced by the orientation of the community delivering instruction. The Butler Catechism was the text of choice in the majority of schools in Ontario and the Maritimes. A variety of other texts were listed, with the ultramontane-favoured Catechism of Perseverance by Gaume being the second most popular in the Maritimes. Not surprisingly, given the close association with Quebec among the communities of religious teaching in the West, Le Petit Catechism de Quebec, Montreal and Ottawa was cited in six instances. The use of these catechisms, with a cross-curricular comparative analysis of the theological implications, would be both a useful and significant addition to current studies in the history of Canadian curriculum.

     Virtually all the institutions (with the obvious exceptions of seminaries preparing young men for the priesthood and a few others) reported having non-Catholic pupils in attendance. The institutions varied in their policy on the attendance of non-Catholic pupils at Catholic services.  The majority of respondents stated that non-Catholic pupils were obliged to attend Catholic services. The policy on the right of non-Catholic pupils to attend their own services likewise varied. The majority of institutions reported that the non-Catholic pupils were not permitted to attend non-Catholic services.

     One of Falconio’s predecessors, Monsignor Conroy, expressed concern that in the province of Quebec seminarians were teaching  at the cost of their own theological training. This seems to have been the stimulus for the inclusion of this question on the survey. In the schools of English Canada reporting to Falconio, only five institutions reported that seminarians that have not finished their own course of studies were used to deliver instruction. 

     The overwhelming majority of staff teaching in the schools reporting to the survey were members of religious communities, with the local superior or designate responsible for the inspection of books read by the pupils. There was a small number of lay staff in many of the schools – both Catholic and non-Catholic. Non-Catholic instructors were employed in specialized fields – in music and physical culture at the secondary level and in scientific and mathematics at the tertiary level.

     In the Maritimes, within the twenty schools reporting data on the surveys, 84% (or some 196) of the teaching staff were religious with 16% (thirty-seven) being lay. Two dioceses – St. John, NB, and Charlottetown – reported that they employed no non-Catholic teachers. In the three dioceses that employed non-Catholic teachers (Halifax, Chatham, and Antigonish), these teachers were employed in specialized fields: music, law, civil engineering, and physical culture. 

     With the exceptions of the Dioceses of Saint John and Halifax, the majority of the teachers were reported as having certification from the government. Significantly, as one superior pointed out, “The Sisters holding teaching licenses receive a salary from the Government.”15

     In Ontario, all dioceses reported that some schools had both lay and religious staff members. Not surprisingly, in Ontario religious represented over 85% of the teachers for the schools. The presence of non-Catholic teachers was reported in schools of the Archdiocese of Toronto, and the dioceses of Hamilton, London, and Peterborough. In the majority of settings, these teachers were engaged in instruction in specialized fields: music, elocution, painting and physical culture. St Jerome’s College reported the employment of non-Catholic instructors in the academic subjects of English and mathematics “for a short time as substitutes.”16

     The religious who taught in the separate schools of Ontario held a unique position among Ontario teachers. Until 1907, teachers who were members of religious communities did not have to hold provincial certification to teach in the publicly funded separate schools. Some communities, and indeed some bishops, argued that the programs delivered to novices within the congregations prepared them to teach. Yet, not all Catholics, bishops or religious, were prepared to take advantage of what some communities claimed was a constitutional right. J.F. White, Provincial Inspector of Separate Schools, strenuously argued for the government certification of all teachers who were members of religious communities. Awareness of this controversy was undoubtedly the stimulus for inclusion of the question on teacher certification on the Falconio survey.

     It is noteworthy that almost every school reported that there were teachers on staff who possessed teaching certificates from the provincial government. This is reflective of the fact that the credentialling of teachers was necessary for ensuring that the government would recognize the schools’ program as adequate preparation for school leaving certificates. The two Basilian Colleges (St Michael’s and Assumption) each reported one provincially certified teacher. It was not unexpected that the two male universities reporting listed no provincially certified teachers.  The Rector of Ottawa University reported that his staff were “approved by religious authorities – most of them have degrees.”17 The President of St. Jerome’s College reported that “all but two hold degrees from the Gregorian University in Theology and Philosophy.”18

     Issues in the transference of teaching credentials across provincial and national borders emerged in the responses to the questions on certification. Sister Veronica, Superior of the Congregation de Notre Dame Academy in Peterborough, reported that “two of the Sisters hold certificates from other provinces.”19 The Superior of the Religious of the Sacred Heart reported that “Our Training School is the Juniorate, Kenwood New York.”

      It is important to note that there were certified teachers in place in all of the schools reporting to Falconio’s survey. Within five years of the survey, the issue of government certification of religious as teachers would become the subject of an Ontario court challenge, resulting in a change in legislative requirement. The result was “henceforth all members of Religious and Educational Communities hereafter appointed as teachers in the Roman Catholic Separate Schools shall possess the same qualifications as may be required from time to time in the case of Public School teachers.”20

     The presence of lay and non-Catholic teachers was reported across the West. With the exception of the Apostolic Vicariate of Athabaska, schools in all dioceses reported that they had both lay and religious on their staff. The percentage of lay teachers was 13%. Fewer schools reported employing non-Catholic teachers. Where they were employed, they taught specialized subjects: violin and stenography. The majority of teachers in the Diocese of St. Boniface, St. Albert, and the Vicariate of Athabaska were listed as possessing certificates from the government. Significantly, the name of the government issuing the certificates is not recorded. Given the overwhelming influence of communities from the province of Quebec in this region, one wonders if these “government certificates” were in fact the province of Quebec’s recognition of the community’s internal teacher education programs.

     Communities of men and women religious received funds from a variety of sources to assist in the operations of their schools. In Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, Catholic schools were described as being “within the public school system schools that are frankly Roman Catholic.”21 Further, some schools that were publicly funded were conducted in buildings owned by the bishop of the diocese.22 Thus, where sisters had provincial licenses and where the schools were recognized as delivering public instruction, the teaching sisters were paid by the government or the school board. It was reported in several instances (especially in the Diocese of Saint John, NB, and Charlottetown) that the women religious were teaching in the publicly funded schools.23 Yet, not all schools were “approved.” Sister Gendron, the Superior of the Religious Hospitaliers of Campbelltown, NB, noted, “The Provincial Government will not acknowledge our School therefore we are obliged to teach gratis to prevent Catholic children from going to Protestant Public school, the people being too poor to support the school.”24

     In Ontario, elementary separate schools received some government funding. While the secondary schools reported in the Falconio survey operated as private schools that charged pupils fees for service in the form of tuition, the private schools benefitted directly from public funding.  Many of the survey forms contained comments explaining that since members of the community taught for the publicly funded Separate schools, their salaries were used to support their higher education endeavours.

     Where the schools were described as “academies,” they were reported as being supported from the tuition charged to the pupils. In addition, academies played an important role in developing the artistic and cultural life of the communities in which their schools were located.  The responses to the surveys detail that revenue from private instruction offered to the pupils and members of the community at large in music (voice and instrumental), fine arts (painting and drawing), and crafts (needlework) contributed to the financial welfare of the schools.

     The communities of religious themselves were cited as a source of funding. One superior commented “the Sisters are Hospitaliers as well as teachers,”25 thereby generating revenue from health care. Religious of the Sacred Heart reported that their European motherhouse offered financial assistance to their Ontario academy. How these financial relationships ebbed and flowed throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries would be an important contribution to scholarly understanding of the complex dynamic workings of religious communities.

     There were other sources of funding reported. Contributions were made from parish collections. Endowment funds were also cited as sources of revenue. The communities of male religious reported that additional revenue came from those activities associated with priestly endeavours. Stole fees for assisting in parishes for the sacraments, fees for retreat work delivered to parishes and other communities of religious, and a portion of parish collections were described as sources of funds for the schools. In the case of the Indian residential schools reported, funding was described as coming from the federal government

     Although the academies and colleges were for the most part fee-charging institutions and considered themselves private schools, the provincial and federal governments contributed to the Catholic institutions of secondary education both directly and indirectly. In the three regions examined, men and women religious acted as teachers in publicly funded school systems. Since their salaries were paid directly to their communities and apportioned to the communities’ enterprises, their salaries were used to fund the academies and colleges.

     In the province of Ontario, decisions concerning salaries paid to teachers were made by the local separate school boards. There was wide variation in the salaries paid to teachers and especially  those paid to women religious. One can document many instances where women religious were paid significantly less than their lay women colleagues. The Annual Report of the Education department lists the salaries for the Roman Catholic school teachers in 1901. It notes that the average male salary in county schools was $292; in towns $564, and in city schools $373; for females in county schools $217, in towns $233, and in city schools $194. What caused this low average was the fact that the majority of urban schools were staffed by Roman Catholic religious. .As if to explain this discrepancy, the column entitled “average salary female” in both the town and city columns contains the following note “In addition, members of Religious Orders receive free residence.”26 This was a somewhat erroneous statement as many of communities of religious owned their convents and had mortgages held not by the diocese but the communities themselves.

     The 1901 survey issued under the signature of Apostolic Delegate Falconio was reflective of an era of change. While religious and not lay teachers dominated Catholic education, the presence and influence of the laity – especially in skills necessary for the emerging fields of technology and commerce – were apparent in the schools. Secondly, the survey appeared at a significant juncture in the history of the Catholic Church’s involvement in education. It was administered a decade after the appearance of the encyclical Rerum Novarum, in which, among other topics, Pope Leo XIII wrote of the Roman Catholic Church’s commitment to education:


[The Church] will always encourage and promote as she does in other branches of knowledge, all study occupied with the investigation of nature ... She never objects to search being made for things that minister to the refinements and comforts of life. So far indeed, from opposing them she is now as she ever has been, hostile alone to indolence and sloth, and earnestly wishes that the talents of men may bear more and more abundant fruit by cultivation and exercise.27


This statement was the first of many papal statements on Catholic education that appeared throughout the twentieth century. Collectively, these pronouncements reflected what the contemporary Sacred Congregation explained as the aim of the Catholic School: an integration of faith and culture that enabled:


the pupil to assimilate skills, knowledge, intellectual methods and moral and social attitudes. Their aim is not merely the attainment of knowledge but the acquisition of values and the discovery of truth. ... The Catholic school has as its specific duty the complete Christian formation of its pupils. The purpose and duties of the Catholic School was to create a fundamental synthesis of the culture and faith, and a synthesis of faith and life: the first is reached by integrating all the different aspects of human knowledge through the subjects taught, in light of the Gospel; the second in the growth of the virtues characteristic of the Christian.28


            Within educational writings in turn of the century Canada, the phrase used by Catholic educators to encapsulate this same spirit was “religion and science” – secular knowledge and the development of faith. For historians who wish to document how this objective was being achieved amidst the ever growing encroachment of state ideology through credentialling of teachers and state regulation of the curriculum of both publicly funded Catholic schools and private schools administered by communities of male and female religious, the 1901 Falconio survey can be used as an effective data set from which to gain a national perspective.


Communities of Religious Responding to the Falconio Survey





Christian Brothers

Congregation of the Holy Cross





*Diocesan Priests (Although not a  “community,” diocesan priests taught as teachers in the Catholic schools of English Canada, especially at the two

Maritime colleges of St. Dunstan’s and St. Francis Xavier.)

Congregation de Notre Dame

Daughters of the Heart of Mary

Faith Companions of Jesus

Grey Nuns of Montreal

Grey Nuns of Ottawa

Holy Cross Sisters

Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Order of St. Ursula

Religious Hospitaliers of St. Joseph of


Religious of the Sacred Heart

Sisters of Charity of Halifax

Sisters of Charity of St. John

Sisters of Charity of Providence of


Sisters of St. Ann

Sisters of St. Joseph



1 The author acknowledges the support of the Social Science and Humanities Research Council for the research reported here. A special thanks is offered to Professors Roberto Perin, York University, and Matteo Sanfilippo, University of Viterbo, Italy, as well as the anonymous reviewers for their assistance in strengthening the paper.

2  Falconio arrived in Ottawa on 2 August 1899 and left for a posting in Washington in 1902. Falconio was a religious priest – a member of the Franciscan community. An Italian by birth, Falconio spent most of his religious life in North America. He was ordained to the priesthood in Buffalo, New York. He served as a parish priest, educator, and ecclesiastic administrator in the United States and Newfoundland, spending time as President of  St. Bonave­nture’s College, Allegheny, NY, and  working in the Diocese of Harbour Grace with Bishop Enrico Carfaganni. As Apostolic Delegate, Falconio was the Vatican’s Representative to Canada. He was both an observer of and a participant in the relations between Church and State. During Falconio’s three year tenure, his observations focused on the Manitoba Schools Question, immigration issues focusing on serving the needs of Ukrainian Catholics, religious and cultural issues centering on the Acadians, French-English tensions in Ottawa where he resided, and internal communication between the rank and file clerics and the episcopate. Many of these strands can be seen in the questions he posed to religious and educators in his  survey of 1901. “Death of Cardinal Falconio: First Permanent Apostolic Delegate to Canada Died in Rome, February 7.” The Catholic Register 15 February 1917, 1. M.V. Angelo The History of St. Bonaventure University (New York: St. Bonaventure 1961); Matteo Sanfillippo, Falconio, A.R, Dizionario Biografico delgi Italiani XLIV. (Rome: Instituto dell Encicloped­ie Italiana 1994), 393-7.

3 Msgr. D. Falconio 20 July 1901. DAC Box 179. Archivo Segreto Vaticano (ASV).

4 It is important to note that the borders of ecclesiastical provinces differ significantly from political ones and frequently cover different areas than the secular designations by the same name.

5   See Paul Axelrod The Promise of Schooling (Toronto: UTP 1999).

6  Falconio. 20 July 1901.

7 J.F. White, “Ottawa Separate Schools - French Section,” Report of the Minister of Education (Ontario) For the Year 1892 (Toronto: Warwick 1893), 145-6.

8  Ibid.

9 The report to Falconio includes the secondary syllabus for the province of Nova Scotia. Fr A. Brown College of St. Anne Church Point, Digby Co., Nova Scotia. 28 August 1901. Le Canada Ecclesiastique (Montreal, 1901) describes it as “incorporé avec droit de conférer les degrés universitaires.” 126.

10 In 1928, it became the University of St. Joseph Philips. The Development, 198.

11 A. Thompson. St. Francis Xavier College. 23 August [1910].

12 E.P. Johnston to Blueprint ‘98 Planning Committee 2 March 1993, citing materials taken from J.L. Quinan “Notes on Saint Mary’s History,” Maroon and White, n.d., Mount Saint Vincent Archives W3B-$ V1.

13 For further analysis, consult Guy Laperrière’s planned three-volume study: Les congrégations religieuses. De la France au Québec, 1880-1914; t. 1, Premières bourrasques, 1880-1900, (P.U.L., 1996); t. 2, Au plus fort de la tourmente, 1902-1904, (P.U.L., 1999). The third volume (1905-1914) is in preparation for 2002/3.

14 Sister Philomene, SCIC, St. Vincent’s Convent, St. John, NB, 1 August 1901.

15 Sister Walsh, St. Michael’s Academy, Chatham, NB, 25 July 1901.

16 T. Spetz, St Jerome’s College, Berlin, 22 July 1901.

17 H.A. Constantineau, OMI, University of Ottawa, 28 August 1901.

18 T. Spetz, St Jerome’s College, Berlin, 22 July 1901.

19 Sister Veronica, Congregation de Notre Dame Academy, Peterborough, 24 July 1901.

20 In April 20, 1907 “An Act Respecting the Qualification of Certain Teachers.” Chap.54 7 Edward VIII 380-2.

21 C.E. Philips, The Development of Education in Canada (Toronto: Gage 1957), 218

22 This was the case in the Diocese of Saint John, beginning in the later 1870s.

23 Sister Philomene, 1 August 1901.

24 Sister Gendron, Academy, Campbelltown, NB, 1 August 1901.

25 Sister Richer to D. Falconio, 30 July 1901. Academy Upper St. Basile, NB.

26 Roman Catholic Separate Schools Table F: Financial Statement. Report of the Minister of Education for the Year 1901 (Toronto: Cameron, 1902), 22-3.

27 As quoted in J.W. Donohue, SJ, Catholicism and Education (New York: Harper & Row, 1973), 121.

28 Ibid.