Friday 15 January 2016

Year of Consecrated Life: The Paulists and the Catholic Information Centre

The Missionary Society of St. Paul the Apostle was founded in 1858 by five convert priests in New York City. Their ministry focused on reaching out to Protestants in North America by evangelizing in the Roman Catholic tradition.

The Paulists became renowned for their preaching style. The early order would send missionary teams to churches to conduct "Parish Missions" and this is how the community first arrived in Canada. At one such parish mission held in 1912 at St. Paul's Parish in Toronto, the Paulists drew huge crowds, resulting in the conversion of 212 Protestants. 

In 1913, Archbishop Neil McNeil invited the Paulists, under Fr. Thomas Burke, CSP, to establish and staff the Newman Centre at the University of Toronto, which they did until 1936. The following year, the Paulists agreed to administer St. Peter's Parish in perpetuity.

In 1938, Archbishop McGuigan urged the priests at St. Peter's to run instructive courses for prospective converts, which resulted in 50 to 75 conversions per year. The popularity of the courses, held in the church basement, prompted Fr. Frank Stone, CSP, to push for a purpose-built education facility. And so in 1958 the Catholic Information Centre (CIC) was built adjacent to the parish, at 830 Bathurst Street.

In addition to classes for converts, the CIC held workshops for Catholics wishing to grow in their faith, as well as marriage preparation classes for couples.

The Paulists' zeal for evangelizing and proselytizing expanded to media communications and the order became known for its radio shows, film productions and publishing presses.

By 2015 the Paulists determined that they did not have enough vocations to stay in Toronto. In June they returned to New York, and administration of St. Peter's Parish and the CIC reverted to the Archdiocese of Toronto.
Read these Catholic Register articles for a timeline of the Paulist century in Canada, and a reflection on the Paulist legacy.
The CIC building will continue to be used as a training facility by the archdiocese. During a recent cleaning of the building, a poster featuring photographs of the Catholic Information Centre was discovered and brought to the archives.

Photographs Collection, Religious Orders, PH27P/17P

Before the Catholic Information Centre was built, the Paulists held instructional classes in the basement of St. Peter's Church.
This is a photo of the "co-instructors" with Fr. Frank Stone, CSP (right) taken in 1948.
Fr. Stone initiated the building of the Catholic Information Centre.
Photographs Collection, Religious Orders, PH27P/09P and /10P

The Catholic Information Centre under construction, April to September 1958.
The CIC is located at 830 Bathurst Street, just south of St. Peter's Church, Toronto.
Photographs Collection, Religious Orders, PH27P/11P and /12P
The Catholic Information Centre under construction, April to September 1958.
Photographs Collection, Religious Orders, PH27P/13P and /14P
The Catholic Information Centre under construction, April to September 1958.
Photographs Collection, Religious Orders, PH27P/16P

Architect Lindsay Wardell's hand drawn rendering of the Catholic Information Centre, viewed from Bathurst Street, ca. 1957
Photographs Collection, Religious Orders, PH27P/15P

Catholic Information Centre, south side: equipment for construction of the Bloor subway line, 1960s. The CIC is situated across the street from Bathurst TTC station.


  1. Found your blog. I was looking at the picture of the instructors at the Catholic Information Centre with Fr. Stone that was supposed to have been taken in 1948. It couldn't have been because my mom is in the picture. (she was president of the Legion of Mary at the time) and only came to Canada from England in September of 1949. Fr. Stone married my parents at St. Peter's in 1961. My mom is close to center in the third row. I have a copy of this picture at home.

    1. Hello. Thank you very much for your comments. (We are not posting the other comment because it contained personal information that we were not sure if you wanted made public.) We would love to see your copy of the photo of the instructors. If you are able to scan it or take a photo of it, please send the images to Thank you very much!