Divine Word Seminary - Granby, Canada
After the tragic loss of approximately 700 SVD members during World War II, the central administration of the Society of the Divine Word looked for new places to establish the congregation.
They set their sights on Canada and determined that Quebec had more opportunities for vocations than other parts of the country. The growing town of Grandby was selected as the site of the first French-speaking SVD institution. The three U.S. Provinces shared the cost of a $15,000 farm located just outside the city limits.
The house on the property was renovated, expanded and equipped with plumbing and running water in order to accommodate the first community members.
The mission house was named Mont Saint-Jean-Baptiste in honor of St. John the Baptist, who is the patron saint of French Canadians. By 1950, a new building was constructed for the community members and the first class of 33 students. Six Sisters of St. Martha moved into the enlarged farmhouse until a proper convent was built in 1954. SVD Brothers cared for the buildings and ran the farm, which was expanded with the purchase of an additional property just across the road. With dairy cows, farm implements and an orchard, it became a great financial support to the new foundation.
The seminary offered a unique academic opportunity. Students could earn their high school diploma and a Bachelor of Arts degree in a six-year program. Those who wished to continue their formation journey would then enter the SVD novitiate.
Over time, SVD members in the Canadian district started providing pastoral care to immigrants from Holland, Hungary and Germany. Immigration services remain a focus for the SVD priests and Brothers working in Canada to this day.
When the mission house was first established, the Church was responsible for staffing most schools in the province of Quebec. In 1960, the government instituted widespread educational reforms, which meant it would provide partial funding for the seminary. Enrollment figures saw an increase around this time but the focus on religious vocations was diluted and the number of graduates who went on to join the Society decreased significantly.
1970s - Today
By 1975, the seminary was transformed into a day school and in 1981, it became coeducational. In 1983, the Society of the Divine Word removed itself from the administration of the school.
In 1986, a formation house named Maison Joseph Andre was established in Montreal. Fr. Marcel Barsalou, SVD, who was a member of the first entrance class of the seminary at Granby, became pastor of St. Édouard Parish in 1992 and the seminarians joined him at the new parish. After Fr. Marcel left in 1996, the seminarians moved briefly before leaving Montreal altogether the following year. It was the end of the formation program in Montreal.
Beyond its high school seminary, the SVD community in Canada has been responsible for a number of parishes and other ministries, beginning with its establishment of St. Patrick’s parish in Granby in 1950. Parishes in Montréal, Toronto, and Mississauga, Ontario followed. The five current SVD Canadian parishes are largely focused on the pastoral care of immigrants.
Rectors at Granby
- 1949–1950 Father Bruno Hagspiel
- 1950–1952 Father Albert St. Pierre
- 1952–1955 Father Lawrence Walsh
- 1955–1961 Father Johannes Kuppers
- 1961-1967 Father Jacques de Hollander
- 1967–1970 Father Johannes Pfemeter
- 1970–1976 Father Marcel Barsalou
- 1976–1982 Father Yvon Michel Allard
- 1982–1985 Father Joseph LeBeau
- 1985–1987 Father Antal Nemeth
- 1987–1990 Father Marcel Barsalou
- 1990–1993 Father Marcel Barsalou
- 1993–1999 Father Jose Pimenta
- 1999–2002 Father Fabian Conrad