Parks Canada

Parks Canada

November 29, 2012 09:30 ET

Harper Government Designates Father Henry Carr of St. Michael's College as Person of National Historic Significance

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Nov. 29, 2012) - The Honourable Peter Kent, Canada's Environment Minister and Minister responsible for Parks Canada, today recognized the national historic significance of Father Henry Carr of St. Michael's College, University of Toronto, for his important contributions to higher education in Canada.

"Father Henry Carr was a pioneering figure in the history of Catholic education in Canada," said Minister Kent. "Today's national historic designation will remind Canadians of the key role faith organizations have played in shaping our traditions in the field of higher education."

Father Henry Carr (1880-1963) founded the Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies in 1929, an internationally-recognized research institute at the University of Toronto. He also advocated for the creation of Catholic colleges within secular universities, which later became a model adopted in other provinces.

The new designation will be included in Canada's system of national historic sites, persons and events, on the recommendation of the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada.

The Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada was established in 1919 and is supported by Parks Canada. It advises the Minister of the Environment regarding the national significance of places, persons and events that have marked Canada's history. On behalf of the people of Canada, Parks Canada manages a nationwide network that makes up a rich tapestry of Canada's historical heritage and offers the public opportunities for real and inspiring discoveries.

For additional information, please see the accompanying backgrounder at under Media Room.



A pioneering figure in the history of Catholic higher education in Canada, Father Carr played a key role in the evolution of St. Michael's College in Toronto, from its origins as a small Catholic college focused on preparation for the priesthood, to a full arts college federated in 1910 with the University of Toronto. While at St. Michael's, he promoted excellence in Catholic higher education, bringing well known Catholic scholars to the college and founding the Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies (1929), a world-renowned research institute located on the grounds of St. Michael's College. Father Carr went on to be an advocate for the creation of Catholic colleges within secular universities, bringing the St. Michael's model of federation to other universities and heading Catholic colleges at the Universities of Saskatchewan and British Columbia.

Henry Carr was born in Oshawa, Ontario, in 1880, the eldest of nine children in an Irish-immigrant family. He was educated first in the local separate school run by the Sisters of St. Joseph, and then at the Oshawa Collegiate Institute, graduating in 1897 with the gold medal for the top student. In the summer of 1897, while working in a Toronto lithographing shop, Carr learned of a teaching opportunity at St. Michael's College, a Roman Catholic college in downtown Toronto run by the Basilian Fathers: in return for teaching beginner German at the high school level, Carr would be offered room and board at St. Michael's, as well as enrolment in the college's post-secondary classical course. Following a successful first year of teaching, Carr was given responsibility for teaching the "Varsity Class," a small group of boys preparing for the university entrance examination. In 1899, while continuing his teaching duties, he enrolled in an honours course in Classics at the University of Toronto.

Carr entered St. Basil's Novitiate in 1900. He was permitted to continue his university studies, and received his Honours B. A. in Classics in 1903. From 1903 until December 1904 he attended Assumption College in Windsor before returning to St. Michael's College in 1905, when he was ordained. Father Carr played a critical role in the college's federation with the University of Toronto in 1910 and was a central figure in its subsequent evolution, acting as superior and president from 1915 to 1925. Federation broke the long period of isolation from the mainstream of Canadian university life, and made St. Michael's College one of the earliest English-Canadian Roman Catholic colleges to provide higher education in partnership with a secular institution. Father Carr attracted outstanding scholars to St. Michael's and was instrumental in the establishment in 1929 of the Institute of Mediaeval Studies as a centre for scholarly research and publication. The Institute became an international centre of Thomistic studies, that is, the study of the thought of St. Thomas Aquinas. It attracted graduate students and scholars from around the world, including the prominent Catholic philosopher, Jacques Maritain. Father Carr served as superior general of the Basilian Congregation from 1930 to 1942. Later, he was the superior and principal at St. Thomas More College (1942-49) in Saskatchewan and at St. Mark's College at the University of British Columbia (1956-61). At each of these institutions, he was directly involved in their federation with the university, viewing federation as the best solution for Catholic colleges in an age of increasing secularization, and never advocated for the stand-alone Catholic university, which was the dominant model in the United States. Father Carr retired in 1961 and died in 1963.

Contact Information

  • Adam Sweet
    Press Secretary
    Office of the Minister of the Environment

    Media Relations
    Parks Canada