Fr. Michael Busch (left), rector of St. Michael’s Cathedral, and Oriana Bertucci, director of chaplaincy at Ryerson University, stand in front of the newly renovated Hogan House, a new home for Catholic students. Photo courtesy of Ryerson Catholics

A new Catholic hub for commuter students

By 
  • October 26, 2014

TORONTO - Until he entered the priesthood, the house next to St. Michael’s Cathedral was home for Fr. Seamus Hogan. Today the building is being transformed into a home for Catholic university students, and Hogan couldn’t be happier.

“I couldn’t have imagined that happening as a child, that somehow my house would be all of a sudden the centre of Ryerson chaplaincy, but I really think that it’s a nice fit,” said Hogan.

Known as Hogan House after the family who resided there for more than four decades, the three storey home hasn’t been lived in for 11 years. But it is currently under-going extensive renovations, aided by a $1-million grant from the Family of Faith capital campaign.

When it reopens in November, Hogan House will be the new downtown hub for Ryerson University Catholic students.

“The need was there, the money was there,” said Jim Milway, Chancellor of Temporal Affairs in the archdiocese, citing the lack of space for Ryerson chaplaincy.

“If you look in the pastoral plan that his Eminence (Cardinal Thomas Collins) promulgated a couple years ago now, there’s very much of an emphasis on youth. And we’re very committed to doing what we can to be with youth in the various stages, from grade school all the way to young adult,” he said.

“We’re very focussed on getting the message out and to be there for youth as they’re going through critical stages in their life. Chap-laincy is one of those contributors to show we work with youth on evangelization.”

When construction is complete, the first floor will serve as a small reception area. The second floor with its kitchen will have moveable furniture so it can easily transform from a dining to meeting area. The third floor, with more “permanent” furniture, will be a common area for students to hang out.

The second and third floors are expected to have space for 40 people each, said Oriana Bertucci, director of chaplaincy at Ryerson.

“One of the things that Ryerson is known for is how many commuter students we have and how little space there is for students on campus,” she said. “And so our hope is that this will allow students, specifically commuter students, a place that they can come in between classes if they want to have a conversation in small groups, if they want a quiet place to study.”

“Also, the opportunity for community is something we really are excited about… Part of the centre will be that opportunity for students to get together and be together, not just share their faith, but share their interests and share their lives with each other.”

The house is informally named after Patrick Hogan, his wife Carrie and their seven children who lived there when Patrick served as sacristan at the cathedral and Carrie cooked for the priests. He started as sacristan in 1959 and moved into the house a year later, said Fr. Hogan, Pat and Carrie’s youngest son. It was tradition for the person who oversaw the cathe-dral’s maintenance to live next to the cathedral in case of emergency.

“At one time, housekeepers, for instance, often lived in rooms attached to the rectories… It was a different world back then.”

The Hogan’s first child, Susan, was born in the house in 1962.

“My mom couldn’t make it to St. Mike’s hospital across the street in time,” said Hogan. “The Sisters of St. Joseph, who ran the hospital, actually came over to the house, but my sister was already born. My dad helped her come into the world.”

Hogan moved to St. Augustine’s seminary in 1997, returning to live at the house in the summer. He credits growing up in Hogan house with influencing his call to the priesthood. He now serves at the seminary as an assistant professor of Church history.

“It’s a little different than most kids’ experiences. First of all to be brought up downtown is different. And secondly to be brought up next to a rectory is extremely different, too, especially a great big one like the cathedral rectory,” he said.

“Also, being close to the church gave a unique experience to see the priests. I think seeing a lot of generous, hardworking good priests as a child is what fostered a vocation in my own heart.”

Hogan moved out for good in 2002 when he was ordained. His parents moved out a year later. His mother died in 2006 and his father retired to Victoria Harbour, Ont. near Martyrs Shrine in Midland.

Hogan thinks the use of the new house by Ryerson Catholic students is “excellent.”

“This can be used to build up the Kingdom and inspire young people in their faith,” he said.

He’s looking forward to touring his childhood home when it opens. Hogan House should be open to students in about a month.

“Sometimes on campus, you think campus ministry is it, and you’ve got the chaplain, you’ve got the group of people you’re with, whereas when you’re attached to the cathedral, you realize ‘wow, this is a pretty big Catholic Church I’m attached to,’ “ said Hogan. “So I think it expands students’ horizons a bit.” 

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