The new centre will be open to all sorts of projects that arise among the students and faculty spread around the Toronto School of Theology. Photo courtesy of Scarboro Missions

Regis College to preserve a large part of the Scarboro's work

  • October 24, 2017

Note: An earlier version of this story indicated that the Scarboro Foreign Mission Society would cease to exist by 2020.The article has been modified to more accurately reflect the Scarboro Missions plans for continuing their apostolate.

As the Scarboro Missions slowly devolve, it has fallen to Regis College to preserve and carry forward a large part of the Scarboros’ work.

Though Canada’s English-speaking missionary order has stopped accepting new recruits, the remaining Scarboro priests will continue their work as best they can for as long as they can. But the missionary heritage and ideals of the Scarboros will live long past them in a new stream of academic work at the Jesuit theological college in Toronto.

Thanks to a $1.5 million grant from the Scarboro Foreign Mission Society, the Jesuit graduate faculty of theology at the University of Toronto will endow a new chair in inter-religious dialogue. The yet-to-be-named professor in Catholic interfaith theology will also anchor the Msgr. John Mary Fraser Centre for Practical Theology.

Msgr. John Mary Fraser began the Scarboro Missions as the China Mission Society around 1921. With the explusion of foreign missionaries from China after the People’s Republic was declared in 1949, the China Mission Society turned its attention to Japan and elsewhere. It became known among Canadians for the location of its college next to St. Augustine’s Seminary in Scarborough.

Generations of missionaries in contact with other cultures, languages and religions gave birth to work on interfaith affairs at the Scarborough headquarters, which generated the multi-faith Golden Rule Poster and an online archive of interfaith materials which have been used by teachers and researchers around the globe.

“We wanted to continue their legacy,” said Regis College vice president and dean Fr. Scott Lewis. “This isn’t just a donation they’re giving us. We’re going to carry their work forward. We felt (John Mary Fraser) would be an inspiration — a kind of reminder of why we do what we do.”

The new centre will be open to all sorts of projects that arise among the students and faculty spread around the Toronto School of Theology, Lewis said.

“This will be a centre where we will arrange for workshops and lectures and practical projects, not only in the areas of inter-religious dialogue but practical theological issues having to do with various issues of the day, whether it be immigration or whatever it happens to be,” he said.

Regis will take over the archive of the Scarboro’s Interfaith Dialogue department and add to it the work of some of its own pioneers in interfaith dialogue, from Fr. Ovey Mohammed to Fr. Carl Starkloff.

“We’re going to use the resources we already have,” said Lewis. “These are the kinds of things — things that are not just theoretical — that we’re working to encourage.... Part of our charism is to find God in all things, to work for faith in justice. It (the new centre) will put the feet on the ground of a lot of our theoretical work.”

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