The Jesuits have been affiliated with the University of Sudbury since 1913. Photo courtesy University of Sudbury

Jesuit connection to University of Sudbury comes to an end

  • September 23, 2021

The University of Sudbury, which has ties to the Jesuits that go back 108 years, has officially become a non-denominational and Francophone in its quest to secure its future as an independent post-secondary institution.

The university’s board of regents made the decision official on Sept. 16, a move it says will allow it to qualify for public funding and ensure its future as a stand-alone university. However, that doesn’t mean the Jesuits’ role in education in northern Ontario will likely be forgotten.

“In no way are we turning our backs on our traditions at the university,” Serge Miville, the school’s president and vice chancellor, told The Catholic Register. “The Jesuits have been part of the fabric of the school for a hundred years and that humanist tradition remains.”

The school had formerly been one of three universities under a federation agreement with Laurentian University. That agreement was dissolved in February this year when Laurentian filed for insolvency, leaving the federated schools with an uncertain future and a financial crunch since much of their funding came from Laurentian.

Miville took over the reins at the school in June from Fr. John Meehan, whose two-year term as the university’s president ended this summer and who championed the return to the school’s francophone origins. He has since been appointed as director of the Bill Graham Centre for Contemporary International History at Trinity College at the University of Toronto.

“The Jesuits of Canada understand that the circumstances created by the dissolution of the federation agreement by Laurentian University forced U de Sudbury to make some difficult choices,” said the Jesuits in a statement. “The direction taken by the board of the U de Sudbury is the most likely to ensure its future and the future of French language university level education in Northern Ontario. While our previous relationship with U de Sudbury has come to an end with the end of Fr. Meehan’s tenure, we look forward to finding creative ways to collaborate with this historic institution through the local Jesuit community.”

Miville said the Ontario government was very clear that provincial funding for the university depends on it being independent and non-denominational.

“The adoption of this new framework is one more step in fulfilling the commitment of our Board of Regents and the Franco-Ontarian community to have a French-language university as soon as possible,” he said in a statement.

The University of Sudbury began in 1913 as Collège du Sacré-Coeur, a francophone academy that prepared young Franco-Ontarian men for higher education. Under the care of the Quebec province of the Jesuits, it began granting its own university degrees in 1957 and was one of the founding federated schools that led to the birth of the bilingual public Laurentian University in 1960.

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