Loyola High School is going co-ed in the fall. (Photo by Tom Reynolds, Loyola Montreal)

Montreal’s Loyola High School goes co-ed

By 
  • June 30, 2022

After 125 years as an all-boys’ institution, the prestigious Loyola High School in Montreal will be going co-ed this fall.

The only remaining all-male Catholic school in Montreal and the only Jesuit school in all of Quebec, the change, school administrators say, is part of an effort to make the school more accessible. 

One-third of the Jesuit schools in North America, including three out five in Canada, have now transitioned to coed environments and in doing so, school president Marcelle De Freitas says, have successfully enhanced their school culture. 

“This is a mission-driven initiative,” said De Freitas. “In (the Jesuits’) Universal Apostolic Preferences, it made no sense any longer to not have girls enter the walls of this school and be part of our student body in 2023.”

All Jesuits are invited to take part in the Universal Apostolic Preferences, which include showing the way to God through St. Ignatius Loyola’s spiritual exercises and discernment, walking with the excluded through social justice, journey with youth to shape a hope-filled future and caring for our common home through protecting creation. 

“The core mission has remained the same since we were founded, but the culture and the experience of students has consistently changed. As generations have flowed through the school, the culture and the experiences have changed to meet with the times. The times are now here that we would update our approach and our pedagogy to include girls,” said De Freitas.

Loyola also has plans to open a French school by 2025.

The school was established in 1896 by the Society of Jesus as part of Loyola College, at the request of the English Catholic community in Montreal. 

Upon her arrival in April 2021, De Freitas held meetings with each teacher and staff member to curate what they valued most about the school to ensure those elements are carried into the future. She also got student feedback. Among the main elements students and staff wanted to retain was the high calibre of teachers, commitment to community service and that the Jesuit integrity not be lost. 

“The opportunity is to break down the walls that kept girls out to Jesuit education for so very long,” said De Freitas. “The Universal Apostolic Preferences very much guide the Society of Jesus. One of those preferences is to walk with youth to prepare them for a world where they could bring a critical stance and more social justice lens… We are now inviting young women to learn how to live that life that says ‘Love one another as much as I have loved you.’ That very much is ingrained in everything we teach in our Christian service programs and it’s knitted across curriculum.”

The decision to go co-ed has left many alumnae and others in the community lamenting the lack of options for those still interested in single-sex education. A petition pushing back on the decision garnered over 350 signatures. 

Dan Wheeler, who graduated from Loyola in 1984 and has two sons who attended the high school, feels something significant will be lost with the change.

“I suppose what’s lost is the options which are quickly disappearing,” said Wheeler. “There are lots of co-ed options available but what is certainly going to be lost is the option for segregated education. Frankly I think there is value in that. … I don’t think you’re losing a tremendous amount in your development if you’re not co-ed at 14.”

Though Wheeler has fond memories of his own experience at Loyola, he admits to being unsure if he would be as comfortable sending his sons to a coed Loyola. While he does not feel there is a secular agenda behind the school’s decision, he does express concern about trends in wider society to blur gender lines, and how this move might reinforce that. 

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