|Church of Christ the King|
My father was born in Toronto in 1919 and my mother came here from New Brunswick; their parents were all immigrants from Mount Lebanon which at the time was part of "Greater Syria,” from whence Father Auad also came. A year after my father was born in 1919 and only a few short blocks from the tenement on York Street where the Toronto Stock Exchange now stands, a Maronite Qurbono, literally Sacrifice, or Mass was celebrated at St. Michael's Cathedral by the Rt. Rev. Shakralla Khoury, Maronite Eparch of Tyre and delegate from Mount Lebanon to the Paris Peace Conference after The Great War. The Qurbono was in Thanksgiving to God for the "virtual independence of Lebanon” not totally realised for nearly another thirty years and after another great war because of the mischief of King Faisal. Remarkably, this was reported on September 6, 1920 in the old Toronto World; and that the "Pastor of the Maronites in Toronto" assisted at the Mass. It is possible that this first Maronite Mass in the Cathedral in Toronto had a little child present there with his parents. That little baby, one-year old Norman, my father, in the arms of his mother Farida and his father Wadea, are the grandparents of your writer who remains, canonically at least, a Maronite.
Yet, despite Father Auad being termed in the secular press, the "Pastor of the Maronites" there was no Maronite Church in Toronto until 1980. While every other "ethnic parish" was created, there was to be not one for the Lebanese -- and it was a different Rite! Italians, Germans, Poles -- all were given their own churches. The Lebanese, bearing blood of Phoenicians, Greeks, Canannites, even Hebrews were a different lot than most immigrant communities. They have gone all over the world as did their merchant Phoenician ancestors; to South America, Australia, even the Caribbean islands and they assimilated wherever they went unlike the Italians with whom Father Auad would soon come to have some conflict.
While studying in Rome, Father Auad was able to celebrate in both the Latin and Maronite Rites and he would have known some Italian. Catholic Toronto was Irish and these first Catholics in Toronto sufferred many indignities in the Ulster of North America and the church here was hardly prepared for the waves of immigrants, particularly the Italians. The old parish of St. Patrick's, built in 1867 the year of Canada's Confederation, had a new church built behind it on McCaul Street and the former became Our Lady of Mount Carmel and was assigned to the Italians with Father Auad as their pastor. It still stands today serving Chinese Roman Catholics.
Professor John Zucchi of McGill University who specialises in immigration history wrote in 1983 that "in the late 1920's the Parish Committee of Our Lady of Mount Carmel parish filed a complaint in Italian with the archbishop regarding their pastor, Father Stephen Auad." You see, the Italians were villagers and more accustomed to active involvement of the laity in the parish, even then. The Irish were different; they had to escape persecution to forests and cliffs to find a rock to hear Mass. Their history was different of course being persecuted on their own soil so it was a different situation and they never questioned the priest or made demands. The Italians were bolder and had their own customs and devotions. Father Auad had clearly adopted the Irish culture and this conflicted with the Italians under his care. Professor Zucchi continued that the "committee was highly critical of Auad; he was too busy to hear confession; it was difficult to find him in the rectory or in the church; he rarely visited school children; his masses were too short, etc." It is interesting that even then, parish committees and special interests rallied to speak against their duly appointed pastor, but better days would come for Father Auad.
It wasn't only the local Italians that criticised the poor beleaguered priest; even American Evangelical Pentecostals noticed. It was August 5, 1933 at Springfield in the State of Missouri and the Pentecostal Evangel displayed its bigotry and ignorance in its story, "Paganized Christianity.” Our Pentecostal brethren wrote, “The following item taken from the Toronto press will show how it is possible for Christianity to catch the diseases of the old pagan religions: "What has become an annual public religious function in Toronto will take place tomorrow, when Rev. Father Stephen Auad, pastor of Mount Carmel Church, St. Patrick Street, will bless motor cars and other conveyances after the 11 o'clock Mass. The vehicles will thus be placed under the patronage of St. Christopher,' patron saint of travelers." They went on to add, "The time is coming when Christianity will be purged of all alien additions. Matt.13:41.” What they don't know is legendary.
There were two other villages between Long Branch and Toronto, all now amalgamated. The Town of New Toronto and the parish of St. Teresa established in 1924 where Vox was baptised in the presence of his Freemason godfather; of course, none of us knew it until he died and he left me his Shriner Fezz, which I've since gotten rid of. The other was the Town of Mimico, which means, “the place of pigeons” and St. Leo the Great Parish, established a few years earlier. Many children of those first Lebanese settled in Mimico and a few in New Toronto after the war and they became active in these two parishes, but particularly at St. Leo's. When that little baby Norman, most likely present for that Qurbono 25 years earlier grew up, he married his only love, Martha, a nurse from St. Michael’s Hospital at the new St. Patrick's on McCaul, next to Father Auad's original parish. A year later in 1945 and with a young baby of their own, they bought a house with a rear yard boundary being that of the Parish of Christ the King in Long Branch.
|St. John Maron|
Surely now the young Lebanese of this community would seek out their old friend, Father Auad from the streets of McCaul, Queen, Bond, York, Simcoe, D'Arcy, and so on but alas, it was not to be; for at Midnight Mass on December 25, 1944, Father Stephan Auad suffered a stroke while preaching the homily. The next day, December 26, 1944, sixty-eighty years ago today and on that very same Feast of St. Stephen, his name-saint, Father Stephen Auad went on to his eternal reward and a little bit of Lebanese history in Long Branch lay hidden.
On this anniversary of his death, may this little Christmas story serve as a tribute to this early and long forgotten priest of the first hundred years of the Church in Toronto. May Father Stephen Auad be rejoicing on this day with St. Stephen in the presence of the LORD whom he loved and served. Thank you Father Auad for what you did so long-ago for those early Catholic villagers in Long Branch and for the windows serving as a memorial to our Maronite heritage.
|Father Stephen Auad, 1884 -1944|