In the early 2000s, Fr. William Young, CSB, former president of the University of St. Thomas, wrote a book on the Basilian Fathers and the University’s history. On page one, he cleverly included a quote from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid: “Who are those guys?” Read on to get a sense of their fascinating story.
The Basilian Fathers began in Annonay, France. Their founders were 10 diocesan priests/teachers at the College of Annonay. They petitioned the Bishop of Vivers, whose diocese they served, to form a religious community, believing that such a step would stabilize their work as Christian educators. They chose as their patron and namesake St. Basil the Great because he was a bishop, a humanist, a scholar, the founder of religious life in the Church of the East and an apt patron for the new Community.
The Basilians continued their work in education exclusively in the Ardèche area until 1850, when one of their former students, Armand-François-Marie de Charbonnel, was chosen as Bishop of Toronto, Canada. He invited his former teachers to Toronto to begin a school for boys, a minor seminary. They directed St. Michael’s College since it was attached to Toronto’s St. Michael’s Cathedral.
Toward the end of the century, repressive anticlerical laws were promulgated, leading to the expulsion of school teachers who came from religious orders.
The Basilians continued to establish or staff schools and parishes in communities across North America including Waco, Texas.
They founded St. Thomas College (High School) for boys in Houston, Texas.
The French and North American Basilians separated to form two distinct communities. They reunited in 1955.
The Basilians began ministering to Mexican migrants and Mexican Americans in Houston.
The Basilian Fathers established the University of St. Thomas, and more than 100 of its members have served at UST.
Encouraged by Pope John XXIII’s call to religious communities to send their people to Latin America, the Basilians expanded their ministry, working with Mexican migrant workers in south Texas by establishing an apostolate in Mexico.
The Basilian Lay Associates (BLAs) were established at the General Chapter. BLAs are Catholic men and women called to the Basilian charism of community and education in the Church’s mission of evangelization.
The Basilians established another project in Latin America and were intrigued by the possibility of a human development project in Columbia that combined evangelization, catechesis, education and social and economic development.
The Basilians consisted of 300 members and had foundations in five countries: Canada, the United States, France, Mexico and Columbia.
A large contingent of Basilians traveled to Rome for the episcopal ordination of Archbishop J. Michael Miller, CSB. He was named Archbishop Secretary of the Congregation for Catholic Education.
The Basilian Fathers showed commitment to the University of St. Thomas when they relocated their Scholasticate—or formation house— to Houston from Toronto, Canada. Since this relocation, all Basilian priests complete their theological studies at the University of St. Thomas, and they study at St. Mary’s Seminary. To make room for both scholastics and priests, the General Council of the Basilian Fathers built a new Keon House building on University property.
The Basilian Fathers celebrated their 200th Anniversary.
The Basilian view is that the quality of education is not about mastering a single discipline; it is about integrating a breadth of knowledge. UST’s core curriculum continues this tradition, enriching intellectual growth and every other dimension that defines a person: spiritual, moral, social and physical.
Of all the institutions of higher learning in which Basilians are involved, the University of St. Thomas is the one most in harmony with the Basilian educational ideal. One might call it the flagship.
And that’s who “those guys” are.
The excerpts above come from Fr. Young’s book and the official timeline for the Basilians’ 200th anniversary document prepared in Toronto, Canada. Fr. Young’s primer is a touchpoint for many milestones. To learn even more about the Basilian Fathers and the history of UST, find Fr. Young’s book in the Doherty Library. And for the official timeline, go to Basilians.org.