Curator of the Museum
By Monsignor Vincent Foy
It was September 1934. We who had entered St. Augustine’s Seminary in 1933 had the joy and privilege of going into our second year of Philosophy. Our text was in Latin by Lortie, professor of Philosophy at Laval in Quebec City. Years later I was to discover his grave in the crypt of the old chapel at the entrance to the Quebec seminary.
Out of twenty-one students in first year Philosophy for Toronto Archdiocese, twenty returned in 1934. Missing was Joe Cartan, whose blood uncle was my uncle by marriage. He was married in 1938 on the same day most of the rest of us became Deacons. He would go on to become General Manager of Massey Hall. Jack Myers came into the seminary from St. Michael’s College in September 1934, so we were still twenty-one for Toronto.
We in second year Philosophy went as it were from the bottom to the top. The seminary was so full in 1932-33, with some students doubling up, that in the summer of 1933 rooms were hastily built in the basement of the main building. We referred to them as “the Catacombs”. Now we found ourselves at the top of the annex called “Kehoe Hall” after our beloved Spiritual Director Fr. Kehoe. My room in Kehoe Hall was number 159 on the top or fourth floor.
On the bulletin board upon our return were the names of seminarians appointed to special tasks, e.g. Head Prefect, the other Prefects, sacristans, master of ceremonies etc. I was named to the lofty position of Curator of the Museum.
The museum, long since gone, was at the south end of the main corridor on the ground floor. It contained numerous glass cases with interesting items from many countries, mostly from the Holy Land. The museum was also the Reading Room. There we were allowed to read Catholic newspapers and periodicals in our free time on Thursdays or Sundays. We were not allowed to receive secular newspapers or have a radio in our rooms. Until Archbishop McGuigan came in 1935 the front and sporting pages of the Toronto Globe and The Mail and Empire were posted on the bulletin board after lunch, in the corridor leading to the Annex. That was stopped when Archbishop McGuigan first came to talk to us in the chapel. He told us we were “the apple of his eye”. He also said that anyone found with a newspaper in his room would be “peremptorily expelled”.
My position as Curator of the Museum was not all honour and glory. I was to dust it and clean it and keep it in good general shape during my recreation time. I also had to knock on the President’s door every Thursday and Sunday mornings to get an armful of Catholic reading to be temporarily put in the Reading Room, and return them later. This was to me a rather fearful experience. The President, Msgr. Francis P. Carroll, later Bishop of Calgary, was not always pleased with my intrusions. Sometimes he would say “Can’t you see I’m busy. Come back later.” Or in a voice from his inner room would shout out “Later! Later!” Once I was put out three times and did not go back. After lunch I was given a rather severe reprimand for not doing so.
All went well until the spring of 1935. It was announced that we were to have an Apostolic Visitation by the Apostolic Delegate, Archbishop Cassulo. I was called in and told that the museum had to be in better shape. Among other things I was told that every label, and there were many, had to be replaced. They were getting yellow with age. I was given the rare privilege of staying inside the building during the main recreation period of 4:00 to 5:30pm to carry out renovations.
Let me digress. Another interesting preparation was for the possible entrance of the Delegate during one of our lectures. Although most texts were in Latin, the lectures were in English. Our professors were simply unable to speak Latin like those in Montreal and Quebec City. So Father Ingolsby, who taught philosophy, practiced one lecture in Latin and we were given a few Latin questions to ask. Thankfully the classroom visit did not come, at least to us.
Archbishop Cassulo, later Delegate to Hungary where he was once stoned by communists, did make a thorough investigation of all the seminary facilities. He visited many student rooms and later reported a number of repairs to be made.
The rule that one could not stay in one’s room during the main recreation period was a strict one! We were supposed to be out playing handball or other sports or climbing the Scarboro Bluffs on the property or walking in pairs or groups. Walking alone was prohibited, as I found out during my first week in the seminary.
It happened that after my diligent work in the museum I was quite exhausted. For the first and last time in my six years in the seminary, I took to my bed during the main recreation period. I thought I was safe on the fourth or top floor of Kehoe Hall.
Happily in bed, at about 4:30 pm I heard footsteps on the stairs and then voices. One of them was the very recognizable voice of Msgr. Carroll. The other heavily accented voice I knew must be that of the Delegate. I was quite terrified. My room was just opposite the top of the stairs. I heard them go into the room next to mine on one side, and then go into the room next to mine on the other side. When I heard them going down the stairs I said a silent prayer of thanksgiving.
If Msgr. Carroll had opened the door of room 159 and found me cowering under the sheets, I wonder whether I would be writing this today?