The following is an interview by “Shepherds’ Trust Newsletter” (a publication of the Archdiocese of Toronto, and which is dedicated to supporting the needs of retired clergy) with Monsignor Foy and which appeared in the Winter, 2002 edition.
“I keep busy with my research and my writing,” he says. “For example I’ve had a number of articles published on causes I believe deeply in, especially the Pro-Life movement. I’m also a member of the Board of the Call to Holiness Canada movement.”
“In order of ordination, I am now third in the archdiocese,” he says. “I was ordained in 1939. The discipline in the Seminary then was strict. One could be expelled for having a newspaper in one’s room, for allowing another seminarian to enter one’s room, or for having an alcoholic beverage, even while on vacation. Discipline in recent years has gone to the other extreme. Perhaps that is one reason why vocations are down so drastically. We all need a sense of order and a willingness to deny ourselves.”
Monsignor Foy was baptized at St. John’s Parish, in Scarborough. As a child he lived in Holy Name Parish, also in the east end. “Our pastor was a great role-model, ” he says “There were always thirty or forty altar boys, and we all had to be there for the 11a.m. Mass on Sunday and then in the evening for Benediction. I was about ten when I knew that I wanted to be a priest. Nothing else even occurred to me.”
“I entered St. Augustine’s seminary in 1933 and was ordained in 1939. I was to study Canon Law in Rome, but the start of World War II complicated things, and I ended up at Laval University in Quebec City. In those days there was no salary or allowance for student priests and so I spent three years in real poverty. I did receive thirty dollars per month for the summers spent working in the Chancery Office. In 1942 I was posted full-time to the Chancery Office, and for some time I lived at Blessed Sacrament rectory before moving to the Cathedral.”
Monsignor Foy spent nearly twenty-five years in marriage tribunal work. He said, “When the Toronto Provincial Tribunal was set up in 1948, I was its only full-time member. Later, I was joined by Father Fulton (now Bishop Fulton) and then Father Courtemanche. Fr. Clune, now Bishop Clune, was a part-time member. We were fortunate in having Margaret Cronin as our first full-time secretary. She could translate evidence into French and at that time all cases going to Rome had to be in French, Italian, Spanish or Latin.”
In 1957 Monsignor was appointed the head of the Archdiocesan and Provincial marriage tribunals and named a Monsignor. He is the last of Monsignors in Toronto Archdiocese created by Pope Pius XII. The adage, “If you want something done, give it to a busy man.” comes to mind with his next words: “During this time, I was also Director of Catechetics for the Archdiocese. It was a part-time assignment but I had the duties of approving texts, setting annual examinations, marking the top papers from the whole Archdiocese, and organizing summer school and the annual Catechetical day in the Cathedral. All of this was on a budget of sixty dollars per month for postage. Any additional expenses were to be paid from the Tribunal budget.”
In 1966 all this changed. Monsignor Foy was assigned to St. John’s Parish as Pastor. “Imagine coming home as Pastor to the church where you were baptized!” he marvels. Pastorally, it was a difficult time. The quite revolutionary changes following Vatican II were not always welcomed, especially the liturgical changes. Seven and a half years later he was transferred to “one-man parishes” in Bradford and Phelpston for the remainder of his service as a pastor.
Ill health forced an early retirement. However, he continues pastoral visitations at Providence Villa and other long-term care facilities. His work in support of the Pro-Life movement has been described above, and continues unabated. He has won a number of awards in recognition for his Pro-Life writings.
Three final questions prompt him to reflect a little further. When asked to describe a memorable experience during his priesthood, he thought quietly, and then said, “Always daily Mass remains my most memorable experience. That Rosary hanging there also brings back vivid memories. When I was living in Rome, it was blessed by Pope Paul VI. I was often on papal ceremonies as a Eucharistic minister. When he died I touched this Rosary to his hands just before the coffin was closed. It was then blessed by Pope John Paul I and again touched his hands after his death. It was also blessed by Pope John Paul II. I hope to be buried with it.”
What about The Shepherds’ Trust? “Some of our priests are in need, and for them, The Shepherds’ Trust ensures that they are not neglected. I knew real poverty when I was studying at Laval; compared to that, what the Trust provides is a real bonus!”
What does he hope to be remembered for? That one is easy. “For fidelity,” he says. “Fidelity to the Church and to the teachings of the Church… and trying to live that fidelity. We must stay with Peter. Living the truth means that we are living with Love and in Love. It’s as simple as that.”