From 1939-42 I was sent for post-graduate studies and completed a three-year doctoral course in Canon Law at Laval Univerity (L’Universite Laval). All lectures were given in Latin. I was the only English-speaking Canon Law student. All others spoke French. I graduated Summa Cum Laude (with top honours).
In the above photo of Laval University professors and students from various faculties, I am in the second row, second man from the right. I lived in residence at La Maison des Etudiantes, which was a twenty minute walk from the University. There were rats in the residence, running between the two floors. At night, the professor of Canon Law in the front row on the left side in this photo, who resided in the room above mine, would throw his boots at the floor and I would throw my boots up at the ceiling in order to scatter the rats. One time I opened my door and there was a big rat right in from of me.
One of the other priests in this photo (second row, fourth from the left) visited me years later years in Toronto. He became a missionary in Brazil. He was on a rowboat in the Amazon River there and was eaten alive by piranhas. They are small fish but have a big jaw and sharp teeth and they hunt in swarms. Don’t trust piranhas.
Another fellow student and priest in this photo, Fr. Gerin (second row, beside me, third from the right), had five sisters in the missions in China. He wanted to learn English and I wanted to learn French; so we would walk together to classes trying to learn our respective languages.
One professor of Canon Law (front row on the right) had three doctorates.
Professor Auxilliary Bishop and Chancellor Bernier of Quebec (front row, second from the right) spoke Latin just as if it was English. I had to pass an oral examination in Latin in order to get into the Faculty of Canon Law. He was my Examiner. He asked me, in Latin of course, to pick a little slip of paper with a number of a Canon from the Code of Canon Law on it. I picked the longest Canon in the Code. It consisted of the honorary rights and privileges of cardinals. I think there were thirty parts to it. He said, ‘I don’t expect you to know all the answers, but I just expect you to be ignorant enough to enter our faculty.’ Professor Bernier became the Archbishop of the Gaspe in Quebec.
The priest in the front row on the right wrote a textbook on Philosophy that was later used as the textbook in St. Augustine’s Seminary.
The Dean of the Faculty of Canon Law (front row, second from the left) was the Director of my doctoral Thesis. In 1949, he was on a plane called the Canadian Pilgrim on the way back from Rome. It crashed into the Alps and he and others were killed.
One priest, who was also student of Canon Law, Fr. Crapault (top row, fourth from the left) already had his doctorate in Theology. He was also the youngest of the Examiners and asked the most difficult questions. He tested the only other Toronto priest, Fr. Matt Darby, for admission into the Theology department. Fr. Matt was a very good man and was in my 1939 Ordination Class at St. Augustine’s Seminary. Down in Quebec (not in Toronto) at that time, you got your Licentiate in Theology in your seminary course and then you only had to take one more year to get your Doctorate in Theology. Therefore, Fr. Matt did not have his Licentiate when he entered. He would have had to spend an extra year there to get his Doctorate. Fr. Matt decided to stay on for only one year to get his Licentiate and then became a parish priest. Fr. Matt and I were not allowed to sit near one another at table since we were the only English speaking students and they wanted us to speak French. The courses in Latin were challenging and this was compounded by the total immersion in French.
At that time, diocesan priests with faculties in Quebec wore the soutane (cassock) and were not allowed to take it off in public, even to play hockey or any other sport. The French priests wore knickers tied at the knees underneath the cassock. They skied and biked in the soutane. Priests were not allowed to go to a movie but could go to concerts, such as at the Palais Montcalm. I remember one time there was a concert to be given by a famous violinist. He had a very precious violin. On the way to the Palais, he fell. When he opened his violin case, the very valuable violin was broken. He just stood there holding up the violin with the tears running down his face. The concert was called off. At the time, his rare violin was worth about $100,000.
Lay students waited on tables in the residence. Sisters, who we never saw, did the cooking there. Every night, we got an omelet for dinner.
We had a very strong caretaker by the name of Ferlande. He used to stand on the street corners on a box giving speeches before political elections, though he could not read or write. I remember seeing Ferlande with a stick in his hand chasing a big rat around the room. He was a very good man.
When I finished in Quebec, I served for twenty-five years in Marriage Court work. In 1946, the Holy See divided the courts in Canada into six areas. The Toronto Provincial Tribunal, of which I became Head and Presiding Judge of, looked after all of the formal (difficult) cases in Toronto, Hamilton, Kingston, Ottawa, London and Sault Ste. Marie. I lived at St. Michael’s Cathedral Rectory and for many years said the 10am Mass every Sunday and heard confessions there every week.
Msgr. Foy, October 29, 2015