Life

The Oratorian idea necessarily seeks a concrete realization: for it isn’t only an idea, but is also a life, which must be lived in a definite place and time by specific people. So inescapably each particular Oratory expresses a certain selection from among the resources of the tradition, a distinctive inclination and emphasis shaped by the particular persons involved and by the circumstances in which their vocation takes root and unfolds. And since no two Oratories express the Oratorian idea in the same way, a person’s Oratorian vocation cannot develop from the sources alone, but comes to life only in relation to an actual community. He must find in the here and now of a given community the attractions and challenges by means of which he hopes to be sanctified according to the Oratorian idea.

Current Members

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Fr Paul Pearson

CLOTHED: September 8, 1985

Biography

Fr Paul was born of Mennonite and Southern Baptist parents in Illinois, the oldest of many siblings.  His time during high school was filled with competing on the debate team and playing the cello. He studied Intellectual History at Cornell College in Iowa, where he was baptized and received into the Church in his final year, before coming to Toronto for graduate work in Medieval Studies.  At the University of Toronto’s Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, he received his M.A., Licentiate, and Ph.D.  He has spent most of his life teaching at Saint Philip’s Seminary, beginning as a layman at the seminary’s inception in 1984. A year after beginning to teach at the Seminary, much to the surprise of his friends and family (and him, too), he entered the community in 1985 and was ordained a priest in 1989.  Since 1990, he has served as Dean of the Seminary, teaching courses in Fundamental Theology, Human Nature, and Philosophy of God in the Philosophy Division as well as many courses on Saint Thomas’s Summa Theologiae in the Theology Division. His seminar courses in the seminary on Dante’s Divine Comedy gave rise to a three-volume series of books called Spiritual Direction from Dante.  Fr Paul was elected Provost (or ‘The Father’) of the Toronto Oratory in June 2020.
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Fr David Roche

Founding member (November 1, 1975)

Biography

Fr. David was born in 1948.  He was educated by the Presentation Sisters and the Irish Christian Brothers, later attending Dalhousie University and St. Augustine’s College, where he obtained a B.A. in Philosophy.  In 1975 he was clothed in the habit of St. Philip, subsequently obtaining a B.D. at Heythrop College, London (UK) and a Th.M. and S.T.L at Regis College in the Toronto School of Theology. Fr David has served as pastor of Holy Family Church and St. Vincent de Paul Church and teaches New and Old Testament Scripture in the Theology Division of St. Philip’s Seminary.
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Br Ted Rys

Clothed: December 24, 1976

Biography

Br Ted was born in Montreal in 1949 and studied at Sir George Williams University (now Concordia University) and Dawson College, graduating with a degree in social science. Having met Fr Johnathan Robinson in 1974, he became an Oratorian in the newly formed Montreal Oratory on Christmas Eve 1976, moving with the community to Toronto in 1979. For many years he ran St Philip’s Pantry, a food bank serving the Oratory neighbourhood in Parkdale and beyond, which at its height served around 2,000 people per month and deployed a workforce of some 50 volunteers. Br Ted’s on-going responsibilities in the Oratory include administrative work in the parish, gardening, and being Infirmarian. 
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Fr Juvenal Merriell

CLOTHED: September 3, 1979

Biography

Fr Juvenal was born in 1952 with the first name Donald to an American father and Canadian mother who were living at that time in Istanbul.  The family moved to the United States where he grew up, mostly in California.  He attended St. John’s College, Santa Fe, New Mexico where he was converted and baptized in the Catholic Church.  He completed his undergraduate studies at St. Michael’s College in the University of Toronto.  He returned to the University for graduate study at the Centre for Religious Studies where he eventually finished a doctorate.  He wrote his thesis on St. Thomas Aquinas’ doctrine of the image of the Trinity in man, which was later published by the Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies in Toronto.  In the meantime he had joined the recently founded Oratory of St. Philip Neri in 1979, just as the community was about to move from Montreal to Toronto.  He was given the name Juvenal, after Blessed Juvenal Ancina of the Oratory, when he started the noviciate.  He was ordained to the priesthood in 1984 by Bishop Aloysius Ambrozic.  From that time the fathers of the Oratory began to teach theology in the house, at first only for their own Oratorian seminarians.  Fr Juvenal has taught dogmatic theology and some biblical courses in this theology programme, which eventually became the Theology Division of St Philip’s Seminary.  For many years he has also been in charge of the growing library of the community.  For much of this time he has been the novice-master.  He inherited from his parents a love of the great outdoors, and has enjoyed hiking and canoeing over many years.
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Fr Daniel Utrecht

CLOTHED: June 29, 1980

Biography

Fr Daniel, of German and Irish descent, was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1954 and grew up in Troy, Ohio.  After discovering the metaphysics of St Thomas Aquinas during undergraduate studies at the University of Dallas, he came to Toronto in 1976 for graduate studies in philosophy at the University of Toronto, completing his Ph.D. in 1983. He began attending Mass at the Oratory and was clothed in the habit of St Philip in June 1980.  He was ordained in 1985 and has served as parish priest of both Holy Family and St Vincent de Paul, as well as teaching metaphysics and other courses in St Philip’s Seminary. Fr Daniel has been blessed to have made many friends in Germany through his membership in the Oratory, connections with whom have made possible his writing and translating projects.
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Fr Thomas Trottier

CLOTHED: March 25, 1982

Biography

Fr. Thomas was born in Windsor, Ontario in 1958. He studied philosophy and political science at the University of Toronto and joined the Toronto Oratory in 1982. He subsequently received a MA from the Centre for Medieval Studies (Toronto) and a degree in theology from St. Philip’s Seminary. He was ordained a priest in 1987. He has served as long-time chaplain at the Bickle Centre, a hospital for complex and continuing care located in the Oratory parish. He teaches classes in moral theology and patristics in the Theology Division of St. Philip’s Seminary, as well as a class in Early Christian and Medieval Art and Architecture and seminars on St. Augustine’s Confessions and the novels of Dostoevsky in the Philosophy Division. Fr Thomas currently manages the kitchen, planning a varied and healthy diet for the Oratorians and seminarians in residence. He likes to ride his bike, especially in the summer months, and to walk and hike, especially along the Bruce Trail.
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Fr Martin Hilbert

CLOTHED: September 8, 1985

Biography

Born in Prague, Czechoslovakia, in 1961, Fr Martin migrated to Canada in 1968 in the aftermath of the Soviet invasion and has lived in Toronto ever since, where he studied engineering at the University (BAsc, Eng Sci 1983, MASc, Electrical 1985).  In graduate school, he joined the Legion of Mary, and was subsequently clothed in the habit of St Philip on 8 September 1985 (the same day as Fr Paul Pearson). After studies at St Philip’s Seminary he was ordained to the priesthood on 1 December 1990. There followed nearly three years of work as a hospital chaplain at the Toronto Western and the Hospital for Sick Children, following which he began studies at the University of Toronto in the Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology, graduating in 2000 with a doctoral thesis on Pierre Duhem, the French physicist, philosopher and historian of science.  Presently the pastor of Holy Family Parish Fr Martin teaches a course in the Philosophy of Science at St Philip’s Seminary.
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Fr Marco Guillen

CLOTHED: August 30, 1992

Biography

Fr Marco was born and raised in San José, Costa Rica. After moving to Canada he graduated from the University of Toronto with a BAsc and an MEng in Industrial Engineering, subsequently working for two and a half years as a Quality Control Engineer; he then entered the Toronto Oratory on August 30, 1992.  After studying philosophy at St Philip’s Seminary his theological studies were at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome, where he obtained an STB and resided for three years at the Roman Oratory. While in Rome he had the honour of deaconing for Pope St John Paul II.
Following his return to Toronto Fr Marco was ordained to the priesthood in 1998 and began teaching in both the philosophy and theology programmes at St Philip’s, while also assisting with parochial work and serving as chaplain to Mary Mother of God School.
He has meanwhile continued his formal education by obtaining a Licentiate in Bioethics from the Regina Apostolorum Athenaeum in Rome, and a Licentiate in Canon Law from the Santa Croce University in Rome. In his capacity as a canonist he works as a judge in the Toronto Regional Marriage Tribunal.
Fr Marco has also been active in the 
international Oratorian Confederation. From 2012-2018 he served as a member of its Permanent Deputation of advisors. In 2018 he was elected by the General Congress to be the Delegate of the Holy See and Apostolic Visitor to Oratories worldwide – the highest, and most onerous, office in the Confederation. In his ever-decreasing spare time Fr Marco pursues interests in the romance languages and their literature, in the theatre, and in crime fiction.
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Fr Derek Cross

CLOTHED: December 8, 1994

Biography

Fr Derek was born in Monterey, California; his early education was conducted internationally. As an undergraduate he studied liberal arts at St John’s College Annapolis (MD); thereafter he was a graduate student in philosophy at The Catholic University of America. A convert to Roman Catholicism, Fr Derek’s priestly ordination was in 1998 and in the following year he entered the Toronto Oratory. He has served as Chaplain to Mary Mother of God School and to the Elm Grove Long Term Care Home. His appointments in the Oratory have included serving as Novice Master, as Father Minister (overseeing the maintenance of the Oratory buildings), as Prefect of Music and (at present) as Dean of Students. Fr Derek was also very closely involved in the early years of the Renovatio campaign, and (in collaboration with Fr Philip Cleevely and Br Christopher Huynh) with the design and composition of the present Oratory website. And he continues to teach widely in St Philip’s Seminary, where he currently offers courses in Ancient Philosophy, Nineteenth and Twentieth Century Philosophy, History and Theology and (jointly with Fr Philip Cleevely) Beatitude and the Human Act. 
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Fr Philip Cleevely

CLOTHED: October 4, 1993 (at the Birmingham Oratory (UK))

Biography

Fr Philip was born in England in 1966. He studied English Language and Literature at the University of Oxford and Pedagogy at the University of Cambridge. In 1989 he was received into the Roman Catholic Church and in 1993 entered the Birmingham Oratory. He subsequently pursued studies in Philosophy, first at Oxford University and then at St Philip’s seminary here in Toronto; this was followed by three years of theological studies at the Dominican University of St Thomas (the Angelicum) in Rome. He was ordained on December 14 2001. In early 2011 he requested and received a transitus from his community in Birmingham to the Oratorian community in Toronto. Since joining the Toronto Oratory, he has been fortunate in having the opportunity to participate in the work of St Philip’s Seminary, teaching in both the Philosophy Division (Modern Philosophy and Twentieth Century Catholic Philosophy) and the Theology Division (Faith, Hope and Charity and (with Fr Derek Cross) Human Action and Beatitude). In addition he has also served as Dean of Students in the Seminary. Other responsibilities have included being Chaplain to the Missionaries of Charity, collaborating in the design and composition of the Oratory website, and being closely involved in the early years of the Renovatio campaign. At present he acts as Secretary to the Deputy and General Congregations, and assists in overseeing the Oratory’s communications ad extra. As recreation, among other things, Fr Philip voraciously explores the four hand piano repertoire in partnership with Dr. Aaron James, and accompanies Br Christopher Huynh in German lieder and the songs of Stephen Sondheim.
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Fr Michael Eades

CLOTHED: August 1, 2004

Biography

Fr Michael was born in Ohio and baptized in Clemson SC, attending Catholic schools in Charlotte NC. After his sophomore year at the University of Notre Dame, the diocese of Charlotte accepted him as a seminarian and sent him to the Basselin program at the Catholic University of America.  As he was finishing his licentiate in philosophy in 2004, he visited the Toronto Oratory, where he was drawn to the liturgical and spiritual life he discovered, eventually entering the noviciate and being ordained on St Philip’s Day 2009. As a priest his responsibilities have included teaching in the seminary, running the RCIA program, looking after altar servers and working in various chaplaincy roles. Specializing in the theology of the Holy Spirit, Fr Michael received a doctorate in Sacred Theology from Regis College at the University of Toronto in 2019. He considers being present at the beatification and canonization of St John Henry Newman as two of the greatest days of his life.  
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Br Alexander Griffiths

Clothed: August 15, 2016

Biography

Paul (Alexander) Griffiths was born in 1988 in Missisauga, Ontario and after high school obtained undergraduate degrees in Commerce and Political Science from Queen’s University. During his undergraduate years Alexander was engaged in both practical political activity and in the larger cultural questions to which politics gives rise. At the same time Alexander’s musical interests developed, especially as a singer in both the classical and liturgical repertoires. He also discovered the serious practice of the Catholic faith through his involvement with Newman House. After graduation and a period working in financial services, and finding his sense of a calling to the priesthood deepening, Alexander entered St Philip’s Seminary and with intellectual distinction pursued a two year course of studies in philosophy. With a growing sense of the importance of both intellectual and liturgical life, following his seminary studies Alexander decided to pursue his vocation as a novice at the Toronto Oratory.
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Br Christopher Huynh

Clothed: August 15, 2016

Biography

Christopher Huynh was born in 1992 and raised in Barrie, Ontario. Christopher displays accomplishments in many fields: as a pianist and singer, a visual artist (especially drawing), as a student of languages, and also as a contributor to online forums dedicated to Japanese popular culture in particular; in this connection he has written liner notes for a CD of video game music performed by the London Symphony Orchestra. Following an outstanding undergraduate degree in Physics from McMaster University, during which he and his collaborators had an article published in a professional journal, Christopher decided to pursue a vocation to the priesthood and completed two years of Philosophy at St Philip’s. During this time his attraction to the Oratorian way of life blossomed, and upon graduation he petitioned to enter the Toronto Oratory as a novice.
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Br Bruno Hegedüs

Clothed: October 6, 2019

Biography

Br. Bruno was born in 1988 to Ferenc Hegedüs and Katalin Buczkó in Budapest, Hungary. He attended Hungarian schools until transferring to Atlantic College in Llantwit Major, Wales, where he  obtained an International Baccalaureate Diploma. He then entered Dartmouth College NH, obtaining a BA in Government, and afterwards, at the Graduate School of Public Policy, University of Tokyo, he received an MPP (Masters in Public Policy). Br Bruno began working as an analyst at a fund management company in Tokyo in 2015 and, having become an associate, left in 2019, entering the Toronto Oratory in October of the same year.
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Br Jeffrey Sullivan

Clothed: October 9, 2020

Biography

Jeffrey Sullivan was born in 1992 in Ottawa, Ontario. Interested from an early age in computer programming, he worked as a freelance website developer during high school; this led to studying Systems Design Engineering at University of Waterloo. Jeffrey completed several internships, including a summer in California helping to develop next-generation wearable technology at Google. After graduating first in his 2015 class, Jeffrey was hired full-time by Google at the Waterloo office. As a Senior Software Developer, he was responsible for making the Gmail website faster for over a billion users. Having experienced during this time a deepening sense of being called to the priesthood, Jeffrey discovered a home for his vocation in the Toronto Oratory; he is especially drawn to the emphases on liturgical beauty and the intellectual life, practiced in community and directed toward the worship of God. Along with his technical expertise, Br. Jeffrey brings to the Oratory a passion for the liberal arts, and a keen interest in the philosophical and societal challenges of new technologies.

Deceased Members

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Fr Jonathan Robinson

Founder (November 1, 1975)

In Memoriam
Biography

The Very Rev. Jonathan Robinson, Founder and Superior of the Oratory of St Philip Neri in Toronto, was born in Montreal in 1929 and ordained a Catholic priest in 1962. He was educated in Montreal, Edinburgh, and Rome. For several years after ordination he served as Paul-Emile Cardinal Leger’s English Secretary. During a three-year stint as Chairman of the Philosophy Department at McGill University, he felt called to establish a house of the Oratory of St Philip Neri in Canada. While in Toronto, he served as Provost of the Toronto Oratory, as well as Rector of St Philip’s Seminary, at various times also acting as Pastor of both Holy Family and St Vincent de Paul Churches. He was a Chaplain of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta and a recipient of the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal. He died June 3, 2020 at home, after a brief illness.

Timeline

Early 1970s

The Beginnings

Fr Jonathan Robinson gathers together several young men with the project of living together as a community under the patronage and inspiration of Saint Philip. 

Montreal Oratory established

The new community is formally erected as an Oratory. Fr Robinson is made Provost with Fr David the second founding member.

All Saints, 1975
6 September, 1979

First Mass at Holy Family

Cardinal Carter, having invited the Montreal Oratory to relocate to Toronto, bestows upon the community the care of Holy Family Parish.

Beginnings of St Philip’s Seminary

The Oratory establishes its own Seminary. In 1990 the Province of Ontario will grant to the new institution the power of conferring degrees.

1984
July 1, 1995

First Mass at St Vincent de Paul Parish

As well as Holy Family, the Oratory now receives care of the neighbouring parish of St Vincent de Paul.

Dedication of the new Church of the Holy Family

On 13 June 1997 a fire entirely destroys Holy Family parish church which, following an ambitious fundraising campaign, is replaced by the church as it stands today.  

25 February, 2001
2017

Renovatio

A second fundraising campaign, Renovatio, begins in 2017, this time chiefly directed to the consolidation and expansion of St Philip’s Seminary. One major fruit of Renovatio is the new Seminary building due for opening in September 2021.

New Artwork

Thanks to a generous benefaction the sanctuary of Holy Family Parish is enhanced by the installation of artwork by Ken Woo.

13 August, 2018
3 June, 2020

Death of Fr Robinson

The Toronto Oratory loses its founderRequiescat in pace.

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