CCSTA’s long-serving Chaplain, Fr. Thomas Mohan, passed away last month, leaving behind decades of dedicated service to both the Church and to Catholic education across Canada.
Serving as the CCSTA chaplain from 1977-1998, Fr. Mohan witnessed immense change in both the CCSTA’s structure and in Catholic education in Canada itself.
Fr. Mohan’s passion for Catholic education was imminent from his early days as a Basilian priest. As the former priest and principal at St. Mike’s College in Toronto, Fr. Mohan, according to the Catholic Register, was, “instrumental in securing the continued existence of the school he himself graduated from in 1948.”
Ordained in 1956, Mohan’s first education appointment in 1961 served as the chaplain for Michael Power High School. In addition to his priestly duties, Fr. Mohan served in a teaching and administrative capacity for 12 years before being asked to assist in founding Fr. Henry Carr High School in 1973 and Don Bosco Secondary School in late 1977, according to the Catholic Register. “From there Fr. Mohan moved westward to serve as associate superintendent of the Calgary Separate School Board in 1981 where he remained until returning to St. Mike’s in 1993. He retired from his post in 2000.”
Over the course of the move out West and back to Ontario, Fr. Mohan also dedicated his time to CCSTA. Throughout his 21 years as the CCSTA Chaplain, Fr. Mohan was part of the CCSTA’s surge in national membership as well as making connections to work more closely with the CCCB, NCEA, CIEC and OIEC throughout the 1980s.
Although the 1980s set the stage for further development and influence for CCSTA, the 1990s re-shaped Catholic education in Canada in ways almost unimagined. Throughout the 1990s, both the Quebec and Newfoundland Labrador governments discontinued its support for Catholic education in its respective province.
Former CCSTA President Bonaventure Fagan recalls Fr. Mohan’s commitment to Catholic education, particularly during the difficult times in the 1990s.
“Fr. Mohan had a deep concern about the devastating effect on Catholic education as a result of the actions of both the government of Quebec and that of Newfoundland Labrador,” says Mr. Fagan “On the latter, he was as concerned as everyone with the apparent disregard of rights held by Catholic parents, and others, by the NL government. In discussions at the CCSTA table and behind the scenes I understand that Fr. Mohan never hesitated to offer his perceptive views on what was happening and to suggest possible actions. Most importantly, he reminded everyone not to forget the spiritual context in which the issue needed to be debated.”
Mr. Fagan met Fr. Mohan in 1998 on a visit to Toronto when Mr. Fagan sought continued support from CCSTA and OCSTA for the situation they faced in NL.
“He was very interested in accessing where the Catholic people stood on the exercise of their rights in education and on our proposed actions to counter government’s agenda. More importantly, and on a personal note, he assured me of my continued presence in his prayers and I found that very affirming.”
CCSTA’s 1998 convention in Winnipeg dealt with the realities of the day. Fr. Mohan spoke at the convention and provided this insight.
“CCSTA must be concerned that Canadian Catholic schools know and proclaim that they are different from other schools. Catholic schools do not exist because they are enshrined in a political document,” he said.
Mr. Fagan expresses his gratitude for Fr. Mohan’s commitment to his role as the CCSTA Chaplain.
“Obviously he is there to lead the members in prayer. But that alone would not justify the role. Rather, the chaplain is at the table precisely to be a constant reminder that in all the discussion about practical matters, it is not the matters in themselves that are of the essence but their larger, more fundamental religious and spiritual context,” explains Mr. Fagan. “Catholic trustees can easily slip into thinking that finances or busing or school property or construction or teacher contracts are in themselves the be all and the end all. In truth, such matters are very significant but they take their context from the larger more encompassing vision of just what Catholic education is all about. The chaplain’s task is to ensure that CCSTA never forgets to understand that principle and to situate all its solutions in the larger vision. And this is precisely where Fr. Mohan exercised his leadership as chaplain.”