Catholic Church of Montreal > Publications > Info Archives > OCTOBER 2015 - Inauguration of the Catholic School of Social Service

OCTOBER 2015 - Inauguration of the Catholic School of Social Service

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I In October 1940, 75 years ago, Montreal's new Archbishop Joseph Charbonneau, inaugurated the Catholic School of Social Service. This innovative project aiming to train Catholic Social Workers was dear to his late predecessor and became one of his first major accomplishments in Montreal. Upon his arrival in Montreal as Archbishop-coadjutor, Joseph Charbonneau had taken a personal interest in this project.

The project of a catholic school of social service has its origins in the early 1930's. The 1930's were difficult economic times and an important number of requests for assistance regularly reached the Archdiocese of Montreal. To respond to these needs, the Archdiocese established the Fédération des Œuvres de charité du diocèse de Montréal and an Office of Assistance to Families. These initiatives demanded a qualified personnel. In 1936, in Archbishop Gauthier's opinion, the establishment of a catholic and francophone social service school was indispensable. A young priest, Father Lucien Desmarais was then sent to the United States to study social work at the Catholic University in Washington. On his return in 1939, with the help of Mother Marie Gérin-Lajoie, founder of the Institut Notre-Dame du Bon-Conseil and a pioneer in the development of social service in Montreal, the School of Social Service was founded. Father Lucien Desmarais became the first Director and only permanent teacher and the first lectures were held at the Institut Notre-Dame du Bon-Conseil.

In August 1940, Archbishop Charbonneau became titular bishop and consequently Chancellor of the Université de Montréal. Very concerned with the question of social service, he urged the new school to accept the University's offer and to relocate on University grounds. As a result, on October 1st 1940, the Catholic Social Service School opened its doors at the Université de Montréal. Inaugurated by the Archbishop himself, it held its first classes in the École des Hautes Études commerciales. In 1942, it was officially annexed to the University.

Inspired by groups of Catholic Action, the school wanted to train lay individuals to collaborate with religious communities in their mission to the poor and the needy. The implication of this project is of importance. The Church itself expressed the desire to work with the laity to respond to important social issues. The school's program, imagined by Father Lucien Desmarais consisted of theoretical training but also of practical work in different institutions twice a week. This allowed students to familiarize themselves with the milieu. The archival document that we present today is the school's first program of studies prepared by Father Desmarais. In 1940, the Faculty was composed of both lay and religious professors, classes were given in both French and English and registration was $ 120 for the full course.

Although it now lost its Catholic character, the Université de Montréal's École de service social continues to train students in social work. The school welcomes 750 students and every year 160 of them graduate with a degree in social work.


Comment by Emily Barber | 2016-03-07

I am hoping to know more about St. Patrick's Orphanage in Montréal.
Please calculate 3 plus 9.*

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