A centre of prayer in Toronto’s High Park neighbourhood will soon be shutting its doors. The Holy Cross Priory, home to brothers of the Order of the Holy Cross, will close in May 2024 after decades of service and hospitality.
The difficult decision emerged from the realities facing the three aging brothers who have been caring for the priory. “Trying to maintain a large 19th-century house with considerable grounds, a guest house, the Divine Office and the work which all of us are doing in the diocese is becoming really more than we can effectively manage,” says Brother David Bryan Hoopes, the prior.
The priory is situated in a Victorian house, where members of the community participate in a daily cycle of prayer, study and work. It is currently home to Brother David Bryan, Brother Reginald-Martin Crenshaw and Brother Leonard Abbah. Brother Brian Youngward, who also serves in Toronto, is a non-residential monk.
Brother David Bryan estimates the priory has been home to as many as 30 brothers in its life. “At one time we had eight brothers in the house, and then it was normative to have six. In the last couple of years we were down to four, and now we’re down to three,” he says.
The priory has also welcomed many brothers and associates from other countries. In years past, they had been able to stay in Canada for extended periods, covered by religious worker permits. Now, Brother David Bryan says, the Canadian government seems reluctant to grant such permits beyond two or three months. “It really hampers our bringing brothers from outside Canada up to the monastery to help out,” he says.
The Order of the Holy Cross, based in West Park, NY, was founded in 1884 by the Rev. James Otis Sargent Huntington to provide a North American expression of monasticism for Anglicans. While the order has ministered in Canada since the 1890s, the Holy Cross Priory was established in Toronto in 1973, eventually settling in its current house in 1984.
“We came at the invitation of Archbishop Garnsworthy, who really wanted us to be a presence in the diocese, a spiritual presence. He also hoped that we would be able to be there to minister especially to the clergy who perhaps needed help, who maybe needed retreat time or counselling,” says Brother David Bryan.
Since then, the brothers have been a constant part of the life of the diocese, some in ordained ministry and others through employment and volunteer work. “Those who are ordained have served as incumbents or associates or honoraries in various churches. We’ve had a couple of brothers who worked at the Synod Office. One of our brothers was an adjunct professor at Trinity College,” says Brother David Bryan.
Brothers Leonard, Brian and David Bryan, who are also priests, have served in parishes such as St. Paul the Apostle, Rexdale, St. James Cathedral, St. Hilda, Fairbank, St. Matthias, Bellwoods and St. Chad. Brother Leonard was one of the founding members of the Ghanaian Anglican Church of Toronto and continues to serve as an honorary assistant at St. Joseph’s, as it’s now called.
Meanwhile, Brother Reginal-Martin Crenshaw is a diocesan volunteer who has been involved in countless parish selection committees, retreats and quiet days, the Momentum training program and parish administration, along with providing insight on anti-bias and anti-racism initiatives.
The brothers have also offered hospitality for people from all over the world staying in the priory’s guest rooms. “I enjoy hospitality, so I’m always delighted to have guests, and we’ve certainly had a wonderful variety of guests from all over the place,” says Brother David Bryan.
While he will be returning to the Holy Cross Monastery in West Park, where he’s served before, the others will stay in Toronto and continue their ministry here. “The brothers will not be able to do the kind of hospitality which we were able to do in the priory, but I’m sure that they will reach out as they’re able to do,” he says.
Though they recognize that selling the priory is necessary at this time, Brother David Bryan says he and his companions will miss being a centre of ministry for the Order of the Holy Cross in Canada, as well as a beloved fixture in their neighbourhood.
“It has been a good time, and I will be very sad to leave, but I’m grateful for the time that I’ve had here,” he says. “One of the wonderful things about us brothers in Toronto is that we all wanted to be here. We weren’t assigned here; it was our choice to be here. So we’ve obviously loved being here, and this is what we really wanted to do, and we wish we could continue as we are now.”
Looking ahead to spring, the brothers’ next steps involve putting the house on the market and finding an apartment or condominium for brothers Reginald and Leonard. “I’ve talked with a reputable realtor who assures me that there probably will be no problem getting a buyer for it,” says Brother David Bryan. “Brothers Reginald and Leonard want to remain in Canada, so we’ll find a suitable place for them to live that is affordable and large enough for them to have a monastic house.”
As he thinks back on the half-century of ministry by the Order of the Holy Cross in Toronto, and his own 13 years in the city, Brother David Bryan says he’s grateful for the wider diocese’s support from the very beginning, and he hopes the diocese will continue to support religious orders.
“We have certainly enjoyed the support of the bishops who have served in the diocese, and a lot of diocesan leaders have included us in so many things. We’re very grateful for that,” he says. “My hope is always that Canadian men will be inspired to perhaps join the order and really establish a Canadian household here.”