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St. Basil The Great High School, now a Marian Shrine

TORONTO – It is an oasis of serenity and meditation – a spiritual experience – where Sheppard Avenue meets Weston Rd. The pictures on this page and the video on our digital sites do not do the Shrine justice. If you do not go there now, you will miss an experience that may slip by forever.

Wednesday afternoon, a family friend of my children knocked on my door insisting that I accompany him to visit a [spontaneous] “demonstration” of public support for maintaining the Marian Shrine in its current state, free from the developer’s backhoe. I deferred until the next day.

Too bad for me. Hundreds streamed to the location until other Media took notice and rushed cameras to the site. People began to send text messages and video via WhatsApp, perhaps in an effort to prevent the wrecker’s ball and the excavators from doing irreparable damage.

Gianfranco Cristiano, a recent candidate for school trustee, was one of those. “I’m here with my family and friends”, he said, “there is an aura about this place that is difficult to explain. I live in the hard knock world of business, schedules and bottom lines but today I am using vocabulary of Mother Mary, miracles, innocence and spiritual exhalation.”

On behalf of those here with me tonight I am pleading the Corriere to take an interest. I hope it’s not too late, he added for good measure.

The truth is that others had already taken to social media to get the message out. Lifesites, an online periodical, published an article on the Day of the Assumption (Ferragosto, in Italy), August 15. The Catholic Register did not miss the occasion, nor did the camera crews of a cable-run pair of TV stations. The Police showed up and left… too peaceful.

According to sources cited by Cristiano (in the pic above, from his Twitter profile), “The property is/was up for sale, but no execution of sale has been registered, so far.” It may be more complex than that. The property may involve the diocese, the Vatican, the religious order of Basilians (Ukrainian Order of St. Basil the Great) and of course Toronto City Hall. Councillor Anthony Perruzza has already apparently offered support.

The general public might easily miss the location from the main intersection. It is behind the old St. Basil High School site on Weston Rd, overlooking the Humber Valley Golf Course. The alumni from that school populate the boardrooms of financial institutions, law firms, accounting practices, universities, classrooms and development enterprises throughout Southern Ontario. They represent an influential cohort capable of accomplishing significant collective goals.

Theirs are stories worth telling. I taught many of them in my two years at St Basil.

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