Our school namesake, Monsignor John Edward Ronan, was born in nearby Colgan, in 1894. His parents and their ten children attended our school parish, St. James.
When he was sixteen years old, John Edward went to teachers’ college and then began to teach. As a young man, he returned to school to study law, but he became very sick and was forced to return home to recover. Once he was better, he returned to university to study music at St. Michael’s College in Toronto. John Edward then answered God’s call and become a priest. In 1922, he completed his seminary studies and Fr. Ronan was ordained into the priesthood. His interest and skill lead him to continue his study of church music in New York, Paris, Rome, Vienna and Munich. This was the beginning of his work as a prolific composer of sacred music.
When he returned to Canada, Fr. Ronan resumed teaching music in Catholic schools in Toronto and he began to teach music at his seminary. Inspired by Pope Pius X’s encouragement to train choirs for church music, Fr. Ronan’s passion and gifts lead him to establish a choir school and eventually, he established the St. Michael’s Cathedral Choir School for boys in Toronto. In 1947, Fr. Ronan was given the title of “Monsignor” in recognition of his dedicated work in sacred music.
Monsignor Ronan’s advice and music compositions were welcomed in cathedrals and churches across Canada. Although much or his work is unpublished and his compositions became less-widely used when singing in English rather than Latin became common at Mass, music historians consider Monsignor Ronan’s music a Canadian treasure. Almost 900 of his handwritten manuscripts of music were recently discovered, catalogued and digitized.
Monsignor Ronan continued to teach music and to serve as principal of St. Michael’s Cathedral Choir School until he died in 1962. We are proud to be known by his name. He was a man of great vision and dedication. By his work we know that he followed our school motto from Matthew’s Gospel and we are inspired to do the same: “Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)