The name of a Catholic school usually evokes an element or elements of Catholic tradition which can be incorporated into the vision of the life which the school will offer its students. Iona Catholic Secondary school has its name from two traditions: one political, the other sacred.
A. Catholic Education in Ontario
The first Catholic school in Upper Canada financed from public funds (300 pounds in 1818, and 350 pounds in 1823 - both amounts from the British government), was built in the village of St. Raphael in Glengarry County in 1818. That school, catering mainly to poor Scottish immigrants, was named "Iona College". Thus, Iona College was the cornerstone of the publicly funded Catholic school system in Ontario. It began as a seminary, teaching both religious and secular subjects at the elementary and secondary levels. The graduates were to carry the Word of God to people scattered throughout Upper Canada. John Stanfield MacDonanld, the first Premier of Ontario (1867-71), attended Iona College.
When the seminary was moved to Regiopolis in Kingston in 1836, Iona College experienced a period of decline. It continued as a small private school until it was closed in 1881. The school was reopened in 1899, and in 1914 it became a combined day-boarding school. Following the Tiny Township verdict in 1928, Iona College was closed. It re-opened almost immediately as Iona Commercial College, although there is historical confusion as to whether the school was a commercial college, a high school or an academy. Until lack of money forced its closure in 1972, the school generally was called Iona Academy. In 1973 the Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry Roman Catholic Separate School Board purchased the school and re-opened Iona Academy as a bilingual (English/French) elementary school in which students were taught in English for half of the day and in French for the other half.
The history of Iona not only reflects the ups and downs of Catholic education in Ontario, but also exhibits the tenacity of its character. That tenacity bore fruit in June, 1984, when William (Bill) Davis announced the completion of the Separate School System.
B. The Older Tradition
Ontario's first publicly funded Catholic school derived its name and inspiration from a much older stream of Catholic Tradition.
In 563, St. Columba founded a religious community on Iona, a small island south of the Isle of Mull off the west coast of Scotland. Iona quickly became a centre of both sacred and secular learning from which monks went forth to bring Christianity to Scotland, Northern Britain and north-western Europe. Until the end of the 8th Century, when it was destroyed by a series of Viking raids, Iona was the most important Christian community in the north of Britain. Although some monks did return, little is known of Iona for the next four centuries. Nevertheless, the island was venerated and became the traditional burial place for Scottish and Norwegian kings.
In 1203 the Benedictine Community moved to Iona and built both a monastery and a nunnery. From 1203 until the Protestant Reformation in 1560, Iona functioned again as a centre of both secular and religious learning from which men and women went forth to evangelize. Following the Protestant Reformation, the community declined and eventually fell into ruin. In 1938, the Church of Scotland began to rebuild Iona, adapting its tradition to meet the needs of the modern world.
Today Iona is the heart of a thriving Ecumenical Community, whose members are drawn from the Church of Scotland, the Anglican Church, the Baptist Church, the Methodist Church and the Roman Catholic Church.
While maintaining fully denominational affiliation, all members make a common commitment to a disciplined life of Christian prayer/worship and to action in the world. Most hold ordinary jobs in many countries of the world, and return annually to Iona for retreat and renewal. Once again, Iona has become a real centre of learning from which people go forth to renew the face of the earth. Iona Catholic Secondary School, in Mississauga, Ontario, is a centre dedicated to excellence in both religious and secular subjects. It is designed to graduate young men and women with a lived experience of Christian community and with the knowledge and dedication required to build a world reflecting the Christian values of justice, peace and integrity. Since 563 (1818 in Ontario) the name "Iona" has been associated with such commitment.