Diocese of Hamilton

A History of Serving Children - 1930 to the present and beyond

1930 to 1950

In the 1930′s Bishops J. T. McNally and J. F. Ryan appointed a succession of priests to work part time as Diocesan Youth Directors. Their responsibilities centred on the establishment of Regis Clubs (for young adults) and the co-ordination of an inter-school athletic league.

In 1950, Bishop J.F. Ryan appointed Father Frank Hawkins as the director of Catholic youth – to work part-time to renew the Regis Clubs and to co-ordinate the different parish C.Y.O.’s into a separate Diocesan organization – fully independent of the existing Regis Clubs.

1950 to 1960

In the spring of 1951, Father Frank Hawkins asked his friend, John C. Bruno, to assist him in the co-ordination of the parish C.Y.O.’s and the first office was established in the back seat of Father Hawkins’ Hudson automobile. Later that same year, the office was moved to a room at the rear of St. Patrick’s Parish Hall. In September 1951, the first Diocesan Youth Assembly was held in the Walper House Hotel in Kitchener and the following year the first C.Y.O. convention was held at the Royal Connaught Hotel in Hamilton, which attracted youth from 90% of all the parishes in the Hamilton Diocese. In 1957, Father Kyran Kennedy was appointed as full-time director of the C.Y.O. and in 1958 the C.Y.O. was admitted as a member agency of the United Way, and hired its first staff members.

1960 to 1980

Parish based youth programs continued to grow throughout the 1960′s and were highlighted by Diocesan Youth Conventions, Drama Festivals and the development of a strong high school aged athletic program (Chi-Rho).

In 1963, the C.Y.O. expanded its services with the opening of a day camp program, Camp Marydale. After two years of operation at a temporary site, the C.Y.O. purchased property in Puslinch, which would become the home for Camp Marydale. The following year, Tom Gallagher became the first lay director of the C.Y.O., and under his leadership the day camp program grew to become a significant part of the agency’s move to provide services for inner-city children. In 1972, Camp Marydale became one of the first camps in the province to integrate disabled campers into its program.

In 1977, at the request of Bishop P. F. Reding, the C.Y.O. took over the operation of the Diocesan residential camp, Camp Brébeuf. Like the day camp before it, Camp Brébeuf integrated disabled campers into its program, and pioneered the inclusion of special campers into Ontario Camping Association member camps.

1980 to 2012

Between 1987 and 1994 Camp Brébeuf was given a thorough face-lift, including the winterization of the kitchen/dining hall and accommodations for up to seventy campers. Since 1994, Camp Brébeuf has become one of the premier year-round outdoor education centres in the province serving seven local school boards – both public and Catholic.

Over the decades, the C.Y.O. has continued to expand services in response to the changing needs of the community. Camp programs for the marginalized – for the financially disadvantaged, children-at-risk, and for women & their children who are survivors of spousal assault, have been the focus of recent developments. In addition, there has been a renewed emphasis on the development of parish-based youth programs.

In 2003, the C.Y.O. decided to close the Puslinch site for Camp Marydale and build a new facility south of Hamilton. In order to keep the day camp program alive during this transition, the agency has operated its day camp program at Coronation Park and various school sites across the city.   This would all change in 7 years when Marydale Park would begin operations.

In the summer of 2005, C.Y.O. Camp Brébeuf, in partnership with Community Living Hamilton, opened Dragonfly Lodge – a year-round fully accessible cottage designed to provide respite care and recreation to Hamilton’s disabled community and their families.

In 2012, after seven years of development and fundraising, the C.Y.O. opened their newest community service project – Marydale Park.  Located on the shores of Lake Niapenco, adjacent to the Binbrook Conservation Area, Marydale Park is home to our very successful summer day camp program Camp Marydale.  The facility is fully accessible and is also used for Outdoor Education, Crusader Athletics and community events and programs.  Marydale Park is also the head office for the C.Y.O.


The C.Y.O & Beyond

The C.Y.O.’s commitment to children, teenagers and youth adults has never been stronger. Camp Staff Training, the Leadership Camp Programs, Parish Youth Group Retreats, and various clinics and workshops have provided the agency with over three hundred teen leaders who are connected to their community and who see their volunteer commitment as an opportunity to give back what they themselves have received. With the help of these teen leaders, plus the assistance of hundreds of adult volunteers, the C.Y.O. through Youth Ministry, Camps Brébeuf & Marydale and the Crusader Athletic Program touches the lives of over 30,000 children, teens, young adults and families each year.  In 2017 we launched our Capital CAMPaign to renovate Camp Brebeuf’s aging infrastructure.  By 2019, we had upgraded the pool and built a new dining hall and kitchen called HUNTER HALL.