The Czech Parish History
The Czech parish, St. Wenceslaus in Toronto, dates back to the late 1940's upon the arrival of refugees from Communist Czechoslovakia to Toronto. The founding of a parish was initiated by the Czech missionary Frantisek Dostal, who travelled occasionally to Toronto from Chatham to serve masses. Upon the request of several Czech Catholics, Dostal sent word to the refugee camp in Germany for a Czech priest to be sent - it turned out to be Fr. Antonin Bernacek, under whom the parish steadily began to function from the year 1951.
The first religious services were held in the student residences of the Jesuit church (located on Wellington St.), the Polish church of St. Stanislaw, as well as for a short period in the chapel of St. Michael's Cathedral. On the initiative of Father Bernacek, a house at 48 Dewson St. was bought which became a small parish and centre for not only religious but also cultural events for the Czech community in Toronto. It contained the then founded Czechoslovak Credit Union. In addition the house acted as a meeting spot for the Cyril-Methodej league of Canada. The individual rooms in the house were rented out to Czechs, one of whom was Fr. Josef Sach, who later become a prominent spiritual figure in the church of St. Vojtech in Burlington. By communal efforts a makeshift chapel was built in the house, where daily mass was celebrated by Fr. Bernacek, and after his departure to Europe, by Fr. Jaroslav Janda who arrived in 1954 from Quebec to take over.
In the year 1958, the house was sold and a former cinema building was purchased at 1094 Bloor St. W., where Sunday masses were held and on weekdays dances and other events were held in order to pay off the debt. However in 1963 when the underground subway system was to be built on Bloor St. the city bought out the building. Later on in the same year, hope came in the form of an abandoned warehouse (496 Gladstone Ave.) which the parishioners bought and the reconstruction into a church began, under the directorship of architect Frantisek Stalmach. The chief builders, Vaclav Furbacher, and Josef Adlaf and sons were responsible for giving the church its present form. Jaroslav Rejzek built the main altar and pews.
On the 31st of May 1964 the consecration of the church took place and Archbishop Cardinal James MacQuigan executed the act. In his speech he praised the parishioners for their admirable faith, as well as their hard work aimed at the preservation of the Christian tradition for future generations.
Fr. Janda who held the main merit for the construction of the church, served his role as priest for 27 years, briefly with the help of Fr. Neumann whose assistance was unfortunately cut short by his early demise, only 5 months into his service. After the death of Fr. Janda, parish pastor Fr. Francis Blazek came and served until 1990 before he was replaced by Fr. Svatopluk Rus. He unfortunately passed away two years later, and Fr. Blazek returned to serve in the church until 1999, when he was replaced again, this time by current pastor Fr. Libor Svorcik.
Fr. Svorcik's extraordinary efforts to advance the good name of the parish as well as his endeavors to unify the Czech and Slovak communities, became proverbial and were reflected in then noticeable increase in membership. Under his leadership, the parish of St. Wenceslaus has thus become not only the centre of faith but also the hub of various cultural activities. In 2010 Fr. Libor received a medal of merit from representatives of the Consulate of the Czech Republic. In September 2011, the parish celebrated 60 years of its successful existence and in 2014 the 50th anniversary of its consecration with a visit of Bishop Vaclav Maly of the Czech Republic.