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Vol. 4 No. 3 - Dormition 2009

Northern Nomenclature:
St. Catharines, Ontario


A city in south-central Ontario, Saint Catharines was originally settled by Loyalists who fled across the Niagara River, near the famous Niagara Falls (located just a few minutes from St. Catharines). The city is also home to a large Roman Catholic population, dominated by Canadians of Italian and French origin. The city was named for the teenage martyr, St. Catharine of Alexandria, Egypt (+305 A.D.), who testimony and self-sacrifice converted many sages of her home city to faith in Christ, after which all faced martyrdom.

The patron saint of the city of St. Catharines provides a little-known reflection of the life of one of Canada's great heroines, Laura Secord, whose spirited self-sacrifice to warn Loyalist troops in the nearby Niagara area actually secured the city of St. Catharines as part of the Dominion of Canada. It was this act of self-sacrifice, involving a 30 kilometre trek through dangerous brush and bog, that preserved the entire Niagara region from American invasion across the Niagara River in 1813. Hundreds of soldiers sacrificed their lives in defence of the region - one of the most significant hubs of Canadian military history on domestic soil.

In tribute to the highly educated St. Catharine - and perhaps by virtue of her intercessions - the area bearing her name has also become a hub for postsecondary education, on both the Canadian and American sides of the border.

While Latin calendars removed in 1969 the commemoration of St. Catharine of Alexandria[1], the Orthodox Church maintains her veneration as a patron saint of young women and education. Her miraculously revealed relics rest in the monastery bearing her name, atop Mount Sinai, where the Lord appeared in the Burning Bush to the Patriarch Moses, known as the God-Seer.

To the present day, the bush in which the Lord appeared in Uncreated Light remains safeguarded in a walled garden within the monastery, not far from the relics of St. Catherine. It is perhaps providential that the Canadian city of St. Catharines should be known as "The Garden City", a reflection of this holy garden where the Lord appeared.

As one of the world's major tourist attractions, the Niagara Falls/St. Catharines area will doubtlessly benefit from the prayers of their patron saint, whose prayers we should also seek for our own spiritual struggles, and for the salvation of those who visit the area that bears her name.

[1] This feast was restored as an optional commemoration for Roman Catholics at the revision of their calendar in 2002, following a pilgrimage by John Paul II to the Greek Orthodox shrine that houses the holy relics of the saint.

Father Geoffrey Korz, (Dormition, 2009)

© All Saints of North America Orthodox Church
Orthodox Church in America, 2008.