Realizing the Dream

The success of the Extension Department program in the 1930s and 1940s, and the widespread renown for the Antigonish Movement that followed, led directly to the establishment in 1959 of the Coady International Institute [the Coady] at St. Francis Xavier University [St.F.X.] in Antigonish, Nova Scotia. By the late 1940s, worldwide interest in the adult education and cooperative techniques employed by the Extension Department led to an increasing numbers of visitors and queries. People from elsewhere in North America and abroad sought firsthand knowledge and information. Decades of networking with international Catholic and cooperative organizations by Dr. Moses Coady and Father Jimmy Tompkins also helped to spark interest and awareness. Coady had expressed interest in the international arena since the 1930s, believing the spread and application of the Antigonish Movement ‘formula’ would yield great dividends in the countries that came to be known in the 1950s as the Third World.

During the 1950’s, interest appeared in other quarters too. Extension Department and St.F.X. personnel met with officials of the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration, the U.S. State Department and many new Canadian international agencies and programs. Additionally, they often attended conferences sponsored by these organizations. The Antigonish Movement’s potential to address social and economic inequities appealed to many, including Coady, as a defense against Cold War communist expansion in the Third World. Individually, the over one hundred internationals who registered at St.F.X. in the 1950s were attracted by the Extension Department’s inexpensive, effective, democratic and self-sustaining grassroots methods.

Leaders believed that the creation of some kind of international institute would help to accommodate the global audience interested in adult education and cooperation, and would promote the Antigonish Movement abroad. Initial discussions about this new adult education proposal included the idea of a priests’ training centre to benefit Third World Catholic parishes. At one point plans called for an International House named “Democracy Insured” but these ambitions in the early 1950’s remained stymied by lack of funds as between 1948 and 1954 the Extension Department faced a cumulative deficit of $200,000. By 1959, St.F.X. President Hugh J. Somers and Bishop John R. MacDonald had finalized the proposed institute’s location and mandate. The Coady International Institute was formally created in December as an international extension of the Extension Department. While many foreign priests came to study at the Coady, there was to be no formal separation of clerical and lay students. Ironically, three pioneers of the Antigonish Movement died the same year this new growth bloomed from the seeds they had planted in the 1920s: Dr. Moses Coady (July), for whom the institute was named; Msgr. Michael MacKinnon, second director of Extension (October); and Bishop John R. MacDonald (December).