The Lonergan Reader
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U of T Press

LWS Front Page


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Bernard Lonergan: A Biographical Sketch

    To learn thoroughly is a vast undertaking that calls for relentless perseverance. To strike out on a new line and become more than a week-end celebrity calls for years in which one's living is more or less constantly absorbed in the effort to understand...(3)

Bernard Lonergan was born in Buckingham, Quebec, on December 17, 1904. Buckingham, a mill town on the Lièvre River, was predominantly french-speaking despite its very British name. Bernard's father, Gerald, was trained in engineering and worked as a surveyor, mapping Canada's western provinces. His mother, Josephine Wood, was the daughter of a millwright in Buckingham. Bernard enjoyed winter sports and river rafting in the summer with his two younger brothers. He read his first book, Treasure Island, at the age of six. As a child he attended St Michael's, a local school run by the Christian Brothers, whom Lonergan later credited with placing rigorous academic demands on the students.

At the age of thirteen, Lonergan went off to Loyola College, a Jesuit high school and junior college in Montreal. In later years he recalled his first impression of his teachers: 'The Jesuits were the best-educated people I had met.'(4) He complained, however, of Loyola's lax academic standards in comparison with his elementary school. In his first year at Loyola he completed the equivalent of three years of high school instruction. In his second year he fell ill with a life-threatening infection, missing a half year of courses, but he was able to pass his year-end exams. Lonergan later remarked that while he was at Loyola, he had a notion of what understanding was and 'acquired great respect for intelligence.'(5)

In the summer of 1922, at age seventeen, Lonergan entered the Jesuit novitiate at Guelph, Ontario. He did not consider his original decision to join the Jesuits to be remarkable: 'I went out to the Sault to make a retreat, an election, and I decided on the street-car on the way out.'(6) Of more interest to him, when he looked back over his life, was the fact To Page Five




3. Ibid., 210.

4. P. Lambert, C. Tansey, and C. Going, eds., Caring about Meaning: Patterns in the Life of Bernard Lonergan (Montreal: Thomas More Institute, 1982), 135.

5. Ibid., 142.

6. Ibid., 131.