From: The Encyclopedia of Canada's Peoples/Slovaks/
The third pillar of Slovak-Canadian community life is the parish church. Most Slovaks who immigrated to Canada belonged to one of four Christian denominations: Roman Catholic (about 80 percent), Lutheran (about 15 percent), Greek Catholic (about 5 percent), and a few Reform (Calvinists). In the Old World, Slovaks had taken for granted their centuries-old parish churches, which were supported by church tithes until 1848 and by wealthy patrons or the income from church lands after that.
In Canada, as in the United States, Slovak immigrants who wished to worship in the Slovak language had to establish their own churches. In most instances, the fraternal-benefit societies took the lead in establishing Slovak parishes by raising the necessary funds and also by electing a church committee to petition the local bishop, if they were Catholics, to send them a priest, or the synod, if they were Lutherans, to provide a pastor. Before World War I, only the largest Slovak community, Fort William, numbering around 400 “souls,” was able to organize itself into a parish in 1906 and build a church in the following year.
It was the larger second wave of Slovak immigrants to Canada that started to establish parishes in earnest. Among Roman Catholics, Montreal led the way with a Slovak parish in 1928, followed by Windsor, Ontario, in 1929, Toronto in 1934, and Hamilton in 1943. Among the Lutherans, Windsor established the first parish in 1928, and then Montreal in 1929, followed by a number of Ontario communities: Fort William in 1935, Chatham in 1939, Toronto in 1940, Bradford in 1942, and Smithville in 1942. Most of these parishes, however, could not afford to erect church buildings until the Great Depression had ended, and they held services in rented quarters or in the churches of other ethnic groups.
The immigrants who arrived after World War II added both numbers and enthusiasm to the building of Slovak-Canadian parishes. As a result of their coming, Roman Catholics opened new parishes in the 1950s in Sarnia and Welland, Ontario; Winnipeg; and New Westminster, British Columbia. More spectacularly, however, the Greek Catholics blossomed. They had already established a mixed Slovak-Rusyn parish in Lethbridge, Alberta, in 1921, but no new ones until the 1950s, when several hundred Greek Catholic Slovaks immigrated to Canada. They settled in the Greek Catholic Slovak communities that already existed in Montreal, Toronto, Hamilton, Windsor, Oshawa, and Welland, and all of them established their own parishes.
The post-war immigrants also helped to solve another problem that Slovak parishes faced – a shortage of clergy. The small Slovak-Canadian community had great difficulty in finding Slovak priests and pastors to staff its parishes. Until the 1950s, many of the clergy came from the larger Slovak community in the United States: Lutheran pastors largely from the conservative Missouri Synod, Catholic priests from the Slovak-American Benedictine Order in Cleveland or the Conventual Franciscans, while Greek Catholics relied upon Ukrainian priests to serve them. This was not an ideal situation, because many Canadian bishops resented the presence of American priests in their dioceses, especially those from religious orders who were not under their control. Therefore, the arrival of about a dozen refugee priests from Slovakia, along with the relocation of the Slovak Jesuit Order from Slovakia to Galt, Ontario, in 1952 (the Communists suppressed all religious orders in 1950), solved the problem of finding Slovak priests to staff Slovak parishes. There were now Slovak-Canadian priests in all of Canada’s Roman- and Greek-Catholic Slovak parishes, except for the Roman Catholic parish of Montreal, which continued to be served by the American-based Franciscans.
While the Communists ruled in Czechoslovakia, there were no religious ties to the Old World. Once communism was overthrown in 1989, however, relations were restored between the churches in Slovakia and in Canada. There have never been very many vocations among Canadian Slovaks, but priests trained in Slovak seminaries are now beginning to settle in Canada, and they will likely replace the aging clergy who currently minister to Slovak-Canadian parishes.