The Order of Saint Augustine first came permanently to Canada as a result of the plight of the Province of Germany beginning in the 1920s. This was not the first presence of the Order in Canada, however, for that happened three hundred years earlier.
In the middle of the 17th century two members of one of the French Provinces of the Order (the Province of Saint Guillaume) worked together briefly in Canada. They were Father Rene O.S.A. and Father Giles Gendron O.S.A. When the former died, the latter left Canada for the island of Guadaloupe, where he died in November 1652.
The coming of the Order to North America in the 20th century was an effort of the Province of Germany to alleviate its financial plight. Soon after the year 1925, men were sent to administer a number of parishes in the United States, and by 1936 there were three houses of German Province there. After the year 1936, however, when the political situation in Germany increasingly hostile to the church with the rise to power of the Nazi party, as many Augustinians as possible were moved to the North America.
By 1939 from the Province of Germany there were 46 priests, 13 religious brothers and 8 German candidates for the Order in North America. The first move into Canada came in 1938, when they took over a property at Tracadie, Nova Scotia that had been begun by the Trappist Order about the year 1840. They made their house an important centre for spiritual activity and spiritual life. Later, they gave assistance to the local farmers in developing their farms in a more scientific way.
An invitation was accepted in 1943 from Ladner, near Vancouver in British Colombia, where the Order conducted a local parish and also attended to the spiritual needs of Indians on the Tsawassen reservation nearby. A second invitation accepted in 1943 produced the ministry for which the Order is best known in Canada today. Marylake is now well known as a spiritual centre for the Catholic Archdiocese of Toronto, under the direction of a community of Augustinians.
The main focus at Marylake is its centre of prayer and pilgrimage in honour of Our Lady of Grace. Another focus is as a spiritual health resort for weekend retreats. In 1961 Marylake became the centre of worship of a new parish that was created by taking a section from a large parish nearby. On Thursday, 30 November 1978 the Archbishop of Toronto, Emmett Cardinal Carter, rededicated the newly completed Shrine Church of Our Lady of Grace at Marylake, King City, Ontario. The Cardinal gave recognition to the Augustinian character of Marylake, and to its value as a place for pilgrimage, retreat and prayer.
As well as Marylake, another ministry, the parish of Lulu Island, in British Colombia was also accepted in 1947. The Order took a parish in Ottawa in 1953, and a larger church was built in it in 1956. On Pentecost Sunday in 1945 at Marylake, Ontario, the first Mass took place of the first member of the Order born in Canada. By 1963 there were 41 priests, 30 religious brothers and 12 candidates in the Order in Canada. The Province of Canada was established in 1967, by which time largely the members were persons born in Canada. In the very recent past, a decline in numbers has seen administration of Canada become incorporated into the Midwest (Chicago) Province in the United States of America.