Saint-Léonard (de Port-Maurice) Church was officially erected on Sunday, Dec. 22, 1889. Three days later, the church was consecrated during the Christmas Mass, and 130 years later, Archbishop Lépine came to celebrate an anniversary Mass.
Saint-Léonard parish consisting mainly of Italians has an eventful history. Its church burned twice, but stands still and his part of Montreal’s history. Bishop Édouard-Charles Fabre founded Saint-Léonard de Port-Maurice parish at the end of 1885 and, on April 30, 1886, at the request of the parishioners, he gave permission to build a “stone” church and a presbytery, and to include a cemetery.
Twice It Rose From the Ashes
Following an arson, January 17, 1907, the church was quickly rebuilt and blessed, on March 29, by Bishop Zotique Racicot. Yet, it burned down again due to a shed that had caught on fire on May 1930. The parishioners mobilized again to rebuild it and, on July 12, 1931, the faithful crossed the threshold of a redone church blessed by Bishop Alphonse Emmanuel Deschamps.
On the church 130th anniversary, a tabernacle and a high altar – fruit again of the generosity and the work of the parishioners – were blessed on Dec. 22, 2019.
At 11 a.m., the church was already full. Father Adrian Boboruta, now the parish pastor, was managing a team of active volunteers eager to welcome Archbishop Lépine properly. The parishioners, moved and happy by the archbishop’s visit in their neighbourhood, had arrived well in advance to attend the Eucharist at 11:30 a.m.
After a brief introduction from Father Adrian Boboruta, Archibishop Lépine thanked the faithful and the priests, as well as all the elected municipal, provincial and federal representatives in attendance on that day, a sign of the importance of Saint-Léonard de Port-Maurice Church in the Montréal-Nord neighbourhood.
God’s Presence in our Lives
In its homily, Archbishop Lépine explained the significance of both the tabernacle and the high altar, and God’s presence in our lives through them.
Some 1200 years before Christ, the tabernacle was originally a tent in which Moses laid down the Tables of the Law, marking thus God’s presence there. The altar represents the offering table of our prayer to God and, the incense, the sign that our prayer goes up to God. The tabernacle is therefore the Gift from God, and the high altar the offering from its people.
Before Jesus-Christ’s birth, Mary said “Yes,” and then became the new arch of God’s presence. Consequently, God is present through the written commandments given to Moses, and by His humanness through Mary’s own accord.
On the eve of Christmas, Archbishop Lépine recalled that we get ready for God’s arrival, for His presence. “Having faith in God, it’s believing in God’s existence and, most of all, in Him who is above all and who comes to us. He is present throughout humanity and our personal lives.” The Presence in the tabernacle and the gift of our prayer remind us, each day, of God’s presence in our life. Though believing in an invisible God may sometimes seem difficult, Archbishop Lépine invited the faithful to revisit their lives. It helps to see that “no requests are left unanswered by God.” When we believe we can put our lives in the hands of God, we then realize that faith is a huge gift.
“If I do not share Jesus’s heart, my soul, my mind and my heart remain weak, but when I open my heart to God, I become stronger,” concluded Archbishop Lépine.
Before the Eucharist, Archbishop Lépine blessed the tabernacle and the high altar, “signs that you received faith from God.”
At the end of that beautiful celebration led by the extraordinary parish choir, Father Adrian Boboruta wished to thank Archbishop Lépine for his presence, words and blessing. He also thanked his team in Italian for embellishing the church and preparing the celebration.
After the final blessing, Archbishop Lépine accepted wholeheartedly requests for pictures and selfies. Many people also asked for his blessing on this occasion.