Passersby are greeted with a gentle smile and a warm welcome when they stop at the Halte spirituelle des Galeries d’Anjou. Amid the mall’s hubbub, the Halte is where one can find some rest, a place for quiet reflection, or someone to talk to.
Louis Bonneville, the Halte's coordinator, and René Guindon, Chairman of the Board, have been volunteering at the Halte since its beginnings, in the 90's. "My father used to attend Mass here when he was young," said Louis Bonneville, explaining his attachment to this special mission.
At first, the space that the Halte currently occupies, on the 2nd floor of Galeries d'Anjou (at the end of the hallway next to Bestseller), used to be a place of worship belonging to St. John XXIII Parish named Marguerite-d'Youville Chapel. In 1998, the parish built its own church, and Cardinal Turcotte, Archbishop of Montreal at the time, specified in a letter the vocation and mission of the chapel that he wished to turn into a spiritual rest stop: "The Halte is not a place dedicated to Eucharistic worship, and consecrated hosts will no longer be kept there. Its mission essentially consists in providing a place where people can meditate, pray, enjoy a moment of silence, and find someone to talk to. Services of spiritual accompaniment and faith education can be provided."
Therefore, since 2001, the Halte has been working to that end thanks to a team of volunteers, today a total of eight. Everyone is welcome, regardless of their religious denomination, belief, or non-belief. "We welcome people in their humanity," said René Guindon. "Even if some just lean in to take a peak and then leave straight away, they will have seen that there is an alternative, a place where they could go one day."
"We get a lot of men who are alone and need to share their sorrows; many suffer from loneliness after their wives have died, for example, and some feel abandoned by their children," explained Louis Bonneville. Many young people ask all kinds of questions about God, life, and death. Sometimes, one of the books we have on display disappears then reappear a few weeks later. We tell ourselves that what the person read will have helped them make some headway on their inner journey.
"Obviously, we don't attract big crowds. We're not selling shoes here," stated Guy Guindon," and we're not keeping count. Our primary mission is to be an open door, that's all. Just to be here, in the middle of a shopping centre."
For the two founders, the Halte is at the heart of what Pope Francis referred to as "the peripheries," to allow the Holy Spirit to spread freely wherever he wants to... and for this, the Halte spirituelle still needs volunteers...
Info: 450 665 1884
The Halte is open on weekdays from 11 am to 3 pm.