How can we enable Canadians to find their way back to the churches? On the occasion of World Mission Week, the following is from a meeting with Paul-Émile Durand, a young seminarian in the diocese of Montreal. He highlighted the specific challenges he faces in the mission, explaining that there has been a problem “in passing on the faith.”

Source - (translated by the Archdiocese of Montreal)

Although it had a strong presence in Canada historically, religious practice is being gradually eroded in Quebec. The observation comes from Paul Émile Durand of Laval,  a city in the north end of the Island of Montreal. And yet, he points out the attachment that some of the population still have to the Catholic faith: “At Christmas, the churches are crammed full of people.” Streets and villages, too, bear the names of saints, and Christian references are even found in the profanities used in Quebec. All of these elements represent for him remains of the Christian faith that should be pointed out.

Passing on the faith

For Paul-Émile Durand, the problem with our mission of evangelization lies primarily “in faith education and how the intelligence of faith is passed on.” The Church has been regarded as merely dispensing moralizing lectures, while not providing enough explanation of Christian logic. He clarifies: “There are logical arguments in the Christian religion, there are rational components that can help people.” We must go back to the fundamentals of faith, says the young Canadian seminarian, and he lists a few: “Who was Jesus, what did He do, why did He do it, who is the Church and who are the Apostles?” 

Remembering these fundamentals and discovering the Canadian culture, for Paul Émile Durand, allows for an encounter with the Christian religion. “So many young people I know have converted after reading French-Canadian writers of the 20th century,” he asserts, “and discovering that our culture and Catholicism are intrinsically tied together.” He also sees a missionary opportunity in multiculturalism: “In the congregation on Sundays, there are young families from Africa, others from Asia and from South America.”

Opening the churches

In order to carry on the work of evangelizing, Paul-Émile Durand stresses the importance of acts of evangelization, sometimes quite simple ones - such as opening churches. “We are advocating to get the churches open physically. The weather in this country is not mild, and therefore a great many churches remain very often, if not always, closed.” And so, some parishes have instituted a permanent reception person. “Just the fact of having someone present in the church and having it open physically does so much good. People are happy to see their churches, which incidentally are often the most beautiful piece of architectural heritage in the neighbourhood.”