In December, Msgr. Antoine de Rochebrune arrived here from France to begin his ministry as the new Vicar of Opus Dei in Canada. In his ministry, while discovering Quebec "from within," he sets to work in this strange context of a pandemic, but instilled with a strong desire to reach out to all.
Msgr. Rochebrune studied engineering before entering the Opus Dei seminary and was ordained to the priesthood on September 15, 1995. For the past 20 years, he worked as a priest in France before being appointed to Quebec in May 2020. "When the Prelate proposed that I go to Canada, I said, 'It's cold there! That was my first reaction. I was told, that is true, but they have very good heating," he laughs, adding that he of course had accepted gladly, if it could "be of service to the Church.’’
Founded by St. Josemaría Escrivá, Opus Dei is a "family within the Church" that "works to raise laypeople’s awareness of the sanctity that exists in the midst of this world." "I am leading this ecclesial institution in Canada comprising about 20 priests and about a thousand laypeople, I would say, who undertake to provide instruction and assistance to people in order to form us as Christians," he explains. The Prelate resides in Rome, with various vicars representing him in the respective countries as he, for example, is doing in Canada..
A gradual start
"For a French person, Quebec is wonderful!’’ says the new Vicar of Canada, smiling, ‘‘Quebecers are wonderful people. Of course, since I got here, things have been progressing slowly on account of COVID-19, so there are many people I haven't been able to meet.’’ The telephone and Zoom are his temporary meeting-places during this ‘gradual settling in.’ "Little by little, I am starting to become aware of this new world, and I am noticing these differences, and I realize after all that there is not just one way to be an organization whether within the Church or in society - but there are many models. I also see the realities involved in the work of evangelization here in this country; there is much to be done in Canada, as there is everywhere in the world, because Jesus sent us out to the ends of the world, he said!"
Msgr. de Rochebrune is looking forward to eventually meeting people in the flesh.
Hope above all
Asked what is particularly important to him in his ministry, he answers: "Giving people lots and lots of hope. Because we need hope! With this pandemic, we need to remember that, even if people are sometimes physically far away from the sacraments, the Mass, the actual physical church, nevertheless the Lord is always at our side. And that is the fundamental message of Hope: the Lord is always by our side!"
He mentions this hope in relation to the Gospel message, as well: "There is so much to be done in the field of Christian formation and in order to meet the needs of Quebecers," among whom he observes a "culture imprinted with the Church."
"I am working at understanding the history of the Church in Quebec. A history built on sanctity, and I admire the sanctity of the pioneers. I'm very interested in Marie de l'Incarnation, she is quite impressive!
À la carte and made to measure!
There is nothing more ‘concrete’ according to Msgr. de Rochebrune than evangelization. "It means asking ourselves on behalf of all these people - the young, the elderly, the sick, those who are so busy with their work, at all levels - how can all these people find God? It means knowing how to talk with the faithful, taking into account their families and their professional circumstances and trying to help them discover how to be prayerful souls in the midst of the bustling streets and the clamouring world around them, to be ‘contemplative in the midst of the world’ (an expression used by the founder of Opus Dei).’’
"And it means knowing the words to use, which are often the words of friendship, because evangelization so often happens with our friends and our relatives, with all those with whom we can have meaningful conversations, and in those moments to share our love of Jesus." This also applies to those who do not believe and with whom we must know how to "convey our passion for Christ," says Msgr. de Rochebrune.
Opus Dei has numerous centres hosting a variety of activities, including formation, retreats and instruction courses assisting people in their respective needs. The Fonteneige Centre in Montreal, for example, is a residence for female students. Certain activities are sometimes held in parishes.
A message for us
Msgr. de Rochebrune wanted to convey this message to everyone who reads this article:
"I am experiencing these moments of my initiation into Quebec life, and particularly Montreal life, with great passion; although I must wait to meet people physically, I see life taking form; As I walk the streets of Montreal, I pray for her inhabitants, and I have the desire to reach out to them. I also see so many young people, and I am very happy to see that youth is quite well represented here.
Msgr. de Rochebrune is also collaborating in the creation of a web application project called 10 minutes avec Jésus, in which a number of Francophone priests take turns offering a daily reflection on the Gospel of the day. The project can be found at: https://10minutesavecjesus.org/
Watch the interview with Msgr. de Rochebrune via Sel et Lumière at: