On the Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, May 31, Archbishop Lépine, presided at the patronal Mass during which he presented six Bishop Ignace Bourget Diocesan Awards of Merit.
The six recipients are people or organizations that contributed to the founding of Ville-Marie, 375 years ago this year, and/or that embody the Christian values that the city's first founders were called to uphold.
Jean-Charles Déziel, President of the Société Historique de Montréal, founded in 1858, was very touched to receive this distinction: "Our history has been somewhat falsified, and our historical society often sets the facts straight. Our founders wanted to create a better world. We owe them our utmost respect. It is in this respect that I receive this award." Since its founding, the members of the historical society have been strong defenders of our values tempered by faith and of an explicit choice to live together in harmony, as is declared in Montreal's motto.
Brother Joseph Liu, pastor of the Chinese Mission of the Holy Spirit, received the Award of Merit on behalf of all the missionaries that have been working hard at helping Chinese immigrants establish here since 1917 (100th anniversary of the mission's founding). Today, more than 600 Chinese Catholics live in Montreal. "I receive this honour for my love of Jesus. We are honoured to be able to serve him by helping the young families that seek refuge here," he declared.
Sister Agnès Campbell of the Congregation of Notre-Dame accepted the award on behalf of the Congregation: "I am very happy to represent our Congregation, which is being recognized this evening for its contribution to the founding of Ville-Marie, for the work that it has been doing for 375 years and for the work that it is still doing today." The sisters of the CND, which was founded by Marguerite Bourgeoys, were the pioneers of higher education for women and established several public and private schools.
Sister Marie-Thérèse Laliberté, Superior General of the Religious Hospitallers of Saint Joseph, was very moved: "I am touched to receive this honour on behalf of our congregation. We have been continuing the good work of Jeanne Mance. It is really important. And between me and you, the award is of personal significance to me, because Bishop Ignace-Bourget was none other than the great-uncle of my great-grandmother! Our mission worked closely with the sick and the poor at the time of the city's founding. Today, we are at work in six countries throughout the world, mainly in leprosariums. But here, in Montreal, there is still a need. There are still many people who are poor, sick, and homeless. We need young women to accompany these people who are suffering..."
Father Erik Oland of the Society of Jesus was also a recipient of the award. The Jesuits arrived in Ville-Marie in 1611 to open schools with the other founders. "Our predecessors founded, among other institutions, Collège Sainte-Marie, on Bleury Street, in Montreal, which is now the Church of the Gesù. It is a great honour for us to receive this award, on behalf of all our brothers who have worked in this country and who did everything to live in harmony with its inhabitants."
Finally, Father Jacques D'Arcy, a Sulpician, was awarded, in addition to the Diocesan Merit, the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice medal, a decoration of high distinction, awarded by the Holy Father, Pope Francis. Father D'Arcy has been the Provincial Superior of the Sulpician Province for 11 years. This award is a token of the Church's esteem and gratitude for his long-standing leadership and ministry, and highlights the Sulpicians' considerable contribution to Ville-Marie.
The Archbishop of Montreal, Most Reverend Lépine, with the humour he is known for, did not fail to make the entire assembly chuckle. "I think the Pope wanted to copy the Archdiocese of Montreal by awarding his medal too!"
During his homily, he strongly emphasized the place that the "Visitation" should be given in our Christian lives: "The Visitation is not only showing kindness by visiting or helping someone in need. The Visitation is contemplation and action that form one. In our modern times, contemplation and action are disjointed. We are called, with the 375th anniversary of Montreal, to renew this cohesion between contemplation and action, as our founders had done. The Visitation is something that is done (action), by bringing Jesus to the people (contemplation). This opens the doors to the Holy Spirit. The Visitation is a way of evangelizing whereby the Holy Spirit works in the souls of people."
Listen to the Mass (video)