More than 200 priests gathered at Marie-Reine-des-Coeurs Sanctuary, in Montreal, on Thursday, September 7, 2017, for the annual Presbyteral Day.

Priests from the entire diocesan territory, from French and English parishes alike, were invited to the annual meeting for the start of the new pastoral year, where they were greeted by the members of the Office for Pastoral Personnel and by the directors of the diocesan Offices of the Archdiocese.

Following a word of welcome given by Auxiliary Bishops Alain Faubert and Thomas Dowd, and a prayer to the Holy Spirit, the participants sang Robert Lebel's "À cause d'une Croix," in keeping with the celebrations for the 375th anniversary of Montreal's founding.

Une belle journée en perspective pour les prêtres à #Montréal en cette journée presbytérale! #ensemblepourlamission

— Diocèse de Montréal (@diocesemontreal) 7 septembre 2017

The presentation of a new project comprising 15 deaneries which will group the parishes and any other pastoral entities, such as the movements and organizations, within a territory was the main focus of this meeting between the bishops and the priests of Montreal.

Created in a spirit of support, unity and collaboration, this restructuring, which is more adapted to the different realities in the field, was generally well received by the participants. The workshop that followed and the discussion period allowed some of the participants to express their views about this diocesan project.

"We need this communication channel, which, among other things, enables a closer contact with the bishop. I am pleased with this openness. It makes us feel heard. We see these fraternal moments when we listen to each other and share our challenges as something positive. The human aspect is important in these meetings," explained Father Dominic Richer, the pastor of Saint-Nazaire Parish.

"I really like this open concept. Nothing is predetermined. We are working together to put this system into place. I am beginning this new pastoral year with enthusiasm!" added Father André Lafrenière.

It was a good opportunity to present the new episcopal vicars for the deaneries for the francophone sector, Father Alain Mongeau and Msgr. Roger Dufresne, who humbly addressed their brothers, indicating at the same time their desire to give their best and to be at their service by visiting them. Father Pierangelo Paternieri, the newly appointed Director of the Office for Pastoral Personnel, and Father Raymond Lafontaine, Episcopal Vicar for the anglophone community, also had the opportunity to introduce themselves to the assembly of priests.

After a friendly and fraternal dinner, the priests listened to Bishop Faubert speak of the importance of the Missionary Shift of Christian communities in Quebec, for the Archdiocese of Montreal in particular. To better respond to Pope Francis' call for us to refocus on the missionary spirit in our respective communities, a diocesan plan for the coming years (to be presented soon) was briefly announced. It is the idea of a Church that looks at the world as it is, that wishes to be close to the people and that adapts to the reality of its surroundings. Following this announcement, the participants discussed in small groups the missionary turning point for our parishes.

Bishop Thomas Dowd presented a new service for parishes, created to better meet the needs of the parishes, providing assistance with legal and financial matters and with any aspect of management to help parishes in their day-to-day realities.

Finally, Archbishop Christian Lépine addressed the assembly, reviewing the bishops' ad limina visit with Pope Francis, and explained the necessity of creating a culture of encounter. Quoting the apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, he reminded everyone of the 3 characteristics of a parish: it is a sanctuary, a community of communities and a missionary centre.