(VMO) Franciscans in Montreal are celebrating two milestones this year : The 400th anniversary of their arrival in French North America and the centennial of the opening of their priory in Rosemont.

To mark the event,  A Mass to commemorate will be  at the  house at 5750 Rosemont Blvd  at 10 a.m. on Oct. 4, the feast of St. Francis of Assisi.

The first Franciscan Friars arrived with Samuel Champlain in 1615, but were expelled by the British after the conquest in 1759.  They didn't return

until 1888. Initially, they built a house on what is today Rene Levesque Blvd. which they left in 2007. It is in the process of being sold to a developer who plans two condominium towers on the site. The house in the east end of Montreal opened in 1915 as a seminary where young friars could study theology. The monastic chapel was added in 1960.

There used to be about 500 Franciscans in Quebec; today there are are about 70. The English Canadian Province, headquartered in Cochrane, Alberta, has about 40.

Marc Le Govanvec,  Provincial of the order's French Province in Canada says it is difficult to recruit new members in a secular society.  "Our cultures are changing so fast. Fewer and fewer people are receptive to God, to religion and to the consecrated life. The challenge before us is to present the Gospel in a new way, to preach the gospel in a new way to people who are indifferent, ignorant, or outright hostile to religion. Our strength as Franciscans is in our simple fraternity. We are brothers in a joyful way, and we accept all people as they are."

After the Mass on Oct 4, refreshment will be served in the cloisters. An archival exhibition of historic photographs depicting a century of

Franciscan life in Montreal will also be on display.