Canada's Catholic Revival

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Church Showing Signs of Renewed Faith

By Pete Vere

QUEBEC CITY, JUNE 2, 2008 ( Faith will be an integral part of Quebec City's 400th anniversary celebrations this summer as Catholics from around the world will gather there this month for the 49th International Eucharistic Congress.

Isabelle Thiberge, director of communications for the Archdiocese of Quebec, told ZENIT the archdiocese organized the congress, to be held June 15-22, to coincide with the 400th anniversary of the founding of Quebec City. The theme of the event is “The Eucharist, Gift of God for the Life of the World.”

“The foundations of Quebec were the French language and the Catholic faith,” explained Thiberge. “We could not underline the 400 years of Quebec’s foundation without speaking of the Catholic faith, which instituted almost everything in our society. Our health care system and our education system, it all came from our religious brothers and sisters.”

A former mayor of Quebec City, Jean-Paul L'Allier, had invited the archdiocese to organize a special event for the year 2008, which marks the anniversary.

“So [Archbishop Maurice Couture], then the archbishop of Quebec, had the idea to ask Pope John Paul II for the International Eucharistic Congress,” Thiberge said.

The Holy Father approved the request in 2004.

Thiberge said many young Catholics have become active in the Eucharistic congress’s organization. “It’s a pleasant surprise,” said Thiberge.

“We had certain objectives for the number of youth in the congress, and we are surpassing them for the moment -- and it is with great happiness,” she added.

The preparations involved are not just logistical, but spiritual, continued Thiberge.

Since 2005, the organizers have hosted an annual youth rally to help young people prepare themselves spiritually for the congress.

“The first year we had 250 youth,” said Thiberge. “The second year we expected 350 youth, but had to halt registrations at 600 because we ran out of room. Last year we had over 1,200.”

This has lead to a strong youth flavor among the international congress’s programming.

“Young people are finding their place, volunteering, and becoming active in the preparation for this congress,” explained Thiberge. ”We are hoping this will lead to people coming back to the Church and rediscovering their Catholic faith.”

Early sign

Many Catholics in Canada welcome the Eucharistic congress as part of a wider Catholic renewal in what has become a predominately secular country over the last 40 years.

One of the earliest signs of Canada’s Catholic renewal was the foundation of the Companions of the Cross, initiated by Father Bob Bedard in 1988 as an association for priests and seminarians.

After their constitutions were approved by the Holy See in 2002, Archbishop Marcel Gervais of Ottawa subsequently established the Companions of the Cross as a society of apostolic life of diocesan rite on May 2, 2003.

The Companions of the Cross began during the 1980s as an informal prayer and study group that Father Bedard hosted at his parish for a group of local Catholic seminarians.

As the group progressed in their knowledge of Scripture, the seminarians began to sense God calling them to move out of the seminary and into the rectory of St. Mary’s Parish with Father Bedard.

The priest initially dismissed the idea as an overabundance of enthusiasm among the seminarians.

Only with the greatest reluctance did he approach Archbishop Joseph-Aurèle Plourde, then archbishop of Ottawa, hoping that a negative response from the archbishop would quell the idea.

“It is not their idea, but mine,” Archbishop Plourde told Father Bedard.

The archbishop explained that he too had felt that seminarians should be trained in parishes, and that he was simply waiting for God to send him a priest willing to undertake this vision of priestly formation.

“Our apostolate is evangelization,” said Father Scott McCaig, the current moderator of the community. “The renewal of the Church is what’s really in our hearts. To see Catholics living in the fullness of the Catholic faith.”

Father McCaig said the community’s four pillars are fidelity to the Church’s teaching magisterium, total consecration to Mary, Eucharistic devotion, and a spirituality rooted in the charismatic Catholic renewal.

The Companions of the Cross boast 35 priests, two transitional deacons and 12 seminarians.

While seminarians with the community attend courses in philosophy and theology through the local Catholic seminary, they reside in parish rectories under the direction of the community’s priests.

“Seminarians should really understand the life of the parish,” said Father McCaig. “[They] should be a part of it, should be well-integrated into it.”

He explained that seminarians learn the practical importance of theology, why the Church’s theology matters, and how to apply what is learned in the classroom to concrete pastoral situations with laity.

This community emphasis continues after a seminarian is ordained to the priesthood. Priests will be assigned to one of the community’s various households, where they live in common with other priests and seminarians.

“Community is a big thing,” said Father McCaig. “Father Bedard saw young men shying away from a vocation to the priesthood because of the perceived loneliness of the calling. We see it as being very important that priests support each other.”

The cornerstone of this support is prayer, Father McCaig said, whether it be liturgical prayer within the parish, community prayer within each Companions of the Cross household, and the inner personal prayer of every priest and seminarian.


A growing part of Canada’s Catholic revival is a renewal of Catholic schooling.

One such institute is Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Academy (OLSWA), a university-level institute located in Barry’s Bay, Ontario -- a small rural town nestled in Canada’s Ottawa Valley.

“OLSWA is a unique university-level approach to the study of classic liberal arts,” reads the welcoming statement at the academy’s Web site. “In wholehearted solidarity with the Church's call for a renewal in culture, we prepare students to grip confidently in mind and heart the future our Savior Jesus Christ has readied for them.”

The academy grew out of a collective of home schooling parents in the region who were concerned with the secular state of Canada’s post-secondary institutes, and who wanted to ensure a Catholic alternative for their children.

The academy, which now boasts 85 students, offers one-, two- and three-year programs in classical Christian liberal arts.

The academy’s courses have been accepted for full university transfer credit at such noted U.S. Catholic universities as Franciscan University of Steubenville and Christendom College.

“The Catholic faith flavors everything we do at the academy,” said David Warner, the academy’s new president. “Everything we associated with Pope John Paul II is featured prominently in our ethos and our curriculum.”

Students are also immersed in the thought of St. Thomas Aquinas and Cardinal John Henry Newman.

Yet the Catholic faith is not merely restricted to the classroom at Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Academy, students are housed around St. Hedwig Parish where daily Mass and liturgical prayer is made available to them.

Moreover, prayer is a part of dorm life, every class opens with a prayer, and students regularly participate in spiritual activities and engage in Catholic activism during their spare time. For instance, OLSWA students participate in Canada’s “March for Life” each spring.

“Prayer is absolutely central to everything we do,” said Warner.

While the academy introduces students to great Christian texts and teaches them how to think and how to reason, this is done within an atmosphere of prayer.

“Not as an add-on, but as an essential,” said Warner. “Prayer helps to clear our minds and be more receptive to the truth.”

The academy enjoys a strong relationship with the local Catholic parish, as well as with the diocesan bishop.

“He has been on campus several times during the past few months,” said Warner. “He received our Oath of Fidelity, and has been extremely supportive of our effort.”

Warner states that the college seeks to instill a lifelong concept of authentic Catholic learning.

“We believe that Christ did establish his Church to make a difference on this planet,” said Warner, “and so we’re trying to play our small role in raising young Catholic, Canadian and other international students, into becoming good members of Church and society.”

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