Notre-Dame Basilica, Montreal
Just a bit further down the road in Fonda, NY is the National Kateri Tekakwitha Shrine. It honors the place where St. Kateri was baptized and embraced the Catholic faith. The Conventual Franciscan Friars maintain this shrine. We had the opportunity to offer the Mass there while visiting.
All in all, I thought that we had visited places where ten saints and martyrs (the eight North American martyrs, St. André Bessette and St. Kateri Tekakwitha) lived and died trying to bring and spread the Catholic faith to this part of North America.
However, when I arrived home I recalled that we had also visited Notre-Dame Basilica (the city’s cathedral) and Notre Dame de Bon Secours Chapel while in Montreal. We could not take pictures in either church while we were there, and so I went to the internet to see if I could find some pictures of these beautiful churches.
Lo and behold, when I started reading about the Notre Dame de Bon Secours Chapel, I discovered that we were in the presence of another saint’s remains without any of us realizing it!
The remains of St. Marguerite Bourgeoys, canonized by Pope John Paul II on October 31, 1982, were present in the sanctuary of this chapel! We had mistakenly visited this beautiful chapel in our search for the city’s basilica which was a few blocks away. I relate to you what I read about the work of this other saint of Montreal:
The educative and apostolic efforts of Marguerite Bourgeoys continue through the commitment of the members of the community that she founded. More than 2,600 Sisters of the Congregation de Notre-Dame work in fields of action according to the needs of time and place - from school to college or university, in the promotion of family, parish and diocesan endeavours. They are on mission in Canada, in the United States, in Japan, in Latin America, in Cameroon, and most recently they have established a house in France.
On November 12, 1950 Pope Pius XII beatified Marguerite Bourgeoys. Canonizing her . . . Pope John Paul II gives the Canadian Church its first woman saint.
My retreat and subsequent pilgrimage proved to be grace-filled in so many ways. Realizing how our continent was blessed with remarkable saints who were zealous and selfless in their love for the Catholic faith, helps me to strive to be more compassionate, loving and zealous for the souls in my care. None of us are perfect, but we are called to imitate Jesus Christ in our thoughts, words and actions—despite our human weaknesses.
Our faith is such a precious gift that was given to us to live, to cherish, and to hand on to others.
As we begin this Year of Faith, I pray that we may all realize what a gift—the gift of our one, holy, catholic and apostolic faith—we have been given!
Fr. Ed Namiotka