Claretians Celebrate 50th Anniversary at Notre-Dame-de-Protection Parish in Quebec

Claretians Celebrate 50th Anniversary at Notre-Dame-de-Protection Parish in Quebec

On March 7th, 2015, the Claretians and parishioners of Notre-Dame-de-Protection Parish in Sherbrooke, Quebec, celebrated an intercultural Mass to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Claretians’ presence at the parish. The long-awaited celebration was presided over by the Most Rev. Luc Cyr, Archbishop of Sherbrooke, and concelebrated by Rev. Rosendo Urrabazo, CMF, Provincial of the USA-Canada Province, and other Claretians and priests from Sherbrooke, Montreal, Victoriaville, Ottawa, New York, and the Congo. Since the Claretians assumed responsibility of the parish in 1965, there have been six pastors and 13 associate pastors assigned there.

The Mass was standing room only as different religious and cultural communities attended. Ms. Mangala and Anjali Arathi from the Catholic Tamil Mission of Montreal added color to the Mass by performing an entrance dance. Choirs from the parish and the Catholic Latino American Mission sang songs in French and Spanish. In his homily, Monsignor Cyr invited all in attendance to be disciple-missionaries at the heart of the society, offering love, peace, and joy.

A brief presentation on the different Claretian apostolate ministries in Sherbrooke followed the Mass. This presentation included information about the French parish, the Cursillo Movement, the Catholic Latino-American Mission, and Camp Claret, a summer camp program for children and teens. The celebration concluded with a dinner at the parish attended by 160 parishioners and community members. God willing, the Claretians hope to continue to serve the good people of Sherbrooke for another 50 years.

Notre-Dame-de-Protection parishioner Ginette Aubert-Beaucher provided the following reflection and history of Claretians serving at the parish

Notre-Dame-de-Protection is a unique parish within the Archdiocese of Sherbrooke. Each Claretian pastor has contributed to the life of the parish with his own creativity and originality. The parishioners have observed the following qualities in the Claretian Missionaries, who at all times remain faithful to their charism and to their founder St. Anthony Mary Claret:

  • They possess the ability to welcome the people, identify their talents, and put them to the service of others and the community.
  • They are committed and humble missionaries and are dedicated to the cause of evangelization.
  • They are able to read the signs of the times, identify the needs of God’s people, and respond to them effectively and creatively according to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
  • They have all created a wonderful environment of the fraternal and community life.

We in the parish are very aware of the decrease in the participation of the faithful in liturgical celebrations and sacramental preparations and the growing number of elderly parishioners who do not have the economic means to contribute at Mass. These are some of the challenges we face at Notre-Dame-de-Protection, and we need to somehow respond to these realities. Hopefully the arrival of more Claretian Missionaries will help us to face these challenges.

Here’s a brief history of the six Claretian pastors who have served at Notre-Dame-de-Protection:

1965–1971 Fr. Paul Puignero, CMF

Like St. Anthony Mary Claret, who did not hesitate to go and meet the people, the Claretian Missionaries accepted the responsibility of a new parish, and Fr. Paul was the first pastor of Notre-Dame-de-Protection. At this time almost all the residents of the area were Catholics. Fr. Paul visited the parish’s 300 families annually. Catholic religious teaching and all sacramental preparation was done in the schools.

1971–1979 Fr. Joseph Codina, CMF

When Fr. Joseph arrived, the parish had 350 families and was beginning to feel changes in religious practice. The school began lay pastoral ministry, something that was usually exercised by the parish priest. In order to build fraternity between neighbors, Fr. Joseph divided the parish into 19 sectors to symbolize the 19 pines that were planted between the rectory and the church. This gesture later inspired the organization of the Annual Voluntary Contribution (AVC) in the parish. During Fr. Joseph’s time, there was a wonderful collaboration between the municipality, the school, and the parish.

1979–1987 Fr. Gilles Paré (no longer a Claretian)

Fr. Gilles started his time in the parish by creating the Community Life Council to help revitalize life within the sectors. The council organized street festivals to bring neighbors together. During this time, the responsibility for preparing young people for the sacraments passed from the school to the parish. Within the diocese, some lay women collaborated with the pastor on pastoral activities.

In 1984, construction of a community hall began adjacent to the church, which reflected the parish’s growth to receive more people of God. A new project called “Nouvelle image paroissiale” (NIP), was inaugurated in order to give strength and vigor to Christian and community life.

1987–1992 the late Fr. Yvon Lafontaine, CMF

During this time, there were significant cultural and religious changes all over Quebec. Many parents got involved in new types of activities, and the parish put its energy and enthusiasm into
forming the parent-catechists. While many NIP project volunteers continued to distribute their small newsletter “Bon Jour,” not many parishioners engaged.

1992–2006 Fr. François Garcia, CMF

Despite the positive and harmonious relationship between the parish, municipality, and the school, a gap between the groups expanded during this period. Religious teaching was left out of the schools and became the responsibility of the parish. A lot of energy and time was invested into the formation of parent-catechists and parent-animators for different activities. Almost 250–300 adolescents were enrolled in different sacramental preparations.

2006–present Fr. Claude Drolet, CMF

Among all of the Claretians who have worked within the parish, Fr. Claude has worked there the longest; he has served 16 years as co-pastor and nine years as pastor. He has lived through quite a few of the numerous changes in the life and mission of the parish.

Now the parish has more than 4,500 families attached to it. Not all these families are Catholic and even fewer are regular practitioners. However, the presence of adults involved in pastoral and liturgical activities and the participation of the many parent-catechists help almost 90 children and adolescents every year in their sacramental preparations. There are 20–30 people who assist in daily Mass, and on the weekends there are around 250 people who celebrate the Eucharist.

The parishioners and community of Sherbrooke extend our heartfelt gratitude to all those Claretians who have served us—both past and present—for their precious contribution to the parish and its continued vitality in the community, and for the heritage of St. Anthony Mary Claret that has been passed on to us throughout these 50 years of service and the next 50 to come.