Madam President of the Heritage Regional Table,
Dear Father, and president of the parish council,
Dear faithful of the St-François-de-Sales parish,
Dear members of the assembly,
As the new Archbishop of Gatineau, it is a great honour for me to find myself among you this afternoon, and to be able to address you these words.
I will say it right now that the main feeling that inhabits me at this very moment is admiration.
I am in admiration in front of this magnificent church that I am visiting for the first time. I often contemplated it from the other side of the Ottawa River as I walked by, or passed by car. Today, I can see it more closely, and I can honestly say that it is a first-class architectural marvel with an interior that’s remarkably well preserved. I am therefore not surprised that the government’s Inventory of Quebec’s Places of Worship gave the grade of «Exceptional» to this symbol of our Diocesan Church and our local community.
I also have great admiration for the faithful of this parish, for the parish council, and their pastor who, for many years now, strives to keep it beautiful and alive, a meeting place and an oasis of peace for all the people of the region, a place of visual and auditory beauty, a house of prayer and praise.
Finally, I admire the government`s grants program for Quebec’s religious heritage. How many times, while I was a bishop in Ontario, have I complained that Queen’s Park did not have the same enterprise, or the same sense of responsibility towards its heritage as the National Assembly. I commend all the successive governments who knew enough to maintain this program that’s so important to everyone.
Next year, the Archdiocese of Gatineau will be celebrating its 50 years of existence. I proposed that we should celebrate this anniversary under the sign of the covenant. We can see today the results of what can happen when people band together to not only preserve, but maintain and enliven an historical and cultural site of which everyone can be proud.
The community of the Unité pastorale de la Pointe, as well as this church, will certainly be called to take an important place in this anniversary. The St-François-de-Sales parish was indeed one of the first parishes of Gatineau, founded in 1840 by Msgr. Bourget to serve, first an Irish, then a French-Canadian population. Thus established since the mid-19th century, it is at the heart of a social dynamic that contributed to create the present Gatineau.
After admiration, it is also pride that I feel, realizing the richness of the environment in which I am now called to play a part.
Thank you to all of you for being here for such an important moment in the life of our archdiocese.