Sunday, June 24, 2012

Pilgrimage to Quebec- Part III (Trois Rivieres-Our Lady of the Cape)

Pilgrimage to Quebec- Part III (Trois Rivieres, Our Lady of the Cape)

St Gerard Majella, L'Assomption, Quebec

After spending two days in Montreal I headed off towards Quebec City. I had a couple of stops in between however. I had on my itinerary a stop at Trois Rivieres to see the Ursluline convent and museum, and the shrine just north of Trois Rivieres called Notre Dame du Cap. On my way to Trois Rivieres, I noticed a church out in the country off of the interstate. The steeples of the church could be seen for miles, so I exited the highway to seek it out. After going through some farmland and over a river, the church stood before me. The name of it was Saint Gerard Majella, which is located in the municipality of L’Assomption. The side door to the church was open so I was able to go in and take some pictures. It was a beautiful country church, which I was glad to have found. After spending some time at St. Gerard I continued on to Trois Rivieres, where I had found an Ursuline covent and museum online that I wanted to see. On the way to the Ursuline convent however, I saw a huge Catholic church not far off of the main road in Trois Rivieres, and I wanted to see it. As I rode around the church, to my amazement I found the church boarded up. There were many window panes broken and it appeared as if it had been long abandoned. I continued on to the convent quite perplexed at the state of this church.

Inside of St. Gerard Majella
Painting inside St. Gerard's

Upon entering the museum, I met a lady who had grown up going to the Ursuline school. She took me into the chapel of the convent and gave a brief tour, explaining some of the history of the Ursulines in Trois-Rivieres. The chapel was absolutely beautiful. I took some pictures and I began to ask her questions about the church that was boarded up not far from the convent. She told me that the Catholic faith in Quebec was almost completely dead. She said that immediately following Vatican II, the people of Quebec became very lukewarm in their faith, and quickly following what is known as the “Quiet Revolution” in Quebec in 1965, most Catholics quit attending Mass altogether. She said it was “tragic.” The church that I saw boarded up she said was slated to be demolished because there was no interest to keep it around any longer. Paraphrasing her words, “Everything changed in Quebec after Vatican II. No one practices the faith anymore.”

Ursuline school of Trois-Rivieres
Ursuline museum and chapel of Trois-Revieres
Inside the Ursuline chapel of Trois-Rivieres

After spending some more time talking to her, I found out that there had been no new vocations to the Ursuline convent since 1977! The desire for women to enter the religious life declined sharply after the Second Vatican Council. In the US there has been some improvement with the traditional orders that are now gaining new vocations. Unfortunately there are few if any traditional orders in Quebec, and there are few if any religious vocations to match. The school at the convent is now run by laymen and laywomen. The age range of the nuns at the convent are now between 65 and the upper 90s. This is truly a sad state of affairs. The museum offered a 20 minute movie which contained five interviews with some nuns at the convent. They also expressed the fact that Vatican II effectively put an end to their vocations as they knew it. None of the sisters wore their habits any longer, and some looked to be sad that they no longer lived under the old rule that was traditionally established for their order. One nun said, paraphrasing, “I have nothing but the most fondest of memories for the religious life I once lived at the convent.” The visit to this convent was sobering, and it really demonstrated the consequences of the watered down Catholicism that followed in the wake of the Second Vatican Council.

State of decline since VCII

The next stop after the convent was the shrine of Notre Dame du Cape, or Our Lady of the Cape, in English. It is located just north of the town of Trois Rivieres, near the river. The location has an interesting story behind it, with the Blessed Virgin Mary giving the miracle of the ice bridge in 1879. The site soon became a favorite location for pilgrims and continues to be to this day. The main shrine was marginally better than Saint Joseph’s Oratory architecturally. It was not as cold and dreary as St. Joseph’s was, but it was not anything like the gem of the shrine at St. Anne de Beaupre that I would see just north of Quebec City. Like Saint Joseph’s there is the historic chapel next to the newer shrine, which I enjoyed much more. The grounds of the shrine were very nice, and they had a rosary garden as well as large outdoor stations of the cross, which were done very nicely. There was also a gift shop, but most of the statues were overpriced, and almost all of the books were in French, which was probably a good thing, since I usually accumulate too many books as it is! All in all I probably spent a few hours at the shrine before heading off to Quebec City.

Notre Dame du Cap historic chapel with newer shrine behind
Inside of Notre Dame du Cap shrine
One of the large windows in Notre Dame du Cap
Altar in the historic chapel of Notre Dame du Cap
Rosary garden at Notre Dame du Cap
The Annunciation, Notre Dame du Cap

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