Les Franciscains du Canada

Praise to you, Lord, through the Islands of Montreal

Praise to you, Lord, through Sister Water of the islands of Montreal.

In 1935, Brother Marie-Victorin named these islands the Hochelaga archipelago, using one of the oldest names for Montreal. The Hochelaga archipelago, also known as the Montreal Islands, is a group of islands at the confluence of the Saint Lawrence and Ottawa in the southwest part of the province of Québec, Canada,[1] which empty into Lac des Deux Montagnes at the northwestern part of the greater Montreal area. The archipelago includes all the islands, around 130 of them, on the Mille-Îles River, which is 42 km long. The largest island in the group is the Island of Montreal, which forms the main portion of the City of Montreal. The city has jurisdiction over 74 smaller islands in the archipelago, most notably Nuns’ Island, Île Bizard and the two islands that served as the site of Expo 67, Saint Helen’s Island and the man-made Île Notre-Dame. The second-largest island in the archipelago is Île Jésus, which along with the Îles Laval and several smaller islands makes up the city of Laval.[2]

Two memorable events concerning the Franciscans-Recollects are associated with the Hochelaga archipelago and are commemorated in one location: Sault-au-Récollet. The more famous of these events is the first Mass celebrated on the island of Montreal, on June 24, 1615, at Rivière des Prairies, by Recollects Denis Jamet and Joseph Le Caron, in the presence of Champlain. The second is the drowning of Recollect missionary Father Nicolas Viel in the Rivière des Prairies in 1625, together with a young Frenchman named Ahuntsic. To commemorate this first Mass and also the drowning, in 1915 the city of Montreal erected in the middle of Nicolas Viel Park a granite stele (pillar) topped by a cross. (On the walls of the Montreal Cathedral are two large tableaux representing the first mass of June 24, 1615, and the drowning of Nicolas Viel in 1625.)

May ‘the extraordinary crossroads of running water’ of the Hochelaga archipelago bless the Lord. “Let the many coastlands be glad!”

Fr. Georges Morin, ofm