By Br. Michael Perras, O.F.M., and Br. Benjamin Ripley, O.F.M.
While making their way through the streets of old Quebec City, a group of Friars paused for a brief history lesson as they had done several times in the days previous. This time, however, next to them was a logo that read: “Guardians of the Past, Custodians of the Future.” It seemed to summarize the journey that was coming to an end.
This group of Friars was made up of thirteen who came from across Canada to journey together for one week August 6 – 13, 2017 in pilgrimage with the theme “On the Footsteps of the Récollets.” The Récollets are pioneering and missionary Franciscans that came to Canada with Samuel de Champlain in 1615. This pilgrimage, crafted by Guylain Prince, O.F.M., weaved its way through several communities, parks and national sites to tell their story and help the Friars of Canada today understand their roots.
The pilgrimage began in Trois-Rivières, where Blessed Frédéric Janssoone, O.F.M. is buried; then traveled north to the Gaspé Peninsula, where St. Bonaventure Island attracts tourists the world over; and then continued south into Quebec City, where the Récollets history is honored in a monument in the city square; concluding once again in Trois-Rivières, near the very site of the second Mass recorded in Canada.
Over the week together the Friars discovered not only breath-taking scenery and warm hospitality, but also fascinating stories about shipwrecks, ministry among the First Nations, artistic and carpentry skills, leadership abilities, spirituality, contemplation and the fraternal spirit of the Récollets. The missionary spirit of the Récollets struck a chord with the pilgrim Friars and challenged them to ponder their own Franciscan calling. The thirteen Friars were also taken by the hope the Récollets had, their openness and courage to be missionary and their perseverance that served as a driving force. The Friars discovered that this learning from our history leads to greater understanding today and provides hope for the future that is guided by the same Spirit that guided their brother Récollets and the process of becoming one Canadian province.
The Friars traveled together in three vehicles, setting up camp each night, enjoyed culinary adventures and much time together. It is indeed as agents of evangelisation, trusting in God’s providence, and appreciating the dignity of all, that these pilgrim Friars move from this pilgrimage to their realities as “Guardians of the Past, Custodians of the Future.”