Father Igais Julmus is a priest with his whole heart and his entire being. Impressed by Christ, who gave his life, this young Franciscan decided to offer his life to Christ in return. Imbued with the Word of God, he has devoted his life to preaching the Good News.
Born in Haiti in 1975, he was at first destined for a law career. Yet, as the years passed, he began to change his mind. During his studies, a Montfortain priest saw in him a future Franciscan. He then met a missionary of the Order of Friars Minor, Friar Raymond Maillhot. Equally influenced by his mother, who saw him becoming a priest, he did 2 years of postulancy in Honduras in 2004 and entered the novitiate in Guatemala in 2007. He then returned to Haiti to study philosophy and theology. He made his perpetual vows in 2013 and was ordained to the priesthood in 2015.
His hope? Teaching the Word of God and living according to the teachings of the Bible, especially the passage that he loves so well: “Just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” (Mt 25:40)
Although he seemed rather reserved at first, he soon showed his true colours. He admits that he feels really good when he is at “work,” such as when he is serving as a pastor: hearing a confession, presiding at a Eucharistic celebration, facilitating a pastoral activity, etc. “Presiding at 3 or 4 masses a day – no problem! It’s a joy!” He can even remember presiding at 6 masses one Sunday when he was doing ministry in Santo Domingo. “To preach, you have to prepare well, because it’s not my word, it’s the Word of God. That’s why I have to do it well. Essentially, I am an instrument: God passes through me to spread his message.”
Living in Montreal since October 2018, he shares his day-to-day life with Franciscans in the Resurrection house in the neighbourhood of Rosemont. A student at the Institut de pastorale des Dominicains, he is happy to take all the courses and training he can to improve his service to the Church. Particularly drawn to pastoral ministry with older people, he likes visiting the Franciscan friars who live and receive care at the Carrefour Providence residence. He enjoys interacting with the elderly friars. “I want to encourage them to live in joy and peace, despite the suffering that some of them experience.”
Arriving just before the cold weather, he had very little time to adjust to his new environment before the Quebec winter arrived. “Oh, winter – it isn’t a hassle. Thank God, I didn’t get sick; I was able to keep spreading his Word without any problems.” He had already experienced the cold when he lived in Guatemala; below-zero temperatures are not enough to stop him. He is ready to go anywhere to spread the Word of God.
Speaking of the snow, he laughs. “You have a blessed nation; it is like flour falling from the sky!” He quickly noticed that life goes on, despite the ups and downs of the weather. “Everyone keeps working.” He soon understood that when you are well dressed, with boots and a warm coat, winter is no longer an issue.
Living with the Franciscans in the house in Rosemont, in Montreal, is not much different from the other places he has lived. “Joy, welcome, religious life, community: Franciscan life is the same everywhere.” Although French is his second language (after Creole), he admits that living here in French has made it easier to adjust. Another asset when it comes to languages is being fluent in Spanish, which he learned during his time in Central America.
One of the biggest differences compared to his original culture that he has noticed since his arrival is the secularization of society. In Quebec, priests and Franciscans don’t wear their habit, or not often. He is bewildered by the ban on wearing religious symbols by certain public employees, and even more surprised that religion is not taught to children in Quebec schools. “Does that cause problems? Can’t we talk about the one who gave his life for us? The one who charts a path, the truth of life?”
In the past, missionaries went to Haiti and elsewhere to spread the Good News. Now, it’s the other way around. “God is hidden in a corner; we must not let ourselves be influenced by those who don’t have faith. It’s up to us to pass along God’s message, to give witness to our faith.”
Fr. Julmus suggests using small actions to hand on the message. We must continue to tell people about Jesus. Although not as many people go to mass on Sunday, this hope-filled Franciscan believes we can do a lot with those who come to church for weddings or funerals. The idea is to plant a seed. Harvest later. “I like walking along the streets of Montreal, sometimes with other friars, and talking to people. I say hi to strangers on the bus. Sometimes I talk to them.” Without mentioning that he’s a priest. “Mainly, I listen to them.”
“We have to keep the faith, be positive. Everything will be all right.”