Holy Spirit Province Saint-Esprit
Franciscans of Canada - Franciscains du Canada
Ordo Fratrum Minorum
Even today, this excellent preacher, who could draw large crowds at the beginning of the 20th century inspires and fascinates. People are still talking about this exceptional man more than 100 years after his death.
Even today, people from all walks of life travel to make a pilgrimage or listen to one of his sermons. New devotions develop. His story is alive and well in the oral tradition of many families, in Québec and elsewhere. They like to tell his story, remembering his extreme poverty, his goodness, his charisma, his healings and his miracles that will lead him toward canonization.
Most Rev. Martin Veillette, Bishop Emeritus of the Diocese of Trois-Rivières, Québec, did not expect to get a new job at this stage of his life. With a touch of humour, he adds, “At my age, I thought I was safe from those kinds of requests.”
Despite his initial surprise, he accepted with pleasure the position of vice-postulator for the cause of canonization for Fr. Frédéric to offer this service to his Franciscan friends.
Since retiring in 2012, Bishop Veillette has served as the Diocese of Trois-Rivières’s representative on the Board of the Vice-Postulator, a committee established to support him in his duties.
Bishop Veillette went to Rome for the beatification of Fr. Frédéric in 1988, after being appointed bishop around two years earlier. “It was my first time in Rome and the first time I met Pope John Paul II.”
Officially in the position since September 1, 2020, Bishop Veillette now has the job of defending and advancing the cause for canonization… until the canonization. He works on preparing the dossier to prove the sanctity of Blessed Frédéric. To prove sanctity, you need to prove that there has been a miracle. “We speak of a miracle when a healing is judged to be otherwise unexplainable in scientific terms.” He must also prove that the miracle can be attributed to Fr. Frédéric. It must have happened by his intercession alone.
“Once the dossier has been assembled, it is sent to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, in Rome. The files are examined closely by various bodies, such as the medical commission, made up of seven doctors.” Obviously, this is a very complex process.
The work of Fr. Frédéric has unsuspected effects on the population. His goodness brings comfort and his protection offers encouragement.
Friar Gabriel Lacerte, ofm, is from Trois-Rivières. He explains how, as a child in the 1980s, he became acquainted with Fr. Frédéric’s goodness.
With his school, he went every year to the Fr. Frédéric Museum (at that time called “Fr. Frédéric’s Crypt” by the locals).
“My clearest memory of those visits was when I got a little statue and kept it with me for a long time. Fr. Frédéric was my safe “shelter,” and I could rely on him.”
Later in his life, he realized how much Fr. Frédéric had influenced his whole journey. Enough to want to follow in his footsteps as a Franciscan.
And so, in 2014, he received the habit and joined the Franciscans as a postulant. It was at the Trois-Rivières convent, where Fr. Frédéric had prepared the foundations of the Commissariat of the Holy Land in 1888, that he began his formation.
“Learning about Franciscan life under the gaze of Frédéric certainly influenced me. Also, I developed a great devotion to the Virgin Mary and a deep love for the Notre-Dame du Cap Shrine. And as I listened to Fr. Roland Bonenfant describe moments in the life of Fr. Frédéric, I got to know his work better.”
When he came to renew his vows on August 2, 2020, Friar Gabriel began his fourth year as a temporary professed.
Like many tourist and religious events, the 6th Prefestival of Fr. Frédéric (leading up to the Festival of the Assumption at the Notre-Dame-du-Cap Shrine) had to be cancelled because of the pandemic in 2020.
To mark the anniversary of his death in 1916, the Franciscans of Trois-Rivières celebrated a mass on August 4 in the Saint-Antoine chapel. Fr. Michel Boyer, OFM, presided. He spoke warmly and eloquently about the great walker that Fr. Frédéric was.
Around 70 people attended: a number of Franciscans, of course, some of their friends, and the people who tend to come to the chapel daily for the Eucharist. Devoted to Fr. Frédéric, Fr. Roland Bonenfant, OFM, is the former vice-postulator for the cause of Fr. Frédéric. Fr. Roland is also one of the fraternity’s great storytellers. A good speaker, he never tires of talking about the life of Blessed Frédéric, adding anecdotes as he speaks.
“First in his native France as a travelling salesman, then in the Holy Land from 1876 to 1888, constantly crisscrossing the land of Jesus as a man of faith, and then to Québec to open the Marian Shrine of the Most Holy Rosary in Cap-de-la-Madeleine, from 1888 to 1902. Finally, from 1902 to 1916, the year of his death, Fr. Frédéric visited, often on foot, a number of dioceses in Québec. He went out to meet the people, sharing the Good News and bringing a listening and compassionate ear to everyone he met. Blessed Frédéric was a man with a mission, a traveller for God, a source of inspiration for today.”