June 19, 2014

Catholic in Canada - a guest post by Melody Mercer

Thanks so much for having me Bonnie! Though I'll admit I was a bit nervous about writing something on Canada. First I definitely considered: Ten Ridiculous Things Canadians Do or Why Canadians Are Awesome but I want you to like me so we'll just save those for another time. So instead, I'm going to tell you about some awesome Catholic things about Canada!

A few facts (from the Canadian Conference of Bishops): 
  • The majority of Canadians identify themselves as Catholic.
  • The highest concentration of Catholics is in Quebec.
  • There are 61 dioceses in Canada (under a Bishop or Archbishop).
  • he first mass celebrated on what was to become Canadian soil was on July 7th 1534.
  • The first Canadian (possibly first North American) Bishop was Francois de Laval.
  • The first Pope to visit Canada was Pope John Paul II in 1984. He returned again in 1987 (to visit one town which weather had prevented him from visiting in 1984) and for World Youth Day in 2002.

Canada has some beautiful shrines and I've been lucky enough to go to a couple of them.  There are 5 shrines recognized by the Canadian Conference of Bishop as National Shrines:

Montreal, Quebec

Founded by Saint Brother Andre in 1904; his tomb is the chapel. The site draws huge crowds every year on the feast of St. Joseph, March 19th. There are many miracles and healings from Saint Joseph here. 

Saint Anne de Beaupré Basilica
Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupre, Quebec

Visited by over 1.5 million people each year, this shrine to Saint Anne was established in 1658. The building has magnificent mosaics and over 240 stain glass windows depicting the life of Saint Anne.


Considered the most important shrine to Our Lady in North America and is Canada's National Marian Shrine. It was inaugurated in 1964, however, its roots date back to the 17th century. Here the Brotherhood of the Rosary was formed in 1694 by Father Vachon. Several miracles by our Blessed Mother have taken place here.

National Canadian Martyrs Shrine
Midland, Ontario
This shrine is dedicated to the memory of the Canadian (also known as the North American) Martyrs, a group of 8 Jesuits Saints who were missionaries in North America. 

Lac-Bouchette, Quebec
St. Anthony's Hermitage is a pilgrimage site known for high quality and it's beautiful natural environment. It is run by the Capuchin Fathers. It was established in 1907. 

A number of Saintly men and women have shaped the Catholic Church in Canada. Until I started looking into it, I actually had no idea there were so many Canadian saints and so many blessed Canadians. Here are just a few of them:

The Canadian Martyrs - The Canadian Martyrs were a group of six Jesuit priests and two associates who worked as missionaries to the Hurons in the colonial days of New France. Having been martyred for their faith, they were canonized by Pope Pius XI on June 29, 1930. Their feast day is celebrated in Canada on September 26.

St. Marguerite Bourgeoys  - Marguerite Bourgeoys established the first school in Montreal and founded the Congregation of Notre Dame, an order of religious women, largely responsible for bringing Christian education to many areas of the New World. She worked hard to ensure the rights and welfare of women and children  and to guarantee that young people received an education. Canonized by Pope John Paul II on October 31, 1982, her feast day is celebrated on January 12.

 St. Francois de Laval - Francois was the first bishop in Quebec and North America, and was a dedicated shepherd to his people. He founded several educational opportunities for men and priests. He was just canonized by Pope Francis in 2014 and his body rests in the Notre Dame Basilica in Old Montreal. 

St.Kateri Tekawitha - The daughter of a Catholic woman and a Mohawk chief. Her parents and siblings died of smallpox when she was only 4 years old, she was left almost blind and badly scared. She got her knowledge of Christianity from the Jesuits and after her baptism at the age of 18, she lived piously and devoted her life to God. She fled for a Christian Mohawk village and there she took a vow of perpetual virginity. She died of tuberculosis at the age of 24. Witnesses claim that moments after her death, her scars disappeared. She was canonized by Pope Benedict XVI in 2012. She is the first Native American to be canonized.

St. Marguerite d'Youville - Marguerite d’Youville was instrumental in setting up hospitals in Montreal and founded the Grey Nuns (or Sisters of Charity). Her order spread across Canada, setting up hospitals. She was canonized by Pope John Paul II in 1990, her feast day is celebrated on October 16.

You can see the list of Canadian Blesseds here.

I really hope this was a great little lesson on Catholicism in Canada for you. While we have a strong Catholic presence, the majority of our Catholics are very lukewarm and do not adhere to Catholic teaching (i.e. the "Catholic" political leader, Justin Trudeau). We look at the United States and are so envious of your full churches and strong faithful but the Catholic faithful are here in Canada and we're awesome and we're turning the current tides of Catholicism in Canada and to bring us back to our roots.

I'm a newlywed to the love of my life and every day we grow more faithful and happier. I'm an NFP-advocate/instructor;  an administrative assistant by day and housewife by evening and weekend. I love beautiful things and I do my best to find them on our budget. I I'm trying my best to live naturally, environmentally and health conscious. I can be found with my nose in a book, spending too much time on pinterest or enjoying a bubble bath.

Thank you, Melody! And sorry I'm a knucklehead and forgot your lovely headshot and bio!



  1. Replies
    1. Definitely not! Unfortunately I couldn't cover everyone but I got him in under St. Joseph's Oratory - he was an amazing man!!

  2. Oh, love love love. We honeymooned right near St. Anne de Beaupre. Gorgeous shrine, gorgeous area (esp the ile), delicious food and drink. I hope to make it back someday (my brother just got a job at the U of Montreal so perhaps it is possible!). And all those Canadian saints are pretty awesome too!

  3. This comment originally came from Anne Harriss but got "misplaced" so I'm putting it back. :)

    About the blog where the contributor was making a list of Canandian Saints, she forgot St Martie de l'Incarnation, a Ursuline nun from Tours, in France, a very great mystic but also an incomparable business woman and educator, who started a convent school for girls very early on during the dangerous early years of the colony, taught a lot of Native (Indian) girls, and whose untiring apostolate was of immense help in stabilising and enriching the new society in that territory. Pope Francis canonised her last April (2014). She was a contemporary of Blessed Catherine of St Augustin (which was mentioned in the list...), an Augustinian nursing nun who started the local hospital, also a very great mystic..., The Saints of Cananda are not known enough, they are incredibly wonderful.

  4. When the choir and chamber singers toured through Canada in 2002(?) we went to the first two on the list and sang in both of them. They are amazing! Unfortunately, they are so dark and huge that my camera couldn't get very good pictures. On the first one, the steps in the middle are set aside for people who want to go up on their knees.

  5. Great job Melody, from a fellow Canadian. We do have a rich history that has become so besmirched by politicians and a culture that has completely forgotten the moral teachings of the Church in an effort to stay current. I really want to hit Quebec one day to visit all those shrines.

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