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Archdiocese of Montreal

Archdiocese of Montreal

Metropolitan of the ecclesiastical Province of Montreal. Suffragans: the Dioceses of Saint-Hyacinthe, Sherbrooke, Valleyfield, and Joliette. Catholic population, 470,000; clergy, 720, of whom 395 are secular priests. Protestant population, 80,000, composed of different sects. The diocese, separated from Quebec by Gregory XVI (1836), has a maximum length of sixty and breadth of fifty-two miles. (See the official reports of His Grace the Archbishop to the Holy See, in the Archives of Montreal.)

The present article will be divided into: I. History; II. Present Conditions. Division I will be subdivided by periods: A. Before the Cession (1763); B. From the Cession to the Formation of the Diocese (1836); C. From 1836 to the present time (1910), in the last subdivision including an account of the Eucharistic Congress of 1910.


A. Before the Cession

On his second voyage (1535), Jacques Cartier, the discoverer of Canada, after stopping at Stadaconè (Quebec), went up the St. Lawrence to the savage village of Hochelaga, now Montreal. It was Cartier, who bestowed the beautiful and well deserved name of Mont Royal on the mountain that overhangs the present city. In 1608 Quebec was founded by Samuel de Champlain. While, in Canada, the youthful colony was endeavouring to live under the rather weak, because too selfish and mercantile, government of the Compagnie des Cent-Associés, the Compagnie de Notre-Dame-de-Montréal was being formed in France. Two men of God, M. Olier, of Saint-Sulpice, and M. de la Dauversière, were the life of this Compagnie de Montréal. They offered themselves without imposing any burden on the king, the clergy, or the people, having as their sole aim, the glory of God and the establishment of religion in New France. This association having addressed itself to M. Chomodey de Maisonneuve, found in him one who would carry out its wishes faithfully. The island of Montreal was purchased from the Compagnie des Cent-Associés, for purposes of colonization (7 August, 1640). On 18 May, 1642, M. de Maisonneuve arrived at the foot of Mount Royal, and landed with Mlle Jeanne Mance, the future foundress of the Hôtel-Dieu. Ville-Marie, as he first named Montreal, was then founded. (See CANADA.) For thirty years an heroic struggle had to be carried on against the Iroquois. In 1653 there arrived Marguerite Bourgeoys, who a little later established the Sisters of the Congregation. In 1657 the first Sulpicians, sent by M. Olier on his death-bed, settled under the direction of M. de Queylus. From that time the spiritual wants of Montreal have been entrusted mainly to the Fathers of Saint-Sulpice (see SAINT-SULPICE, CONGREGATION OF). It was at Montreal that Dollard formed his famous battalion in 1660. There also, Lemoyne and, before him, Lambert Closse, after Maisonneuve, had won great distinction.

M. de Queylus, the Sulpician, had come to Canada as Vicar-General of Rouen (1657). Rightly or wrongly, the Archbishop of Rouen believed that Canada was subject to him in spiritual matters, as the missionaries had gone thither from his diocese; neither the pope nor the king had raised any objection. Mgr de Laval arrived at Quebec in 1659. M. de Queylus, not having been informed directly, either by the Court or by the Holy See, of the nomination of Laval by Alexander VII, hesitated a moment before yielding up the spiritual rights which he believed to be his (see LAVAL, SAINT-SULPICE). On 28 October, 1678, Mgr de Laval erected canonically the parish of Notre-Dame at Montreal, which was naturally confided to the Sulpicians. From that time to the cession, the successive curés were MM. François Dollier de Casson (30 Oct., 1678); François Vachon de Bellemont (28 Sept., 1701); Louis Normant (25 May, 1732); Etienne Montgolfier (21 June, 1759). The third successr of Mgr de Laval, Mgr Dosquet, from 1725 till 1739 Coadjutor, and later Bishop, of Quebec, was an old Sulpician from Montreal. In 1682, the Recollects were called to Montreal. From the time of their arrival at Quebec in 1615, these religious had been travelling through the country, and one of their number, Father Viel, had perished, with his disciple Ahuntsic, in the Sault-au-Recollet, near Montreal, both victims of the treachery of a Huron.

The Jesuit missionaries constantly journeying through these regions, frequently passed by Montreal in these early days. It was in 1669 that the Prairie de la Magdeleine was established south of Montreal. This Jesuit Mission was transferred later to Sault-Saint-Louis, now Caughnawaga. The house, and the desk at which the celebrated Père Charlevoix wrote his "Relations", are still to be seen there. It was there, too, that the saintly Iroquois, Catherine Tegakwitha, lived. The Iroquois mission of Caughnawaga has lately been again taken under the care of the Jesuits. Mlle Mance had founded the Hotel-Dieu, on her arrival, in 1642. In 1658 the Venerable Marguerite Bourgeoys established the Sisters of the Congregation, for the instruction of young girls. Then, in 1738, Venerable Marguerite Dufrost de la Jemmerais (the widow of d'Youville) laid the foundations of the Institute of the Grey Sisters. The superiors of Saint-Sulpice, in addition to being curés of Notre-Dame, were also vicars-general of the Bishop of Quebec. After the vistory of Wolfe over Montcalm on the plains of Abraham and the capitualtion of Quebec (1760), Mgr de Pontbriant, the last bishop of the French period, withdrew to the Sulpicians at Montreal.

B. From the Cession to the Formation of the Diocese (1836)

Montreal remained a part of the Diocese of Quebec until 1836. The curés of Notre-Dame during this period were after M. Montgolfier, MM. Jean Brassier (30 August, 1791); Jean-Auguste Roux (24 Oct., 1798); Joseph-Vincent Quiblier (12 April, 1831). The Treaty of Paris (1763) provided that the Canadians should enjoy "the free exercise of their religion, as far as is permissible under the laws of Great Britain". A great struggle followed. The Sulpicians of Montreal, as well as the Recollects and the Jesuits, were forbidden to receive any additions to their ranks. They had numbered 30 in 1763, but in 1793 there remained only two, who were septuagenarians. The British Government, however, at that time allowed the French priests who were driven out by the Revolution to settle in Canada, and of the thirty-four who came twelve were Sulpicians. In 1767 the College of Montreal was founded by the Sulpician, M. Curatteau de la Blaiserie. In 1765, the Hotel-Dieu, and in 1769 the establishment of the Sisters of the Congregation, which had been burnt, arose from their ruins, thanks to Saint-Sulpice. In 1801, Mgr Plessis (b. at Montreal in 1763) was consecrated at Quebec. This was the great bishop (1801-1815) who fought so ably and so resolutely for religious liberty. The clergy of Montreal supported him. Mgr Plessis, having asked for auxiliaries, obtained, among others Mgr Provencher for the West and Mgr Lartigue, a Sulpician, for Montreal. The latter was consecrated Bishop of Telmessus in 1820. In 1809 the College of St. Hyacinthe was founded by M. Girouard; in 1825 the College of Sainte-Thérèse, by M. Ducharme; in 1832, the College of the Assumption, by M. François Labelle. This was the answer given to the English Protestants, who, with their Institution Royale, wished to monopolize education in all its branches. In 1824 the fabriques (administrative councils in charge of church revenues) were authorized to acquire and hold property for the support of the schools. In 1838 normal schools were established by the help of the clergy. In 1832, and again in 1834, a cholera epidemic afforded opportunities for the display of heroic zeal. In 1836 the Society for the Propagation of the Faith was established at Montreal, on the model of the society founded at Lyons in 1822, with which it became affiliated in 1843, but from which it separated in 1876. Mgr Plessis was succeeded in the See of Quebec by Mgr Panet, in 1825, and Mgr Signay (Sinai) followed in 1832. Finally, on 13 February, 1836, Montreal was erected into a diocese by Pope Gregory XVI.

C. From 1836 to the Present Time (1910)

This was a disturbed, but very fruitful and prosperous period. After the unfortunate events of 1837-38 (when several Montreal villages, on the Richelieu and at Deux Montagnes, inspired by a noble-hearted generosity rather than by prudence, rose up in arms against the encroachments of British bureaucracy) there followed the period called the Union of the Two Canadas (1840-67). Parliamentary institutions dependent on the people were established by the efforts of Lafontaine and Cartier. The Confederation was established in 1867. (See CANADA). During this peiod the bishops and archbishops of Montreal were: Mgr Lartigue, consecrated in 1821, titular in 1836, d. 1840; Mgr Bourget, coadjutor in 1837, titular in 1840, resigned in 1876, d. 1885; Mgr Fabre, coadjutor in 1873, titular bishop in 1876, archbishop in 1886, d. 1896; Mgr Bruchési, archbishop from 1897 to the present time. The superiors of Saint-Sulpice, after M. Quiblier, were MM. Bilaudèle (1846), Granet (1856), Bayle (1866), Colin (1881), and Lecoq (1902).

The foundation of the Grand Séminaire at Montreal took place in 1840; of the Canadian College at Rome, in 1888; of the Séminaire de Philosophie, near the Grand Séminaire, at Montreal, in charge of the Sulpicians, in 1894. The Brothers of the Christian Schools arrived in 1837; the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, in 1841. The Jesuits returned in 1842, their novitiate was opened in 1843, and the College Sainte-Marie, in 1848. The Viateurs and the Fathers of the Holy Cross arrived in 1847. Of the communities of women, the Religious of the Society of the Sacred Heart arrived from France in 1842; the Sisters of the Good Shepherd of Angers, for teaching and establishing homes for penitents, arrived in 1843; in the same year the Sisters of Providence were founded by Madame Gamelin, for teaching and works of charity, as were the teaching Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary; the Sisters of the Holy Cross, also a teaching institute from France, arrived in 1847; in 1848 the institute of Soeurs de la Misericorde were founded for the care of Magdalenes and in 1850 the Sisters of St. Anne, for teaching. Colleges were founded at Joliette and Bourget, by the Clerics of Saint-Viateur in 1846 and 1850; at Saint-Laurent, by the Fathers of the Holy Cross, in 1847. (For the Laval University, chartered in 1852, and its succursal at Montreal, see LAVAL UNIVERSITY OF QUEBEC.) In 1852 the Diocese of Saint-Hyacinthe was erected, and in 1874 that of Sherbrooke; both of these became suffragan of Montreal in 1886, when Montreal became a metropolitan see. The other two suffragans, Valleyfield and Joliette, were erected in 1892 and 1904 respectively. Other notable events were: in 1840, the missions of Mgr Forbin Janson, and the Act granting separate schools (denominational); in 1843, the preaching of temperance; in 1848, the establishment of colonization societies (celebrated later under the direction of Mgr Labelle, parish priest of St. Jérôme) to counteract the emigration movement towards the United States; in 1866, division of the parish of Notre-Dame (since divided further into more than 50 parishes); in 1868, the condemnation by Bishop Bourget, confirmed by the Holy See, of the "Institut Canadien", a club which by means of its books and its lectures had become a centre of Voltaireanism and irreligion; also "the Guibord affair", a famous lawsuit in reference to the burial in consecrated ground of a member of the same club. About 1884, began at Montreal the Lenten lectures in Notre Dame, then those in the Gesu, and lastly those in the cathedral (in 1898) under Mgr Bruchesi. In 1896 Loyola College was founded by the Jesuits for English-speaking Catholics; in 1905, Mgr Racicot was appointed auxiliary bishop to the Archbishop of Montreal.

The Eucharistic Congress of 1910

The Twenty-first International Eucharistic Congress was held at Montreal, 7-11 September, 1910. (For the origin and object of these congresses, see CONGRESSES, CATHOLIC: International Congresses.) At the Eucharistic Congress of London, in 1908, the Committee offered Mgr Bruchesi the opportunity to hold the Congress of 1910 in his archiepiscopal city. For a year the various committees at Montreal worked energetically in preparation for the event. Pius X sent as legate a latere His Eminence Vincenzo Vannutelli, Cardinal-Bishop of Palestrina. All the bishops of Canada and the United States and a large number from Europe were present in person or sent their representatives. Three cardinals, one hundred and twenty archbishops and bishops, between three and four thousand priests, and more than a half million lay visitors came to Montreal. The literary reunions of the French-speaking section were held at the house of the Fathers of the Blessed Sacrament, Laval University, and the National Monument, while those of the English-speaking section took place at the Convent of the Sacred Heart, Windsor Hall, and Stanley Hall. More than a hundred studies on the Blessed Eucharist -- in relation to dogma, moral, history, discipline, pious practices, devotions, and associations -- were read and discussed. Each seance was presided over by a bishop. Special reunions for priests, men and women, and for the young were held with great success.

A splendid gathering of twenty thousdand young men received the papal legate with enthusiasm; thirty thousand school-children passed in review before him. It is estimated that a hundred thousand men marched in procession on the occasion of the solemn closing of the Congress, Sunday, 11 September, in the presence of 700,000 spectators. The streets of the city were magnificently decorated for the occasion with triumphal arches, draperies, and flags, under the direction of the committee of architects. On the side of Mont Royal, in the Parc Mance, an immense park in the form of an amphitheatre, a monumental altar had been erected; there Mass was celebrated in the open air on 10 September, and there on the following day, the great procession terminated, when nearly 800,000 Christians assembled to welcome Jesus in the Eucharist held in the hands of the cardinal legate, blessing Montreal, Canada, America, and the whole world. Besides the literary reunions already mentioned, two great meetings were held on Friday and Saturday evenings at Notre-Dame, where speeches in honour of the Christian Faith and the Blessed Sacrament were delivered by: Cardinal Vannutelli, Cardinal Logue, Archbishops Bruchési, Bourne, and Ireland, Bishops Touchet and Rumeau, Sir Wilfrid Laurier, Sir Lomer Gouin, Hon. Thomas Chapais, Judge Doherty, Deputy Tellier, Judge O'Sullivan, Deputy Henri Bourassa, M. Gerlier, and many other distinguished ecclesiastics and laymen of the Old and New World. These memorable displays of eloquence made a deep impression in the souls of the twelve to fifteen thousand auditors. Also in the church of Notre-Dame, at the first hour of Thursday, 8 September, as a religious prelude to the literary seances, an imposing midnight Mass was celebrated, at which thousands of men received Holy Communion, the Mass having been preceded by an hour's solemn adoration under the direction of members of the Association Adoration Nocturne of Montreal. The ceremony of the official reception of the papal legate, the special Mass on Thursday, 8 September, in favour of the numerous religious communities of Montreal, and also the high Mass on Sunday, 11 September, sung by the cardinal legate, at which Cardinal Gibbons and Mgr Touchet preached, all took place in the cathedral of St. James. At the open-air Mass on Saturday, 10 Sept., sung by Mgr. Farley, the preachers were Mgr O'Connell and the Rev. Father Hage.

What specially distinguished the Congress of Montreal from any previous Eucharistic Congress was the official participation of the civil, federal, provincial, and municipal authorities. The Canadian Pacific Railway Company had sent a representative to meet the legate in Rome, and His Eminence crossed the ocean on board one of the Empress liners of the same company. At Quebec the Federal Government yacht met the cardinal and his suite, and conveyed them thence to Montreal. All along the route, the population on the banks of the river greeted the legate as he passed. At Montreal, despite most inclement weather, an immense crowd gave him an enthusiastic reception. Mayor Guerin presented addresses of welcome in French and English. During the congress, the Federal Government, the Provincial Government, and the City of Montreal each held a reception for the legate and other official personages. Under the immediate direction of Archbishop Bruchesi and the more remote direction of the Permanent Committee of the Eucharistic Congresses, presided over by Mgr Heylen, Bishop of Namur, four great committees laboured to organize the Congress of Montreal: Committee of Works: president, Canon Gauthier; vice-presidents, MM. Lecoq, McShane, Perrier, and Auclair. Committee of Finance: president, Canon Martin; vice-presidents, Sir Thomas Shaughnessy and Hon. L. J. Forget. Committee of Reception: presidents, Canon Dauth and Father Donnelley; vice-presidents, Canon Roy and Father Troie. Committee of Decorations and Procession: president, Canon Le Pailleur; vice-presidents, Fathers Belanger, Laforce, Piette, Rusconi, O'Reilley, Martin, Deschamps, Heffernan. To these committees there had been added for press purposes a special committee presided over by Father Elie J. Auclair.


The Diocese of Montreal, at the present time (1910) is under the direction of Mgr Paul Bruchési, with an auxiliary bishop (at present the Rt. Rev. Mgr Zotique Racicot, titular Bishop of Pogla), and a cathedral chapter. The Catholic population is about 470,000, served by 720 priests; the non-Catholics, about 80,000; there are 150 parishes or missions, 66 of which are in the city and suburbs. Besides Laval University (see above), the seminaries and colleges are: the Grand Séminaire, with 350 students; the Séminary of Philosophy, 120; the Montreal College, 300; and Sacerdotal College, recently founded and under the direction of the Sulpicians; St. Mary's and Loyola College, under the direction of the Jesuits; those of Ste Therese and l'Assomption, under secular priests, and of Saint Laurent, under the Fathers of the Holy Cross. In all, some 2000 boys and young men are trained in these colleges. In addition to these, 64,000 children are taught in the schools or convents of religious orders, and 24,000 by lay Catholic teachers, men and women. Some 1500 Brothers, and more than 3700 Sisters devote themselves, in the diocese, to works of teaching or of charity. There are nearly 60 hospices, asylums, or orphanages, where some 45,000 old people, orphans, sick, and infirm are charitably cared for. Moreover, according to the latest official diocesan report, from which the above details are gathered, more than 200 secular priests from this diocese and more than 4000 Sisters minister or teach in other parts of Canada or in the United States.

In 1909, there were some 390 secular priests in the diocese, 80 Sulpicians, 150 Jesuits, 20 Oblates of Mary Immaculate, 30 Franciscans (in Montreal since 1890), 30 Trappists, 50 Redemptorists (in Montreal since 1884), 30 Fathers of the Holy Cross, 20 of the Holy Sacrament (1890), 8 of St. Viator, 5 of the Company of Mary, 10 Dominicans (1901), 2 Brothers of St. Vincent de Paul (1908). It would be impossible to give all the details of this useful and fruitful religious life. The Carmelites (1875) and the Sisters of the Precious Blood (1874) are vowed to the contemplative life. To these communities have been added the Little Sisters of the Poor (1887), the Soeurs de l'Espérance (1901), the Sisters of the Immaculate Conception (1904), the Daughters of Wisdom (1910), and the Brothers of the Presentation (1910). The parishes, in town and country, are in a flourishing condition. Mgr Bruchesi has devised a plan of giving poor churches help and protection by making certain rich, older parishes act as their sponsors. Every year, on one of the Sundays of September, all Montreal visits the cemetery, near the top of Mount Royal, where, in the presence of 50,000 Catholics, a service for the dead takes place, possibly the only one of its kind in the world. On the eve of the civic Labour Holiday, the archbishop has, for some years past, invited the workmen of his diocese to be present at a religious service.

Archives de l'archeveche de Montreal; La Sem. Religieuse (Montreal), files; DE CELLES, Papineau (Montreal, 1905); CADIEUX AND DEROME, Calendrier ecclesiastique (1905); CHASSEGROS, Hist. du noviciat des Jesuites; FOURNET in Dict. de theol. cath. (Paris, 1904), s.v. CANADA; TANGUAY, Repertoire du clerge canadien (Montreal, 1893); GARNEAU, Histoire du Canada, II, III; GUERARD, La France Canadienne in Le Correspondant (April, 1877); CHRISTIE, History of Canada (Quebec, 1848); Relation de Jacques Cartier in LESCARBOT, Hist. de la Nouvelle-France (Paris, 1609); DIONNE, La Nouvelle-France de Cartier a Champlain (Quebec, 1891); BEAUBIEN, Hist. du Sault-au-Recollet (Montreal, 1897); FAILLON, Vie de Mme d'Youville (Montreal, 1852); JETTE, Vie de la Venerable Mere d'Youville (Montreal, 1900); GARNEAU, Histoire du Canada, I; DOLLIER DE CASSON, Histoire de Montreal (Montreal, 1869); FAILLON, Histoire de la Colonie Franciase en Canada (Montreal, 1865); IDEM, Vie de la Ven. Mere Bourgeoys (Paris, 1853); IDEM, Vie de Mlle Mance (Paris, 1854); IDEM, Vie de M. Olier (Paris, 1873); ROUMAN, Vie de Paul Chomodey de Maisonneuve (Montreal, 1886); The Narrative of the Eucharistic Congress, September 7-11, 1910 (Montreal, 1910).


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