Our Canadian Roots
A long-awaited foundation … The initiative of founding a Dominican province in Canada does not belong to a member of the Order, but to people here. In 1854, Bishop Jean-Charles Prince, the first bishop of Saint-Hyacinthe, a diocese created two years earlier, commissioned his grand-vicar Joseph-Sabin Raymond to write a memorial for the establishment of the Order of Friars Preachers in the diocese of Saint -Hyacinthe.
Why do Bishop Prince and Father Raymond want Dominicans? Because for a long time they follow the career of one of them, who has just restored the Order in France and whose reputation as a preacher is famous in the Church of the time: Brother Henri-Dominique Lacordaire.
In the 1830s, when Father Raymond was a professor at the Séminaire de Saint-Hyacinthe, led by Father Jean-Charles Prince, the young abbot Lacordaire joined Father Lammenais and Count Montalembert to found the newspaper The future. This newspaper is especially dedicated to the defense of religious freedom and education. The ideas put forth by this trio are echoed in favor in Saint-Hyacinthe, which is then the center of liberal thought in Canada. In fact, the abbots Prince and Raymond will propagate the thought of Lammenais with whom Father Raymond will maintain a followed correspondence . When his ideas were condemned in 1834, Lammenais broke with the Church. Lacordaire, for his part, chooses to continue the work in the Church.
The condemnation of L’Avenir is a cold shower for the two maskoutains who choose to follow Lacordaire. From 1835, he began a series of conferences at Notre-Dame de Paris, conferences that consecrate him as the preacher par excellence of his time. In Saint-Hyacinthe, the abbots Prince and Raymond circulate the texts as soon as they receive them. With time, the abbot Lacordaire acquires the conviction that it is necessary to restore in France the religious orders dissolved by the government and he decides to become a Dominican.
In 1839, he published his memoir for the reestablishment in France of the Order of Friars Preachers, then entered the novitiate of the Dominicans in Rome. His profession made, he returned to France to preach and make known the Order. He succeeded so well that in 1843 he founded in Nancy the first convent of Dominican restoration in France.
Meanwhile, as Abbé Raymond’s health caused some anxiety to his superiors, they sent him to Europe to rest. On the day of the year 1843, he listens to Lacordaire’s preaching in Nancy and takes the opportunity to talk about his desire to join the Order of Preachers. The Dominican dissuades him, preferring to see him continue to work for the education of Canada’s youth. Returning to the country, Father Raymond resumed his work at the Seminary, which he directed from 1847, but, as he later told Brother Lacordaire, “the attraction for the Order did not leave me”. It is understandable then that when prince becomes Bishop of Saint-Hyacinthe, heintends to establish in the new diocese the Order of the Friars Preachers.
In 1852, while in Rome, he had already confided to the Master of the Order, Alexandre-Vincent Jandel, of the possibility of a foundation in Canada. For his part, Father Raymond, as soon as he finished writing his memoir, wrote to Lacordaire to tell him about it and ask him to be able to establish the Third Dominican Order in Saint-Hyacinthe. Lacordaire agrees willingly. In 1855, Bishop Prince sent to the Master of the Order his official request for a Dominican foundation in Saint-Hyacinthe.
In his letter of 1854 to Lacordaire, Father Raymond said in his memoir: “The purpose of my work is to prepare minds for this purpose (the foundation); but we can not think of an imminent realization, for there are insurmountable difficulties for the moment. He did not suspect how true this was. It will take nearly twenty years of correspondence correspondence between the three bishops who succeed in Saint-Hyacinthe and the authorities of the Order before the project of Bishop Prince and Father Raymond finally arrives. On Saint-Hyacinthe’s side, it is argued that the Church would benefit from such a foundation. On the side of the Order, we hesitate to embark on such an adventure.
The province of France has just been restored and must first be consolidated before considering founding in Canada; few religious are available. The Order also hesitates between founding in Canada and founding in Louisiana. Finally, on July 22, 1873, the province of France, faced with the possibility of easier recruitment in Canada than Louisiana, accepted the request of a foundation from the bishop of Saint-Hyacinthe. On Sunday, October 5, 1873, Fathers Louis Bourgeois, Réginald Bernard, Louis Mothon and brother-in-law Simon Grappe officially took possession of Notre-Dame-du-Rosaire Parish in Saint-Hyacinthe.
During the solemn Mass presided over by Bishop Charles Larocque, Father Joseph-Sabin Raymond, the main architect of the Foundation, has the honor of delivering the welcome address to the Preachers. Newcomers receive a favorable reception throughout the country and, as early as 1874, vocations are announced. They will be sent to do their novitiate in France until 1885, when the novitiate of Saint-Hyacinthe opens. This event will greatly promote the development of the new foundation. The first Preacher to have his novitiate here is Hyacinthe Rousseau, a lay brother.
Slowly, the foundation grows and strengthens. However, if the novitiate is now here, the brothers must go to Europe to study theology. The next step, which will make it possible to firmly establish the foundation, is the opening in Saint-Hyacinthe, in 1889, of a department of theological studies, which will be moved to Ottawa in 1900. This foundation of a house of studies will allow young Dominicans from Canada to stay together and receive intellectual training adapted to the cultural context of Canada.
In 1908, the survival of the Canadian foundation was sufficiently assured for the Master of the Order, Hyacinthe Cormier, to establish it as a congregation under the name of St. Dominic of Canada. This is the first step towards full autonomy from the Province of France which had directed it until then. It was in 1911 that the congregation obtained the status of Province. The Master of the Order then names Brother Henri Hage as the first Provincial. The latter presides in the same year the first chapter of the Province.
The rest of the history of the Province would be too long to report here, and it is in the events surrounding its foundation that the ideal that still animates it today is expressed.
In France, faced with the crisis in which the Church lived, Henri-Dominique Lacordaire firmly believed that the solution lay in an intelligent preaching of the Gospel as projected by Dominique. On this side of the ocean, Joseph-Sabin Raymond and Bishop Prince perceived that this answer was also valid for the Canadian Church.
This concern for the intelligence of faith always animates the Dominicans. The challenge of their mission is always to offer to their contemporaries a preaching and a commitment that takes root in their life of study and prayer, as well as in their community life, and by which they propose in each era the liberating message of the Resurrected Jesus Christ.
by Louis Boulais and Luc Chartrand, o.p.