SEPTEMBER 9, 1984
Dear brothers and sisters,
On this, the first day of my pilgrimage, I am happy to have been able to pray at the tomb of Blessed François de Laval, first bishop of Quebec and of all North America. I had the great satisfaction of beatifying him in 1980, along with Marie de 1'Incarnation and Kateri Tekakwitha.
François de Laval came in 1639 to a Church still in its infancy, born of the courageous action of those priests and religious men and women who had brought the Gospel to these shores. As Vicar Apostolic he contributed selflessly to the gathering together of the first converts among the original inhabitants of this country and the early Christian settlers into a unity which was soon to become a diocese. At the same time he personally took part in missionary activity and shared with the pioneers the hardships of their 1ife.
While yet in France it had been possible for him to witness the vitality of a Christianity renewing itself under the impulse of numerous remarkable founders and of men and women of high spiritual accomplishments whose sense of God and of charity he shared. He wanted to establish the Church in this new country on firm foundations in communion with the bishop of Rome. One of the most significant of his contributions was the foundation of the major seminary and of the minor seminary, in which we now stand. These were founded in order to make possible the rapid development of the Quebec clergy.
With you I would like to give thanks for the gift of God which has become so evident in this land, particularly in the holiness of this first bishop and in that of all the founders.
I am thinking especially of the religious congregations whose missionary zeal was to produce so much sanctity. Jesuits, Récollets, Ursulines, Hospitalières Augustines de la Miséricorde, these were among the first to come from France to North America, soon to be joined by the Sulpicians and others. Later, numerous institutes were to be born, evidence of the flowering of a generous ecclesial community.
Dear religious men and women gathered here in this chapel, let us praise the Lord for all that he has allowed your predecessors to accomplish.
And now I would like to say, and I will be repeating it more than once during my journey, that the Church strongly counts on your action and witness. True, your role has changed over the last few years, but the essential element of your particular vocation remains: the gift of self in consecrated celibacy and a life of prayer and active charity. These are there for all to see. The concrete services you offer cannot be duplicated. This is true in the pastoral ministry, in the various institutions charged with the education of children or adults, and most of all in assistance to the underprivileged. May God call upon enough generous young people to join you so that you may both continue and renew your work.
May I extend particularly cordial greetings to those priests who are in charge of the Quebec seminaries. I would like to express my confidence in them and my best wishes for success in the primordial tasks that are theirs.
With all my heart I now give you my apostolic blessing.