Preparations well underway for Canadian visit of the major reliquary of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux

Tuesday, April 10 2001

(Ottawa — CCCB) – The visit to Canada of the major reliquary of Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus will begin in Vancouver, Monday, September 17, 2001, proceed to the other British Columbia dioceses – Victoria, Whitehorse, Kamloops and Prince George – and then go on to other localities right across Canada. Halifax will be the last Canadian diocese to receive the reliquary, which is then to return to Lisieux on December 15, 2001. By the end of its long journey across the nation, the reliquary will have visited 41 of Canada’s 63 Roman Catholic dioceses. Its itinerary will include three stopovers in the North: Whitehorse, Yukon Territory (Diocese of MacKenzie-Fort Smith); St. Theresa Point, northern Manitoba (Archdiocese of Keewatin-Le Pas); and probably several Labrador locations including Wabush and Labrador City (Diocese of Labrador City-Schefferville).

“We consulted the Bishops of Canada in March 2000 to know which dioceses would be able to receive the reliquary,” explained Mr. Jacques Binet, president of the National Committee which the Canadian Conference of Canadian Bishops (CCCB) established to organize the visit. “We are so happy that their response was tremendously enthusiastic. In fact, it would have been difficult to accommodate any more dioceses, given the length of time the relics will be here and also because of the huge logistics involved.”

The National Committee has been meeting every two months for more than a year now to prepare this Canadian Church project. The first challenge was to decide on the pastoral objective and theme for the visit. “After taking the experiences of previous host countries into account, and aware of how important the visit is for the Catholic Church in Canada, the Committee decided the best approach was the new evangelization,” Mr. Binet explained. “That’s why the Committee opted for the theme Encountering Jesus Christ … with Thérèse of Lisieux. We are proposing Thérèse as a special way to encounter Christ.”


Fundraising by the National Committee has so far brought in $50,000 from religious orders across Canada. This will be used to cover most of the expenses, including transportation and the production of various resource materials. Negotiations are also in process with possible sponsors for transporting the reliquary by plane and van. Members of the Knights of Columbus are volunteering across Canada to take turns driving the vehicle that will transport the reliquary and which has already been dubbed the “Thérèse-obile”. Made by a Brazilian artist in 1927, the reliquary weighs more than 135 kilos (300 lbs) and measures 1.5 metres long by 1 metre wide and 0.85 metres high (a little more than 4 ½ feet by three feet by two feet high).

Resource materials are being prepared and will be made available to the host dioceses, although each diocese is responsible for organizing the visit locally. The program for the Canadian visit will therefore vary from one diocese to another, according to local input. For example, in the Diocese of Labrador City-Schefferville, a local businessman has already indicated he will make his own personal helicopter available for the visit. This means the reliquary can be transported to the remote areas of the diocese and up to the border of the new northern territory of Nunavuk. There are also plans to take the reliquary from the airport in Wabush to nearby Labrador City by dogsled.

“From the very beginning, even when our work was at a preliminary stage, we were telling dioceses to think big. This was the same message we ourselves were getting from Church authorities in Lisieux,” Jacques Binet said. “In the United States, just as in the other countries that have received the reliquary over the last five years, diocesan officials were overwhelmed by the public response. Canada will certainly not be an exception to this. We expect thousands of people will want to be part of the visit. After all, Pope Saint Pius X said Thérèse was the most important saint in modern times.”

Doctor of the Church

Saint Thérèse of Lisieux (Thérèse Martin) was 24 years old when she died of tuberculosis in 1897, just nine years after becoming a member of the Carmelite convent in Lisieux, France. Her reputation for holiness quickly spread after the posthumous publication of a collection of her three manuscripts under the title of Story of a Soul. Right after her death, there were reports of extraordinary events associated with her, including cures and conversions. Pilgrims were soon flocking to Lisieux. Beatified in April 1923, she was canonized two years later, on May 17, 1925. In October 1997, she was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church by Pope John Paul II, in recognition of the exceptional influence of her spirituality throughout the world.

The Canadian Catholic publishing house Novalis has indicated to the National Committee its own plans for the Canadian visit. These include a special issue of Living with Christ and Prions en Église. The 96-page issue will provide various liturgical celebrations, songs, prayers, photographs and texts on the life and spirituality of Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus. Currently in production, the special issue will be distributed across Canada this August.

Youth are also being invited to participate in the visit of the reliquary to Canada as this is an excellent preparation for the upcoming World Youth Day celebrations to be held in Toronto in the summer of 2002. A working group is preparing special activities for young people as part of the visit, with youth gatherings already planned for several Canadian cities. Each diocesan committee also has the option of including a youth celebration as part of its overall program for receiving the relics.

“If the visit is to be a good one, not only as to how it is organized but also in terms of the benefits it will bring spiritually and for the Church as a whole, we have to invest the necessary time and energy,” according to Jacques Binet. “The Catholic Church in Canada has everything to gain by this visit. These are the relics of the world patronness of missions. The result can only mean new energy for today’s mission of evangelizing. We will be welcoming Thérèse herself, not just her human remains. For our National Committee, this perspective has made all the difference. After all, Thérèse is the one who wanted to spend heaven by doing good on earth. In her own way, the Little Flower will be using her visit to repeat her message that we must have faith in and entrust ourselves to the Lord’s mercy and love.”

When the reliquary arrives this September, Canada will be the 22nd country to have been visited. Everywhere it has travelled since 1995, it has attracted large and enthusiastic crowds.