Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of August 30, 2004
Mere Marie's love healed lives
Chapelle Historique Bon-Pasteur honours the Good Shepherds' founder
Mere Marie Fitzbach - - Remembrance - - September 1
By TED FITZGERALD
Special to the WCR
Two historical buildings in Old Quebec City are tributes to the legacy of Mother Marie Josephte Fitzbach, first Canadian to found a religious order, the Good Shepherd congregation of Quebec, and a person who devoted her life to the care of the less fortunate.
Born in 1806 in south shore St. Vallier below Quebec City, Marie Fitzbach, a deeply religious person, married widower Francois Roy in 1828 and began a routine domestic existence. Following her husband's death five years later, she settled into a quiet life, raising two daughters, attending daily Mass and performing charitable deeds.
Unexpectedly asked by Quebec Bishop Turgeon to form a society devoted to aiding women recently released from prison, she accepted and in 1850 the Good Shepherd Institute was founded. Soon she gathered like-minded companions, sought financial assistance, acquired a house and expanded her area of concern to include unwed mothers, problem adolescents and children unable to obtain an education.
Then, on Feb. 2, 1856, a formal religious community was formed - the Good Shepherd Congregation.
In her lifetime, Mother Mary of the Sacred Heart, as she was known to her associates, saw her community grow and expand beyond the boundaries of her native Canada.
Within 12 years of the establishment of the order, Mere Marie and her community were occupying a facility on rue de la Chevrotiere, a block off famed Grande All‚e outside the city walls.
From here they served the needy of the town and worshipped in a spectacular central chapel.
This unusual, narrow sanctuary is two storeys above ground level and rises through another three storeys to a vaulted ceiling.
It was designed by famed architect Charles Baillairg‚. Extending along the nave walls, beneath the two levels of galleries from a central rendition of the Assumption by painter A. Plamondon, are religious paintings produced by the sisters over the years.
Namesake of the congregation, the Good Shepherd, is the manifestation of a caring Christ, as illustrated in the scriptural parable of the lost sheep (Luke 15:4-7).
About the time that the new Sisters of Bon-Pasteur were beginning their ministry in Quebec, Marie M‚tivier was helping unwed mothers at her home on rue Couillard within the city walls.
At her request, the Good Shepherd Sisters assumed management of her maternity hospice and greatly expanded the establishment so that much of what exists today dates from 1878.
Order goes overseas
The order continued to grow under Mere Marie's leadership, by 1882 had a convent in New England and later became involved in missionary activities overseas.
With dwindling enrollment in recent years, the old monastery has curtailed its activities.
Half of the main building is now the three-storey Bon Pasteur Museum, highlighting the history of the congregation.
Mere Marie passed away on Sept. 1, 1885 and is entombed at nearby Sillery. The anniversary of her death is a day of remembrance and prayer for members of the Bon-Pasteur community who are actively promoting the cause for beatification of their beloved foundress.
In 1975, a successful campaign was launched by the residents of Quebec to save the old chapel, threatened by expansion of nearby provincial government facilities. Adjoining parts of the complex became co-op housing while the Chapelle Bon-Pasteur was preserved as an historic site.
An agreement between the sisters and "Fide Art" allows the church to be used for concerts.
Travellers are attracted to the year-round celebration of the "Messe des artistes" at 11 a.m. each Sunday. Guest artists provide music for the Mass and for a short musical interlude. Considered to be an honour, local media and entertainment personalities are asked to deliver the Scripture readings at Mass.
Letter to the Editor - 09/13/04