Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of January 15, 2007
Church honours Society of Priests
Two dozen chapels honour the Virgin Mary and popular saints
St. Sulpice – January 17
By TED FITZGERALD
- WCR photo by Ted Fitzgerald
The statue of Saint-Sulpice sits above the sacristy door in the Paris church.
Finally, impressed with his piety, the bishop of Bourges sponsored him, and at 40 years of age, he was able to fulfill his desire to enter the religious life.
Among his other duties, he became the first French military chaplain, then bishop of Bourges where he founded the city's first hospital.
A basilica built over his tomb there soon became a pilgrimage destination. In the end, the holy patron of "delayed vocations" unknowingly gave his name to the world-wide religious order.
Like so many churches that are a part of an ongoing project to maintain these historic gems, his Paris sanctuary is half-shrouded in scaffolding as aging stonework is meticulously restored. Despite the construction, visitors can't help but be impressed with the huge, two-tiered, colonnaded fa‡ade that merges with solid looking twin bell towers.
The church interior is vast and overwhelming, said to be second in size in the city only to Notre-Dame-de-Paris. It is 119 metres in length with a vault looming 33 metres overhead and two dozen individual chapels.
Foremost of these is dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary with its remarkable golden statue of Mary and the Christ Child while others honour popular French and universal saints.
In addition to four daily Masses, the church provides a venue for regular concerts featuring its two famous organs.
Saint-Sulpice is intimately associated with the life of its first pastor, Jean Jacques Olier, a man who renewed activities devoted to assisting the poor, wrote a catechism that was used country-wide and improved liturgical celebrations.
He founded a community for the formation of priests which soon expanded beyond the parish as the Society of Priests of Saint-Sulpice. His seminary became a model for other French institutions and offshoots soon became established internationally to further the apostolic tradition promoted by Father Olier.
In Canada, following their arrival in 1657, the superior of the Gentlemen of Saint-Sulpice became seigneur of the entire island of Montreal.
The Sulpician Vieux Seminaire, the city's oldest building, outlived its parish church to see it replaced in 1830 by a famous neighbour, Notre-Dame Basilica. The still-active society is responsible for, among others, St. Joseph Seminary in Edmonton.
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