Last Updated: Wednesday - 01/05/2011
September 24, 2001
Army of Mary still operating
Quebec group disputes CCCB's 'doctrinal note'
CANADIAN CATHOLIC NEWS
LAC ETCHEMIN, QUE. — The Army of Mary is based in a sprawling $5 million chapel and retreat house opened only 18 months ago near the banks of scenic Lac Etchemin, 100 kms south of Quebec City.
The Centre Spiri-Maria, as it is called, is just a short walk from the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Etchemin, a well-preserved wooden church surrounded by walking paths and a groomed lawn. It is here where, in 1971, Marie Paule Giguere, a local mother of five, founded the Army of Mary.
Described by some followers not only as a devout and humble Catholic and a gifted prophet, but also as the reincarnation of the Blessed Virgin herself, Giguere has attracted a following of over 25,000 people in 14 countries including Canada and the United States.
The establishment of the Army came through what Giguere, now 80, believes was a message from God - one of many prophetic messages she claims to have received for more than 40 years. In it, she was told that the army would be recognized by a single trait: Its fidelity to Rome and to the pope.
Ironically, the Army is now being accused by the church itself, including the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops through its doctrinal note, of being heretical. It's a claim the Army vehemently denies.
"It's a community that cannot be accused of heresy or of teaching something contrary to the church," said Sylvie Payeur-Raynauld, a former Catholic nun and a close aide of Giguere.
"The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops may declare that we are not a Catholic association, but in our hearts and souls, we remain faithful to the Catholic faith, to every article of the Creed, to our devotion to the Triple White, which is at the basis of our spirituality, the Eucharist, the Blessed Virgin and the pope," said Payeur-Raynauld.
Father Pierre Mastropietro, president of both the Centre Spiri-Maria and the so-called "works" of the Army of Mary, also said the community follows the Magisterium — the teachings of the church — "deeply" and "exactly."
He believes it is a mistake "against faith and the Holy Spirit" for anyone to reject any phenomenon just because it happens to be new. "Just because the door of revelation is closed, doesn't mean we have understood everything," said Mastropietro "Maybe, through such instruments of God (as Marie-Paule), He may enlighten our understanding of faith."
Last year, Archbishop Maurice Couture, the Archbishop of Quebec and a member of the CCCB's Permanent Council, admitted at a press conference that there was nothing more Catholic than the Army's devotion to Mary, to the Eucharist and to the pope, said Payeur-Raynauld. But the archbishop also said that what the church doesn't agree with is that Marie-Paule seems to take herself as the Blessed Virgin.
"That's the (main) point for them," but it isn't true, she said. "She doesn't take herself as the Blessed Virgin, never, never, never." Marie-Paule says only that she is an instrument through which Mary passes, she added.
However, there is little doubt that many of Giguere's followers believe she is in fact the reincarnation of Mary the Mother of God. Publications of the Army — which denies it is a sect or that it is guilty of heresy — point to the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima in 1954 and makes references to a message from God that He would be giving the world an ultimate weapon to fight evil — the Blessed Virgin herself.
"Mary is supposed to come on earth," said Payeur-Raynauld. But asked directly if Marie-Paule is the Virgin Mary, she replied "She is and she isn't." The Army of Mary founder is a mystic who was told by God in 1958, "My mother is reincarnated in you," but Marie-Paule herself has never made the claim, she said. "She remains Marie-Paule, a person other than Mary. However, we could explain that by saying it is the spirit of Mary who invaded the spirit of Marie-Paule."
In their doctrinal note, the Canadian bishops' conference says the Army has a "misguided interpretation of Catholic teaching." The Army's teachings about Mary would in effect rob Mary of her "unique, irreplaceable role in salvation history," it said. And the Army's interpretation of the reincarnation of Mary "all but renders superfluous Mary's on-going intercession in heavenly glory," it added.
Marie-Paule's work can be judged by its fruits, said Payeur-Raynauld. These include founding the Army of Mary, the Sons — whose first priest was ordained by Pope John Paul II in 1986 — and the Daughters.
A request for a CCN interview with the semi-reclusive Giguere, who lives at Spiri-Maria, was denied. "For the time being she is unavailable," said Mastropietro.
Only two Canadian bishops, both conservatives, have openly supported the Army of Mary. They are Bishop Eugene LaRocque, the bishop of the Diocese of Alexandria-Cornwall, in Eastern Ontario, and Bishop Colin Campbell, who heads the Diocese of Antigonish, N.S.
Facing an uncertain future, it is business as usual for the Army of Mary and its newly built Centre Spiri-Maria at Lac Etchemin. Buoyed by scores of letters of support from its members since the bishops' doctrinal note was issued, the Army says it will continue doing what it believes is "God's work."
"We just have to keep our faith and do the work of God and let him prove the faithfulness of our foundress and the authenticity of this work," said Mastropietro. "It is His work, not ours or our foundress. Time will tell."
Copyright © 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 -- Western Catholic Reporter
Our mission: To serve our readers by bringing the Gospel to bear on current issues in the Church and in secular culture through accurate news coverage and reflective commentary.