Blessed Frederic Janssoone is depicted addressing a crowd outside Our Lady of the Cape Shrine in Trois-Rivières, Que., in undated artwork by J. Lacoste.

CNS ARTWORK | PRESENCE

Blessed Frederic Janssoone is depicted addressing a crowd outside Our Lady of the Cape Shrine in Trois-Rivières, Que., in undated artwork by J. Lacoste.

August 15, 2016
PHILIPPE VAILLANCOURT
CATHOLIC NEWS SERVICE

QUEBEC CITY - Canada owes him the return of the Franciscans, the founding of the country's largest Marian sanctuary, and the development of strong and lasting ties between the French Canadians and the Holy Land.

Yet, 100 years after his death and although he might become Canada's next saint, Blessed Frederic Janssoone still remains largely unknown to many people even in Quebec.

Franciscan Father Roland Bonenfant, vice postulator of Pere Frederic's sainthood cause, said, "First and foremost, heritage is the way he developed strong bonds between the Catholics of Canada and the spiritual roots of their religion - namely the Middle East places where Jesus, the apostles and the first witnesses of Christ have lived."

Frederic Janssoone was born in 1838 in northern France, joined the Franciscans in 1864 and was ordained in 1870.

From 1876 to 1888, he was the custodial vicar of the Holy Land, assisting with care of holy places. These 12 years left a strong imprint on him, giving him a deep attachment to the Holy Land.

He re-established the Way of the Cross processions on Jerusalem's Via Dolorosa - a first in almost 250 years. He also built ecumenical ties with representatives of other Christian churches.

In 1888, he was sent to Canada to resurrect the Franciscans and establish the Commissariat of the Holy Land.

"When he arrived here, he was surrounded by the aura of the Holy Land and the aura of the Recollects, who were deeply loved, back then," said Bonenfant.

Pere Frederic became increasingly involved in the life of the Canadian Church. He contributed to the foundation and development of Our Lady of the Cape Shrine near Trois-Rivières.

One aspect of his work was his door-to-door visits to the local people.

"He was considerate and had a special connection with the French Canadian families, as well as with poor people," said the vice postulator.

Local historian Rene Beaudoin also stressed the impact of Pere Frederic's visits in the Trois-Rivières region.

"It gave him the chance to build ties with families and to become a popular figure in the region. This has had a tremendous impact," said Beaudoin.

Brigitte Caulier, who teaches Canadian religious history at Laval University in Quebec City, said the potential saint's heritage mainly rests on the fact that he was a charismatic, popular figure, first and foremost because of his reputation as a miracle-worker.

It's mainly because of him, and the miracles associated with him, that the crowds flocked to the Our Lady of the Cape Shrine, allowing it to thrive.

Bonenfant said he hopes his fellow Franciscan will be canonized in 2017.

"I'm only sure of one thing: His canonization will happen in due time," he said.

"(Pere Frederic) isn't like the other Canadian saints or blessed: He's somehow special and has an extraordinary stature, as his own personal story is interwoven with the land of Jesus of Nazareth. And he's injected that into the bloodstream of the Canadian people."