Friday 7 August 2015

"Good friars, with zeal and affection for the glory of God:" 400 years of Catholicism in Huronia

On Wednesday, August 12th, a memorial mass celebrating the 400th anniversary of the first recorded Catholic mass in Ontario will be held at Carhagouha, a site near Lafontaine and Georgian Bay, commemorating the event which occurred nearby in 1615.

The celebrant of that mass was Fr. Joseph Le Caron, OMR, who was one of four Récollet Friars to accompany Samuel de Champlain to New France in 1615.

Statue of Fr. Joseph Le Caron at St. Ann's Church, Penetanguishene.
PH 170-33P

Champlain brought the priests with him to evangelize the natives living in the area. The Récollets said the first recorded mass in Montreal on the Île de Montréal on June 24th, 1615. Fr. Le Caron then made the 1100 km journey by canoe and overland to Huronia. He was accompanied by twelve Frenchmen and guided by Ouendat traders. He took up residence among the native Ouendat people of the area, and some time later Champlain arrived.

This is how Champlain recorded the first mass that was said in his presence in Ontario:

The Works of Samuel de Champlain in Six Volumes: Volume III, 1615-1618. H.P. Biggar, ed. 1929. The Champlain Society: Toronto. pp. 22-23.
"On the morrow I left that village to go to another, called Touaguainchain, and to another called Tequenonquiaye, in both of which the inhabitants received us very kindly, giving us the best cheer they could with their Indian corn served in various ways. This country is so very fine and fertile that it is a pleasure to travel about in it.

"Thence I had them conduct me to Carhagouha, which is enclosed for defence and protection by a triple wooden palisade, thirty-five feet high. in this village lived Father Joseph, whom we found there and were very glad to see him in good health, he on his side being no less delighted; for he expected nothing less than to see me in that country. And on the twelfth day of August the reverend Father celebrated the holy mass, and a cross was set up near a little cabin apart from the village, which the savages built while I was staying there..."

Le Caron and the other Récollets only stayed in New France for a short time, and a few years later the Jesuit missionaries who are memorialized at Midland's Martyrs' Shrine took over their work.

In 1922, a cross was erected by the Knights of Columbus on the spot once believed to be Carhagouha (doubts about the exact site were later expressed by many). It was blessed by Archbishop McNeil.

PH 31C-14P
PH31C - 03CP

Memorial masses have been celebrated at the site over the years. In 1965, Archbishop Pocock celebrated the 350th anniversary of the mass:

PO SU20-07b

Archbishop Pocock offers mass at the Carhagouha memorial.
PH 14C-07P
In 1615 one French priest said mass for a handful of the Catholic faithful. 400 years later there are 223 parishes, 21 missions and 1.9 million Catholics in the archidocese. Between then and now there have been millions of stories of Catholics leaving their homes to explore new life in our region. The Archdiocese of Toronto was founded on the pioneering spirit, and that spirit lives on today.

For more information about Wednesday's mass and other events, check out the Martyrs' Shrine Events Calendar.

No comments:

Post a Comment