Summer 2015 Surprise in Montreal

The following reflection recounts a visit to Francophone Canada by the Vice-President for Mission at Saint Mary’s College, Dr. Carole Swain. It is a story of help for a new immigrant community in Montreal born of the fidelity and hope of the Canadian Christian Brothers.

Acts of Hope and Action: Brothers Divesting and Reinvesting in Canada

Submitted by Carole Swain, Vice President for Mission

Saint Michel Ribbon Cutting
Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony for the Saint Michel Centre of the Brothers of the Christian Schools in Montreal, Quebec

The Lasallian Education Council (LEC), of which I am a member, met in Montreal, Quebec in July 2015. LEC is the Regional Board overseeing and supporting educational programs such as the Buttimer Institute for Lasallian Studies, Lasallian Social Justice Institute (LSJI), the Brother John Johnson Institute (JJI), the annual Huether Conference and the Lasallian Research Symposium.

Brother Florent Gaudreault, our host Brother and Council member, arranged a field trip to the new soon-to-be opened Saint Michel Lasallian Center. As we walked carefully through construction materials to the front door, we were greeted warmly by an elderly Brother (several-times retired).

As we toured the facility we met two accomplished art educators, both retired. These Brothers were creating an Art Center filled with light, colorful walls, and an abundance of supplies.  We walked the dance floor, visited the Brothers’ quarters and made our way into the basement.  Haitian youths’ joyful energy and activity with two younger Brothers, one Brother from Mexico and another from Africa, engaged us in their world of renewed opportunity.

The story of Saint Michel is remarkable. The Brothers sold property in Quebec City for five million dollars and reinvested their resources in this new after-school center. With the average age of the Canadian District Brothers in their late 70s, their commitment and determination to continue serving marginalized youth was beyond my imagination.

The following account is from the news release describing the Dedication of the Center on November 26, 2015:

The idea for the Center originated in 2004, after neighborhoods in Montreal’s Saint Michel district [were] identified to be among the most densely populated in the city, while at the same time being home to a large number of underserved family and youth.  During the 2008 District Chapter, seven Brothers, helped by devoted lay partners, gave birth to the concept of the Center in (often difficult) circumstances. The Center has already acquired an enviable reputation and it is precisely this vitality of the work, as well as the hope for a better future for youth in Saint Michel, which guided the Brothers toward the construction of the new Lasallian Center, which opened last month.

Brother Louis-Paul Lavallée, FSC, Visitor of the Francophone Canada District, remarked,

May this bud for hope bear the fruit desired thanks to the quality of its educational community, focused on the home team respect, love of others and mutual assistance beyond the differences of race, culture, belief and religion!

Following our Saint Michel Center experience, we traveled to the Brothers’ retirement community where we met many Brothers, among them four centenarians.  We were introduced to the resident Brothers, who were delighted to meet us and were especially appreciative to see Br. Florent, their former community director.

Down the hill at the Lake Pavilion we were treated to a “five star” gourmet dinner, artfully prepared by the retirement community’s chef, who had been given a year to create a special meal for the LEC.

As we traveled home, filled with awe and admiration, we were inspired to witness the dedication, commitment, and joy of Brothers doing God’s work, especially those in the sunset years of their lives. After selling valuable property, Brothers reinvested their resources in a neighborhood where youth live in poverty and limited opportunity.


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