By Rhonda Massad
with files from Robert Frank
QUEBEC CITY — The first catholic parish in North America, Notre Dame de Quebec, is celebrating its 350th anniversary. Central to the jubilee, several acts of spirituality can be performed by anyone from any faith. One such act is the act of meditation in front of St. François de Laval’s tomb—the man for whom Quebec’s eponymous third-largest city was named—after walking through the Holy Door.
Notre Dame de Quebec in Quebec City, became the caretaker of the seventh Holy Door in the Catholic world on Dec. 8, 2013, four are in Rome, one in Ars sur Formans, France, the other in Santiago de Compostela in Spain.
According to Alison Fox of the parish’s reception committee, the door will be sealed on Dec. 28 of this year.
“The feast of the family takes place on Dec. 28,” Fox explained in an interview with The Suburban, “St. François de Laval had a special devotion to this feast which is why this date was chosen.”
The parish is North America’s oldest formal parish north of the Spanish colonies. Seen as the mother parish of all Catholic dioceses in Canada and the U.S., it was once the largest in the world, stretching from the St. Lawrence River to the Gulf of Mexico. It houses the tomb of St. François de Laval, the first bishop to come to Quebec with a new vision about the way the diocese should be organized. He reached out to meet native people where they were, learned their languages and made efforts to respect their customs.
Pope Francis decreed François de Montmorency-Laval a saint during a ceremony at the Vatican City in Rome, April 3.
Fox went on to explain that passing through the Holy Door during a jubilee is an act of faith which will bring to mind that there are a thousand and one passages in a lifetime: some easier, some more difficult.
“The significance of walking through the door is one of renewal. As you walk through the Holy Door it is an opportunity leave pain, suffering, anger and any burden that weighs you down and enter into a future of hope and transformation.”
The door itself that weighs about a half-ton, is two-sided bronze, with Christ on one side, Mary on the other. It is relatively smaller than the Holy Doors in Europe. It will be opened for one year and then locked until the next time the Holy Doors in Rome are opened, in 2025.