Fr. Nestor Fils-Aimé, CSV, Provincial of Canada  led an historic pilgrimage, retracing the journey of the first three Viatorians who traveled from France to bring the Viatorian Community to Canada.

Fr. Nestor Fils-Aimé (Photos by Mélanie Émond)

“It was in an atmosphere of communion that, all together, religious and associate Viatorians, collaborators and friends, we made the 175th anniversary pilgrimage,” Fr. Fils-Aimé said in describing the journey.

They set out May 28, exactly 175 years to the day that Brothers Étienne Champagneur, Louis Chrétien and Augustin Fayard first set foot in Canada. Early in the morning, the pilgrims boarded a bus in Rigaud and headed east to Montreal. Their first stop was at Mary, Queen of the World Cathedral, arriving much like the three Viatorians when they were welcomed by Bishop Ignace Bourget, who had asked them to come.

Assembling in a side chapel, the pilgrims entered into a heartfelt prayer of thanksgiving: “This day that the Lord has made is a day of joy, alleluia.”

Saint Viator Residence in Joliette

Next, the group headed to the port of Lavaltrie, located on the north shore of the St. Lawrence River, where 175 years earlier the three founders had arrived on the steamer, St. Louis. Another group of Viatorians was there to greet the pilgrims, offering them box lunches which they enjoyed on the banks of the river. While they ate, they reflected on the long passage the three brothers made on board the steamboat ship, which made coastal trips on the St. Lawrence River.

Finally, the group headed to Joliette College, where the brothers spent their first night and ultimately St. Charles Borromeo Cathedral, where the bells rang out at their arrival.

“The bells, the Magnificat, marked this moment of great joy,” said Jean-Marc Saint-Jacques, CSV.

Afterwards, the pilgrims went to the Saint Viator Residence in Joliette, where they enjoyed an anniversary dinner that celebrated the joyful fraternity of the day.

“This heartfelt celebration allowed us to dive back into our history,” Br. Saint-Jacques said, “a history full of twists and turns, but a history full of life and light for yesterday, today and tomorrow again.”