Spectacular Quebec

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5/30/2008

It is little wonder that the city of Quebec is hosting this year’s Supreme Convention Aug. 5-7. Given that 2008 marks the 400th anniversary of the founding of Quebec’s provincial capital, this historic Canadian city of 720,000 people is the site of a number of high-profile events this year.

The city’s 400th anniversary, coupled with Quebec’s importance as the cradle of Catholicism in Canada, were key factors in the selection of Quebec as the site of the 49th International Eucharistic Congress (IEC), taking place June 15-22. For more than a year, Canadian Knights have been busy organizing hospitality, transportation and other services for the IEC, not to mention coordinating the event’s Ark of the New Covenant pilgrimage.

The Knights’ presence will only be enhanced in the months leading up to August’s 126th Supreme Convention, which is seizing on the region’s rich Catholic history as a drawing card for convention delegates. State Deputy Jean Richard said the meeting is a source of pride for all the Chevaliers de Colomb. When Montreal hosted the Supreme Convention in 1997, it marked the 100th anniversary of the Order’s expansion to Canada.

CONVENTION PROGRAM HIGHLIGHTS REGION’S HISTORY Back to Top

Quebec was founded July 3, 1608, by explorer Samuel de Champlain, who established the city as a permanent settlement in the area that would become known as New France. Quebec is regarded as the first non-Spanish European city in North America.

While trade and exploration motivated Champlain, Catholic missionaries were keen to evangelize the Native population and serve the pastoral needs of French settlers. In 1658, Msgr. François de Laval was appointed the first bishop of New France. Today, his memory is kept alive by Quebec City’s Laval University. Established originally as a seminary, Laval was the first French-language university in North America. In 1986, the Knights of Columbus established the $1 million Bishop de Laval Fund, the annual proceeds of which are given to the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops for its programs.

Delegates and guests to this year’s Supreme Convention will be able to tour many of the region’s religious and historic landmarks. An organizing committee of nearly 100 Quebec Knights and volunteers has put together an extensive program that incorporates faith, history, entertainment and a sampling of the local culture.

Supreme Director Yves Duceppe, a member of Sainte Marie Council 3258 in Montreal, is chairman of the organizing committee. He brings his experience as a member of the 1997 Supreme Convention organizing committee to his role as chairman of the 2008 event.

“I’ve been fortunate to have many of the volunteers from the 1997 convention come back to assist us again this time,” Duceppe said.

The convention program takes full advantage of Quebec City’s Old World charms. In addition to unique shops and restaurants, the area boasts the visual splendor of the St. Lawrence River and the striking Chateau Frontenac Hotel, built by the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1893. Although French is the predominant language of Quebec, many Québécois, especially in Quebec City, are fluent in English.

Quebec City is also home to several historic churches that Duceppe believes will be a draw for K of C visitors. The convention program also includes day trips to the Shrine and Basilica of Ste. Anne de Beaupré, one of the most popular pilgrimage sites for Canadian Catholics. Located just 19 miles east of Quebec City, it attracts up to half a million visitors each year.

In keeping with the celebration of the religious heritage of New France, the convention program also includes opportunities to visit area museums marking the work of Augustinian and Ursuline nuns, whose efforts in the 17th century played a key role in the spread of Catholicism throughout Quebec and the rest of Canada.

A WARM RECEPTION Back to Top

Convention organizers have not overlooked the more traditional tourist destinations in their planning. A daylong trip to Montreal, scheduled for Aug. 3, provides delegates with an opportunity to explore this vibrant cosmopolitan city, located just three hours west of Quebec City.

Historic sites and local culture will also be highlighted by dinner and afternoon cruises on the St. Lawrence River; visits to military establishments such as the Quebec Citadel and the Artillery Park heritage site; and celebrations of local music, crafts and artisans. As is typical for a Supreme Convention planning, Quebec Knights have scheduled activities with families in mind. The Ladies’ Luncheon, scheduled for Aug. 6, will feature Quebec opera singer Nathalie Choquette, who will entertain guests in a setting evocative of a late 17th-century governor’s reception.

“I know that all the Knights of Quebec are as proud as I am to receive their brother Knights from throughout the Order,” said Richard. The state deputy also spoke proudly of Quebec’s special link to the Venerable Servant of God Father Michael J. McGivney, the Order’s founder. Young McGivney’s first stop on his path to the priesthood was St. Hyacinthe Seminary in suburban Montreal.

Additional details about the 126th Supreme Convention are available in English and French at www.kofcquebec2008.com.

Mike Mastromatteo is a freelance writer in Toronto, where he is a member of Blessed Trinity Council 11681.