Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Holy Family
A Catholic Parish with a Difference

Welcome to Holy Family Parish in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. We are a Roman Catholic Church with a multicultural congregation. What is different about Holy Family is the unique liturgies that are prepared by Father John Baxter. His modern ways and his enthusiasm in embracing all religions to bring the gospel to life, appeals especially to young people. Holy Family has taken special interest in the youth. We operate two youth programs: a floor hockey league and a summer sports camp called Camp Caritas. Each program is geared towards youth to play sports, to talk, to challenge them in different ways, and to communicate spiritual values. 

Unique Liturgies
Visual Communication Adds to Your Understanding

As you enter Holy Family Parish, what will first grab your attention is the movie screen that is behind the altar. This screen is used by Father John Baxter to illustrate visually the messages during the weekly liturgies. Secondly, you will notice the untraditional decoration of the church. The first question you might ask is why this decor? The reason for the choice of decorations is mainly to be consistent with Holy Family's theme of embracing all religions and being united under all one God.

Father Baxter has simply taken the visual mediums of communication to communicate better the word of God. A picture or an image can speak volumes. At times, a better comprehension of the gospel can be achieved through a visual illustration. Integrating the audio visual mediums into the traditional liturgy can achieve a stronger communicated message and a clearer understanding by the audience.

We are in a totally media dominated age with movies, TV, DVD, Internet, etc. If mass is going to communicate to young people accustomed to media, we must use these same instruments of communication in the service of faith and values formation.

From Neighborhood to City Parish
Holy Family Parish started out as a basement church in May 1926. The first pastor was Father Walsh. At first, the parish was founded in order to serve the Irish Catholic community of the Villeray district of Montreal. In the 1930s when Holy Family School was constructed, there was a natural link made between the school and the church. At the time, the school was not only attended by Irish Catholics, but also French Canadians, and the many Italians who were immigrating to Montreal. From then, Holy Family's scope changed as it was no longer a parish for the Irish, but for all English speaking Catholics in the Villeray district.

Father Emmett Carter, who was pastor for a while eventually became a bishop. He started the music tradition by forming a men's and boys' choir. Father Sutton succeeded Father Carter as pastor and one of his biggest contributions was moving Holy Family from the basement to its own building in 1968. This new building across the street from Holy Family School had a hall big enough for sports, which was the kick off for the youth programs. Father John Baxter succeeded Father Sutton after his death in 1972. By this time, the church was in full swing with one hundred youths in the sports program and a strong neighborhood.

The strong neighborhood continued till about the mid eighties. At that point, demographics affected Holy Family Parish. With the English speaking community moving out of the neighborhood, it meant the closing of Holy Family School and a decrease in weekly attendance. Holy Family went from a neighborhood parish to a city parish. Parishioners were no longer from close by, but were coming from all parts of Montreal.
This trend was also noticed in the sports program where young people were coming from the ends of the island to play floor hockey and to be part of the group. This is still the situation at Holy Family where the congregation and programs are going strong. The congregation is truly representative of the mosaic of Canada and consistent with Holy Family's belief of all people united under one GOD.

Youth Involvement
Youth are Our Future
The presence of youth has always been a big part of Holy Family. Through youth programs, a hockey league and a sports camp, young people come to Holy Family to have fun and to meet others. Before long, they realize that it is more than a hockey league or a camp, it is a challenge not like any other. They are challenged to think differently and to view life from different perspectives. One perspective that we try to emphasize is what we call the "EAGLE'S EYE", which means to see life from a spiritual perspective, see the big picture of life and to be an upstreamer. An upstreamer is one who goes against the stream, does not follow the crowd, and chooses his/her own paths in life. Through our youth programs, our mission is to open a young person's eyes through understanding Jesus's teachings, so he/she can always choose and walk the good paths in life.

Camp Caritas
Summer Sports Camp with a Difference
Camp Caritas is a Christian summer camp for boys of age 13 to 17. Located next to Lake Labelle in the Quebec Laurentians, Caritas was founded by Father John Baxter in the 1970's. It has evolved from a small parish type camp to a fully organized camping facility and it is now incorporated as a non-profit corporation. The clientele comes from every district of Montreal and surrounding municipalities. The majority of teenagers attending Caritas are Catholic, but the camp welcomes boys from any religious or ethnic background.

The purpose and goal of Caritas is to reach out and establish a place of contact with today's teenagers. The camp's program is designed to attract, challenge and present more positive life values for today's teenagers. The entry point Caritas has into the young person's world is through sports and challenging Outward Bound Activities. The sports program and outdoor activities are serious and well organized. Through these activities, we communicate vital human, spiritual and fraternal values. Caritas shows young people how to respect themselves and others; to see value in everyone, whether winner or loser. Each camper that goes to Caritas needs a top quality: the openness to grow.

Tradition Continues
Floor Hockey League Still Going Strong After 40 Years
Holy Family Floor Hockey League dates back to the 1960s. In those days it was mostly the parish altar boys who played in this league. Since then it has developed into a fully functional league with players from all parts of Montreal. The players who participate in the league get more than just great sports. They are taught the value of team work and the importance of commitment to reaching goals.

Leadership is another aspect that is emphasized. The players are given opportunities to work on their leadership skills within the league.
Spirituality is truly the aspect of the league that makes it unique from any other. With their respective teams, young players are given a chance to express themselves in a way they never have. Through team liturgies, players are given the chance to speak of God. In the process, they discover new things about God and about themselves.