On April 3, 1989, Fr. Carmelo Gosioco officially submitted the petition for the canonical approval of the Filipino Catholic Mission, and on recommendation by Monsignor Mario Paquette, then episcopal vicar for cultural communities, the request was granted on December 10, 1989 by the late Paul Cardinal Gregoire at the liturgical service held at Notre Dame des Neiges church attended by the Filipino community, priests, nuns and guests.
Notre Dame des Philippines Catholic Mission is the first andonly canonically installed Filipino Catholic Mission in North America " Missio cum cura animarum", and was established to serve the spiritual and religious needs of the growing Filipino Catholics in the archdiocese of Montreal.
Bishop Gilles Lussier of St. Jerome, and former parish priest ofNotre Dame des Neiges church, where early liturgical services were held, blessed the life-size statue of Our Lady of the Philippines, the patroness of the Mission. San Lorenzo Ruiz de Manila, the first Filipino martyr saint, who was canonized in 1987 by Pope John Paul II, was named the secondary patron. The insignia bearing the motto" PER ASPERA" ( Through the hardships of the cross with Mary) " AD ASTRA " ( To the stars to share the glory of the Lord ) was designed by the late Mario Umali. After Notre Dame de Neiges church, the Filipino Catholic Mission moved to St. Denis in August 1999 and stayed there for seven years and relocated on October 21, 2006 to St. Thomas the Apostle church it acquired with the financial assistance of the archdiocese of Montreal. The possession of the church by the Filipino Catholic Mission was officially declared by Monsignor Michel Parent, the chancellor of the archdiocese of Montreal, andepiscopal vicar for cultural communities, on December 10, 2006,` the anniversary date of the canonical installation of the Filipino Mission.
Monsignor Pierre Blanchard, episcopal vicar for North Region, whose jurisdiction also includes St. Thomas the Apostle church was one of the concelebrants of the mass. By virtue of the acquisition of the new church, St. Thomas the Apostle has also become another secondary patron of the Filipino Catholic Mission.
As non-territorial, Notre Dame des Philippines Catholic Mission technically encompasses all Filipino Catholics residing in Montreal and in the suburban areas, but respects the rights of the people to stay in their respective parishes if they so wish. Their presence at liturgical services is always welcome and financial support is appreciated. During his stewardship, Fr. Gosioco. stressed the importance of the Ignatian Spirituality by conducting retreats for parishioners based on the Spiritual Exercises of St .Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus(the Jesuits) " to awaken faith and to combat deficiencies in religious knowledge". He left in 1996 at the expiration of his mandate and was succeeded by Fr. Francisco Alvarez, P.M.E., a Filipino priest of the Foreign Mission Society of Quebec. The arrival of Fr. Alvarez on September 8, 1996 opened up a new chapter in the life of the mission characterized by the spirit of openness, a sense of belonging, a strong administrative structure and the expansion of pastoral ministries. This new image, doubtless, has enticed old parishioners to come back and attracted newcomers to join the Filipino Catholic Community.
Notre Dame des Philippines Catholic Mission is run by a team of duly elected administrators of six plus the priest, who acts as the chairman, a presbyteral team, which serves as a consultative body, and a pastoral council, representing the various ministries, make up the other components in building bridges to the community they serve. They are Worship, Family Life, Legion of Mary, Youth, Prayer Groups, Knights of Columbus, Evangelization, Catechetical, Care of the Sick, MAAC, St. Martha's Club and the Kawan ng Panginoon Group.
Figures for baptisms, confirmations and marriages have doubled in the last 17 years. On record, the mission has performed annually around 80 to 100 baptisms, 15 weddings, 30 confirmations and 25 first communion and some funerals. As the spiritual powerhouse, two masses are said on Sundays and after the novena to our Mother of Perpetual Help on Wednesdays, and on Fridays following the novena to the Sto. Nino. The Pilipino mass is held every last Sunday. Adoration of the blessed Sacrament is held every first Friday of the month. The major feasts celebrated are Christmas, Easter, Sto Nino, San Lorenzo Ruiz, St. Thomas the Apostle and the feast of Notre Dame des Philippines in December.
The mission is the center of devotions and religious celebrations. The integration of Filipino customs and traditions has brought color and meaning to some activities such as simbang gabi, pabasa, senakulo and salubong, Flores de Mayo and other regional feasts. The choir led by Jose ( Butch ) Aracena and his network of choral groups has been the life and soul of the liturgy. They enrich and enliven liturgical celebrations with inspirational Filipino and English hymns and songs.
Mr Alvin Veloso
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Feb. 26, 2007