St. Francis Xavier relic highlights vital role of immigrants


Catholic Register, 17 January 2018

The visit of the relic of St. Francis Xavier to the Mississauga, Ont., parish named after him will likely be the largest Catholic event of the year in Canada. Numbers are not the most important part of any pilgrimage, but they do tell part of the story. And the 13,000-plus pilgrims that came to St. Francis Xavier parish to honour their patron is an important story about the state of the Church in Canada.

Mississauga is likely the most religiously-observant part of Canada. Immigration has brought observant believers from all parts of the world, and the religious diversity is evident from the number of large churches, mosques and temples in Mississauga and nearby. But it is not only religious diversity that is noteworthy, but religious intensity. The norm for Catholic parishes in Mississauga is five, six or seven Sunday Masses, all of which are packed.

So the scene at St. Francis Xavier on Jan. 6 for the relic pilgrimage was impressive but not surprising. The parishioners knew what to expect and prepared for it. There were 120 (!) volunteers to receive the pilgrims.

That itself poses a challenge. How do you look after 120 volunteers who are on-site from 7 a.m. to evening? The parish had another group of about 20 volunteers to provide breakfast and lunch for the first group. 

This is all largely driven by Catholic immigration from India and the subcontinent, and the Philippines. All of which made the visit of St. Francis Xavier, missionary to the Indies and the East, a good occasion to reflect upon the mission of immigrant Catholics.

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