When we begin a story, we owe it to the listeners (readers) to finish and so I am due to finish this his-tory of the Montreal Inter_Faith Peace Prayer in the Spirit of St Francis which I was entrusted for several years.
The first part of which, I just told you about … posting in January 23.
For the next year, 1988, there was now a brother who happily offered his help. He was br. Francois Paquette and he had just finished his noviciate. Before entering the Order, Francois was working as a psychologist and held a very demanding post in a Health Service center in Montreal (CLSC). He was in charge of a huge department and having his co-operation, I could fully trust him with lots of responsabilities and so we worked well together.
Francois willingly took over the logistics of things like finding someone who did the sound equipment and recorded the prayers. This was no easy task setting it up in our chapel considering special speakers for the voices and also the musical instruments of the Hindus and Sikhs.
He also saw about finding a good caterer and seeing about the lunch which was served after the prayers and about having the prayers all printed and nicely put up in programme leaflets in both French and English so everyone could read. He also arranged for ushers to welcome the different delegates when they arrived for the prayers etc.
Francois was much younger than myself and he was jovial and was not shy and so he was well liked by the members of the different temples we visited. He also had initiative and it was he who at times would suggest things like…..”lets take some chocolates for him” . His help was a boon and I could not have done it all those years without him.
I appreciated him even more after I had a heart problem one year and I was worried as we came closer to the date of the event, but he assured me that everything will be all right, and it did…except one minor event that happened.
That year I wanted to move the prayer outside the monastery. I felt that following a custom I saw in the US where Native peoples had a place they called “meeting place” and where the different tribes met to discuss and negociate etc.
So I found a space in a College down town. It was actually a stadium and there I had in mind that we the Franciscans would not be hosting the prayer but we will all be hosting to one another. I also wanted the groups who had been coming every year, to maybe feel the incentive to offer hosting another year,the event in their temple. That never happened.
In this year the CTV people were interested and came to film and there was a space in the middle of the hall where we would enter in procession coming up the main isle. I dont know what happened to my head but instead of coming up the center aisle, I took another route much to the disappointment of the camera men.
It was weird and Francois said nothing then but after the prayer he asked me “what on earth happened?” We ended up laughing our heads off!.
Francois had a driver’s licence and we could borrow the use of a car on occasions so going out to the different temples was much easier especially as now we could drive to the Native Indians reserve which was out of the city and not easily accessible by public transportation.
All this requires so much planning and co-ordination and he was completely at ease running around doing it all. My job was mainly to make sure we had a choice of delegates from the various temples etc and also the format of the prayer which I tried to change each year so that it would not be boring.
This Inter-Faith Prayer became an annual event not only here in Montreal but also in Italy and elsewhere and the Franciscan Maltese community in Toronto at the time, called and invited me to help them set up one there.
Here in the city, some schools and some parishes also got the initiative to hold a similiar event and many a times I was invited to help them set it up.
I was invited to attend a meeting in California and I suggested to our Provincial that Francois be sent in my place. He had to give a report as to how we worked here in the city of Montreal. He went and made quite an impression.
The Franciscan Head Office in Rome had now opened up a new activity which was strongly encouraged by Pope John Paul. The Franciscans were founding an International Committee on Dialogue with other Religions and were looking for a young dynamic brother to be in charge.
One of the head men in it, attended the meeting in California and saw Francois and was impressed.
The Franciscan International Committe for Dialogue had an elder at the top but his turn was up and so they needed a replacement and I got a phone-call one day asking me about Francois and If I could recommend him.. I strongly recommended Francois and after some consultations, he was selected. It would mean that he would still live here but he would have to travel a lot.
Francois now became to Director of the Franciscan International Committee for Dialogue and I was nominated as the Canadian representative. This led to conferences overseas. I will talk about this in another posting.
I do believe that it is of vital importance to state facts of events and things we were responsable for creating and work which was assigned to us during our life. It is less painful than having other people with good intentions, write about it not knowing all the facts.
Its somewhat like a baby is born and grows up and somewhere in life someone speaks about this child and gives a wrong family heritage and gives another name to who his father is and mis- informs the public and the false information spreads and the mother has no means of correcting it.
At another time I will show some photos of those years, photos I have, but they need to be scanned.