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Quebec mourns Catholic missionaries slain in Burkina Faso

By  Alan Hustak, Catholic Register Special
  • January 20, 2016

MONTREAL - Quebec is mourning six humanitarian aid workers from the Quebec City region who were among 29 people slain by Islamic extremists in Burkina Faso Jan. 16.

All were volunteers with the Congregation des soeurs de Notre Dame du Perpetual Help (the Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Perpetual Help), which has had a mission in Africa since 1955.

As soon as Cardinal Gerard Lacroix heard the news the following day he cancelled all his appointments to drive 60 km to the order’s motherhouse at Bellchasse, southeast of Quebec City, to comfort the religious community.

“This is a community that is very close to the people who were murdered, and they still have sisters working in Burkina Faso,” he said. “In moments like this my words don’t matter. But my presence makes all the difference. Just being there to share their grief makes the burden of their sorrow a little less heavy.”

Later in the day, the cardinal took to Twitter, saying: “I express solidarity with the families. I mourn the dead, but am proud of their missionary work.”

Among the dead are a family of four from Lac Beauport, Yves Carrier, 65, his wife Gladys Chamberland, 53, and their adult children, Maude, Carrier’s 37-ye-ar old daughter from a previous marriage, and her step-brother, Charlelie, 19.

Also killed in the attack were Suzanne Bernier and Louis Chabot, a teacher from Cardinal Roy High School in the Quebec City suburb of St. Roch.

Yves Carrier had volunteered to do work in Africa after Chamberland’s mother, Helene Boudreault, had gone on aid missions to the area. It was his fourth trip. Sr. Yolande Blair, a representative of the order, said the couple had made several trips to the region.

“I think they fell in love with Burkina Faso,” she told CTV News. “They loved the values of the Burkinabe, they loved the welcome there.”
The family had flown to Burkina Faso on Christmas Eve and had planned to spend the holiday rebuilding an orphanage. They were set to fly home the day they were killed.

They were among at least 29 victims left dead following the attack by four jihadists on a hotel and nearby coffee shop. The terrorists claimed the killings were “revenge against France and the disbelieving West,” meant to punish “the cross-bearing worshipper for their crimes against our people in Central Africa.”

Quebec diocese spokesman Jasmin Lemieux-Lefebvre said it is premature to say whether the cardinal will preside over the funerals since it is not certain what arrangements the families of the dead may wish to make.

“They didn’t wear their religion on their sleeves, not at all. I don’t know if they even belonged to a parish. They were school teachers. They came to us as volunteers,” said Yvon Blier, the order’s former Superior for Africa.

“We are devastated. We have never experienced anything like this since we opened our mission. They were my friends. What more do you want me to say?”

Premier Philippe Couillard de-scribed it as an “act of gratuitous cowardice.”

“We live on a troubled planet, much smaller, everything is so close to us,” said Couillard. “We all realize that such barbaric violence that seems so far from us can also touch Quebec. We will continue to make a difference by carrying hope around the world. But we will do all of this without illusion or naiveté, or compromise. These acts must reinforce our determination to combat these barbarians with all of our force next to our allies, without compromise.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau offered Canada’s “deepest condolences to the families, friends and colleagues of all those killed,” but was rebuked by Camille Carrier, Yves’ ex-wife and the mother of Maude, for de-escalating Canada’s contributions to the fight against terror. She spoke with Quebec media Jan. 18 and said Trudeau must keep Canadian warplanes in the Middle East in the fight against Islamic terrorists. Trudeau, in one of his first acts after becoming prime minister, promised to pull the six Canadian fighter jets in the fight against the Islamic State — though the jets continue to take part in attacks — and to instead train Iraqi and Kurd fighters.

(Hustak is a freelance writer in Montreal.)

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