Pope John Paul II meets with Native children in his 1984 visit to Canada. Photo courtesy of the Archives of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Toronto

Canada’s rich history of missionary zeal

  • September 18, 2014

One of the exciting aspects of Pope Francis’ pontificate is how he is making fresh the profound teaching of his predecessors. For example, the Holy Father insists that “missionary discipleship” is the Church’s fundamental identity and it forms the heart of his preaching. The Church exists to make disciples who are eager then to share their faith in Jesus with others. If the Church forgets this and turns inward, neglecting her missionary dimension, she becomes less of who she should be. 

Francis is like the teacher in the gospels, who brings out of his storehouse treasures “both old and new” (Matthew 13:52). That came to mind while looking again at the memorable texts from St. John Paul the Great’s 1984 visit to Canada. In preaching on the Feast of the Triumph of the Holy Cross in Halifax — thirty years ago this week — he highlighted the missionary dimension of our history. 

Most Canadians when thinking about “missionaries” think of those brave and creative missionaries who came in the early years of French exploration to plant the faith along the St. Lawrence River and the Great Lakes, or those later intrepid Oblates of Mary Immaculate who carried the Gospel across the vast prairies and across the frozen expanses of the North. 

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