Missionary zeal marks Archbishop Smith’s visit to Camrose

07 December 2023

Appears in: Archdiocesan News

The missionary zeal of St. Francis Xavier gives us all an example to follow, Archbishop Richard Smith said on his visit to the parish community in Camrose and area.

“He was a missionary in a foreign culture,” Archbishop Smith preached in his Dec. 4 homily.

“Increasingly, that is what it feels like – that is what it is! – to be a follower of Jesus Christ in our day, even within our own cities and country. The steady encroachment of secularization pushes faith to the margins, even at times off the page of awareness altogether.”

Parishioners at St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church gather to celebrate their parish namesake with Archbishop Smith.

Nevertheless, hope and confidence abide.

“Our patron saint did not shy away from his missionary task. . . he led to conversion and Baptism some 30,000 souls. Neither do we shy away from our call to proclaim the Gospel, regardless of the ‘alien culture’ in which we are immersed. Convinced as we are that our world needs to know Jesus Christ and be converted by the power of his love, we cannot fail to give witness to him in whatever circumstances we find ourselves!”

The feast day of St. Francis Xavier is Dec. 3.

While in Camrose, Archbishop Smith visited St. Patrick  and Our Lady of Mount Pleasant schools. Accompanied by Father Kris Schmidt, the pastor for St. Francis Xavier parish, Archbishop Smith was given a snapshot of Catholic school life in Camrose.

Archbishop Smith with elementary students in Camrose, Alberta.

Archbishop Smith also made a visit to the grave of missionary priest, the late Fr. Hippolyte Bellevaire, and the historic parish which he founded, St. Thomas Church in Duhamel (20 kilometres south of Camrose).

Archbishop Smith visits the grave of beloved missionary priest, Fr. Hippolyte Bellevaire.

Father Bellevaire was an Oblates of Mary Immaculate missionary who joined the Archdiocese of Edmonton from France in 1881. He was invited to the Duhamel area by the Laboucane family, a Metis family of great influence and founded what is now called St. Thomas Church, in 1883.

On location at St. Thomas Catholic Church which is now a designated heritage site.

From the late 19th century until the 1960s, St. Thomas Church “was an integral part of the community, offering spiritual sustenance and a place of social gathering.” The Catholic Church of St. Thomas is the sole remaining Metis mission church on its original site in Alberta.

To read the Archbishop’s full homily from his visit to Camrose, see here.