Christmas: the disappearing midnight mass in Quebec

Christmas: the disappearing midnight mass in Quebec
Christmas: the disappearing midnight mass in Quebec

The tradition of midnight mass is disappearing in Quebec. The time when citizens went to the village church, often located a stone’s throw from the house, to vibrate to the sound of Midnight Christian is now over.

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In the space of a few decades, Quebec has gone from 500 midnight masses to only fifty this year.

The stakeholders contacted explain this sharp decrease by the aging of the priests and the scarcity of volunteers. However, this celebration remains “the most popular of the Catholic Church in Quebec”, confirms Alain Pronkin, columnist specializing in religious news.

“I remember, in the 1960s, all the small parishes had their midnight mass. In Côte-des-Neiges, you had two masses at midnight in the same church. Upstairs, you reserved by paying for your ticket and you had a free mass in the basement, ”he says.

A compilation of Log shows that several dioceses in the region, such as Gaspé (1), Rimouski (1), Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pocatière (1), Chicoutimi (2), Rouyn-Noranda (2) and Amos (2) only offer one or two midnight masses for a territory that can have up to 70 churches.

“It’s a tragedy, we must not hide it. How do you want to fill a church if you no longer have a priest”, reacts Alain Pronkin. He even believes that one day lay people will be authorized to celebrate masses in certain regions.

Dioceses stand out

Despite the considerable decline in attendance over the years, dioceses stand out and small communities continue to hold the traditional midnight mass in their parish.

Thus, on the territory of the diocese of Saint-Hyacinthe no less than 16 midnight masses will be celebrated, which is the pride of Vicar General Claude Lamoureux.

“With us, there is a real desire to perpetuate this tradition. The parishioners work to find volunteers and the priests are generous with their time”, he underlines.

Canon Lamoureux also notices a great enthusiasm this year for the holding of midnight masses after two years of pandemic.

Estrie is also a region that puts a lot of effort into keeping its midnight masses. The diocese of Sherbrooke confirms that nine celebrations will be presented in its churches. The mass of the small parish of Racine is recognized as one of the most beautiful throughout Quebec.

With the celebration of several masses, the evening of December 24 becomes a veritable marathon for the priests. The workload is even more grueling in the regions where a parish priest can visit several parishes in just a few hours.

five in one night

On the territory of Amos, the priest Crescent Mboninyibuka will begin his evening of work with a mass at 4 p.m. to finish it after midnight.

He will then have celebrated five masses in Roquemaure (4 p.m.), Duparquet (6 p.m.), Sainte-Germaine-Boulé (8 p.m.), Palmarolle (9:30 p.m.) and Gallichan (11 p.m.) while having traveled approximately 150 kilometers one way. return.

“We don’t realize, but it’s stock to do four masses. In the regions sometimes there are distances of 50-60 kilometers between the villages. Imagine if there is a snowstorm”, concludes Alain Pronkin.

  • Midnight masses could be added by December 24.
  • The dioceses of Longueuil, Saint-Jérôme and Valleyfield could not transmit their schedule. The diocese of Montreal was still waiting for the confirmation of some churches to complete its list.

Source: Compilation from information provided by the dioceses of Quebec

A community in Estrie is mobilizing to save its celebration


Photo provided by Brigitte Bombardier

For 10 years, the midnight mass in Racine begins with the Festival of Light when mulled wine is served outside the church.

Citizens of Racine, a small community of 1,300 souls in Estrie, stand guard to preserve one of the oldest traditional midnight masses in Quebec.

Despite all efforts, the event could be in its last edition this year, if the parish does not find a new celebrant in 2023.

“Yes, we are afraid of losing the midnight mass. We don’t know what’s hanging over us,” says Brigitte Bombardier, coordinator of the event, which has existed for 100 years according to several people we spoke to.

Even this year, the challenge was daunting to maintain this tradition. Fortunately, collaborating priest George Harkins has extended his mandate for a year, which will allow him to celebrate mass at midnight.

The manager still has to work hard to find volunteers. At the end of November, she was forced to advertise in the media, looking for volunteers. According to the latest news, she still had six places to fill, which does not compromise the holding of the mass, she specifies.

Without interruption

Even the pandemic did not prevent the organizers from presenting the midnight mass in Racine. “No, we didn’t have one. [année] says Brigitte Bombardier proudly.

“We were able to sing mass in a family bubble and all the other health rules were respected”, explains the one who was able to proceed with her spouse Bertrand Cloutier and three of their children.

For 10 years, the organizers of the event have added an activity to the delight of the parishioners. From 11 p.m., on Christmas Eve, citizens are expected outside the church to have mulled wine or hot chocolate.

Hearths and small cabins are built there. At 11:30 p.m., people are invited inside the church for a mini-concert by the choir, the Chœur de Racine. At the stroke of midnight, Bertrand Cloutier sings the moving Midnight Christian, which is sung from father to son to Racine. His father, Paul-Émile Cloutier, had thrilled viewers for many years.

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The article is in French

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