By Deborah Gyapong, Canadian Catholic News
[OTTAWA – CCN] – In the face of surveys showing declining numbers of believers and church-goers, Cardinal Gérald Lacroix of the Archdiocese of Quebec says Canada’s Catholic shrines should offer more direct preaching of the Gospel to encourage a personal relationship with Christ.
“We need to preach the faith,” said the Primate of Canada in a telephone interview July 26, 2019, following his participation in the Ste. Anne Novena at the Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré Shrine, about a half hour’s drive from Quebec City along the St. Lawrence River.
Having the shrines open for Masses, rosaries, Ways of the Cross and other rituals is all good, he said.
“People need to hear the word of God and hear the word of conversion and be called into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
“We need more time than the five or eight minutes of the homily,” he said. “We need to take time with the people and bring them closer to the Lord.”
Lacroix participated in the annual 10-day novena that drew thousands of pilgrims to the Basilica-Shrine, but this year, instead of the usual evening Mass, he replaced it with a prayer service, songs of praise and an hour of preaching the Gospel.
The evenings also featured testimonies from people whose lives had changed through an encounter with Christ and candlelight processions.
Seven out of the nine evenings leading up to the Feast of St. Anne on July 26, he proclaimed the kerygma, preaching the Word of God for an hour, calling people to conversion.
The kerygma, summarized: “… the first proclamation must ring out over and over: ‘Jesus Christ loves you; he gave his life to save you; and now he is living at your side every day to enlighten, strengthen and free you.’” – Evangelii Gaudium, #164, Pope Francis.
“We need that today,” he said. “We have to take advantage of these beautiful shrines in Quebec and all over Canada,” so people can “come for a few days, or a few hours” and “have an opportunity to hear the proclamation of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
The cardinal estimated tens of thousands took part in at least a portion of the events that included the anointing of the sick.
Lacroix also recognized the practice of the faith in Quebec is fragile.
“Faith is struggling. The majority of our people have taken a great distance from celebrations of the Church and the liturgy.”– Cardinal Gérald Lacroix
“Faith is struggling,” he said. “The majority of our people have taken a great distance from celebrations of the Church and the liturgy.”
A Leger marketing survey conducted in May for the Association for Canadian Studies showed Quebec francophones and those in the province under 35 are the least likely among Canadians to believe in God or attend church services.
The national online survey also showed only 48 per cent of the Catholic respondents say they “strongly agree” with the statement, “I believe in God.”
Jews and Protestants each came in with slightly over 60 per cent checking the “strongly agree” box.
According to the survey, Quebecers were the least likely to often attend religious services (only 9.7 per cent) with a little more than 23 per cent saying they attended occasionally.
In Ontario, the numbers are 17.8 per cent and 18.5 per cent, respectively. British Columbia’s levels were not that much better than Quebec’s at 12.6 and 14 per cent, respectively.
Lacroix said he hoped to reach those Quebecers who “don’t come often,” as well as encourage those who remain fervent.
The Novena events were all live-streamed on the Internet and are available at ecdq.tv.