Pulling into Baie-Saint-Paul by night? You can’t miss the three belfries on the Little Franciscans of Mary Convent, veritable beacons in the city’s nightscape.
Arriving from the United-States at Curé Ambroise-Martial Fafard’s request, the nuns quickly rolled up their sleeves. They were soon operating a farm that for decades ensured the survival of their community as well as of Hospice Sainte-Anne’s residents ‒ nearly 1,500 people, at its peak. Enterprises included a herd of cows and a dairy, pigs, chickens, bees and even a hydroelectric facility. Avant-garde, you say?
By the mid-60s, Québec was changing and social structures too. Institutions were emptying and as a result, the number of beneficiaries at Hôpital Sainte-Anne dropped considerably. Needs became increasingly fewer, and the farm was eventually sold to Louis-Philippe Filion, on March 30 1972. Did you know that this farm – with its 62,500 square feet of floor space ‒ was long considered to be Canada’s biggest wooden barn structure? Visionaries, you say? A skip over to their Museum Space is sure to shed light on the congregation’s impact on their community.
For some fresh air, head straight over to Franciscan Lane that crosses the tracks and meanders down to le Boisé du Quai’s maintained forest. It’s a bucolic stroll down to the river’s edge to be enjoyed with your sweetheart, friends or family. Nearby is another must: le Jardin de François, a garden commemorating the congregation’s patron saint, St. Francis of Assisi, also a lover of flora and fauna.
Care to see what this farm everyone is talking about looked like? At the train station, a model is on permanent display. Created by the workers of Centre de jour de Notre-Dame-des-Monts, this masterpiece required over 10,000 hours to complete. These Little Franciscans are indeed inspiring! We are also pleased to learn that the City of Baie-Saint-Paul has just become its newest proprietor and in so doing, writes a new page in history.