Granite Staters set sights on Quebec pilgrimage
MANCHESTER — More than 400 Catholics from New Hampshire are heading to Quebec City next week on a religious pilgrimage that will include meeting and celebrating Mass with former Manchester priest Gerald Cyprien Lacroix, who was named the cardinal of Quebec this year.
“He’s a huge draw,” said Mike Brunette, who chairs the pastoral council at St. Anthony of Padua, Lacroix’s home parish.
Brunette expects about 120 former parishioners will be making the trek to Canada.
Diocese of Manchester spokesman Tom Bebbington said between 425 and 435 Granite Staters are signed up for the trip, with half or slightly more from the greater Manchester area.
“I’ve been told by my counterpart in Quebec that he has kind of personally taken a big interest in this group, so he’s kind of doing a little bit more with them,” Bebbington said. “He’s kind of cleared his schedule for our folks to visit.”
The Manchester diocese published a cover story of Lacroix in its Parable magazine recently. Spare copies will be aboard at least some of the nine buses expected to leave New Hampshire, according to Bebbington.
“For all I know, he’ll be signing autographs” in Quebec, he said.
Cardinal Lacroix, a graduate of Trinity High School, will greet and bless the pilgrims Wednesday evening and concelebrate the closing Mass with Manchester Bishop Peter Libasci on Friday, July 18.
The Diocese of Quebec, which centuries ago represented New England, is celebrating its 350th birthday.
If this were merely a touristy trip to Quebec, Brunette, 60, said he and his wife, Terri, would be staying home.
“We can go to Quebec any time with friends. This is a pilgrimage,” he said. “This is a whole different focus. We really want to look at our faith and deepen it.”
He said, “Everything you do is finding ways to get closer to Christ and like I said, develop your faith.”
Brunette also cited the Canadian ties.“Quebec is such a rich part of our history, both civil and our faith history,” he said. “We’re basically descendants from the Canadian province for our faith.”
On the day Lacroix celebrated Mass at his former Manchester church last March, he encouraged New Hampshire residents of French-Canadian heritage to attend the anniversary festivities in Quebec.
“It’s always good to come back to your roots,” Lacroix said.