In 1659, François de Laval, age 36, landed in New France. As the first bishop of the Québec diocese, which extended at the time from Acadia to Louisiana, he worked to build the burgeoning Church.
This devoted shepherd often traveled great distances – on foot, by canoe and wearing snowshoes – to visit and offer comfort to his flock. His deep devotion to the Holy Family and the Holy Guardian Angels, coupled with his steadfast faith in Providence, made him an inspiring spiritual leader.
This staunch supporter of education created the Séminaire de Québec, a community of priests, and also founded the Petit Séminaire (for young boys), the Grand Séminaire (where candidates for the priesthood were trained) and the Grande Ferme (a school that taught the skilled trades).
He was also an adept administrator and seigneur whose work in developing Côte-de-Beaupré ensured the financial stability needed to make his bold vision a reality.
Guided by his strong faith and unwavering principles, he spent two decades battling the alcohol trade between the French and the Native Americans.
He died at the age of 85, in poor health and after much suffering. Since 1993, his body has been resting in the Notre-Dame de Québec Basilica-Cathedral funeral chapel.
This imposing figure, beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1980 and canonized by Pope Francis in 2014, has left the Québec church an invaluable tangible and spiritual legacy.