Michael Beaupré is a seminarian at St. Augustine’s Seminary in Toronto. Below he shares his experiences during the papal visit as a Métis person and a Catholic.
1. What made you decide to drive to the papal mass in Quebec City?
Papal visits are quite rare and when I was given the opportunity to be present at one, I responded with an enthusiastic yes! I also thought I should be present as both a Métis person and a Catholic seminarian, given the Holy Father's intention to be on a penitential pilgrimage for the government mandated residential schools which the Church participated in.
2. You also become responsible for transporting the papal chair used during the visit. How did that happen?
I was asked to pick up the papal chair (along with four others chairs for people with significant roles in the liturgies), which were made in Vaughan, and transport them by truck to Edmonton for the first leg of the papal visit. Ultimately, the chairs were transported by plane, but I still drove them from Vaughan to Pearson Airport! It was quite interesting to be behind the scenes and to see how much planning goes into something as small as the chair the Pope will sit on during Mass. My experience allowed me to appreciate the vast planning that goes into a papal visit.
3. What is the papal chair and why is it important?
The papal chair is simply just the chair the Pope sits on. It could be any chair. But, given that he is the Supreme Pontiff and it is Holy Mass, a simple plastic chair would not do justice to what is deserved and what we can reasonably provide. Special chairs were made for the occasion.
4. What was the experience like of praying with seminarians and priests from all over Canada, as well as the pope, at the Vespers service in Quebec City?
Vespers with the Pope was truly an amazing experience. There was the high concentration of deacons, priests, religious and bishops – all of whom are quite familiar with prayer – all gathered to pray with Pope Francis. The liturgy was elevated by the singing of our very own St. Michael's Choir School who did a truly amazing job. Pope Francis gave a lengthy homily during Vespers which was directed specifically to us, the present and future religious leaders of the Church in Canada.
5. Was there something that you found particularly edifying or uplifting about the encounter with the Pope?
Just being in the presence of the Supreme Pontiff elevated my spirit and reminded me of the unbroken holy tradition of our mother Church, with Pope Francis succeeding St. Peter as our leader of the church.
6. How do you see the importance and role of reconciliation with Indigenous peoples in terms of seminary formation and the mission of the clergy in Canada?
The histories of the Church in Canada and the Indigenous peoples are linked. Early contact fortuitously allowed the first missionaries to share the Good News with the Indigenous peoples and opened them to the fullness of Gods salvific in way that was positive and consistent with the Church’s history of evangelization. Unfortunately, the legacy of residential schools has harmed the Church's ability to reach out to the Indigenous peoples and reconciliation is needed in the present and future to prepare the way for the salvation of more souls.