(This article was first published in the March 25, 2015edition of the Quebec Chronicle-Telegraph, entitled “An appreciation of the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity.”)
Although it has been three decades since I lived in Quebec City, and eight decades since my mother left her home there, I am and will always be a Quebecer, in the true sense of the word. I have family and friends whom I love to visit, and my parents and ancestors all found their final resting place at Mount Hermon Cemetery on the edge of the Saint Lawrence River in Sillery. I subscribe to the Quebec Chronicle-Telegraph, and read about people whom I barely know, or have never met, with great interest.
This is because I continue to feel part of the community. Every time I cross the river on my trips to or from my ancestral home in Kamouraska, 150 km east, there is a certain “frisson” in being back. I pass my ancestors’ homes, the schools they went to, and think about their wonderful childhood anecdotes, such as my grandfather’s stories of walking to school in winter from Lévis to Quebec over the “ice bridge” connecting the two cities in the late 19th century.
I also come to worship at the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity, my “mother church.” It is so referred because my great-great-grandfather Henry Andrews and his family were parishioners at the Cathedral soon after they arrived from England in the early 1800s, only a few years after the Cathedral was completed in 1805.
My great-grandmother Emily Andrews LeMesurier, although educated at École Les Ursulines, continued that tradition and worshipped there until she died in 1947 at 96 years old. Her daughter, Estelle LeMesurier Ramsey, married in Kamouraska in 1916, but also worshipped at the Cathedral. My mother, Elga Ramsey Caddell, was the product of a “mixed marriage”-Presbyterian, Methodist and Anglican stock. She said among her favourite childhood memories was attending three Sunday School picnics each year. As a devout Christian, she maintained her Anglican roots, and practiced them in various parishes in Montreal. St. Philip’s in Montreal West seemed to be a “little Quebec,” as many of her former Quebec friends and classmates lived there.
This year, as I have done every year over the past decade, I ensure flowers are placed on the altar at the Cathedral in memory of my mother, my grandmother and my great-grandmother. I do it in appreciation of them and of the faith they have left to me as their legacy.
The Cathedral was my mom’s “mother church,” as it is for many thousands of others across the country, including such luminaries as Hazel McCallion, the Mayor of Mississauga and Rod Andrews, a distant cousin and former bishop of Saskatchewan. One could argue that all Canadian Anglicans are connected to the Cathedral, as it was the first parish to celebrate the Anglican Communion in Canada.
Although as Christians we are admonished not to focus too strongly on material things in favour of the spiritual, there is no question the spiritual manifests itself in great works of art, beautiful buildings, and inspiring institutions. It is also represented in the key elements of community: fellowship, kindness, communication, desire for social justice. Within our great buildings and institutions, we offer these principles a home.
For all Anglicans there should be a church, a “home,” to which we can go to worship. Hence the great value of the Cathedral and its family in the parish that is Canada.
There is no question that Quebec is among the most beautiful cities in North America. But too few Canadians think of it being their “Vielle capitale.” Too few of our fellow citizens from across the country visit Quebec City, to enjoy the qualities of our most historic of cities. And so, too few are able to enjoy the community that is the parish of the Holy Trinity.
I think there is a way for all Anglicans across Canada to connect better, to exchange and visit as frequently as possible. I have suggested to my own parish in Ottawa that we “twin” with the Cathedral, and develop exchanges with Holy Trinity parish, as well as others in Quebec. Although the normal protocol of these sorts of exchanges would be from Cathedral to Cathedral, I hope we might break down those barriers to allow any church to associate itself with the Holy Trinity. As they say, the more the merrier.
One by-product of this relationship would be financial support and increased church attendance from visitors from outside Quebec. But another would be the spiritual benefit of sharing communion at the Cathedral with the kind and generous members of the Holy Trinity family, in the historical setting of the Cathedral.
Through fellowship and sharing, we can build a strong home for the Anglican Church. It is the least we can do to strengthen our faith as Christians.