Our Lady of Good Help, Montreal, Canada (1657)
Dedicated to Our Lady of Good Help, Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours for 350 years has been the sanctuary for seamen leaving Montreal for the seven seas. A wooden chapel was built in 1657; replaced in 1675 by a building whose foundations serve the present church which was erected in 1771.
Over the entrance is an inscribed message: “If the love of Mary is graven in your heart, forget not a prayer in passing.”
Our Lady of Good Help is a beautiful little church, with fine paintings. On the walls are mosaics of Marguerite Bourgeoys, who inspired the first chapel; and of Maisonneuve, founder of Montreal, said to have felled the first oak for the chapel.
A narrow stairway, lined with pilgrims’ acknowledgments, leads to an aerial chapel set in the roof. Here is a facsimile of the Santa Casa, the house of the Virgin carried by angels from Nazareth to Loreto.
Saint Marguerite Bourgeoys was the founder of the Congregation of Notre Dame. When she returned from France in 1673 she brought back with her a wood statue of Our Lady of Good Help. It can still be seen in the reliquary on the gospel side of the altar, for when the church burned in 1754, the statue was saved from the fire. This is not to say that someone took the statue from the church, for after the fire had ravaged the original chapel, the statue was found uninjured among the smoldering embers that remained.
The mortal remains of Saint Marguerite Bourgeoys were interred in the sanctuary of the church in the year 2005, the 350th anniversary of Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours. She rests now at the feet of the statue she herself had brought from France.
In 1849 the Bishop of Montreal placed a statue of the Blessed Virgin, Star of the Sea, atop the tower facing the harbor. For this reason, the chapel is also known as the Sailor’s Church. There are votive offerings, carved ships, models of sailing ships suspended from the vault of the chapel in thanksgiving to the Blessed Virgin for her assistance in their safe return from the sea.