This month, I wanted to write a little about a Jesuit apostolate which is often forgotten but is very important to the Province — the Archive of the Jesuits of Canada, (AJC).
Jesuits have been active in Canada in education, intellectual ministry, parish ministry, the Spiritual Exercises ministry and work for social justice from 1611 to 1809 and from 1842 until the present day. The Province Archive constitutes the living memory of their apostolic activity and personal lives.
As many of you may know, the Jesuits’ archival collections from across Canada were brought together in a centralized location at the Maison Bellarmin, Montreal in 2009. The location was completely renovated and retrofitted with a reading room and a climate-controlled vault on its lower floor to accommodate collections storage. With some original documents dating back to the early presence of Jesuits in New France in the 1600s, all consultation of records takes place on-site.
Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, adapting to telework required a major pivot for AJC staff and a significant disruption for responses to researcher inquiries. The pandemic had forced a closure of all on-site activities including extended periods when all staff were required to work from home. The creativity and flexibility of AJC staff in maintaining some services while working from home was commendable. They managed communication with researchers and responded to those inquiries that did not require access to the original holdings. Staff also worked on exhibition concepts, collection descriptions and content for the new AJC website which will be launched in early 2022. Fortunately, on June 22, after more than 15 months, the AJC reading room re-opened to external researchers.
The AJC is a special apostolate which not only assures the stewardship of our legacy collections, but also reaches genealogists, local historians and scholars, as well as those who are interested in the Indigenous language tools authored by Jesuit missionaries.
Without your support and generosity, Jesuits would not be able to support this important apostolate and others across Canada.
Thank you for your generosity and prayers. The Jesuits and their staff pray for you daily.
Barry J. Leidl