Are the Sulpicians’ archives safe?

First public outing of the leadership of the Sulpicians who use a public relations firm to temper the dismayed reactions aroused by the closure of their archives and the dismissal of specialists.

The senior management of the Compagnie des prires de Saint-Sulpice has emerged from its silence for the first time since The duty revealed this week that it had laid off its specialist staff and abandoned its large collection of heritage assets to fate. According to Father Jorge Humberto Pacheco Rojas, Provincial Superior of the Priests of Saint-Sulpice of Montreal, “there is no question of taking actions that would endanger our archives and our heritage”.

The Sulpicians commissioned the National public relations firm to disseminate their message to this effect.

According to Provincial Superior Rojas, quoted by National, the Sulpicians will continue to protect these goods, “as we have always done”.

Still according to what this intermediary used to “crisis management” reports, the heritage assets of the Sulpicians “are of historic and capital importance”. Father Rojas adds: “We are aware of this and we will continue to act on it. “

This was not enough, far from it, to reassure the specialists who learned this week that this congregation, which is at the origin of the foundation of Montreal, had put the key in the door of its services of the archives and dismissed its specialists, often in post for many years.

According to the magazine Presence, specializing in Quebec, Canadian and international religious information, “the decision of the Sulpicians to dismiss the professionals responsible for the conservation of their archives arouses both reactions of anger and concern in Quebec”.

The Group of Religious Archivists (RAR), for example, denounced the attitude of the Sulpician leadership in an open letter, which can be read on its website. These specialists point the finger at the scant regard that is made of archives in Quebec. Several centers, living in hardship and misery, have had to deal with additional cuts in recent years.

David Bureau, chairman of the board of directors of RAR, writes: “Lack of money, lack of material resources (especially for adequate storage), lack of personnel: all aggravating factors that have accumulated for nearly 20 years. years and which force us today to realize that even archives that we believed essential and unassailable can suddenly be in danger. “

However, “religious archives are a key to understanding our collective journey and to initiating the youngest into the richness of our history,” he says. According to this specialist, the government of Quebec has not taken the necessary steps to correct the bad fate done to the archives. So the situation is only getting worse.

While the government recently announced $ 15 million for religious heritage, nothing is being done in particular for religious archives, which constitute an important memory of Quebec society in several sectors of human activity. This exercise is absolutely futile, argues Mr. Bureau, if no money is allocated to the preservation of religious archives. He adds that in doing so, “we are just keeping empty shells standing” while waiting for the worst to happen.

“What strikes us and hurts us deeply in the drama of the Sulpician archives is the disinterest of men of the Church for the history of their own congregation and its contribution to Quebec society,” said Mr. Bureau.

“We are willing to give the benefit of the doubt to Fathers Mora, Rojas, Arfuch and Lussier not to know their documentary holdings perfectly. But that in no way relieves them of their responsibility – if not towards their congregation at least towards the people of Quebec and Canada. “And the president of this association of archivists to add, on behalf of the members of its board of directors, that he also deplores the silence of the archdiocese of Montreal, which should quickly” put in place a plan of concrete urgency for the archives of all the communities on its territory ”.

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