During the 20th century, the Notre-Dame-du-Perpétuel Secours church became the center of social life in Ville-Émard, hosting numerous events and activities within its walls.
In March 1899, Joseph-Ulric Émard acquired the land which would later form the Ville-Émard district. New streets, notably Boulevard Monk (formerly Davidson Avenue), are laid out there. Families settle to work in the surrounding industries. In January 1906, a parish was created for the benefit of the Catholic population of the area. Joseph-Moïse Jolicœur becomes the first parish priest.
In June 1913, the newspaper Le Devoir mentioned in an article the significant growth of the sector: the parish went from about 150 families (1,400 people) in 1906 to 1,200 families (6,600 people) in 1913. The neighborhood probably needs a new church. Between 1914 and 1920, the Notre-Dame-du-Perpétuel-Secours church was therefore built on Boulevard Monk, at the corner of Rue Biencourt. Designed by the architect Hippolyte Bergeron, the building remained unfinished until 1939. A second architect, Paul-Marie Lemieux, then planned the layout of the interior of the church. The same year, the church received an organ from the company Casavant Frères. In the early 1940s, Guido Nincheri, a famous religious artist, installed stained glass windows there.
Notre-Dame-du-Perpétuel-Secours Church and neighborhood life
A brief foray into 20th century Montreal newspapers and magazines shows the importance of the church for parishioners and for neighborhood life. Since the 1920s, the place has established itself as a real community center. In addition to the weddings and funerals that take place there, a variety of events, raffles, parties and other activities are scheduled. We celebrate in particular the feast of Saint-Jean-Baptiste. The Knights of Columbus held an oyster banquet there in 1931; the Société Saint-Jean-Baptiste organizes meetings and recruitment there. In the 1930s, women from Ville-Émard offered charitable works for the benefit of the less fortunate in the neighborhood.
Of course, the church is also the meeting point for most religious activities in the area. In 1932, the parishioners of Ville-Émard and Côte-Saint-Paul were, for example, invited to appear in front of the church square for a pilgrimage on foot to the Saint Joseph's Oratory. In the 1930s, the church also hosted several religious retreats for the local Italian community. In 1925, the Italians celebrated Saint-Dominique there; a procession follows in the streets of Ville-Émard, then a fireworks display.
The church towards a new stage
Later in the 20th century, the site continued to serve as a space for community activities. The review La bonne parole indicates, for example, that the national federation Saint-Jean-Baptiste, a section of which has existed at Notre-Dame-du-Perpétuel-Secours church since 1916, is still active: sewing and cooking classes are offered in 1940 and 1941 to women and girls in the neighborhood. In April 1966, the "ladies of charity of Perpétuel-Secours" organized a game of cards under the chairmanship of parish priest Gilles Guilbault. The church also serves as a performance hall, especially for students of Notre-Dame-du-Bon-Conseil school who presented a Christmas concert there in 1972. An artistic gala took place there the same year. Organist Françoise Chourot, student of the famous organist Françoise Aubut, gave a recital in 1975.
At the beginning of the 21st century, the Notre-Dame-du-Perpétuel-Secours church encountered difficulties. As it is not very popular, the Archbishopric of Montreal put it on sale in 2010. Groupe Paradoxe, a social economy company, officially acquired it in 2013 to transform it into a theater. In February 2014, the Paradox Theater opened its doors to the public: the Notre-Dame-du-Perpétuel-Secours church began its second life.
Contribution to research: Saint-Paul-Émard History Society.