The Church and religious communities
By 1905, the church had become, beyond any doubt, the most dominant social group in Quebec. In fact, few circles in societies could escape the Church’s influence at the time. Catholic parishes, both in rural and urban areas, were at the very heart of social life for the vast majority of Quebeckers.
Around 1905, 85% of French Canadians and the majority of Irish immigrants living in Quebec were Catholic. The majority of the English speakers and Scottish immigrants were Protestant. A minority of the population also practiced Judaism or other religions.
Education and health
Even though most teachers were lay people, the Church controlled the Francophone and Catholic education system. Meanwhile, communities of nuns ran most of the hospitals where the sick were treated. They also did a lot of work to especially help widows, young unwed mothers and orphans.
The Church would soon impose its own workers’ and women’s groups to better oppose the most vocal union and feminist movements. The Church even published its own newspapers like the Action catholique in Quebec City and le Bien public in Trois-Rivières. These efforts allowed the Church to spread its values throughout all of Quebec society.
This context made it very rewarding to be part of “the Church”, which explains why so many people chose to “enter religion” at the time:
“Like many girls who go into religion, my sister had a really hard time deciding. In 1905, there weren’t many life choices for young women of humble backgrounds! She wasn’t looking forward to a lifetime of housework, which is what awaits the vast majority of women, so she initially considered joining the Augustinian nuns so that she could care for patients at the Hôtel-Dieu hospital in Quebec City. She was also tempted to join the Sisters of Charity, who were in charge of caring for the city’s poor. In the end, she decided to join the Ursulines of Quebec and teach elementary school. Teaching is a real vocation!”
See also – Traces of the past: