A man that touched many lives, Fr. Peter Sabbath celebrated his last mass at the Holy Name of Jesus Church in Chomedey at the end of August, as he was preparing for his move to Pierrefonds, where he was transferred.

Fr. Peter Sabbath had been with the parish for 12 years and he made this community his home. Although his relocation is sad for the community, his departure also gives the local community a reason to celebrate his 12 years at the parish and the wonderful changes he brought about within the community. Fr. Sabbath made it his goal to get the youth more involved with the church, and created a series of projects and activities that did just that. The church’s accountant, Deirdre Rochefort, reflected on Fr. Sabbath’s work and how he succeeded in reigniting the spark that the church community had lost. “We were beginning to become a grey-haired parish quite a bit,” says Rocherfort. “When Fr. Came, he reached out to the youth and started all kinds of youth activities, brought them to World Youth Day, got them enthused about being part of the church. Sometimes, at mass, we’d have 14 altar servers so he’s done a lot to bring this parish back to life.”

Fr. Sabbath had planned trips across the world for the parish youth, and brought them to places such as Rome, Mexico, for World Youth Day, and Australia. He felt connected with the community and watched the children grow up before his eyes. “You see the children that you’ve baptized are now growing up and doing their first communion, their confirmation,” he says. “Some that you’ve confirmed, you now get to perform their wedding and you baptize their children so it’s really a beautiful thing to see that growth.”

The move to the Pierrefonds parish is also difficult on Fr. Sabbath. A priest since 1998, this is the longest he’s been in a community since being ordained. “It is sad to go; but in a way it’s a good thing because it shows that I’ve had a deep connection with the people,” he says. “One of the more difficult aspects of the priesthood is that you get close to people, you’re the father of the parish, and then at a certain point, you start over again. You’re not necessarily leaving but it’s an interesting phenomenon. It helps us to keep detached. We’re there to serve and do what’s necessary,” he explained.

Fr. Sabbath also has a unique story to share about his roots and how he became a priest. He was born to a Jewish family and it wasn’t until he was 26 years old that he decided that he wanted to pursue his mission to find God within the Catholic religion. He recalls having gone to mass at St. Joseph’s oratory with a Catholic friend in 1972, and discovering his true faith. “At the moment of consecration, during the prayers, during mass, when the priest says the prayers for the bread and wine to become the body and blood of Christ, I just knew that was Christ and received the gift of faith at that moment.” Fr. Sabbath recalls his parents not being too comfortable with his decision to convert, yet being supportive of him nonetheless.

Following his conversion, Fr. Sabbath did not become a priest until 25 years later. He was working at a retreat house a few years before being ordained. Because he wanted to learn more about his religion, he moved to Rome to study theology. It was then that people started telling him he’d make a good priest. Upon consulting with the archbishop back here in Canada, he decided to become a priest and was ordained in 1998, just 17 years ago.

He was ordained and originally stationed in Beaconsfield but was quickly moved to St. Patrick’s Basilica in downtown. Shortly thereafter, Fr. Sabbath was relocated here, in Laval, where he was stationed for 12 years. He says he knew nothing about Laval before his move to the Chomedey parish, but he has come to know it and love it. “It’s so close to Montreal but it’s a little different,” he says. “The pace is a bit slower and the people are different, I’ve grown to love it.”

As Fr. Sabbath bids farewell to the Holy Name of Jesus Church and the local community, his community and all of Laval will be saying goodbye to him. They will be bidding farewell to a priest who always had the greater good of the community at heart and who brought about a renewed interest for religion among the local youth, something that can have an effect for generations to come.

Goodbye Father Peter Sabbath and thank you for everything you have done for Laval. We wish you all the best.