Frédéric Janssoone, who was born in France, was ordained to the priesthood in 1870. He carried out his ministry in the Franciscan monasteries of Bordeaux and Paris. After being sent to the Holy Land six years later, he became the assistant of the ‘Guardian’ of the Custodian of the Holy Land. While in this role, Father Frédéric oversaw the construction of the parish church of St. Catherine, which adjoins the Church of the Nativity. Midnight Mass is now broadcast throughout the whole world every Christmas from the Church of St. Catherine.
During the ten years he lived in Jerusalem, he welcomed and guided with great expertise and zeal pilgrims from throughout Christendom. On March 31, 1881, his superiors sent him to Québec to carry out two mandates related to his work: establish the Good Friday collection of funds and visit the Third Order Franciscan fraternities.
His sermons in Québec and Trois-Rivières were a resounding success. In 1882, Québec Archbishop Elzéar-Alexandre Taschereau crowned his mission by publishing a pastoral letter ordering that, each Good Friday, a collection for the Holy Land be taken up in all the churches of the province of Québec. More than a century later, this collection is still taking place in all the Catholic churches of Canada.
After returning to the Holy Land, Father Frédéric was called back to Canada in 1888. This time, his superiors gave him the mission of setting up a Holy Land Commissariat in Trois-Rivières, Québec. Upon his arrival, he oversaw the construction of a small Holy Land Commissariat in Trois-Rivières, the first Franciscan house to be built in Canada since the time of the Récollets friars. From this modest building, and the regular monastery that replaced it in 1903, the influence of this missionary of the Holy Land would spread, over the next 28 years, through all the dioceses of Québec and as far as New England. Fr. Frédéric was co-founder of the pilgrimage to Notre-Dame du Cap, and for 14 years led pilgrimages to the Cap, St. Joseph’s Oratory and Sainte-Anne de Beaupré.
His literary output was impressive: he wrote many articles and founded several magazines, primarily to support the Holy Land. He celebrated Eucharist with an affecting fervour. His life truly showed that the spirit of contemplation, far from restraining apostolic zeal, strengthens it. Close to God, he is also close to people.
Exhausted by austerity and hard work, and suffering from stomach cancer, he died in Montréal in 1916. His body was taken to the monastery in Trois-Rivières, where it rests in the St. Antoine Chapel.
Father Edmond Gaudron, who knew Father Frédéric at the Collège Séraphique in Montréal around 1917, sums up his life well: “He was the one who made God visible to those who couldn’t see God.”