Skip To Content

Mexican diocese honours Toronto priest

The Rev. Canon Maurice Francois

By Stuart Mann

The Diocese of Northern Mexico has made a Toronto priest an honorary canon in recognition of his work with Mexican immigrants.

The Rev. Canon Maurice Francois, the priest-in-charge of Parroquia San Esteban, a Spanish-speaking ministry in downtown Toronto, has been made on honorary canon of the Cathedral Church of the Holy Family in Monterrey, Mexico.

“We’re a bit surprised but also very happy,” said Canon Francois. “This gives us even more motivation to carry out our work.”

In the past 10 years, his congregation has helped about 400 Mexican immigrants adjust to a new life in Toronto. They provide ESL courses, referrals to legal aid and social services, food, clothes and mental health support.

“One hundred per cent of our congregation is immigrants, so they know better than anybody what is needed,” says Canon Francois.

The relationship between Parroquia San Esteban and the Diocese of Northern Mexico was started by a Mexican-American priest, the Rev. Bryant Husted, a university professor who teaches in Toronto and Monterrey. It began with a link to a single parish in Monterrey and has since grown into an “informal companionship” between the Toronto congregation and the Mexican diocese.

Bishop Francisco Moreno, the bishop of the Diocese of Northern Mexico, visited the Diocese of Toronto last year and saw the work being done by Parroquia San Esteban for Mexican immigrants. In total, the congregation has helped about 900 Spanish-speaking newcomers to Toronto during the last 10 years.

Canon Francois says the needs have been greater that his congregation expected. “In the beginning, we provided pastoral care. We didn’t realize it would become so complex. A lot of immigrants experience employment abuse when they get here, so we try to advocate on their behalf. We also help when there is a deportation.”

Parroquia San Esteban has 130 families on the parish rolls and is based at Holy Trinity, Trinity Square. Canon Francois says the congregation has grown by word of mouth and because of its location in the inner city. “The first thing immigrants look for when they come to a new country is a supportive network, and the first place they look for to find that is a church,” he says.