Austin gives heritage recognition award to Saint- Benoit archivist
Established in 2015, the Austin Heritage Recognition- Award honours projects or outstanding individuals who have enriched the heritage of the Municipality of Austin.
On Saturday, September 29, the prize was awarded to Dom René Salvas, archivist at the Saint-benoît-du-lac monastery. The award was presented by Austin Mayor Lisette Maillé, in a packed community hall at the Austin City Hall. In attendance were, among others, Abbot and Mayor of Saint -Benoit-du-lac, Dom André Laberge, and pro-mayor Brother Luc Lamontagne,.
Maillé presented Dom René Salvas with an original sculpture made by metal craftsman, Bruno-thomas Bianchi, a resident of Austin.
Dom René Salvas, a monk at the abbey, is from Saint-robert, not far from Sorel-tracy. His father was a roadman for the CNR (Canadian National Railway), as it was then called.
Sixty-eight years ago, in 1950, at the end of his course at the Saint-hyacinthe Seminary, Salvas became Benedictine at Saint-benoît and went through the stages of monastic training and studies of philosophy and theology, which he completed in Jerusalem and Rome over four years.
The young monk’s love of history deepened during his long stay in Europe and the Middle East. Soon after, he began working with the monastery archivist.
In 1996, at 67-year-old, he became the titular archivist of Saint-benoît-du-lac.
Not limited to recording the events of the abbey, Dom Salvas realized what he calls the real "work of a monk", undertaking a vast historical research on the life of the abbey. For more than 20 years, he has systematically reconstructed, from the archives of abbeys here and in Europe, the history of the monastery. Gradually, he wrote around 30 detailed and documented columns on the milestones of the abbey which are published in the newsletter Amis de Saint-benoîtdu-lac. The culmination of his work as a historian was the publication, in 2012, of the imposing volume, Dans la beauté de la paix: Histoire de l'abbaye de Saintbenoît-du-lac, 1912-2012.
A cultured man, Salvas has retained much of his extensive reading during his years abroad. At age 88, his memory remains lively, almost inexhaustible, and he can discuss with finesse and precision, the places where he has lived, the characters he met, and the events he witnessed.
For anyone doing research on local history, Dom Salvas will generously open the abbey's archives and he is a collaborator for several historical works on the municipality. It is remembered that the monastery managed the Catholic parish of Austin until 1944. In addition, the very creation of the municipality in 1938 was, to a large extent, the work of monastery leaders.
By paying tribute to the Saint-benoît archivist, the Municipality of Austin is also expressimg its gratitude to the establishment, which Salvas joined nearly 70 years ago. In fact, the community of Saint-benoît-du-lac has preserved and improved the exceptional cultural and architectural heritage of Pointe-gibraltar, the historic cradle of Bolton Township and the jewel of the municipality of Austin.
The Mayor extolled the collaboration that exists between the two municipalities. She recalled Salvas' contribution to Austin's cultural events, including a talk on Sept. 29, 2002, from which the cultural committee extracted a portion. Quoting it, she said “The history of the abbey is inseparable from our municipality, of which it was an integral part until 1939. At that time, it is said, local elected officials balked at having to provide expensive municipal services to a religious community that was legally exempt from paying municipal taxes." She stated that she herself was more forward-looking. In that spirit, she joked that if one day Saint-benoît-du-lac wanted to merge with Austin, she would welcome the real estate value of the property on the evaluation roll of the municipality, which drew laughter from the audience.
Austin Mayor Lise Maillé and a member of Austin Municipal Council presented the Austin Heritage Recognition Award to St-benoit-du-lac archivist and historian Dom René Salvas (right).