Austin gives her­itage recog­ni­tion award to Saint- Benoit ar­chiv­ist

Sherbrooke Record - - LOCAL NEWS - Record Staff

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).

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