published on September 14, 2016
Susan J. Palmer, Dale J. Rose
Quebec’s Holy Spirit Incarnate
The Transformation of a Marian Prayer Group into la Mission de l’Esprit-Saint
The Mission of the Holy Spirit or la Mission de l’Ésprit Saint (MES), founded circa 1915, is one of Quebec’s oldest alternative religions. Today it might be described as a messianic movement, based on the charisma and millenarian mission of Eugene Richer (1871–1925), a Montreal policeman known to his followers as “ERL” (Eugene Richer dit Lafleche) and believed to be the Holy Spirit Incarnate. But its origins can be traced back to small Catholic Marian prayer circle called Notre-Dame du Sacre-Coeur de la Régénération (NDSCR). Sometime between 1913 and 1916, the NDSCR broke from Rome, changed its name to Mission de l’Ésprit Saint, and evolved into a messianic, evangelistic sect with an alternative cosmology, distinctive practices, and a sectarian stance towards the larger society. Our purpose is to investigate this period of dramatic transformation. Recently, an important historical document has become available that sheds new light on the events surrounding the foundation of this movement and challenges the congregation’s current understanding of their own history. We explore new interpretations of the enigma of ERL’s charismatic leadership and the founding of his movement in light of this new document.