On January 1, 1924, two Oratory employees, Édouard Barsalo and Napoléon Carrières, had a pious idea: to start the new year off right by making a night pilgrimage from Mile-End to the Oratory, arriving on time for the first mass of the year, at 6 a.m. From this initiative, a tradition that has lasted over 80 years was born!
The following year, eight men participated. Departing at 4.30 a.m. from the former Compagnie Carrières, located on avenue Laurier Est, they sang hymns to Saint Joseph until their arrival at the Oratory. In 1926 their number increased to 75, but in 1927, thanks to publicity by the Oratory and newspapers, there were 1,800 pilgrims starting in Mile-End and a few thousand others starting at different points in the future metropolis! Some, coming from even further, started their walk at 2 a.m.!
In the years that followed, the organization improved and the fathers of the Oratory recognized this tradition more formally. From this point on, the pilgrimage started in front of the Saint-Enfant-Jésus church in Mile-End at 3 a.m. and the first New Year’s mass was given between 4:30 a.m. and 5 a.m., depending on the year – and after the brave pilgrims offered their confessions.