Marie Pourcx-Medaire “grew up French” and, like many French-Canadian Chicopees, remembers their joie de vivre spirit.
These immigrants and their families had strong Catholic faith, close ties to the church, and strong family ties. Many continue the French tradition, with the Midnight Mass followed by le veillon, tourtieres (meat pies), ragu de boulette (meatballs in gravy) and les pates de pork (pig’s trotter). , attended a long dinner of potatoes (with pies). And pudding for dessert.
Her passion for French Canadian culture sprouted from seeds planted during her childhood through her family, school and church. “Some of those with French names in New England have deep roots, and those deep roots have given us tourtieres, maple syrup, hockey, and the beautiful, musical French, a strong It comes from a long line of ancestors who were adventurous and brave.”
Nearly one million French Canadians immigrated to New England between 1860 and 1930, mostly in the mill towns and cities of Massachusetts. Many people came to Chicopee.
Mader’s second book, Growing French: Interviews with French Americans, released this year, tells the story of the courage, history, culture and heritage she sought to protect.
In 2013, while she was director of the Center for French Cultural Heritage, she embarked on a project called “Growing Up French” aimed at publishing a book. Over the course of five years, she interviewed 23 French Americans, most of whom lived in Massachusetts or elsewhere in New England. “What inspired me to start this project was all the French Americans who attended our (Heritage Center) events and all the messages of support I received,” she said.
Most of the people interviewed were people whom Mader had met through the Center for Cultural Heritage of France or had contacted after hearing about the project at an event at the center. “I resonated with many of the participants, especially in their family life,” she said. She said, “My parents spoke French with relatives, sang French songs and used many French expressions. French was taught in schools and French traditions were maintained in churches.”
Mader started a book project to preserve the interesting and engaging stories that people have told her. “For me, trying to preserve the past for future generations provides a personal insight into what life was like when the French were growing up in the first half of the 20th century, and what their ancestors were like. It has been vital to recognize, celebrate and embrace the rich heritage of the United States,” she said.
During the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, Mader began the arduous task of transcribing interview recordings. The stories were partially edited to add historical context (through her extensive research), but she kept the stories as close as possible to the participants’ own words.
“Our ancestors stepped into an unknown future more than 400 years ago and came to New France. The journey continued from Canada to the United States. , it is our turn to carry the torch of the language’s survival,” she said. “It is time for us to pass the baton so that the old can take root in the young and the new generation can understand who they are so that they will one day be proud and understanding. You could say: ‘I am Suvian’ (I remember).”
Mader is a contributor to Building a Better Life: French Canadians in Western Massachusetts, published by The Republican in 2015, and is the author of Many Faces One Mary: Discovering Homegrown Gardens and Shrines of Our Lady. is also the author of ”She was a founding member and director of the French Heritage Center from 2010 until 2015. In the meantime, the French Heritage Center Committee has strived to offer quality events that preserve the cultural traditions of the French people.
Plans to establish a French Heritage Center have been budding since 2009, when some of the local French Catholic churches closed, including three churches in Chicopee, one of which was Mader’s beloved French parish, It was the Church of the Assumption of Our Lady. “The Church has played a vital role in the preservation of the French language and French culture. Now that its cornerstone is lost, the last generation of immigrants has not passed on its history to young people with beautiful and musical French names.” It disappeared into history,” she said. “It was then that I felt a spiritual calling to appeal to the Vatican and lead a movement to save our church. We have been forced to create an organization called the Center for French Heritage to preserve it.”
The committee tried to get the French center to donate space, but that goal was not realized.
“To the achievements and contributions of all French-Americans and, above all, to the indomitable joie de vivre that lives in all of us who are proud to say, ‘I am French-Canadian. I’d like to say thank you,'” she said. Mr. Mader’s latest book, which also includes color photographs, shows “petites (little ) Canada” are described.
Starting price is $20 when picked up at her home in Chicopee, and $27 for packaging and shipping. The paperback has 152 pages.
For more information or to order a copy of this book, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 413-592-4946.
Note: The daughter of the author of this story edited Growing Up French: A Collection of Franco-American Interviews.