For over six centuries, some 300 friars have been part of the Custody of the Holy Land. Our Canadian province, which has always had four or five friars in the Holy Land, has had a Commissariat of the Holy Land in Ottawa since our foundation. Each year, it collects donations from all over Canada to support the needs of Christian communities in the Holy Land and of the pilgrimage sites. It also offers an annual pilgrimage in the footsteps of Jesus.
In 1342, the Church entrusted the Franciscans with the care of the Holy Sites. Over time, the Custody of the Holy Land has set up Commissariats of the Holy Land in over 60 countries in order to make known the Work of the Holy Land, to increase devotion for the Holy Sites and to collect funds. In 1888, Br. Frédéric Janssoone o.f.m., a former missionary in the Holy Land, established a Commissariat in Trois-Rivières, and was himself the commissary until his death in 1916. In 1919, the Commissariat was moved to Ottawa. The first French Canadian to become a Franciscan priest chose the missions in the Holy Land and arrived in Bethlehem in 1902. In January 1979, it was estimated that 45 Canadian Franciscans had served in the Holy Land.