The Sign of the Theotokos Church

Montréal, Quebec

The Sign of the Theotokos Church

Founded 1978

Diocese: Archdiocese of Canada

Deanery: Quebec Deanery


750 St Joseph Blvd Est
Montréal, Quebec

Mailing address:

4829 rue Resther
Montréal QC H2J 2V6

Office: 514-934-0539

Parish Contacts

126 Maitland Ave
Pointe Claire, QC H9R 3X4
Home: 514-893-4416
Retired, Attached


General Location
Since July 1, 2000, The Sign of the Theotokos is located near the downtown area of Montreal in the Province of Quebec.  This area of the city is known as the “Plateau Mount Royal” and is home to many young professionals and is full of life with many nearby restuarants and shops.  The Sign is a large brick church on the corner of the side street, Resther, with the main entrance on St Joseph Blvd East.  We brought with us our beautifully carved wooden sign with the icon of the Sign which is clearly visible in front of the church at 750 St Joseph Blvd East.

by metro (subway) and/or bus
Our new church is very conveniently located 3 blocks east of St Denis (bus #30) and just 1 short block east of the Laurier metro (subway) station (use the St Joseph exit).  The Laurier metro is on the #2 (or orange) metro line.  A number of buses stop at the Laurier station, including #14, #27, #47 and #51.

Schedule of Services

A complete and continuously updated schedule of services for each week is available as a recorded message on the Church’s answering machine in 4 languages (English, French, Greek, and Russian) by calling 514-934-0539. With the exception of Holy Week, we follow a policy of having any evening service begin at 6:00 PM on weekdays, 5:00 pm on Saturdays and any morning service generally begin at 10:00 AM. The primary (about 95%) language of services is English with some French and a little Greek and Slavonic included in most services. We follow the new calendar and our Patronal Feast is celebrated on the Sunday closest to November 27

Regrettably, neither the church nor hall is handicapped-accessible yet—we hope our funds will permit this soon!

5:00 PM Great Vespers.
Saturday Evening

10:00 AM Divine Liturgy (with Hours preceding it at 9:30 AM).  The Liturgy is followed weekly by a Coffee and Fellowship Hour (during which the Sunday School meets and once a month an Adult Christian Education session from September through May).
Sunday Morning

6:00 PM Vigil if eve falls on Friday or 5:00 PM on Saturday; Vesperal Liturgy (if eve falls on Monday through Thursday)
Eves of Great Feasts

10:00 AM Divine Liturgy (if Feast falls on Saturday or Sunday); 6:00 PM Divine Liturgy (if Feast falls on Monday—Friday).
Mornings of Great Feasts

6:00 PM Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts followed by a Lenten Soup supper.
Wednesday Evenings in Great Lent

Confessions are usually heard on Saturday immediately before or after Great Vespers.  Those desiring private confession should call Fr John (514-481-5093) ahead of time to make arrangements.

Please visit the Monthly Calendar on the Services tab on the parish website, or call 514-934-0539 to verify schedule for Great Feasts and Holy Week.  Holy Week services are held each day.

Parish Background

The beginnings of The Sign can be traced back to a small group of parishoners at Ss Peter & Paul Cathedral in Montreal in the mid 1970’s. While the Cathedral had become a predominantly Russian speaking community, a small group of a dozen or so people felt the need for services in English.  In October 1974 a weekly English Liturgy was inaugurated on a side altar prior to the Slavonic service.  The small group also instituted an English Sunday School for the few children and gradually their numbers began to increase.

Having two language groups at the Cathedral created some tensions, so permission was sought from Archbishop Sylvester to explore the possibility of initiating a new mission to serve in English and French.  On April 9, 1978, twenty four people met in a private home to discuss their future.  Fr John Tkachuk who had been the rector of SS Peter & Paul for five years had submitted his resignation which was to become effective on September 1st but he had the Archbishop’s permission to found a mission if enough Orthodox could be found to support it.  The group considered the various possibilities and unanimously decided to petition Archbishop Sylvester for his blessing for the Mission.  They decided to name the new mission for a feast of the Theotokos and having asked Fr John to make a suggestion, he put forward a feast of God’s incarnation little known in the West, that of the “sign” of Emmanuel’s birth from a virgin prophesied by Isaiah (7:14), the icon of which is celebrated on November 27.  Thus, the name “The Sign of the Theotokos” was adopted as the name for the mission.

On May 18, 1978, Archbishop Sylvester gave his archpastoral blessing, granting permission to begin liturgical services in September for the feast of the Nativity of the Theotokos.  Over the summer much activity took place to prepare for the new mission:  the building of the iconostas panels, altar and stands, the sewing of vestments and coverings for the chapel, the rehearsal of singers, and the raising of needed money.  Soon a property was found for rental, a lower townhouse flat that had been used for over a decade by St Anthony’s Irish Catholic Church which was then in the process of erecting its own new building a few blocks east. An agreement was reached to share the premises until their new edifice was completed, and a lease was signed.

The first service was sung on Thursday, September 7, the vigil of the feast of Mary’s Nativity.  Divine Liturgy was celebrated for the first time the next morning at 7:00 AM.  The choir numbered six people:  three Orthodox (two of them converts) and three non-Orthodox.  Less than two dozen were present for the first Liturgical communion of The Sign of the Theotokos Church, celebrated in the Roman Catholic chapel of St Anthony of Padua before its rococo wooden altar with two icons sitting on it.  St Anthony’s moved into their new building in mid-December so that only at Christmas were we able to renovate the premises according to our needs and set up the iconostas.  The Quebec Government chartered us as a non-profit religious organization on November 27th that year (our patronal feast day).

The early years of The Sign saw two more moves.  When the building in which we had rented space from St Anthony’s was to be sold, a new location was found at Nazareth House, a social service agency in Montreal.  The first Liturgy at Nazareth House took place on October 5, 1980 and we continued there for about a year and a half at which time Nazareth House’s lease was up and we were once again in search of a new place.  This was found in the basement of the large, French speaking Roman Catholic Church, St Leon de Westmount which we moved into in April 1982 and remained for the next 18 years.

After just over 18 years in St Leon’s basement with its low ceilings with pipes hanging down, large square pillars supporting the Catholic church above and no windows or natural light, our dream of owning our very own, above ground church finally came true on July 1st, 2000.  Our new home was initially built as a Protestant church and after a fire that gutted it around 1980, the shell was purchased and the entire insides rebuilt by the Syriac Orthodox parish of St James.  The Syriac community gradually outgrew it and chose to put it up for sale while building a new church in northern Montreal.

On February 6, 2000, at the conclusion of the Divine Liturgy, papers were signed in which we committed ourselves to the purchase of the church.  The final closing and sale occured on June 22, 2000 with Archpriest John Tkachuk and our Warden, Dr Katherine Berdnikoff (who is also one of the founders of the parish) signing on behalf of the community.  The week before the move was busy with cleaning and preparing our new abode while completing packing at the old basement chapel.  July 1 (which is also “Canada Day”) was a glorious day with many parishioners coming together to physically move us into our new home.

On July 2, the feast of the Saints of North America, we celebrated with immense thanksgiving our first Divine Liturgy with fresh air and sunlight streaming in through the windows and eyes filled with tears of joy.  As our gracious and loving God has blessed us with this new home, we renew our commitment to be visible witnesses of our Orthodox faith to the surrounding community and all who enter its doors.

From its first year, The Sign has had a bookstore and library which was later named “The Father Alexander Schmemann Bookstore and Library” (see above under “ministry groups”).  The bookstore in particular with over 325 titles in stock has been a service not only to the parish but to Montreal and throughout Canada where Orthodox materials in English are often difficult to find. The bookstore also sells two music recordings by The Sign’s choir called “Byzantine Music in the New World” and “Byzantine Music in the New World:  Orthodox Saints.”  Available as cassettes or CDs, these recordings have been very popular throughout the world from Canada and the US to Mount Athos and Australia.

The Orthodox Theological Institute (OTI) which began during the years at Ss Peter & Paul is resident at The Sign and has throughout the years organized various courses on the history, spirituality, and liturgical experience of Orthodoxy. Past speakers have included such people as Fr Alexander Schmemann, Fr Thomas Hopko, Bishop Seraphim (Storheim), Dr Daniel Sahas, Fr Theodore Stylianopoulos, and Fr Michael Plekon.

Throughout our history, our pastor, teacher, and spiritual guide has been Archpriest John Tkachuk who also served as the Dean of Quebec, Chancellor of the Archdiocese, and as a chaplain in the US Air Force Reserve (retired March 1, 2003).  Since our founding in 1978 The Sign has given the Church from among our members four priests, another deacon, a monk, and two nuns.  However, the strength and heart of the parish has always been the active involvement of our dedicated faithful through their ministries of singing, conducting, teaching, and service to those in need.

The Sign has continued to grow and now has a mailing list of about 130 families that are members or friends of the parish.  The majority of parishioners are young to middle-aged adults with an ever-growing number of young, energetic children.  Our membership is very diverse and includes professionals such as doctors, nurses, lawyers, university professors and researchers as well as students and recent immigrants who are still struggling to begin a new life in a new culture.

In our parish hall are about 27 different country flags on poles, with each flag representing a country where someone at The Sign was born.  Besides reflecting our pastor’s love of flags and the ethnic diversity of the parish, they indicate a very important founding principle of The Sign: To be a parish which would in itself be a living reflection of the multicultural makeup of Orthodox Christianity here in the New World, and a place where all would be welcome to “come home” to the ancient faith lived and experienced in new ways, and expressed primarily in the new tongues of English and French.

Thus, having parishoners with either recent or distant ethnic roots from such places as Greece, Russia, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Romania, Lebanon, Colombia, Portugal, Ethiopia, Scotland, Wales, French Quebec, English Canada and the USA among others, we come together in love and fellowship to worship and glorify the Lord God in Holy Trinity according to the Liturgical practices of the Orthodox Church and continually strive to witness to our faith by welcoming all who come into our midst.