It all began on September 28, 1882, when Father Joseph-Onésime Brousseau was appointed the first parish priest of St. Damien, Quebec, which had just been erected as a parish. This small and very poor village did not have a church as such. It only had a small chapel. Located on the south shore of the St. Lawrence River, far from the railroads and poorly served by the road network, Saint-Damien, an isolated parish at the foot of the Appalachians, was home to no more than a hundred families who made their living from the rugged and rocky terrain. As soon as he arrived, Brousseau began to give his parish a boost. In the spring of 1883, he started the construction of a church, next to the first chapel which he converted into a presbytery. The walls and the framework were raised. The work was barely finished when a storm caused the collapse of the frail construction, everything was broken and had to be started again. His poor parishioners gave wood, and a week later, the work started again.
But the church had just been completed and fire broke out in the bell tower. It was the middle of winter, the snow covered everything, and there was no ladder to climb to the blaze. Will everything be lost? The priest prayed to Saint Anne and promised her a sanctuary if the church was spared. Ten minutes later, with the help of an improvised hoist, water was brought to the top of the bell tower and the flames were extinguished. Father Brousseau saw in this the intervention of the Good Saint Anne. He kept his promise and in 1886 built the Sainte-Anne-des-Montagnes chapel. This chapel dedicated to Saint Anne became a popular place of pilgrimage for the colonists. In ten years, fifty miraculous cures and numerous moral conversions, especially of alcoholics, were recorded. In 1889, there were 1220 pilgrims on the feast of Saint Anne.
In 1905, fire ravaged the convent-hospital, the chapel of the vow and the barn. In 1906, Father Brousseau went back to work and the Sainte-Anne-des-Montagnes chapel was rebuilt.