As the physical symbol and centre of parish life, the Catholic church is generally the largest building in the village. It occupies a choice site near the middle of the village, often on a slight elevation to give it greater prominence. Erected with funds painstakingly collected from the entire Catholic population of the parish, the church is built of stone and possesses one or two bell-towers that rise at least 20 metres. Adjacent to the church stands the curé
's imposing residence – the presbytery – which is often large enough to house a community hall where parishioners can gather to exchange news and conduct public business. The size, refinement and decoration of these buildings show the religious commitment and economic well-being of the parish.
At the end of the 19th
century, the Catholic Church holds great influence in rural Quebec. According to the Church's view of its role in society, it alone has the authority to control human behaviour since all morality falls under its religious teachings. Through his use of prohibitions, punishments and encouragements, the parish priest exercises control over the faithful. He instructs his parishioners not only to respect their religious devotions and duties – to hear mass on Sunday and to refrain from working on that day; to confess sins at least once a year; to receive Holy Communion at least once a year, at Easter; and to pay his tithe – but to avoid frivolous pleasures such as dances, card games, bowling and horse races, to abstain from alcohol in all forms, and to refrain from swearing.