Father François Hamel was born August 26, 1953 in Cap-de-la-Madeleine (Trois-Rivières), Québec, the eldest of three children. He learned of the Institute by a teacher at the Trois-Rivières Minor Seminary. It was this professor – Father Gaston Laroche – who invited him to join the Institute in 1978. Father François started his aspirancy on May 9, 1980 and was ordained a priest on November 22, 1986. His own experience of consecrated secularity helps him reach out to the people where they are. He is a listener and has the gift of touching the heart of those around him. He is a canonist who can ally humanity and pastoral reality.
Father François spent most of his adult life as a secondary school teacher (1976-1998) and as a professor at the Montreal Major Seminary, the Université du Québec at Trois-Rivières, and Saint Paul University in Ottawa, Ontario. He was granted a doctorate in canon law in 1992 by the University of Strasbourg, France. From 1987 to 1992 he was on the Canadian District Council and was in charge of formation of candidates to sacred orders. In 1992 he was elected to the Central Council where he held the position of secretary general, and in this way worked in close collaboration with Director General Father Yvon Carpentier. Father François is a hard worker – if not a workaholic! – who can juggle a number of portfolios together at any time.
In 1998 he was elected the fifth Director General of the Institute, and was re-elected in 2004 to a second six-year term. His two terms as leader of the Institute were marked by a considerable increase in membership, new foundations, and by a different restructuring of the Institute in certain countries. He contributed in making the Institute known by serving two mandates (2000-2004 and 2004-2008) on the executive council of the World Conference of Secular Institutes (WCSI) in Rome. Through his efforts, in 2007, the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life granted the Voluntas Dei Institute a permanent indult to grant dimissorial letters.