Msgr James Rogers
When Bishop Thomas-Louis Connolly, second bishop of Saint John, became archbishop of Halifax in 1858, he recommended to Rome that New Brunswick be divided into two dioceses: the northern diocese, with a population of 45,000 Catholics, would include the counties of Victoria, Madawaska, Gloucester, Northumberland and Kent-North; the second diocese, Saint John, in the south with a Catholic population of 40,000. Although the two largest parishes in the northern diocese were located in the Acadian region of Caraquet and Saint-Basile, Chatham, in Northumberland County and to the extreme south of the diocese, was chosen as the Episcopal See.
The first bishop of this new diocese was Bishop Rogers, a 34-year-old Irish priest. He was born on July 11, 1826, at Mount Charles, in County Donegal, Ireland, to John Rogers and Mary Britton. Five years later, the family emigrated to Halifax. Having completed his basic studies in Halifax, the young Rogers had to go to Montreal, at theSéminaire des Sulpiciens, to pursue his theological studies. He was ordained to the deaconate by Bishop Ignace Bourget on June 14, 1851 and to the priesthood by Bishop Walsh on July 2nd of the same year. The young priest ministered in Nova Scotia until 1857 when he was sent to Bermuda where he was responsible for the building of the first Catholic Church on the island. Recalled in 1858, he became secretary to the Archbishop while also teaching at Saint Mary’s College in Halifax. In 1860, he was consecrated bishop in Charlottetown by Bishop Connolly assisted by Bishop Mullock of Newfoundland, Bishop McKinnon of Arichat and Bishop Sweeney of Saint John. Shortly after, accompanied by Bishop Connolly and Bishop Sweeney, he was installed as Bishop of Chatham on August 22, 1860.
The young bishop’s apostolic realm was well suited for his zeal and his energy. His vast diocese included sixty missions with only seven priests to minister to them. The rectories were located in Richibouctou, Chatham, Nelson, Tracadie, Caraquet, Shippagan, as well as in the villages of Bathurst and Saint-Basile. This mostly rural population was, for the most part, quite poor. The small town of Chatham had but a chapel for worship. The cathedral would be built during the episcopate of the successor of Bishop Rogers. Thus, everything had to be organized. The bishop felt tremendous compassion for the lepers of the Acadian Peninsula. They were first housed in hovels on an island on the Miramichi River with no support. Rev. Lafrance, pastor of Tracadie, was able to obtain permission from the government to transfer the Lazaret to Tracadie where the lepers could be close to their families and obtain religious guidance. Bishop Rogers was instrumental in bringing the Hospitalières de Saint Joseph, a religious congregation from Québec, to assume the care of the lepers. This congregation settled in Tracadie in 1868 to care for the lepers and other patients. They also settled in Chatham in 1869, in Saint-Basile in 1873 and in Campbellton in 1888.
At this time, there was also a need for the establishment of catholic educational institutions. As early as 1861, Bishop Rogers opened an “Academy” for boys in his own residence. Eighty-three young boys of Irish descent, for the most part, were enrolled the first year. In 1864, four nuns from the newly formed religious congregation, known as the Sisters of Charity, arrived from Halifax to begin teaching in the village of Bathurst, now known as West Bathurst. They had to leave Bathurst in 1871 but returned in 1890. The Sisters of the Congregation of Notre-Dame arrived in 1869 to teach in Newcastle, in Bathurst in 1871, in Caraquet in 1874 and in Saint-Louis de Kent in 1874. In 1876, the Christian Brothers from Montreal agreed to come to teach in a small college in Chatham, where they remained until 1880. After they left, the college was closed due to a lack of teaching staff. It reopened in 1910. Finally, IN 1899, the Eudist Fathers took charge of a new college built by Monsignor Théophile Allard in Caraquet.
It was a great disappointment to the Acadians when, in 1898, they learned that Bishops Thomas Barry and Timothy Casey were named coadjutor Bishops of Chatham and Saint John respectively. Disappointed and humiliated, all the Acadian priests, except the Vicar General of the Saint John Cathedral, declined to attend the ordination of the new bishops on February 11, 1900. When Bishop Rogers resigned in 1902, Bishop Barry became Bishop of Chatham.
Mgr Thomas Barry
Bishop Thomas Barry, who succeeded Bishop Rogers, was born in Pokemouche, New Brunswick, on March 3, 1841, the son of Thomas Barry and Mary Hamon. He completed his studies in Montreal and was ordained there on August 5, 1866 by Bishop Ignace Bourget. His various postings took him to all the regions of the diocese. As pastor of Bathurst, he was responsible for the construction of the beautiful stone church that would become the cathedral of his successor.
During the episcopacy of Bishop Barry, the College in Chatham was re-opened and re-named Saint Thomas College, and from 1910 to 1923, the Basilian Fathers were in charge of it. When the college in Caraquet burned to the ground, the Eudist Fathers, after some hesitation on the part of Bishop Barry, transferred the college to Bathurst in 1916. At the request of the Bishop, the congregation of the Hospitalières de Saint Joseph opened Holy Family Academy in Tracadie in 1912, to provide a secondary Catholic education to the young girls of the region.
The antireligious laws of France precipitated the arrival of the Trappists in the diocese in 1902, and of the Trappistines in 1905, and both religious orders settled in Rogersville. In 19—- Les Filles de Jésus took up residence in Rogersville, Dalhousie, Chatham (bishop’s residence) and in the rectory in Bathurst. The Congregation of Jésus Marie arrived in Lamèque in 1918 to educate the youth of that area. In 1904 the Daughters of Wisdom (Les Filles de la Sagesse) came to Madawaska to help the “Hospitalières “ whom, since 1873, were the only ones responsible of the education of the French population.
At the death of Bishop Barry, the Diocese of Chatham numbered 98, 952 Catholics 81,729 were French speaking. There were at that time, seventy-six French speaking priests and twenty-five English-speaking priests, thirteen convents for young women, four of which were English speaking, and two French communities of men. It was very evident that the French sector of the Diocese was very well developed. The counties of Madawaska and Restigouche, which bordered Quebec, eagerly welcomed French settlers from that province. Following the opening of Saint Joseph College in Memramcook and later College Sainte-Anne in Church Point, N.S. and Collège Sacré-Coeur in Bathurst, young Acadians, in increasing numbers, were able to receive an education and take their place in society and in the Church. The convents for the female population also played a large role in the preservation and promotion of the French language and Catholic principles in this region of this province.
Mgr Patrice-Alexandre Chisson
First Acadian Bishop of the Diocese of Bathurst
(1920 - 1942)
Bishop Patrice-Alexandre Chiasson was born November 26, 1867 in Grand-Etang, Cape Breton, N.S. He was only five years old when his parents, Oliva Chiasson and Angèle Haché came to settle in Rogersville, which was then a new settlement. Very early on, Bishop Marcel-François Richard noticed something special about this young man, who had chosen teaching as his profession. Bishop Richard encouraged him to pursue his studies at Collège Sainte-Anne in Church Point, N.S. Upon completion of his studies, he entered the Congregation of the Eudists and was ordained to the priesthood in Renes, France, on June 8, 1898. On his return to Canada, he dedicated himself to the education of young men at the Collège Sainte-Anne where he became superior in 1908. His mandate as superior was not yet completed when Pope Benedict XV appointed him Bishop of Lydda and entrusted to him the apostolic vicariate of the Gulf of Saint Lawrence. He was consecrated bishop on October 13, 1917 in Church Point by Cardinal Bégin, Archbishop of Québec, assisted by Bishop McCarthy, Archbishop of Halifax and Bishop Edouard LeBlanc, Bishop of Saint John.
Bishop Chiasson was committed to the social and spiritual development of his people. For this reason, he founded a retreat house in Bathurst, and played a leading role in establishing the Sanatorium Notre-Dame de Lourdes and the Hôtel-Dieu de Saint Joseph Hospital under the direction of the Religious Hospitalières de Saint-Joseph. At his request, summer courses were offered at l’ Université Sacré-Cœur for the Acadian teachers and he strongly supported the Association Acadienne d`Éducation. He established a Catholic Action Organization in his diocese and as well and he was personally involved in vocational recruitment. It was he who had the joy of conferring a canonical status on the Congregation des Filles de Marie de l’ Assomption on May 29, 1924, a congregation founded on September 8, 1922 by Father Arthur Melanson, future first archbishop of Moncton. Also during his tenure, he witnessed the arrival of another Acadian religious congregation, les Religieuses de Notre-Dame du Sacré-Cœur,founded in 1924, who opened a convent in Petit-Rocher. With the encouragement of Bishop Chiasson, the zeal of Father Livain Chiasson, pastor of Shippagan, and a group of committed lay people; the Cooperative Movement grew rapidly.
Bishop Patrice-Alexandre Chiasson died on January 31, 1942, at the age of 74, after 21 years as a bishop. With the formation of the Diocese of Moncton, Kent County and part of the French population of Northumberland County were separated from the Diocese of Bathurst and became part of the new archdiocese.
Mgr Camille-André LeBlanc
(1942 - 1993)
Bishop Camille-Andre Leblanc was born in Barachois, NB, on August 25, 1898, the son of Alphee C. LeBlanc and Zelica Legere. He attended primary school in Barachois, high school and college at College Sainte-Anne in Church Point, Nova Scotia. He then studied theology at Sacred Heart Seminary in Halifax. He was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Edouard A. LeBlanc on April 5, 1924, in Saint John NB.Following his ordination, he was assistant priest in Shediac from1924 to 1928, Pastor in Shemogue from 1928 to 1938, and Pastor at Assumption Cathedral in Moncton from 1938 to 1942.
He became Bishop Elect of the Diocese of Bathurst on July25, 1942. The Episcopal ordination took place in the Cathedral of Moncton on September 8, 1942, presided by Bishop Iidebrando Antonuitt then Apostolic Delegate to Canada. Bishop LeBlanc was enthroned in Bathurst at Sacred Heart Cathedral.
In 1943, Bishop LeBlanc was granted a PhD in Arts by Sacred Heart University of Bathurst. He went to Rome many times on « ad limina » visits and he attended every session of the Second Vatican Council. Bishop LeBlanc organized a first Synod in 1949 and a second in 1959. In 1950, he organized a Eucharistic Congress in Caraquet. On the occasion of the Centenary of the Proclamation of the Dogma on the Immaculate Conception in 1964, he organized a Marian Congress in Bathurst.
He resigned as Bishop of the Diocese of Bathurst on January 8, 1969. After his resignation, he served as Chaplain at the Caraquet Hospital for 18 years.
For more than 26 years as leader of the Diocese of Bathurst, Bishop LeBlanc established 8 missions, 19 parashes, and ordained 112 priests. Many religious orders, men and women, were invited to work in his diocese. In 1952, he founded Foyer Saint-Camille (now Foyer Notre-Dame). He also built St. Joseph’s Retreat House as well as St. Charles Minor Seminary for the formation of future priests.
On September 22, 1988, at the age of 90, Bishop LeBlanc finally retired to Edmee-Martin Pavillon where he resided until his death. He passed away on August 19, 1993 at the age of 94.
Mgr Edgar Godin
(1969 - 1985)
The fifth Bishop of Bathurst was born at Fair Isle, in the parish of Néguac, on May 13th 1911. He was the son of Joseph Godin and Marguerite Breau. He did his High School education at l’Université du Sacré-Coeur in Bathurst and his studies in Theology at the Grand Séminaire in Halifax. After being ordained priest by Bishop Patrice-Alexandre Chiasson on June 15 1941, he studied Canon Law at l’Université de Laval and at the Grégorinne in Rome, where he obtained his license in Canon Law in 1947. He was successively Curate, retreat Preacher, Vice Chancellor, Vicar General and Chaplain at the Hôtel Dieu of Bathurst, position he occupied until he was nominated Bishop of Bathurst on June 12 1969. His Episcopal Ordination took place at the Sacred Heart Cathedral on July 25th with Bishop Emmanuel Clarizio apostolic delegate presiding.
The task of integrating the changes brought forth by Vatican II, was mainly assigned to Bishop Godin. This great challenge came at a time when both society and Church were in crisis. From the start, he formed a Council of Priests and encouraged the formation of Pastoral Councils in three new parishes and ordained eighteen new priests. The Diocese in those days had fifty-seven parishes, thirteen missions, eighty-five diocesan priests and twenty-three religious to serve them.
During his Episcopate of sixteen years, Bishop Godin would witness many changes in society that had repercussions in the Church. Many diocesan education institutions would be closed or transformed: The College of the Eudistes Fathers would be managed by lay people before disappearing completely to be replaced by a community college housing an Institute of Technology. The college of the Religieuses de Jésus-Marie in Shippagan and the one of Filles de Marie de l’Assomption in Bathurst were replace by the Centre Universitaire de Shippagan, an affiliate of l’Université de Moncton. All of the private schools – academies and pensions – that were under the direction of the nuns were closed following the restructure of the school system. As for Le Petit Séminaire Saint Charles, it existed only a few years. The juvénats des Frères du Sacré-Cœur et des pères Eudites have also disapeared. The later has become a spiritual resource center for retreats and sessions. The care for the underprivileged has also changed. Most of the hospitals now fall under the provincial government, but the Hospitalières de Saint-Joseph still manage a seniors home and two hospitals and the Filles de Jésus, a third hospital.
Today there are still a number of nuns and brothers that teach in the public schools although their number has decreased considerably. Nonetheless, a greater number still work in catechesis, at the family office, at the matrimonial tribunal, hospital pastoral care, in parish pastoral and in unfavorable areas. In recent years, three shelters for abused women have opened their doors in two of these communities.
The vitality of religious life is demonstrated by the of new mouvements and associations such as: Marriage Encounter, Cursillos, Teen Encounter, Renouveau charismatique, Faith Sharing, Alpec sessions, World Youth, Development and Peace, Health and welfare, and others that have been established for a while such as the Knights of Columbus, Catholic Women’s League of Canada, Scouts and Guides, Filles d’Isabelle, Family Orientation Services to name a few. Even though the religious practice has known a decrease during the past seventy years, it has never been an alarming one. The annual pilgrimage at Sainte-Anne du Bocage attracts thousands of people and the novena is still to this day followed with ardor and is also broadcasted on the radio. Another sign of hope of Msgr. Godin is the increase in the number of seminarians.
The pastoral organizations within the Diocese included a Pastoral Center, Pastoral for Vocations, Pastoral Health Care, of Tourism and Missionary Pastoral, and also Family Life. There also existed a commission of religious at the diocesan level. The Diocese seemed to have well engaged itself on the path created by Vatican II.
Bishop Edgar Godin, who had always been interested in history, would have been happy to organize the celebration of the 125th anniversary of the Diocese. Unfortunately he died after a short illness on the evening of Holy Saturday, April 6th 1985. He was 73 years and 11 months old and had served as Bishop for 16 years.
Mgr Arsène Richard
(1986 - 1989)
Bishop Arsène Richard was born May 9, 1935, son of the late Basil Richard and Josephine Richard at Saint-Louis-de-Kent, NB. After his primary studies in his home parish, he attended Sacred Heart University in Bathurst from 1949 to 1956. He studied theology at the Holy Heart Seminary in Halifax from 1956 to 1960. He was ordained to the priesthood in his native parish June 11, 1960 by the late Archbishop Norbert Robichaud. After his ordination, he taught at the Assumption College and was appointed director of the students at the Pius X Student Centre in Moncton. He then took postgraduate studies in Liturgy at the Saint-Andre Abbey, Bruges, in Belgium from 1964 to 1965. From 1965 to 1966, he studied catechesis at the Catholic Institute in Paris. Upon his return to his diocese in Moncton, he was named diocesan director of the catechesis office on September 10, 1967, a function he held until June 27, 1984. While working on a diocesan level, he was weekend assistant priest at Christ the King parish in 1970. In 1971, he took charge of Ste. Bernadette mission church of which he was named administrator on August 16, 1974.
On July 6, 1983, he was appointed pastor of St. Jacques parish in Scoudouc, an office he held until his appointment as Bishop of the Diocese of Bathurst. Bishop Richard also worked within the organizing committee of the September 13, 1984 Papal Visit to Moncton. Archbishop Donat Chiasson ordained him Bishop on February 5, 1986, in Sacred Heart Cathedral, Bathurst, NB. He died January 6, 1989.
Mgr André Richard
(1989 - 2002)
Bishop André Richard was born at Saint Ignace, Kent Co., NB on June 30, 1937, and son of the late Olivier Richard and Eva Babineau. After his primary studies in his home parish of Saint Ignace, he attended St. Joseph University in Memramcook. In 1958 he entered the novitiate with Holy Cross Fathers in Montreal. He studied theology in Rome from 1959 to 1963. He was ordained to the priesthood in Rome on February 17, 1963.
After his return to Canada, he was appointed to the teaching staff at St. Joseph University. From 1965 to 1966 he studied at the Centre Dominicain in Paris. He then specialized in catechesis in Strasbourg. Upon his return to the Archdiocese in Moncton, he was appointed curate in the parish of Cap-Pelé while working on the vocation committee in the archdiocese. From 1970 to 1976, he exercised his ministry in the diocese of Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, being successively curate at the Cathedral parish, administrator of the parish of Weymouth and at Butte-Amirault. In 1976 he was elected provincial superior of “La Maison Sainte-Croix”, in Pré-d’en-Haut.
Father André Richard was appointed as the Bathurst Diocese’s new bishop on May 31, 1989 and he was appointed as new archbishop of the Moncton Archdiocese on March 17, 2002.
Mgr Valéry Vienneau
(2002 - 2013)
Bishop Valéry Vienneau was born on October 13, 1947, in Cap-Pelé in the Archdiocese of Moncton.
He received a BA in philosophy in 1968 and a BA in education in 1971 from l’Université de Moncton. He taught in the public school system in his home parish for nine years before beginning his theological studies at the College Dominicain de philosophie et de theologie, in Ottawa where he obtained his BA in theology in 1980 and his MA in theology in 1987.
He was ordained to the priesthood for the Archdiocese of Moncton on August 29, 1982, where he exercised several pastoral ministries. In 1997, he was appointed Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Moncton and the pastor of the Cathedral Notre-Dame-de-l’Assomption. In 1998 he was appointed Chaplain at l’Universite de Moncton and curate in the parish of Notre-Dame d’Acadie at l’Universite de Moncton. In 2002, he assumed the responsibility of the pastoral restructuring for the Archdiocese of Moncton and the formation of members of the pastoral teams. In 2002, he was named Bishop of Bathurst, becoming the 8th bishop of the diocese. Archbishop Andre Richard ordained him Bishop on October 8, 2002.