Cape Sable Might Have Been The See Of The First Canadian Bishopric

Article No: 82

Cape Sable Might Have Been The See Of The First Canadian Bishopric

While Acadia was still in its infancy, the Kirke brothers invaded it in revenge for having been expelled from France to England on account of their religious belief, that of the Huguenots (the Calvinists). On their way to Acadia, they interrupted a French convoy and made a number of prisoners, among whom was Claude de La Tour, father of Charles de La Tour. It would seem that they forced Claude de La Tour to reveal to them where the stongholds were in Acadia. He would not have given that of Cape Sable, where commanded his son. That is why, in their raid, they devastated all the Acadian forts, except that of Port La Tour. They did likewise in Québec. Finally, for a time, Cape Sable was the only place in all Canada where the fleur-de-lys French flag was left flying. That was taking place in 1628.

Already, the previous year, 1627, Charles de La Tour, seeing that the territory still in the hands of the French was in great danger to be swallowed up by England, wrote to Louis XIII and to his Minister and mighty right arm, Cardinal Richelieu. As consequence, in the summer of 1630, arrived at Cape Sable two vessels full of material to build a fort for La Tour, which was erected immediately on the Sand Hills, in Villagedale. It was to be Fort Saint Louis.

Came over on those vessels three Recollect Fathers who were to provide for the spiritual needs of the people of Cape Sable. They belonged to a branch of the Franciscan Fathers. In France, the Order occupied different territories, each called a Province, and each having a superior, called Provincial. There was the Province of St. Denis, comprising Paris and its surroundings. There was also the Province of the Immaculate Condeption, which comprised the southwestern corner of France, called the "Aquitaine"; the Province itself was usually called by that name. The three priests who had come over were from this last Province. They were Fr. André Ronsaud, superior, and two young friars, Fr. François du Long and Fr. Nicolas Bigot.

Charles de La Tour built right away for them a temporary shelter at Port La Tour, where resided most of the people, while a monastery and a church were built for them adjoining Fort Saint Louis. No doubt by winter, they were able to move in.

That same winter, on Feb. 8, 1631, Charles de La Tour was named Governor and Lieutenant General of Acadia. As the situation augured stability for the French and for the Catholic religion, the Recollect Fathers thought, in the spring, of applying to the Pope for the erection of a bishopric in Canada. The demand was made through the papal nuncio in Paris, that is the representative of the Pope. After the demand had reached Rome, Rome asked the nuncio to inquire about the conditions of the country and the missionary outlook. The report was favorable.

Accordingly, the Pope decided to nominate one of the Recollects as Bishop in Canada. One of the notives was to reward the Recollects for thir work in the New World; they had laboured previously in Acadia from 1619 to 1628. The choice fell on a fiair [sic] from the Province of Aquitaine, who for some time had been doing some ministerial work at the Vatican. The See that the new Bishop was to occupy is not mentioned. As in Canada, at the time, the only Recollects were in Cape Sable, residing in their monastery on the Sand Hills, they being of the Province of Aquitaine just like the Pope's nominee, it is not presumptious [sic] to surmise that he see might have been located at Sand Hills, where there was already a Recollect monastery and a church, protected by a strong fort. Cape Sable would have been chosen preferably to Québec, as its population was more numerous at the time than that of Québec; furthermore, it was due to the nimination of La Tour as governor of Acadia that the Recollects had made their demand to the Pope.

Unfortunately, the Provincial of the Recollects in Paris urged the Pope to desist from promoting the affair; his reason is not given. He had been granted previously by the Pope the sole right to send Recollects to Canada. It has been said that he figured that this was a "scheme" of the Recollects of Aquitaine, for the purpose of promoting one of their men. Some French ecclesiastics had expressed the desire to be appointed by the Pope, but he refused to give them the appointment; in fact, one of the reasons why the Pope had decided to place a Bishop in Canada and had selected for that purpose a Recollect was in recognition for what they had been doing in Canada so far. And thus, the project of appointing a Bishop in Canada at this time was dropped. And thus, Cape Sable, which could have been the See of the first Canadian Bishop, was left empty handed.

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