March 29 – Chaplain to the Duke

March 26, 2018

Joseph Le Caron

One of the four pioneer missionaries of Canada and first missionary to the Hurons (q.v.), born near Paris in 1586; died in France, 29 March, 1632 He embraced the ecclesiastical state and was chaplain to the Duke of Orléans. When that prince died, Le Caron joined the Recollects and made his profession in 1611. On 24 April, 1615, he sailed from Honfleur, reached Canada on 25 May, and immediately wont to Sault St. Louis. After a short time he travelled to Quebec, provided himself with a portable altar service, returned to the Sault, and went into the land of the Hurons, being the first to visit their settlements and preach the Gospel. He stayed with them about a year, and was again among them in 1623. In 1616 he returned to France to look after the spiritual and material interests of the colony. The following spring saw him in Canada again, as provincial commissary. During the winters of 1618 and 1622 he evangelized the Montagnais of Tadousac. In 1625 he was once more in France, returned to Canada a year later, was elected superior of his order at Quebec, and filled this office until the capture of Quebec by the English in 1629, when he and his colleagues were sent back to France by the conquerors.

Carhagouha, Ontario (a Huron name) is the site of the first Catholic Mass celebrated in Ontario, Canada in 1615 by Fr. Joseph Le Caron. A picture, taken in 1922, of the unveiling of this cross to commemorate the event.

Le Caron was a saintly man, given to the practice of austerities, but gentle towards others. He died of the plague in the convent of Ste-Marguerite in France. We owe to him the first dictionary of the Huron language. The “Bibliotheca Universa Franciscana” of Jean de S. Antoine, II (Madrid, 1732), 243, says on the evidence of Arturus in his “Martyrologium Franciscanum” under date of 31 August, that Le Caron wrote also “Quærimonia Novæ Franciæ” (Complaint of New France).

Histoire chronol. de la province de St-Denis (Bibl. Nat., Paris); Mortuologe des Récollets de la province de St-Denis (late seveenteenth-century MS., in the archives of Quebec seminary); CHAMPLAIN (Euvres, ed. LAVARDIÈRE (6 vols., Quebec, 1870); SAGARD, Histoire du Canada, ed. TROSS (4 vols.. Paris, 1866); LECLERCQ, Premier Etablissment de la Foi dans la Nouvelle France (2 vols., Paris, 1691).

Odoric-M. Jouve (Catholic Encyclopedia)


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