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Historical dictionary... (388)



Lestanc, Joseph

Born: Saint-Pierre-Quilbignon (Finistère), August 30, 1830.
Took the habit: N.-D. de l’Osier, October 31, 1853.
Vows: N.-D. de l’Osier, November 1, 1854 (N. 374).
Priestly ordination: Marseille, March 3, 1855.
Died: Calgary, Alberta, Canada, May 4, 1912.

Joseph Jean-Marie Lestanc was born in Saint-Pierre-Quilbignon, diocese of Quimper, France, on August 20, 1830. His parents were Hervé-Marie Lestanc and Jeanne Messager. After studies in the minor seminary of Saint-Pol-de-Léon (1844-1850), and in the major seminary of Quimper (1850-1853) he entered novitiate at Notre-Dame de l’Osier on October 31, 1853, and took vows there on November 1, 1854. Father Vandenberghe, novice master, always gave a favourable opinion of this candidate in his reports. He found him to be “of rare piety, scrupulous and severe observance, a good and generous character without malice, of strong health”. In November 1853 this Brother was admonitor and “full of piety, zeal and dedication” making “a great effort for spiritual advancement. Perhaps, somewhat rigid…” He did a final year of theology in Montolivet in 1854-1855 and was ordained priest by Bishop de Mazenod on March 3, 1855.

Father Lestanc ministered for a few months at Notre-Dame de la Garde in Marseille (1855) and then left for Western Canada where he was first assigned to Saint-Boniface, Manitoba (1855-1857), then to Saint-Norbert (1857), where he was pastor 1858-1860). He had also begun to build a mission at Saint-Laurent (1857-1858) which he visited from 1861to 1870. On the occasion of the fire in the cathedral of Saint-Boniface, December 14, 1860, he was called to bishop’s house to be in charge of re-construction (1860-1862). He then became superior of Saint-Boniface college (1862-1864), during which time he visited the Maskegon Amerindians below Fort-de-Pierre and the Sauteux in Fort Alexander. In 1860 he visited Lac-la-Pluie and Lac-Seul in Ontario.

He was councillor for the mission vicariate and superior of the house in Saint-Boniface (1860-1870). He then left for Lebret (Qu’Appelle), Saskatchewan (1870-1874) and visited the buffalo hunters all the way to Cypress Hill Mountain and Willow Bunch, Saskatchewan (1870-1874), where he became the first resident priest and ministered to the missions of Lac-la-Pluie, Ontario (1870-1874). He then went to the diocese of Saint-Albert, was superior in Saint-Albert (1874-1877), master of novices (1875), and founder of Fort Pitt mission (1877). He visited Battleford, Saskatchewan and became the first superior there (1877-1882). He spent the winter with Chief Poundmaker (1879) and there, in a two year period (1881-1882), he built a house and a school.

Having been to Europe for the Oblate General Chapter in 1882, he was once again appointed superior in Saint-Albert (1883-1893), then superior in Calgary (1893-1897) and from there he went to Onion Lake, Saskatchewan (1897-1898). He ministered at Lac-en-Long (Gurneyville), Alberta (1897), again as superior in Calgary (1898-1899), at Cold Lake (Saint-Raphael) (1899) and Saint-Albert (1899). He became pastor in Saint-Joachim, Edmonton (1899-1901) and afterwards, he was superior of the Indian school in Dunbow (De Vinton, High River), Alberta (1901-1902), Fort MacLeod (1901-1904), and he visited Okotoks (1901-1905), Claresholm (1903-1905), Vulcan (1905) and High River. Afterwards, we find him in Calgary, or Okotoks, or Fort MacLeod, or Dunbow, or Lethbridge, or Saddle Lake or Edmonton. He then retired to the Lacombe Home in Midnapore, Alberta (1911-1912).

On sending him to Canada in 1855, Bishop de Mazenod had written to the Fathers of Red River on June 28, of that year: The person who will bring you this letter … is a perfect religious, full of zeal and fervour. He understands that it would be folly to devote one’s self to a ministry so hard for nature and to expose one’s self to the loss of its fruits and merit by not living as a true religious.” It seems that the Founder was a good judge of the young priest. On the occasion of the celebrations for the fiftieth anniversary of his priestly and religious life in 1905, Father Lacombe recalled “what Father Lestanc had been during those 50 years of religious life: punctual and obedient, always ready to undertake the arduous missions and the difficult tasks, giving example to young religious, and, in spite of his age, still working vigorously in the Lord’s vineyard, doing the work of a young man…” (Missions OMI, 43, 1905, p.100).

He died in Holy Cross hospital, Calgary, on May 4, 1912 at the age of 82 and is buried in the Oblate cemetery in Saint-Albert.

Yvon Beaudoin
and Gaston Carrière, o.m.i.

Sources and Bibliography

G. A.: oblation formula, 70 letters.
Archives of Saint-Boniface archdio­cese: 40 letters to Bishop Taché.
Missions OMI, 186201912, passim.
R.P. Joseph Lestanc”, in Missions OMI, Vol. 57, (1923) pp. 521-537.
Carrière, Gaston, o.m.i., “Lestanc, Joseph”, in Dictionnaire biographique des Oblats de M.I, au Canada, Vol. II, Ottawa 1977, pp. 321-322. That text, with some additions and corrections, has been reproduced here.