Born in the hamlet of Crossac (Haute-Loire), 15 December 1821, son of François Déléage and Jeanne Romeyer, farmers
Taking of the habit in N.-D. de l’Osier, 24 February 1847
Oblation in N.-D. de l’Osier, 27 February 1848 (No.184)
Ordination to priesthood in Ottawa, 29 October 1848
Died in Ottawa, Canada, 1stAugust 1884.
Jean-François Régis Déléage attended the Petit Séminaire de Monistrol-sur-Loire, Haute-Loire, and the Grand Séminaire du Puy. On 24February 1847 he entered the novitiate of the Oblates at Notre-Dame de l’Osier, Isère, and made his profession on 27February 1848. He completed theological studies in Montreal, and was ordained priest on 29October 1848 by Joseph Bruno Guigues, bishop of Bytown (Ottawa).
Although Déléage spoke little English, he worked first from 1848 to 1853 in the parish of Our Lady of the Visitation at South Gloucester, Canada West, which at that time included about 2,000 Irish among its members. Despite violent opposition from Orangemen, he built a church there, and he ministered to this parish and to various missions including Osgoode, Metcalfe, and Embrun.
Father Déléage was then sent to Canada East as priest to the newly created parish of L’Assomption de Maniwaki (L’Assomption de la Sainte-Vierge), which in 1853 comprised about 200 families, and as superior of the Oblates in this region. He erected a fine parish church, encouraged the building of schools, and in 1870 arranged for assistance from the Sisters of Charity of Ottawa. He set out to promote settlement on the land that the government had assigned to the Oblates in order to encourage the Algonquians to take up farming but he met with scant success. The priest also arranged for several families from South Gloucester to move to his parish, and they were followed by some French Canadian families, who settled on the banks of the Lièvre. In 1854 Déléage set up a sawmill at the Chute des Eaux and then in 1860 a sawmill and a flourmill on the Rivière Joseph (Saint Joseph River), which was the beginning of the parish of Moulin des Pères or Sainte-Famille-d’Aumond. He persuaded the government to build roads and grant a post office. He was also responsible for setting up the parishes of Saint-Gabriel, Sainte-Philomène, and LaVisitation in the Maniwaki region.
In addition to his work as a parish priest, Father Déléage served the missions in the Témiscamingue region for several years, and in 1859–60 he and Father Jean-Marie Pian were among the first Catholic priests to winter at Fort Albany (ON) on James Bay. He also visited the missions on the Saint-Maurice River and those in the lumber camps, particularly on the Gatineau. Through this work he got to know Alonzo Wright, the king of the Gatineau River region, who called him “my old friend.” The parish priest was popular among both whites and Amerindians. He was said to have mastered eight Amerindian dialects.
A financial setback caused by difficulties in selling timber from the mills led Déléage to ask to be relieved of the post of superior. After a brief period (1879-1881) in the parish of Sainte-Anne in Mattawa, Ontario, he spent his last years at the mission of Témiscamingue, which had been founded at his request in 1863 to provide him with closer contact with the northern missions and place him in a better position to learn the various Indian dialects.
All his life Jean-François Régis Déléage was a devoted missionary who never hesitated to make the sacrifices necessary to ensure the spiritual and material well-being of his flock. He belonged to the family of great missionaries of the last century, among whom were Nicolas Laverlochère, Jean-Marie Pian, and Louis Étienne Delille Reboul, all of whom also worked in these missions.
Gaston Carrière, o.m.i.