Born: Ste-Anne-des-Plaines (Lower Canada) , July 28, 1826.
Priestly ordination: Montreal, November 12, 1854.
Took the habit: March 9, 1859.
Vows: Great Slave Lake, January 6, 1861, (No. 563).
Died: Saint-Boniface, Manitoba, January 3, 1914.
Zéphirin Gascon was born on July 28, 1826, in Sainte-Anne-des-Plaines. His parents were Jean-Baptiste Lalongé dit Gascon and Angéline Thérien. He studied at the minor seminary of Sainte-Thérèse, Blainville (1842-1852), and there he also did his theology. He was ordained priest in Montreal on November 12, 1854, by Bishop LaRoque, auxiliary of Montreal. The young man was first sent as assistant priest to Verchères (1854-1857). He then offered his services to Bishop Alexandre Taché, bishop of Saint-Boniface and with him he went to the West. He worked in Saint-Boniface, Manitoba (1857-1859) and in the newly opened mission of Saint-Laurent (1857).

He began his novitiate in Saint-Norbert on March 9, 1859 and left for the mission of Saint Joseph in Fort Resolution, in the Great Slave Lake area, North-West Territories (1859) and remained there until 1880. It was there that he made his final vows on January 6, 1861.

Fr. Gascon founded the mission of Fort Liard (1859), visited Fort Simpson (1860) and Fort Rae (1860) where he built a chapel. He then founded the mission of Fort Providence (1862). His stay in Fort Resolution was interrupted (1862-1863) while he was superior in Fort Good Hope. He was diligent in visiting the missions in Fort Rae (1866-1871), Fort Simpson (1860-1863), Fort Norman (1862-1863) and Hay River (1869).

Exhausted from his work, he had to leave Mackenzie in 1880 and go to Saint-Laurent in Manitoba (1880-1887), then to Lestock, Saskatchewan (1897-1898), Fort Alexandre, Manitoba 1898-1905) and then Saint-Charles, Manitoba (1905-1908) and finally to the Holy Family juniorate in Saint-Boniface (1908-1814). In his necrology note we read with regard to his stay in this last-mentioned house: “Being unable to devote his efforts to outside ministry, he always resented being considered a useless member of the community. Who can tell of all the letters he wrote to promote the work of the juniorate to which he devoted the last years of his life, and the resources which he found? … That was how he spent seven years, beloved by all for his gentleness, his great charity and his child-like candour, confined to his chair which served as a bed, right up until the moment when the Lord judged that the fruit was ripe for heaven. He had already ministered in our mission of Saint-Boniface and had renewed his vows publicly, when, on the morning of January 3, 1914, he passed away quietly, surrounded by his brothers in religion. He was 87 years, 5 months and 6 days of age.”

The Indians had given him the names of “the thin man of prayer” or “Uncomfortable man of prayer” or “the man who prayed in misery”. He was buried in Saint-Charles, Manitoba.

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