1. Missionary to the Amerindians of Témiscamingue and Abitibi
  2. Journey to France (1850-1851)
  3. Father Laverlochère’s illness (1851-1884)

Born: St-Georges d’Espéranche (Isère), December 4, 1811
Taking of the habit as lay brother: Marseilles, November 26, 1836
Oblation: beginning of 1838
Taking of the habit as a scholastic: Marseilles, October 31, 1840
Oblation: N.-D. de Lumières, November 1, 1841 (No. 90)
Ordination to the priesthood: L’Acadie, Québec, May 6, 1844.
Died: Témiscamingue, October 4, 1884.

Jean Nicolas Laverlochère was born in Saint-Georges d’Espéranche, diocese of Grenoble, on December 5, 1812. He was the seventh child of Jeoffroi Laverlochère and Anne Linage. As a child he left school quite young and learned the trade of shoemaker. It seems that he came to know the Oblates through a mission preached in his village by Father Vincens and the priests of Notre-Dame de l’Osier. He decided to become a Brother and he started his novitiate in Marseille on November 26, 1836. He made his vows at the beginning of 1838. He was sent to the house in Aix as sacristan and he obtained permission from Father Courtès and Bishop de Mazenod to study Latin with a view to becoming a priest. He spent some time at Saint-Barnabé, in the area of Marseille with the pastor, Father Jean Joseph Audric who have classes in his presbytery to some young boys who hoped to become priests. On the 1st of March 1844, Bishop de Mazenod wrote to Father Honorat, telling him that Brother Laverlochère had done “abridged studies that were totally insufficient”.

On October 31, 1840 he began his novitiate once again in Marseille and took his vows at Notre-Dame de Lumières on November 1, 1841. During his novitiate he did some philosophy at the major seminary in Marseille and afterwards he studied theology with one of the priests in Notre-Dame de Lumières and Notre-Dame de l’Osier. The Founder ordained him deacon on August 20, 1843 and immediately had him leave for Canada with Father Adrien Telmon who was returning to Canada after the General Chapter.

Missionary to the Amerindians of Témiscamingue and Abitibi
On arriving at Longueuil on October 12, 1843, Brother continued his study of theology and began to learn the Algonquin language. At the request of Bishop Joseph Signay of Quebec, Father Honorat wanted to send someone as soon as possible to the Amerindians. Father Allard prepared the young man for ordination and he was ordained in the church of Acadia on May 5, 1854 by Bishop Rémi Gaulin of Kingston.

On May 14, Father Laverlochère accompanied Abbé H. Moreau on a three-month journey on the Ottawa River. With the help of six oarsmen they visited Fort William and Fort Témiscamingue and reached Lake Abitibi July 27, returning to Ottawa on August 24. They stopped for a few days at each place to preach and hear the confession of the Amerindians. In the course of the winter 1844-1845 Father Laverlochère lived with the Sulpicians at Two Mountains Lake and continued his study of Algonquin.

From 1845 onwards it was he who was in charge of the mission and he did the same journey as in 1844, this time in the company of André-Marie Garin in 1845. Again in 1847 his travelling companion was Father Thomas Hercule Clément and in 1848, Father Charles Arnaud, Abbé Perret in 1850, and Father Antoine Paillier in 1851. Between 1848 and 1851 the missionaries visited James Bay, Moose Factory in 1847 and Fort Albany in 1848.

Father Laverlochère was much beloved by the Amerindians and he had a good friendship with the bourgeois of the Hudson Bay Company in the different forts. He also maintained a good relationship with Sir George Simpson, governor of the Company, who lived in Lachine near Montréal. From 1847 to 1851 Father wanted to establish a permanent Catholic mission at Fort Albany but the governor would not give permission because, he said, there was a scarcity of means and food in that faraway region.

Journey to France (1850-1851)
During the winter months, from 1845 to 1849, Father Laverlochère helped the Fathers in Longueuil with the preaching and did some successful fund raising for the missions of the dioceses of Quebec and Montreal. He was also known in France through the publication of some of his letters in periodical Annales de la Propagation de la Foi. Bishop de Mazenod called him to France to preach on behalf of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith. . In the month of August 1850, he took ship at Moose Factory, stopped for a while in England and began his preaching in the south of France. His success exceeded all expectations. Churches were filled everywhere: in Marseille, Aix, Nîmes, Avignon, Toulon, and then in Grenoble, Lyon, Nancy and Paris. In his letters during autumn and winter 1850-1851, Bishop de Mazenod speaks continually of his astonishment and joy. For example, writing to Bishop Guigues on January 10, 1851, he said: “You would not believe the success the good Father Laverlochère has had here, in Aix and Toulon. Thanks be to God! Here we had heard bishops from the missions who had travelled throughout France. Not one of them, with the exception of Bishop Flaget, has had such an effect. There is something divine in the simplicity of this man of God! In the words of the dean of the theology faculty in Aix, we could see in him the personification of the Christian divine apostolate.” He preached in Le Havre in mid-March 1851 before taking the ship to return to Canada.

Father Laverlochère’s illness (1851-1884)
At the beginning of May 1851, Father Laverlochère set off to visit the missions along the Ottawa River and up to James Bay. He returned in the autumn on the Grand Portage, one of the more uncomfortable plying between Moose Factory and Abitibi, he wrapped himself in his blanket on the cold surface. During the night he was struck with paralysis and had to be carried slowly and painfully the 600 miles to Ottawa.

Father André Garin, who succeeded him in he charge of the James Bay mission, spoke of the “irreparable loss”. Father Laverlochère was the first Oblate missionary to the Amerindians in Canada. He had the physical and moral qualities suited to this work, as we can read in his necrology notice: “Imposing stature, impressive appearance, a healthy temperament, a lively mind, a good heart, uncommonly energetic, enterprising.”

He entered the hospital of the Grey Nuns in Ottawa on October 15, 1851. Mother Bruyère stated that his face had become misshapen and his side was numb. He was obliged to rest for fifteen months. He recovered sufficiently to continue celebrating Mass, hearing confessions and even preaching in the different houses to which he was assigned.

His presence was once again requested in France to preach on behalf of the Propagation of the Faith in 1851. He returned in the spring of 1853 until the beginning of 1856, but it was more for medical care than preaching. He gave some talks during the summer of 1854 and the spring of 1855 but Bishop de Mazenod informed those in charge of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith that Father’s health would not permit him to continue: “I have therefore asked him to completely suspend his preaching which could not have achieved the desired results” (April 15, 1855).

Returning to Canada in January 1856, Father Laverlochère took up residence in Maniwaki from 1856 to 1863. He was in Sault-Saint-Louis (Kahnawake) for a few months in the summer of 1863, in Plattsburgh from 1863 to 1867 and in Témiscamingue from1868 until his death on October 4, 1884. At the end of his life he suffered from rheumatism and he had bedsores all over his body. He always accepted his suffering with resignation. He is buried in the Amerindian cemetery at the Old Fort in Témiscamingue and the place has been declared a historic site by the government of the province of Ontario. A region, a river and a village in the province of Quebec bear his name and perpetuate his memory.

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