Born: Hénanbihen (Côtes-du-Nord), France, November 30, 1829.
Took the habit: N.-D. de l’Osier, October 3, 1857.
Vows: Montolivet, January 19, 1859, (N. 473).
Priestly ordination: Ottawa, March 17, 1861.
Died: Calgary, Alberta, January 5, 1903.
Louis Lebret was born in Hénanbihen, diocese of Saint-Brieuc, on November 30, 1829. His parents were René Lebret and Toussainte Gérard. After his studies in the minor seminary of Dinan (Côtes-du-Nord), he began his novitiate in Notre-Dame de l’Osier on October 3, 1857. The novice master, Father Vandenberghe, in his reports, always found him to be “very thoughtful”, “a man of order”, “pious and punctual”. On September 23, 1858, just before sending him to Marseille, he wrote: “Brother Lebret, aged 29 years, is a calm and reflective character, he makes his own judgement and it is never a bad one. His temperament is almost lymphatic and he needs to be roused; with that he is dedicated and his piety is solid. I have some fears for him with regard to his health. He began his studies somewhat late and he has been ill a number of times. The period of studies will be a critical time for him. As for the rest he is quite good.”
The student began his scholasticate in Montolivet in 1858-1859. Father Antoine Mouchette, moderator of scholastics, said he was “punctual”, had “good will” but always had many obstacles resulting from a narrow-minded judgement. He is too anxious to be without fault and that leaves him at times “meticulous and hesitant”. He took vows at Montolivet on January 19, 1859 and left for Canada on October 9 of the same year. He continued his studies in Bytown and it was there that Bishop Guigues ordained him priest on March 17, 1861.
He lived in Ottawa from 1861 to 1863 and then he was sent to Temiscamingue with responsibility for the missions of James Bay and the loggers’ camps (1861-1868). He then went to the house in Lowell, Massachusetts (1868-1870) where he took care of the mission in North Billerica. Back in Saint-Pierre-Apôtre, Montreal, he became novice master in Lachine (1870-1874) and then left for the mission of Saint Paul Minnesota (1874-1877), in charge of the parish of Saint Joseph. After a brief stay in Lowell (1877), he went to the University of Ottawa as treasurer and chaplain to the Mother house of the Grey Nuns of the Cross (1877-1879). He was then pastor in Saint-Pierre, Plattsburg, New York (1879-1882) after which he left for the Canadian West and ministered as pastor in Saint Mary, Winnipeg (1882-1883). He founded the parish of the Immaculate Conception in Winnipeg (1884-1886). Then he went to the Sauteux Amerindians in Fort Alexandre, Manitoba (1886-1889), then spent some time in Saint Mary, Winnipeg (1889-1890), in Fort Alexandre (1890-1894), in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, where he helped in building the cathedral (1894-1895). He became superior of Fort MacLeod, Alberta (1895-1903) while at the same time ministering at Pincher Creek.
Father Albert Lacombe wrote on the necrology note of his confrere: “Father Louis Lebret, wherever he went, he went about doing good. The different types of people among whom he exercised his zeal and his commitment, have always given witness by the greatest respect and filial trust. He was an example of a true priest and a man of God. Whether in the midst of the native peoples, the half-breeds or the white people, he had one thing at heart, the defence of the Church and the honour of his Mother, the Oblate Congregation, of which he was proud to be a member”.
He authored works in the Indian language and he is also honoured in the memory of the people. A lake, a village and a district in the province of Quebec bear his name, as do also a station and a village in the province of Saskatchewan.
He died in Holy Cross hospital, Calgary, on January 5, 1903.
and Gaston Carrière, o.m.i.