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Role of the Catholic Church in New France

The role of the Catholic Church in New France was two-fold. Though religious in nature, the Catholic clergy helped to develop the social aspects of the inhabitants and pioneeers in New France. They were what, at the time, held the fibres of these communities together since they were highly regarded.

  • Religious

    * to provide religious services to the colony
    * to convert the Natives to Christianity

  • Social

    *to take care of the educational needs of children
    *to take care of the sick
    *to help the poor and the less fortunate

    The church in the colony was composed of both Secular and Religious Clergy.

    The secular clergy consisted of the Bishop and the Parish Priests who served the rural communities of New France. Fran?ois de Laval, the first Bishop, was a very influential and powerful figure in New France.

    Among his accomplishments he is noted for having:

    * founded the S?minaire de Qu?bec, a college to train priests
    * been a key member of the Sovereign Council
    * opposed trading alcohol for furs with the Native populations
    * instituted the tithe (a church tax to help pay for church expenses)
    * organized parishes wherever numbers warranted a cur? or parish priest

    The parish priests were very close to their parishioners and they had much influence over the population. In addition to their religious duties they were also responsible for:

    * keeping records of births, marriages and deaths
    * drawing up legal contracts in regions where there were no notaries.

    The regular Clergy consisted of religious communities/orders.

    Missionary Orders:

    * R?collets arrived in 1615

    * The Jesuits arrived in 1625 and attempted to convert the Native populations to Christianity. Some such as Fathers Lal?mant and Br?beuf were martyred. Others such as Father Marquette were explorers and helped maintain good relations with the Natives. The Jesuits wrote the Jesuit Relations an account of their missionary work in New France.

    * The Sulpicians arrived in 1657 and became seigneurs of Montreal and served all its parishes.

    Female Religious Communities (Nuns) established the first schools and hospitals in the colony and were among the first women to arrive in New France. The most important of these communities were:

    * Ursuline Sisters whose first nuns arrived in 1639 led by Marie de l'Incarnation, they established the first schools for Native and French girls.

    * Hospitali?res de Saint-Joseph - Jeanne Mance founded the Hotel-Dieu hospital.

    * Congr?gation de Notre-Dame - Marguerite Bourgeoys/Bourgeois established schools for both boys and girls.

  • ? Lucie LeBlanc Consentino
    Acadian & French Canadian Ancestral Home
    2006 - Present

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