Born in L’Acadie, Lower Canada, on June 17,
Taking of the habit in Longueuil on December 3, 1842.
Oblation in Longueuil on December 27, 1843. (No. 116)
Ordination to the priesthood in L’Acadie, May 5, 1844.
Dispensed from his vows on January 25, 1862.
Médard Bourassa was born in L’Acadie in the diocese of Quebec on June 17, 1818, son of François Bourassa and Geneviève Patenaude. He entered the novitiate at Longueuil on December 3, 1842. He made his oblation there on December 27, 1843 and was ordained to the priesthood at L’Acadie on May 5, 1844.
In June-July of 1844, he accompanied a diocesan priest to minister to the Attikamek Amerindians (Têtes-de-Boule) along the Saint-Maurice River where he returned regularly every summer until 1858, while during the winter months, he exercised his ministry in the lumber camps. The rest of the time, he stayed at Saint-Alexis, Saguenay Region, in 1844-1845, in Longueuil in 1846-1847, in L’Orignal, Ontario, in 1848-1854, where he built a church and ministered in the parishes of Montebello, Papineauville, Grenville, etc. In 1845, The Founder considered sending him to Red River with Father Pierre Aubert. In 1858, he asked to be dispensed from his vows. At the General Council of January 7, it was judged that the motives advanced bore little weight but, as Father Casimir Aubert wrote on February 2, the council decided “with regard to Bourassa to take a sort of mezzo termine [middle course] decision which would reconcile his felt need for a change of state with the obligations of conscience relative to the commitments that he took on in the Congregation. It would be to grant him a temporary dispensation of three years.” He remained an Oblate, the parish priest of a parish in the diocese of Bytown and Bishop Guigues remained his ecclesiastical and religious superior. In a letter to Bishop Guigues, April 24, 1858, Bishop de Mazenod made the following comments about this decision: “As for Fr. Bourassa, I am grieved by his persistence in wanting to leave the ark, and may God grant that he does not suffer total shipwreck. It is always a great infidelity to come to the point that he has reached. I have given him as much rein as I could, but will he take advantage of this kindness to stay firm in his vocation, and has he not in his heart committed to the full apostasy from which I meant to save him?”
“What a responsibility will be on his shoulders, if, as you say, you cannot replace him in his work in the lumber camps except imperfectly. Those shameful soldiers then never think of death!” (Oblate Writings II, No. 249, p.182-183)
When three years had elapsed, Father Bourassa’s case was reviewed. This is what we read in the report of the January 20, 1862 session of the General Council: “Since this priest has proven to be a source of considerable annoyance, we acknowledge him to be a person of intolerable nature. For three years now he has remained living with his own family. Several times he has refused to return to live in the Oblate community. Would it not be a pressing matter to grant exclusion to such an individual? In view of Father Bourassa’s repeated requests, the council took the decision of releasing him from his vows.”
Abbé Bourassa remained parish priest of Montebello from 1858 to 1888. He then retired to Longueuil where he died on August 1, 1897.
Sources And Bibliography
G. A.: Oblation formula, Longueuil,
December 17, 1843: Letter to Father Honorat, July 25, 1844.
Carrière, Gaston, o.m.i., “Bourassa, Médard”, in Dictionnaire biographique des Oblats de M.I. au Canada, Ottawa, Vol. I, 1976, p. 123.