Born in Metz (Moselle), December 16, 1828
Taking of the habit in N.-D. de l’Osier, October 18, 1851
Oblation in N.-D. de l’Osier, October 31, 1852 (No. 333)
Ordination to the priesthood in Marseilles, December 18, 1852
Died in Quebec, December 28, 1902.
Nicolas Victor Burtin was born in Metz on December 16, 1828, son of Marie Victoire Bouillier and François Burtin, pastry maker. He made his secondary studies at the minor seminary of Metz, his philosophy and theology at the major seminary where he met Father Léonard Baveux who was on a recruiting tour through the various seminaries. In spite of the opposition of his parents, he began his novitiate on October 18, 1851 at Notre-Dame de l’Osier where he made his oblation on October 31, 1852. Father Vandenberghe, the master of novices, found a lot of qualities and a lot of faults in him. In his November 16, 1851 report, he wrote: “Burtin, good health, short in stature and thin in appearance; speaks very quickly because of a speech defect… Open character, not timid, a talker, neither sad nor too happy, not astute nor endowed with delicate tact although there is nothing blatant…” Later on, he recognized in the novice, “a great love of work,” “remarkable talent in editing, analysis,” an extraordinary memory. He found him to be “a fine talker, he sometimes entertains his novice confreres,” but not very prayerful. “It is the intelligence which predominates in him and overrules the heart. He understands nothing of human sensibility and human affection.” “He will never be an apostle; a professorial chair would suit him more.”
Scholastic Burtin was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop de Mazenod on December 18, 1852 and spent eighteen months at Le Calvaire in Marseilles and Notre-Dame de la Garde. In 1854, he received his obedience for Canada where he worked at Les Escoumains in 1854-1855, at Saint-Sauveur in Quebec in 1855, at the Iroquois reserve of Sault-Saint-Louis, Kahnawake, in 1855-1856. He taught dogmatic theology at the major seminary of Ottawa from 1855 to 1858, spent three months in Pittsburgh, New York, at the end of 1858 and then worked in Kahnawake as assistant priest from 1858 to 1864 and as parish priest from 1864 to 1892. After his vacation time in France in 1892, he took up residence at Saint-Sauveur in Quebec from 1892 to his death, which took place on December 28, 1902.
In Father Burtin’s brief obituary, Father Athanase Francœur wrote: “This priest “left everywhere in his wake the memory of an indelible unselfishness, of goodness, of tact and of learning. He is one who worked as a thinker and at the same time an apostle of all causes both religious and patriotic. He wrote several works to teach the Iroquois, among which were a sacred history of the Old Testament in Iroquois, a course of speeches on religious subjects and some small devotional tracts such as the month of the Sacred Heart, the month of Mary, the month of Saint Joseph, and that of the dead. In his spare time, he functioned as the historian of the mission of Caughnawaga…[Kahnawake]”
Sources and Bibliography
G.A.: Oblation formula, some 50 letters to a few priests, 39 of which were
written to Father J. Eugène Antoine from 1887 to 1894.
Francœur, Athanase, o.m.i., “Le P. Nicolas Victor Burtin”, in Notices nécrologiques de la province du Canada-Est, Ottawa, Éditions des Études oblates, Vol. II, 1957, p. 29-30.
Carrière, Gaston, o.m.i., “Burtin, Nicolas”, in Dictionnaire biographique des Oblats de M.I. au Canada, Vol. I, Ottawa, 1976, p. 152 with bibliography.