Born: Fontenay (Sarthe), France, June 1,
Took the habit: N.-D. de l’Osier, April 22, 1850.
Vows: N.-D. de l’Osier, April 23, 1851 (N. 303).
Priestly ordination: Marseille, March 27, 1852.
Died: Saint-Albert, Canada, July 10, 1901.
René Rémas was born in Fontenay, diocese of Le Mans, on June 1, 1823. He studied in the minor seminary of Précigné and in the major seminary of Le Mans. He then entered the novitiate in Notre-Dame de l’Osier on April 22, 1850 and made his vows there on April 22, 1851. The minutes of the general council for the previous April 18, notes that “This young man has behaved himself admirably throughout all of his novitiate. He is so advanced in all sorts of virtues” notes Father Santoni, “that I consider him to be a saintly religious: ordinary talents but heightened by such a great love of work and a great zeal for the tasks assigned to him; his character is somewhat coarse, and I would say the same of his build; health is quite good except that he subject to headaches and his hearing is defective in one ear; quite good judgement; this young man could be quite successful in the foreign missions.”
The scholastic did one year of theology in the major seminary of Marseille in 1851-1852 and was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop de Mazenod on March 27, 1852. Father Jean Marchal, moderator of scholastics, in his report for April 1852, wrote “Brother Rémas distinguishes himself by his application to work, his modesty and his firmness. The only deficiency he has is a less severe appearance. I think he has made much progress in all the virtues of the interior and religious life. I believe he is a saint.”
Having been sent to western Canada in 1852, he resided at Saint-Boniface, Manitoba (1852-1853) and then left for Lac-la-Biche, Alberta where he remained for a few months (1853-1854) before going to Lac-Sainte-Anne (1854-1868). From there he travelled over a vast territory and undertook to visit the missions of Cumberland House, Carlton and Fort Pitt. In 1856 he went to Fort Jasper, Alberta and made three journeys to the Prairie (1856-1864), four journeys to Little Slave Lake (Grouard) and he also ministered in Edmonton (1860-1864). In his youth René Rémas was shy and tended to think of himself as despised. Later he was to write about the beginnings of his ministry in the West: “I was thirty years old when I arrived in this country. I was small, thin, alert, sickly, tending to be taciturn, melancholy, timid, deaf in the right ear, not knowledgeable.”
He lived at Lac-la-Biche (1868-1872) and then became the first resident priest in Grouard (1872-1874), returning to Lac-la-Biche 1874-1877. He hen went to Bow River, Calgary (1877-1878), to Saint-Albert (1878-1883), again to Calgary (1883-1884) and there he ministered to the workers on the building of the Canadian Pacific railway. Afterwards he was numerous places: Rivière-qui-Barre, Alberta (18841885), Onion Lake, Saskatchewan (1885), Saint Albert (1885-1895), serving from there, Stony Plain, Winterburn and Rivière-qui-Barre (1885, 1893-1894), Edmonton (1895), Winterburn (1885, 1895-1897). He then went to Montreal for medical treatment (1897-1898), to Saint-Joachim in Edmonton (1898-1899), to Bears Hill (1899), Calgary (1900), and Saint-Albert (1900-1901).
He authored some works in the Cree language. He died in Saint-Albert on July 10, 1901 and is buried in the Oblate cemetery there.
Sources and Bibliography
G. A.: oblation formula; manu note by
Father L. Culerier; 54 letters to Fathers Fabre, Sardou and Soullier.
Archives of Saint-Boniface archdiocese: letters to Father Lacombe and Bishop Taché.
Missions OMI, 1863-1910, passim
Culerier, Louis, o.m.i., “Le R.P. René Rémas”, in Missions OMI, 64 (1930) pp. 509-533.
Carrière, Gaston, o.m.i., “René Rémas”, in Dictionnaire biographique des Oblats de M.I. au Canada, Tome 3, Ottawa, 1979, p. 119, with bibliography. This text, with minor additions, has been reproduced here.