Diocese in the Province of Quebec, suffragan of Montreal. In answer to a petition from the Fathers of First Council of Quebec to the Holy See, portions of the Dioceses of Montreal and Quebec were formed into a separate bishopric by a papal Bull dated 8 June, 1852. At first the new diocese was limited to the south side of the Richelieu River, and contained the greater portion of the Eastern Townships, a tract of land granted in the latter part of the eighteenth century to the American loyalists, but now a part of the Sherbrooke Diocese. Later three parishes on the north side of the Richelieu River were annexed. To-day the diocese embraces the counties of Bagot, Iberville, Missisquoi, Richelieu, Rouville, Saint Hyacinthe, and a part of the counties of Brome (2 parishes ), and Verchères, (3 parishes ).
St. Hyacinthe, the titular city, is a typical French Canadian industrial town; it stands on the banks of the Yamaska, thirty-five miles from Montreal, and has a population of 10,000. Right Rev. J. C. Prince, Coadjutor Bishop of Montreal, was the first Bishop of St. Hyacinthe. Bishop Prince took possession on 3 November, 1852, and from the outset encountered great difficulties. The old seminary building was turned into a cathedral and residence; unfortunately, it was burned in May, 1854. The bishop built a new residence as well as a chapel- cathedral. Bishop Prince showed untiring activity, founding twenty new parishes, establishing several missions, and in 1853 introducing from France the Sisters of the Presentation. He died on 5 May, 1860, at the age of fifty-six.
By papal Decree dated 22 June of the same year, Right Rev. Joseph La Rocque, titular bishop of Cydonia, and Coadjutor of Montreal, the second bishop, was appointed. From November, 1856, to July, 1857, he had administered the diocese during the prolonged illness of Bishop Prince, but now, overwhelmed by the responsibility forced on him, and suffering from a series he petitioned the Holy See to be relieved of this burden. His request was granted on 17 August, 1865. As titular Bishop of Germanicopolis and vicar-general, he remained in his diocese, at the monastery of the Sisters of the Precious Blood (a community which honoured him as its founder), until his death on 18 November, 1887, at the age of seventy-nine.
The vacancy was filled on 20 March, 1866, by the Right Rev Charles La Rocque, cousin of the former bishop, who for twenty-two years was pastor of St. John's. The new bishop was a highly-cultured man with rare financial ability; realizing that the debts of his cathedral called for unusual measures, he closed the episcopal palace and retired with his staff to Beloeil, where he combined the duties of bishop and pastor of this parish till his death on 25 July, 1875. Bishop La Rocque assisted at the Vatican founding the Sherbrooke Diocese. He opened the first house of the Dominicans in Canada by giving them a parish in his titular city, and had the satisfaction of effectively reducing the cathedral debt and placing the diocese on a satisfactory money basis.
The fourth bishop, Mgr. Louis-Zéphirin Moreau, was consecrated on 16 January, 1876. He had come from Montreal in 1852 as secretary to Bishop Prince. Bishop Moreau reopened the episcopal residence and on 4 July, 1886, dedicated the stone cathedral which he had built with the money amassed by the economy of his predecessor. His cathedral chapter was installed in August, 1876, by the Most Rev. Dr. Conroy, Bishop of Ardagh and first Papal Delegate to Canada. On Bishop Moreau's invitation the Marist Brothers came from France and established their novitiate in the diocese ; he also founded a community to take charge of rural schools for boys and girls, under the name "Les Soeurs de St. Joseph". After seventeen years of administration he was given as coadjutor the Right Rev. Maxime Decelles (d. July 1905); the latter was consecrated titular bishop of Druzipara on 9 March 1893, and entered on his administration of the Diocese of St. Hyacinthe immediately on the death of Bishop Moreau (24 May, 1901). During his administration he opened the patronage of St. Vincent de Paul, and agitated the question of a new and larger cathedral. The execution this idea was left to his successor, who was consecrated by Archbishop Bruchesi on 15 February, 1906. Bishop Bernard is now in his sixty-third year. From 1876, either as secretary, archdeacon, or vicar general, he was constantly a member of the administration. In a series of ten volummes he has compiled and published with additional biographical notes the letters of the preceding bishops of St. Hyacinthe to the clergy and faithful of the diocese. Notwithstanding delicate health, since his elevation to the episcopate he has proved himself an indefatigable worker and an ardent apostle of temperance. He placed the patronage of St. Vincent de Paul on a stable basis, and, at the cost of $200,000, completely and beautifully restored and enlarged the old cathedral.
In the episcopal city of St. Hyacinthe are the following: College-Seminary (dating from 1811) with 400 students, all following a classical curriculum; the mother house of the Sisters of Charity (the Grey Nuns ) with 400 members who have charge of the Hotel Dieu; the mother house of the Sisters of the Presentation, with 600 members; the mother-house of Sisters of the Precious, Blood; the central monastery of the Dominican Fathers; the mother-house of the Sisters of St. Joseph ; the convent of the Sisters of St. Martha, a community in charge of the domestic arrangements of the seminary ; the novitiate of the Marist Brothers; the Institute of St. Vincent de Paul ; a commercial college and an academy, both conducted by the Brothers of the Sacred Heart.
The Diocese of St. Hyacinthe has 74 parishes, and a population of about 120,000, of whom 108,000 are Catholics. The clergy number 183 secular and 18 regular priests. The religious communities number 337 men and 861 women. In the diocese are: 2 superior teaching institutions, the Seminary of St. Hyacinthe and the Petit Séminaire de Sainte-Marie de Monnoir, both under the direction of secular priests ; 6 commercial colleges ; 56 academies; 435 primary schools. Six hospitals and asylums provide for charitable wants.
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