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Jean-Baptiste de la Brosse

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A Jesuit missionary, born 1724 at Magnac, Angoumois, France ; died 1782. He studied classics at the Jesuit College of St. Louis at Angoulême, and entered the novitiate of the society at Bordeaux, in 1740. After a full course of philosophy and theology in the latter city, he was ordained in 1753 and sent to Canada the following year. He first laboured on the Abenaki mission, held different positions in the College of Quebec, and finally succeeded, in the Montagnais mission, Father Coquart , who died in 1765 at Chicoutimi. De la Brosse was the twenty-first of his order to fill that post. Fixing his headquarters at Tadousac, at the mouth of the Saguenay, a rendezvous for the Montagnais and for the traders of the lower St. Lawrence, his apostolate radiated from that point along the Labrador coast, to the French settlements on the south shore of the great river, to the Micmacs of Restigouche, and as far east as Isle Saint-Jean (Prince Edward Island). Besides Christian doctrine, he taught the Montagnais reading, writing, and plainsong, creating and developing in their souls the taste for elementary instruction which is to be found to this day in each family of the tribe. The zealous and practical missionary had 3000 copies of the Montagnais alphabet, and 2000 copies of a catechism and prayer book in the same tongue printed at Quebec in 1767.

The latter is one of the first books issued from the press in Canada. It bears the author's name in Montagnais (Tshitstiisahigan), which signifies a broom or brush, in allusion to his family name. He also compiled a dictionary in the same language being moreover familiar with the Abenaki and Micmac dialects. His inland mission-field embraced all the region watered by the Saguenay and Lake St. John. He braved the stubborn ferocity of the Naskapi Indians, who had so far resisted every attempt to convert them. A forest fire, whose ravages he is said to have miraculously stopped, was the occasion of their consenting to hear the Gospel. Father de la Brosse left a reputation of holiness which still endures. His remains lie in the old mission-chapel of Tadousac.

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