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Antoine-Simon Maillard

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Missionary b. in France (parentage, place and date of birth unknown); d. 12 August, 1762. He was sent to Acadia by the French Seminary of Foreign Missions in 1735. In 1740 he was appointed vicar-general to the Bishop of Quebec, and resided at Louisbourg until its fall in, 1745, after which he retired to the woods and ministered to the dispersed Acadians and Indians of Cape Breton, St. John's (Prince Edward) Island, and the eastern coast of Acadia (Nova Scotia). He was the first to acquire a complete mastery of the extremely difficult language of the Micmacs, for whom he composed a hieroglyphic alphabet, a grammar, a dictionary, a prayerbook, a catechism, and a series of sermons. Although credited with the gift of tongues , he had devoted over eight years to his task. Maillard was the only Catholic priest tolerated by the English in Acadia. When the Indians, to avenge British barbarity towards the Acadians and their missionaries, massacred every English subject that strayed within their reach, the Government appealed to Maillard, whose influence wrought an immediate change. In recognition, he was invited to Halifax, where a church was built for him, and he received a pension of 200 pounds, the free exercise of the Catholic Faith being conceded to all his coreligionists, Irish as well as Acadian and Indian. From Halifax he addressed to the scattered groups letters that were read with veneration like the Epistles of St. Paul. At death's hour, after thirty years of laborious ministry, being without any priest to administer the last rites, he was visited by the Anglican parson, Thomas Wood, who offered his ministration. Calmly and gently Maillard refused, saying: "I have served God all my life, and each day I have prepared for death by offering up the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass." Thus vanishes the legend of his request to Wood to read the prayers for the sick from the English ritual. His body alone could the Protestants claim, and they interred it with great demonstrations of honour. He is justly named the Apostle of the Micmacs, by whom he is still held in great veneration, and who, in spite of many trials and temptations, have preserved, with their language, the Faith he taught them.

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