Pictured is the early incarnation of Notre Dame de l’Assomption Church in Arichat and below the church is the former Bishop’s Palace.

Rev. Guillame Marin LeBlanc was the son of Pierre LeBlanc and Barbe Martel. He descended from the Acadians of Grand Pré who were deported to Philadelphia in 1755 but eventually returned and settled in Arichat.

In 1880 LeBlanc had opposed the transfer of the seat of the diocese from Arichat, a predominantly Acadian town, to Antigonish, settled by Highland Scots, since endowments which he believed had been bequeathed for the benefit of Acadians had accompanied the bishop to Antigonish.

He did much work in education, encouraging Acadian boys to pursue their education. Courses were offered in French and English in the convent under his direction to prepare the students so they could meet the requirements of the Provincial Normal School. He was an Acadian genealogist.

In 1835 Father Jean Baptiste Maranda began a long and successful pastorship in Arichat. The original chapel/church on the site of what later became the Bishop’s Palace and eventually St. Anne’s Hospital was considered inadequate. Immediately the parishioners raised 600 pounds for the construction of a new church. On October 15, 1837, Maranda celebrated the first mass ever in the church, although it was not totally complete. Soon after, the old church was demolished.

The new church was not exactly the same as the one people worship in today: there were no two-storey, stained-glass windows; there was only one tower; there was no organ, no paintings behind the altar and on the ceiling; and the pews were the same as those that still exist in the galleries of the church.

Father Maranda’s parish included all of Isle Madame, some 3,000 souls. In 1837 he reported proudly that he had learned to speak English so that he was better able to minister to his “300 fine Irish parishioners.” But tragedy struck on November 23, 1837 when the glebe house with its 50 years of records went up in flames. True to form, Father Maranda set to work immediately and had a new glebe house built by the spring of 1839.

In 1844 Arichat was proclaimed the seat of a new diocese which encompassed most of Eastern Nova Scotia. The church thus became a cathedral, and Bishop Fraser appointed Father Maranda as rector and later as Vicar-General of the diocese. In 1850 Father Maranda died.

In 1860, Sophie Maranda, sister of Father Maranda, bequeathed her home and all its possessions to the Notre Dame de l’Assomption Convent and Le Congregation de Notre Dame sisters who taught there.

Rev. Gabriel Champion was a Roman Catholic priest and a teacher. He was one of the refractory priests forced to leave France during the French Revolution. He ministered to the people of Cheticamp and the Magdeleine Islands. In 1805, at the end of Lent, he suddenly went blind. His sight recovered sufficiently for him to return to pastoral duties. Bishop Plessis gave him permission to retire and in 1807 he had someone take him to Arichat, to stay with his colleague Rev. Francois LeJamtel. There he died on January 18, 1808.

He was known for his kindness and devotion as a priest and teacher wherever he ministered. His tombstone is the oldest grave marker in the Arichat Catholic cemetery.