History of River Bourgeois

Joseph-Henri-Louis de Gonzague Chouinard was called a morally demanding parish priest in River Bourgeois.

Ephrem Boudreau wrote Riviere Bourgeois from which this history is taken and translated.

Priests of River Bourgeois

Joseph-Henri-Louis de Gonzague Chouinard (1875-1959) served as priest from October 1, 1904-December 1, 1909.

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He left Nova Scotia, once and for all, and returned to Quebec. In 1917-1918, he was the priest at Sainte-Florence and at Sainte-Godefroy from 1919 to 1924. Here ended his parish ministry and began his numerous and constant journeys for a period of over 30 years not ending until his death in 1959.

In 1925, he was chaplain for the Soeurs Dominicaines at Quebec. He later retired with the Soeurs Dominicaines de Marie where he spent seven years, 1930 to 1937. In 1937, he lived at Rougemont. We find him once again at Quebec with les Pères du Saint-Sacrement from 1940 to 1950, and with les Soeurs de la Charité at Levis in 1950. In 1956 he was at la Maison Saint-Dominique at Quebec and finally at l’Institut Mgr Courchesne at Rimouski from 1953 until his death which occurred on April 26, 1959. He was 84 years four months.

“Father Chouinard” was, of all the past priests who served the parish, the most demanding in terms of morals. Even then, and given the morality of that time, priests, educators, parents and all those who exercised some authority were already very rigid concerning morals and justice, even with those who were compliant. Fr. Chouinard was very narrow-minded. It is said he could be very severe and without pity for those who deviated slightly from proper conduct.

The following are 10 or so cases reported by people who knew him: at mass his sermons were unending. He spent this time criticizing his parishioners, shouting at them and threatening them with all kinds of punishments. He would lock the church door to ensure that no one could leave before mass was over.

On a certain Sunday, a lady who was cold and felt poorly was obliged to leave the church. A parishioner who occupied a pew at the back of the church, Constant Boudreau, according to one informant and others, Charles Samson, succeeded in opening the door for the person in distress. Fr. Chouinard struck her name from the list of Enfants de Marie and the next Sunday he said in his sermon: “It was the hand of the devil that unlocked the door last Sunday.”

Another time, Alec à Charles Samson, who was in charge of the school, gave permission for it to be used for a dance. Fr. Chouinard arrived during the dance and demanded that this kind of entertainment stop and that it went without saying that at that time dances were not permitted. “Don’t you know, he said, that I have the power to call up the devil? Misfortune will come to those who stay here to dance.”

Most of the dancers left, but Pat Kyte of Rivière-Tillard asks Miss Florence Boyd to dance with him. She remembered the warning of Fr. Chouinard. And Pat replied “To hell with Father Chouinard, let’s dance.”