Priests of River Bourgeois

Pictured is the current St. John the Baptist Church and former school in River Bourgeois.

Father Flavien Samson (1900-1965) served from January 18, 1950 to September 1, 1965.

Father Flavien Samson was born in L’Ardoise. He was the son of James F. Samson, a fisherman, as was the case with most of the people of that area, and all descendants of Mathieu Samson, ancestor of the Samsons of L’Ardoise.

In 1915 he entered Memramcook College in New Brunswick and left with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1924. That same year, he enrolled at the Grand Séminaire de Quebec. He earned a Bachelor of Theology degree, and on May 6, 1928, he was ordained by Monsignor Omer Plante, Auxiliary Bishop of Quebec.

He thus began his public life as a priest, and we find him successively at many places. In 1928, he was vicar at la Petite-Bras d’Or with abbé Barry, and by September 1929, vicar at Chéticamp with abbé Patrice LeBlanc. He became ill and entered the Sacré-Coeur Hospital in Chéticamp where he remained for a decade.

In 1939, Father Sampson was named vicar at New Victoria, near Sydney, with abbé Wallace. In 1940, he became Vicar at Margaree with abbé Arsène Cormier. He soon returned to hospital at Chéticamp where he remained until 1950.

Upon receiving his release from hospital, he was named priest at River Bourgeois.

Son of a fisherman, he remained a fisherman himself, a fisherman of fish, as well as a fisherman of souls. Every morning, during the season, as soon as Mass was said, Father Sampson could be seen leaving the river in his tiny motor boat. He went in the Little Passage, in St. Peter’s Bay or off the coast of Cap la Ronde, fishing for mackerel and cod. In autumn or in winter, he fished capelin. Charitable, he gave the products of his fishing to the widows and poor of the parish.

Lover of nature, he always sought ways to occupy himself outside of the presbytery where he stayed no longer than necessary. The story goes that one day as he was working in the cemetery next to the church a man came to see him. Father Samson had a feeling that he was a salesman that he was not anxious to meet. This man, speaking English, noticed the priest and went to talk to him. His visit was of short duration as evidenced by the short conversation that took place: “Do you know if Father Samson is home? I think he went to St. Peter’s.”

Father Samson was a man of business, a born administrator. When he assumed the job of curate, he reported that there was money in the parish, parishioners began to earn good salaries, that the elderly had pensions. It was the beginning of the “good years,” a time of relative prosperity never before seen up to that time. It was an opportunity to make improvements, to improve the parish especially. They had to find significant financing, because the church needed renovations and painting, and the bell tower was threatening to collapse.

In 1954 the regional school Stella Maris had been built near the church under the direction of Les Filles de Jésus. These sisters needed a convent. What was to be done? Father Samson found a solution; build a new presbytery and turn the old one over to be converted into a convent. And the new presbytery was built.