River Bourgeois History Part 19:

An old warehouse in River Bourgeois.

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

THE PRIESTS OF RIVER BOURGEOIS (cont.)

9. Father Pierre Robitaille (1874-1949) – 1909-1949

Born at L’Ancienne-Lorette, 28 June 1874, son of Jacques Robitaille and Philomene Hamel, Fr. Pierre Robitaille, after successfully completing most of his studies at the Petit Seminaire of Quebec, ended his classical studies (probably in philosophy) at Saint-Joseph College Memramcook, (N.B.) in 1899. He then pursued his studies in theology at the Grand Seminaire of Quebec and he was ordained 28 December 1902 in his home parish by Cardinal Bégin. He returned to Acadie and carried out the duties of a priest in Arichat from 1903 to 1904. He was vicar at D’Escousse 1904-1905, and returned once more to Arichat 1905 to 1907. The priest at Arichat at that time was the grand vicar of the diocese of Antigonish, Fr. Lubin Gallant (1864-1940).

He [Fr. Robitaille] became pastor at Port Felix where he spent two years, 1907-1909. During his time in this parish he had the presbytery built which still stands today.

He was named priest at River Bourgeois in 1909, and he kept this position until his death 29 April 1949.

The son of a farmer, he never lost interest in agriculture, and encouraged his parishioners, by all means possible, to cultivate their plot of land to better provide for the nutritional needs of their families. Thanks to the fields that belonged to the parish, he gardened even if it was on a small scale. He had some cows, saw to the breeding of the sheep, rabbits, and poultry and kept a horse, which at that time in the distant past was a means of transportation that supplemented transport by water. He led by example and many adopted the methods and ways of their curate.

He was not the type of priest to keep himself isolated in the presbytery. He did most of the agricultural work. He mingled with his parishioners, took an interest in their projects, and visited them regularly. To them he was no stranger. In the eyes of those who knew him, he was the ideal of what a curate should be, and in the years in question he was the dominant figure in the parish. No one had more influence over the parishioners. During the time he was in charge of the parish, he possessed knowledge that conferred upon him a sense of authority that he exercised over his flock with mildness and discretion because many of them were illiterate and happy to find in their priest a confidant and sincere counselor.

“Father Robitaille” was well known outside his parish also.

Everyone, Protestants, English people, knew and respected him as much as Acadians did. One does not spend forty years in one place, especially in a rural parish, without one’s reputation extending beyond neighbouring parishes and regions.

He was interested in Acadians and their survival. All his life he vowed to safeguard the Acadian language and the French culture. He passionately contributed to maintaining the French fact in the parish. In his time, the soul of the parish was indisputably French, the mass, the sermons, catechism, all of the religious ceremonies. For half a century Anglicization had not begun its devastating work. Everyone spoke French, even the few English-speaking families who lived in the parish. He was an exemplary priest and also an apostle of the French cause.