Notre Dame de l’Assomption Parish in Arichat is the oldest parish in the Diocese of Antigonish.

Arichat is the oldest parish in the Diocese of Antigonish. This is the seventh installment recounting its history.

In 1872 Father John Cameron was serving his ninth year as rector of the diocesan cathedral of Notre Dame de l’Assomption at Arichat, with the assistance of Father J. Amedee Thérien. The following year spelled tragedy for the parish. First, an outbreak of smallpox took the lives of 17 people. Then the Lord’s Day Gale of August 24the destroyed over 200 buildings on Isle Madame and caused considerable damage to both the Protestant and Catholic churches.

Fr. Dr. Cameron had strived mightily, but unsuccessfully, for many years to bring teaching orders to the Arichat Academy. The idea of providing a strong French presence in the education of the youth of the parish originated with Fr. John Chisholm and Bishop Fraser.

Fr. Hubert Girroir too was a strong advocate of teaching brothers such as Les Frères des Ecoles Chrétiennes, but after their controversial departure, a vacuum remained in terms of education for young men.

Such was not the case for the young ladies of the parish because the OLA Convent, under the direction of the sisters of Congregation de Notre Dame, offered a complete program in both English and French. For a 10-and-one-half-month school year, the cost was $66 plus $5.25 for washing.

On July 17, 1877, Dr. John Cameron became the third bishop of the Diocese of Arichat.

Two Acadians, natives of the diocese, were ordained to the priesthood at Arichat: Francis Broussard of Pomquet on November 1, 1873 and Pierre Forgeron of West Arichat on July 26, 1874. Fr. Broussard worked at Arichat for some four years and was followed by Father Guillaume Talbot.

At West Arichat, Fr. Ethier remained from 1871 to 1878 and was there for the opening of the church named Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary in 1876. Father Guillaume Talbot succeeded Fr. Ethier.

At D’Escousse Fr. Theophilus Richard served the spiritual needs of the people from 1870 to 1876. He saw to the completion of the church which Fr. Deslauriers had begun. Fr. Richard was well loved at D’Escousse and on his departure, the parishioners raised $132, a considerable sum at that time. Father James M. Quinan succeeded Fr. Richard in 1876.

The first resident curé at River Bourgeois, Father Guillaume M. LeBlanc remained there for eight years until November 5, 1877. His successor was his uncle, Father Charles P. Martell, in charge of the parish for nearly 11 years.

At L’Ardoise Father James M. Quinan was curé there from 1869 to 1876 when he was transferred to D’Escousse. His territory included Potlotek and he became fluent in the Mi’kmaq language.

As Fr. Quinan made his way to D’Escousse from L’Ardoise, he may have passed along the road Fr. Theophilus Richard who was on his way to L’Ardoise from D’Escousse. Father Daniel J. MacIntosh served a short stint at L’Ardoise after Fr. Richard and was replaced by Father Joseph Etienne Ethier who remained from 1878 until 1883.