Arichat is the oldest parish in the Diocese of Antigonish. This is the sixth installment recounting its history.
In 1862 the rector of Arichat parish was Father Hubert Girroir. He was responsible for Isle Madame, with the exception of D’Escousse which had achieved parish status. Fr. Girroir’s residence was the former Bishop’s Palace occupied by Bishop MacKinnon for five years. It was considered the finest parochial house in the diocese. It became the first hospital in Richmond County in 1947.
In 1863 Dr. John Cameron replaced Fr. Girroir at Arichat while the latter assumed the pastorship of the new Parish of Little Arichat (West Arichat). Dr. Cameron was a stickler in financial matters and soon set to right the debt the parish carried. In addition, he raised substantial sums by soliciting the clergy of the diocese to the tune of $860 and holding a bazaar which brought in $800. These sums were used to build a new wing for the OLA convent school.
When Dr. Cameron assumed control of the parish, there were no schools outside of Arichat; within four years there were five.
In addition to his duties as rector, Dr. Cameron was appointed Vicar-General to Bishop MacKinnon and consecrated as coadjutor. During most of his tenure Dr. Cameron worked alone. It was only in 1869 that he was provided with an assistant in the person of Father Joseph Samuel Racine of Montreal who in turn was succeeded by Father Joseph Amédée Thérien who remained for two years.
In 1862 the resident priest at D’Escousse was Father William B. MacLeod. It should be noted that at that time D’Escousse parish included also the community of Louisdale. Father Hubert Deslauriers became the third Acadian of the diocese to be ordained to the priesthood. In 1865 he followed Fr. MacLeod at D’Escousse.
It was Fr. Deslauriers who initiated the construction of D’Escousse’s second church, but before it was completed, he died at the age of 27 in 1870. It fell to Father Theophilus Richard (the fourth Acadian of the diocese to be ordained to the priesthood) to complete the work begun by Fr. Deslauriers.
Father Hubert Girroir was the first resident priest at Little Arichat and served there for four years until 1867. In 1866 the name of the parish was changed to Acadiaville.
The second resident priest was Father Louis Romuald Fournier. There was considerable unrest in the community at the time between the intentions of the people and those of church authorities. From the pulpit, Fr. Fournier asserted that he would gladly sacrifice his life in one month’s time if such an act would lead to a settlement of the conflict within the parish. A few days later, he fell ill and exactly 30 days after his fateful sermon, he died, on April 10, 1870. Coadjutor Rev. John Cameron declared the incident a miracle. The remains of Fr. Fournier were buried beneath the cathedral at Arichat.
Succeeding Fr. Fournier was Father Joseph Samuel Racine who served only eight months and died at the age of 27 making way for Father Joseph Etienne Ethier. His tenure lasted seven years, and it was he who is credited with the building of the church which fell victim to fire in the 1970s.