Bishop Ignace Bourget exercised his pastoral care in constantly agitated social, cultural and political circumstances. He invited into our country several (male and female) religious communities that were active in Europe, and supported four female religious communities founded here: the Sisters of Providence (Émilie Gamelin, 1843), the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary (Eulalie Durocher, 1843), the Sisters of Misericorde (Rosalie Cadron-Jetté, 1848), and the Sisters of Saint Anne (Esther Blondin, 1848).
He established important charities such as the Saint Vincent de Paul Society and was involved in the founding of the Montreal City and District Savings Bank (later renamed Laurentian Bank) to encourage workers to save. He vigorously promoted the involvement of laypeople.
The years of preparation (1799 - 1840)
Ignace Bourget was born on October 30, 1799 at St-Joseph-de-Lévis to Pierre Bourget and Thérèse Paradis (“habitants,” as they were then called), who were well rooted in their land and their faith. He was the eleventh child in a family of thirteen.
Historical background of Bishop Bourget’s episcopate
It is first worth mentioning that Bishop Bourget exercised his pastoral care during his long, 36-year episcopate in constantly agitated social, cultural and political circumstances.
Travels to Europe, recruitment and foundation of religious communities
The diocese Bishop Bourget took charge of was a helpless Church without human resources or financial means. Bishop Bourget devoted himself to giving it the equipment and structures that were lacking. Such was the purpose of his travels to Europe—seven, of variable length—that he began as early as his second year as Bishop of Montreal.
Bishop Bourget’s social involvement
The list of religious communities given above, and the various objectives they pursued, expressed Bishop Bourget’s social concerns.
Some important events and actions
It is impossible, within the bounds of this article, to relate all the acts and gestures of such a long and rich episcopate; we will mention just a few.
Exhausted after so much work, he retired to Sault-au-Récollet, at Maison Saint-Janvier, where he arrived on June 16, 1877. This residence had been built in 1853, near the church, under the instruction of the priest of the Visitation parish, Msgr. Janvier Vinet, to house seniors. The diocese acquired it and entrusted its management to the Sisters of Providence “for the care of Bishop Bourget and invalid priests.”