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Francois Le Mercier

François Le Mercier

One of the early missionaries of New France, b. at Paris, 4 October, 1604; d. in the island of Martinique, 12 June, 1690. He entered the Society of Jesus at Paris, 19 October, 1620. He taught in succession all the classes of grammar and humanities in the Jesuit college of the capital, and after completing his own philosophical and theological studies, was sent to Canada, where he arrived 20 July 1635, and with Father Pierre Pijart set out for the Huron country the third day after landing at Quebec, reaching his destination on 13 August. He devoted himself to the work of the Huron mission for fifteen years uninterruptedly, save for a brief absence at Quebec on business of the mission during the summer months of 1639. He received the Huron name of Chaüosé, but years after when among the Onondagas he went by the Iroquois name Teharonhiagannra. Father Jean de Brébeuf, an exacting judge of what was required of an Apostolic labourer, wrote his panegyric in two words when he described him as "a perfect missioner". While in Huronia he was stationed from 1635 to 1637 at Ihonatiria, from 1637 to 1639 at Ossossané, from 1639 to 1640 at Ste-Marie I, again at Ossossane until 1642, at Ste-Marie I until 1649, and finally at Ste-Marie II, on St. Joseph's Island, from 16 June, 1649. He left Huronia only after the laying waste of the country by the Iroquois, and the complete abandonment of the mission, subsequent to their inroads, on 10 June, 1650.

On his return to Quebec he was engaged in the ministry there and at Three Rivers until 1653, when he was appointed rector of the college and superior of the whole Canada mission a post he occupied until 1656. But while yet in office, on 11 May of the latter year, not willing to expose the lives of others to perils he was not ready to face, he named Father Jerome Lalemant vice-superior, so as to be himself free to head a tentative missionary expedition, fraught with danger, to the Onondagas. While on his way to this fierce Iroquois nation he wrote from Montreal on 6 June, 1656, to his provincial in France a letter setting forth vividly the difficulties of the undertaking (see "Relation, 1657", Quebec ed., 50-54). on I June, 1657, he was back at Quebec, but started to return on 27 June. He could not have proceeded far when he was recalled, for the "Jesuits' Journal" mentions his saying the Christmas midnight Mass for the Hurons at the Quebec hospital. From 1659 to 1660, though in charge of the parish with Father Dablon, he had also to attend the outlying mission at Beaupre. He was formally named assistant parish priest, 21 October, 1660, by Mgr de Petrée, the first Bishop of Quebec, who had arrived in June of the previous year. On 6 August, 1665, for the second time, he was promoted to the office of rector and superior of the whole Canada Mission, and continued to act as such until replaced by Father Dahlon on 12 July, 1671, Le Mercier becoming procurator et primarius in convictu, or, in modern parlance, "bursar and vice-president" of the Jesuit college at Quebec. Father Le Mercier was recalled from Canada and was deputed by the general of the order as visitor of the French missions in South America and in the Antilles, in 1673. By 12 December of the same year he was already acting in that capacity in Cayenne. For ten years he acquited himself of his onerous duties to the satisfaction of all, and died at Martinique at an advanced age with a widespread reputation for sanctity of life.

We are indebted to Le Mercier for the compiling of nine of the annual "Relations", 1653, 1654, 1655, and 1665 to 1670 inclusively, besides the two written by him on the Huron mission, those of the years 1637 and 1638.

(MARTIN), Jesuit Relations (Quebec ed., 1858); THWAITES, Jesuit Relations and Allied Documents; LAVERDIERE AND CASGRAIN, Journal des Jesuits (Quebec, 1871); Manuscrit Catalogues of the Society, and MARTIN, Catalogue Raisonne des Relations, both in St. Mary's Coll. Archives, Montreal.


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