AUBERT, PIERRE (baptized Joseph-Pierre-Blaise), priest, Oblate of Mary Immaculate, and missionary; b. 3 Feb. 1814 at Digne, France, son of Jean-Joseph-Louis-Pierre Aubert, a businessman, and Laure-Modeste Castellan; d. 25 March 1890 in Paris.
Pierre Aubert entered the noviciate of the Oblates at Billens, Switzerland, on 1 Nov. 1830, where exactly one year later he took his perpetual vows. On Christmas Day 1836 he was ordained priest at Marseilles, France, by Charles-Joseph-Eugène de Mazenod, the coadjutor bishop of Marseilles and founder of the Oblates. Father Aubert had been a preacher at Aix-en-Provence since 1834; in 1840 he became director of the Notre-Dame-de-Lumières juniorate (minor seminary) of the Oblates at Goult, Vaucluse, a position he held until 1844.
That year Aubert left France with Father Joseph-Bruno Guigues*, the newly appointed superior of the Oblates in Canada, at Guigues’ own suggestion. Settling in Longueuil, Canada East, Aubert devoted himself to preaching. In 1845 Joseph-Norbert Provencher*, the bishop at the Red River Settlement (Man.), who needed priests to extend the work of the church in his diocese, asked Guigues for the Oblates’ help. Guigues, who himself faced a shortage of personnel, hesitated, but Bishop Mazenod appointed Aubert superior and founder of the first Oblate mission in the Red River Settlement, at St Boniface. Aubert and Father Alexandre-Antonin Taché*, who accompanied him, were the first Oblates sent to the west.
Leaving Lachine on 25 June 1845, the missionaries arrived at St Boniface on 25 August. Aubert was appointed priest of the cathedral at St Boniface and vicar general, posts he retained for five years. He immediately began to study the Chippewa language, under the direction of Abbé George-Antoine Bellecourt*, and in 1846 and again in 1847 he went to Wabassimong (Whitedog, Ont.). There he realized that the Chippewas were completely ignorant, as well as little disposed to accept religious instruction or receive priests. He agreed with Provencher that “less ploughing and more catechism” would have brought more results. The mission was soon abandoned. Aubert also visited Lac La Pluie (Rainy Lake, Ont.) in 1847, but with little more success.
Bishop Provencher held Aubert in high regard and consulted him on important questions such as the appointment of Louis-François Laflèche* as coadjutor to the bishop of Red River. He seems to have thought of him as his successor. But, given the opposition of the Hudson’s Bay Company, “foreigners” could not be considered for the office of bishop.
Aubert left the west in 1850, and until 1857 resided at the bishop’s palace in Bytown (Ottawa), where he was vicar general (1851–56), superior of the episcopal household (1854–57), and chaplain of the mother house of the Grey Nuns of the Cross (now Sisters of Charity, Ottawa) (1855–57). In this last capacity he worked on the constitutions of the community. In 1857 Aubert was appointed superior of the community of Saint-Pierre-Apôtre at Montreal, and served as theological adviser to Ignace Bourget, the bishop of Montreal, at the third provincial council, held at Quebec in 1863. With the bishop’s encouragement, he was one of the first to contribute to the Revue canadienne (Montreal), publishing in 1864 an essay on rationalism.
Having fallen ill, Aubert went back to France in 1865 and became superior of the sanctuary of Notre-Dame-de-Lumières. Elected assistant to the superior general two years later, he remained in Paris until his death. Aubert was a discreet counsellor, and was the intermediary between the superior general and Canadian authorities, and no important decision was made without consulting him. He took a particular interest in the activities of the Oblates in Canada and in the papal Zouaves. In 1870 Aubert accompanied Bishop Guigues to the Vatican Council as a theological adviser.
Pierre Aubert was the author of “Du rationalisme,” Rev. canadienne, 1 (1864): 40–46, 153–62. His “Notes pour servir à l’histoire de la province du Canada” is held by Arch. générales des Oblats de Marie-Immaculée (Rome) (copy at Arch. hist. oblates, Ottawa).
A.-A. Taché, Vingt années de missions dans le nord-ouest de l’Amérique (Montréal, 1866), 10–14, 34. Gaston Carrière, Histoire documentaire de la Congrégation des Missionaires Oblats de Marie-Immaculée dans l’Est du Canada (12v., Ottawa, 1957–75). J.-É. Champagne, Les missions catholiques dans l’Ouest canadien (1818–1875) (Ottawa, 1949), 71, 74, 93. Sœur Paul-Émile [Louise Guay], Les Sœurs grises de la Croix . . . (2v., Ottawa, –67), I: 169–72.