BABINEAU, FRANÇOIS-XAVIER, priest and teacher; b. 21 March 1825 at Saint-Louis-de-Kent, N.B., son of Joseph Babineau and Nathalie Le Blanc; d. 16 April 1890 at Saint-Hilaire, N.B.
Having received his early education at his birthplace, François-Xavier Babineau, son of one of the village’s most prosperous farmers, entered in 1844 the college of Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pocatière, Canada East, for his classical education. In 1849 he went to the Grand Séminaire de Québec and on 18 Dec. 1851, at the age of 26, was ordained priest in the basilica at Quebec by Bishop Charles-François Baillargeon*. He was the first New Brunswick-born Acadian to become a Catholic priest.
Returning to his native province after a few weeks of rest in the Quebec region, Abbé Babineau ministered at Barachois and Cap-Pelé (1852), Grande-Digue and Cocagne (1852–54), Buctouche (1854–58), and again at Barachois and Cap-Pelé (1858–64). In January 1859, barely four months after his arrival at Cap-Pelé, a terrible epidemic of smallpox broke out. As the nearest doctor lived at Dorchester, about 45 miles away, Abbé Babineau improvised as a doctor himself, no one else daring to approach the dwellings of those “marked with the pox.” The news of the “great pox” filled people with terror. Fearing the spread of disease among his parishioners, Abbé Babineau refused all assistance. Single-handed, he cared for the sick, changed their beds, prepared them for death, and saw to their burial in graves dug on their farms. Thus throughout the month and a half that the epidemic lasted he toiled unsparingly.
In 1864 François-Xavier Babineau became the first resident priest at Cap-Pelé; until this time the same priest had been responsible for the villages of Barachois and Cap-Pelé. Since the village had no school he set one up in the presbytery kitchen. His housekeeper, Marguerite Maillet, who had received some education, acted as teacher. In the autumn of 1868 Abbé Babineau was again appointed to Buctouche and the years he spent there were extremely happy ones for him; during his previous stay at Buctouche in the 1850s he had had a number of improvements made to the interior of the parish church. He was greatly disappointed in 1876 when the bishop of Saint John, John Sweeney*, moved him to the parish of Richibucto, and he could not help interpreting this change as an injustice. After only 15 months at Richibucto he obtained permission from Bishop Sweeney in March 1878 to leave his parish and go to live with his nephew, Abbé Joseph-Auguste Babineau, at Tracadie, in the diocese of Chatham. Six months later he left for Madawaska, where he retired permanently from active ministry.
A new career then opened up for him. In 1881 he entered teachers’ college at Fredericton and obtained a primary teaching certificate. One of his classmates was Placide Gaudet*, the future Acadian genealogist. In 1884 his teaching certificate was re-assessed; it was now considered equivalent to a second level certificate. Teaching in the schools at Madawaska, particularly in the parishes of Saint-Hilaire and Saint-Jacques, he had the advantage of an education far superior to that of teachers of his day. Moreover, he became known as a highly competent schoolmaster. He died on 16 April 1890 at Saint-Hilaire. In the course of his life many of his contemporaries noted his great charity, his austere style of living, and his piety.
Arch. de l’évêché de Bathurst (Bathurst, N.B.), Papiers et notes du père Armand Martin. Arch. of the Diocese of Saint John (Saint John, N.B.), Statement of sub-diaconat, F.-X. Babineau, 26 Oct. 1850. Arch. paroissiales, Saint-Hilaire (Saint-Hilaire, N.-B.), Reg. des baptêmes, mariages et sépultures; Saint-Louis-de-Kent (Saint-Louis-de-Kent, N.-B.), Reg. des baptêmes, mariages et sépultures. Centre d’études acadiennes, univ. de Moncton (Moncton, N.-B.), Fonds Placide Gaudet, 1.30-8; 1.57-2. PANB, RG 11, RS 115/7/5; RS 115/7/8; RS 117/1/9; RS 117/2/2. L’Évangéline (Weymouth, N.-É), 15 mai 1890. Le Moniteur acadien (Shédiac, N.-B.), 6 mai 1890. Cyprien Tanguay, Dictionnaire généalogique des families canadiennes depuis la fondation de la colonie jusqu’à nos jours (7v., [Montréal], 1871–90), I: 21. L.-C. Daigle, Les anciens missionnaires de l’Acadie ([Saint-Louis-de-Kent, 1956]). D.-F. Léger, “Le père François-Xavier Babineau: premier prêtre acadien du N.-B.,” L’Évangéline (Moncton), 21, 28 janv., 4 févr. 1937.