ALLAIN, JACQUES (baptized Jacques-Gilbert), named Presidius of Mary, teacher and member of the Brothers of the Christian Schools; b. 31 July 1847 in Neguac, N.B., son of Pierre Allain and Vénérande Robichaux; d. 24 May 1901 in St Paul, Minn., and was buried at Glencoe, Mo.
Jacques Allain, who was sometimes called Joseph, grew up in a family that had close ties with the Roman Catholic Church. On 11 June 1812 when Bishop Joseph-Octave Plessis* of Quebec was travelling around the Baie des Chaleurs region to preside at confirmations, Allain’s grandfather had entertained him at his home in Neguac. Plessis described his host as “the priests’ friend, the honest, hospitable, and respectful Michel Allain.” On his father’s side also, Allain was related to the missionary Thomas Cooke*, who in 1852 became the first bishop of Trois-Rivières. His mother, Vénérande Robichaux, was the daughter of Otho Robichaux*, who pioneered the settlement of Neguac, and the granddaughter of Louis Robichaux*, an Acadian deported to Massachusetts in 1755. When she died, Bishop James Rogers of Chatham attended her funeral to “show [his] great respect for the revered departed and for her good family.”
Allain’s people saw to it that he had a good education, which he later put to use teaching school in Shippagan, N.B. Probably with the encouragement of his deeply Christian family, he found that he had a calling as a teacher and a monk, and in 1868 he went to Montreal to do his noviciate with the Brothers of the Christian Schools. On 8 Dec. 1869 Allain donned the monk’s habit; from then on he bore the name Brother Presidius of Mary. His command of English and the ties linking his family to Bishop Rogers were determining factors in his decision to join a francophone religious community that included a growing number of anglophone members. During the greater part of his career he would teach English-speaking students.
The community had opened schools at Arichat, N.S., in 1860, Halifax in 1865, and Saint John, N.B., in 1866, all of them short-lived. Allain was assigned to Saint John and remained there until August 1875, when he was sent to teach at Saint-Laurent school in Montreal.
In Chatham, Bishop Rogers had a school, St Michael’s Academy, and he was anxious to entrust its operation to a religious community of men. In 1876 Allain moved there with three other brothers. The school, which accepted children at the age of seven, provided both theoretical and practical education. In addition to his duties as principal, Allain was responsible for the first grade. Unfortunately on 14 Feb. 1878 the parish buildings housing the school burned down. The brothers continued their work, but financial difficulties forced them to leave in 1880. It was not until 1910 that, through the initiative of Bishop Thomas Francis Barry, the institution reopened, as Saint Thomas’ College.
In August 1879 Allain had been sent to St Catharines, Ont., to take charge of St Patrick’s School and serve as director of the community. He also oversaw the construction of a new school. But his community had other plans for him. In July 1888 he left St Catharines; after a brief visit with his family in Neguac, he went to France to do the three months of his second noviciate in Athis-Mons. The community was preparing him for new duties as master of novices in the De La Salle noviciate at Castletown (Republic of Ireland). He was to spend the next 12 years there and to distinguish himself by perseverance at work and boundless energy. He appears to have enjoyed living in Ireland, but because of failing health he had to return to Canada. His superiors sent him at once to St Paul, Minn., and there on 24 May 1901, six days after undergoing an operation for stomach cancer, he died.
According to one obituary, Jacques Allain was considered by his superiors and the school inspectors a “zealous and accomplished teacher” and “one of their best schoolmasters.” The same notice summed up Allain’s philosophy: “Only half of the Brothers’ mission was carried out in the classroom – it was mainly after school that the children needed help from their teachers.”
Arch. Paroissiales, Saint-Bernard (Néguac, N.-B.), RBMS. Provincial Arch. of the Brothers of the Christian Schools, Toronto Prov., [Jacques Allain], “Historical journal, Brothers of the Christian Schools, St Catherines, Ontario”; Brother Mactalius, “English schools of the Christian Brothers in Montreal, Quebec, and the Maritimes” (typescript, 1937). Courrier des Provinces maritimes (Bathurst, N.-B.), 13 juin 1901. L’Évangéline, 15 août 1888, 6 juin 1901. Le Moniteur acadien, 20 juill. 1888, 22 févr. 1889, 13 juin 1901. J. A. Fraser, “By force of circumstance”: a history of St. Thomas University (Fredericton, 1970). Mississippi vista: the Brothers of the Christian Schools in the Mid-west, 1849–1949, [ed. Brother Hubert Gerard] (Winona, Minn., 1948), 278. Notices nécrologiques de l’Institut des frères des Écoles chrétiennes (Paris, 1901), 336–42. J.-O. Plessis, “Journal de deux voyages apostoliques dans le golfe Saint-Laurent et les provinces d’en bas, en 1811 et 1812 . . . ,” Le Foyer canadien (Québec), 3 (1865): 73–280.