BRO, JEAN-BAPTISTE, Roman Catholic priest; b. 20 April 1743 in Rivière-aux-Canards (near Canard), N.S., son of Séraphin Bréaux and Brigitte Martin; d. 12 Jan. 1824 in Saint-Jacques-de-l’Achigan (Saint-Jacques), Lower Canada.
Deported from Nova Scotia like many other Acadians, Jean-Baptiste Bro and his family reached England in the spring of 1756 and were imprisoned. After the signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1763 they were taken to France through the good offices of the Duc de Nivernais. Bro, who was 20, arrived at Saint-Malo with his family aboard the frigate Dorothée on 21 May 1763. He settled in Saint-Suliac, and then after 1766 in Saint-Servan.
Bro studied philosophy at the Séminaire de Saint-Malo and then took theology at the Séminaire du Saint-Esprit in Paris. He received minor orders on 9 June 1770. The priesthood was conferred upon him at Quebec by Bishop Louis-Philippe Mariauchau* d’Esgly, in order to circumvent the British authorities’ refusal to admit Catholic priests into the colony. His ordination took place in the chapel of the Séminaire de Québec on 15 Nov. 1772.
Bro is generally associated with Joseph-Mathurin Bourg*, his stepbrother. They were deported to the same places, followed the same courses of study, came to the colony together, and were ordained the same year. Both had a desire to devote themselves to their unfortunate compatriots in North America, who were dispersed among English-speaking Protestants. Bourg went to serve the Acadians scattered about Nova Scotia and the Gaspé, while in October 1773 Bro was given charge of the exiles who had come to L’Assomption from New England in the course of the previous dozen years. Between November 1773 and June 1774 Bro also served in the parishes of Notre-Dame in Montreal and Saint-François-d’Assise at Longue-Pointe. On 27 June 1774 he became assistant priest to Sulpician Jacques Degeay* at L’Assomption.
On 8 Nov. 1774 Bro was made parish priest of Saint-Jacques-de-l’Achigan. The parish prospered and in 1801 work was begun on a church. In 1804, however, the syndics, who had been elected by the parish to look after the financial arrangements, suddenly stopped the project alleging that they lacked money, and asked for a new division of expenses. The churchwardens decided to take legal action and called upon the services of Montreal lawyer Joseph Bédard. The syndics retained Stephen Sewell. In April 1805 the Court of King’s Bench, with the chief justice, James Monk, and judges Pierre-Louis Panet*, Isaac Ogden, and Arthur Davidson* sitting, ruled in favour of Bédard’s clients and ordered the syndics to give an account of their administration. In August another lawsuit began, this time over the administration of the syndics, who won the case in October 1812. The church was finally completed in August of the following year.
No longer able to attend to his duties as parish priest, Jean-Baptiste Bro retired in October 1814 and went to live with a niece. He died on 12 Jan. 1824. A gentle, shrewd, and conciliatory man, he had been held in high esteem by his parishioners.
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