CURATTEAU, JEAN-BAPTISTE, Sulpician priest; b. 12 June 1729 in Nantes, France, son of Pierre Curatteau, a merchant, and Jeanne Fonteneau; d. 11 Feb. 1790 in Montreal (Que.).
Jean-Baptiste Curatteau came from a lower middle class background. His oldest brother, Pierre, was captain of a slaver and died in Jamaica, a prisoner of the British, during the Seven Years’ War. The second son, Claude, a priest and brilliant teacher, was parish priest of Saint-Pierre in Bouguenais, near Nantes, at the time of his death in 1765. Jean-Baptiste also had two Curatteau half-brothers; René, the elder, went into business, then became a priest, and died a victim of the French revolution. An orphan in 1744, at 15 years of age, Jean-Baptiste made two trips to Guinea. Probably educated at the Collège de l’Oratoire, he was tonsured on 19 Dec. 1750 at the Grand Séminaire des Enfants Nantais, and early in January 1754 he left Nantes to enter the Séminaire de Saint-Sulpice in Paris. Although the family property was heavily mortgaged, he made arrangements for an annuity of 60 livres to provide for his entry into the priesthood. He became a member of the community of Saint-Sulpice on 22 March 1754, received minor orders in Paris on 30 March, and left La Rochelle for Canada on 13 May.
After his arrival in Montreal Curatteau assisted in the parish ministry. He completed his theological studies and was ordained priest on 2 Oct. 1757. From that month to March 1764 he continued to serve in Montreal and also taught in the small schools maintained by the Séminaire de Saint-Sulpice.
In March 1764 Curatteau became parish priest of Sainte-Trinité-de-Contrecœur, not an easy post since the building of a much needed presbytery had been prevented for 15 years by a dispute between the parishioners of the seigneury of Contrecoeur and those of Saint-Ours. In 1762 Curatteau’s predecessor, Amable-Simon Raizenne, had asked Thomas Gage, the governor of Montreal, for permission to tax the Contrecoeur residents for this purpose. On 23 May 1764 Gage’s successor, Ralph Burton*, granted this power and Curatteau was able to get the presbytery built. Dissatisfied with the mood pervading the parish, he left it at his own request in September 1765. On 6 November he was appointed missionary priest in Saint-François-d’Assise-de-la-Longue-Pointe, near Montreal, where he laboured for seven years.
By 1766 he had enlarged his presbytery and on 1 June 1767 he opened a secondary school, which later became the Collège de Montréal. At the end of two years the school had two masters and 31 boarders, 16 of whom had begun to study Latin. The school grew and Curatteau added to its property. Governor Guy Carleton* visited the school in 1770 and encouraged him in his work. Curatteau had founded the school without the support of his superior, Étienne Montgolfier, but the institution met a real need. On 26 July 1773 the parish council of Notre-Dame in Montreal purchased the Château de Vaudreuil; on 7 October Curatteau moved his school there, changing its name to the Collège Saint-Raphaël. After repairing and equipping the building at great personal expense, he began courses on 21 October. There were 130 students, including 55 boarders, divided among five classes, as well as five masters and eight domestic servants. British officials had raised objections to moving the school but Bishop Briand managed to straighten out the difficulties. The Collège Saint-Raphaël provided a course in Latin and French authors. Curatteau’s handwritten rules indicate that the college régime was typical of a petit séminaire, educating devout Christians and prospective priests.
In 1764 the Sulpicians constituted the largest religious community for men in Canada and the youngest (in terms of the average age of its members). In time, as a result of death, lack of recruits, and legal difficulties, the surviving Sulpicians entered an era of insecurity. Montgolfier’s administration also brought financial problems since he drew heavily on Sulpician funds with what seems excessive generosity. Around 1785 Curatteau and two others urged that the Sulpician property be sold and the proceeds divided amongst the members of the community, but in the end this step was not taken.
Curatteau often alluded to the possibility of returning to France, but the need for priests kept him in Canada. In spite of his commitments at the school, he served as chaplain to the nuns at the Hôtel-Dieu in Montreal from 1783 until his death. His health appears to have deteriorated in 1789, and he announced his resignation as principal of the school in the Montreal Gazette on 11 June. On 28 September he left an inventory of his assets with notary Louis Chaboillez*, bequeathing a life interest in them to Jean-Baptiste Marchand*, his successor. Curatteau estimated that they were worth between 35,000 and 40,000 livres. When he left the school on 25 Sept. 1789, the churchwardens of the parish council of Notre-Dame in Montreal expressed their appreciation for his work. Curratteau retired to the Séminaire de Saint-Sulpice in Montreal, where he died suddenly on 11 Feb. 1790. He was buried two days later under Notre-Dame church. In his will, drawn up on 29 Jan. 1774, the Collège Saint-Raphaël was named his beneficiary.
Curatteau distinguished himself by his dedication as a priest. He apparently had a rather difficult disposition, which explains why his superiors wanted him to serve outside the confines of the seminary. His work as an educator earned him the admiration of his contemporaries. In 1770 Jean De Lisle* de La Cailleterie had noted, “This kindly man is considered a father to the young, a pillar of education, the epitome of patience, a model of virtue, and a very worthy priest. “
AD, Loire-Atlantique (Nantes), E, 774, 775 (copies at PAC); État civil, Nantes, 12 juin 1729. ANQ-M, État civil, Catholiques, Notre-Dame de Montréal, 13 févr. 1790; Saint-François d’Assise (Longue-Pointe). ASSM, 11; 14; 21; 24. [L.-A. Huguet-Latour], Annuaire de Ville-Marie; origine, utilité et progrès des institutions catholiques de Montréal (Montréal, 1863–77). F.-J. Audet, Contrecœur, famille, seigneurie, paroisse, village (Montréal, 1940). Olivier Maurault, Le collège de Montréal, 1767-1967, Antonio Dansereau, édit. (2e éd., Montreal, 1967); Saint-François-d’Assise-de-la-Longue-Pointe, abrégé historique (Montreal, 1924).
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Cite This Article
J.-Bruno Harel, “CURATTEAU, JEAN-BAPTISTE,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 4, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed June 2, 2023, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/curatteau_jean_baptiste_4E.html.
The citation above shows the format for footnotes and endnotes according to the Chicago manual of style (16th edition). Information to be used in other citation formats:
|Author of Article:||J.-Bruno Harel|
|Title of Article:||CURATTEAU, JEAN-BAPTISTE|
|Publication Name:||Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 4|
|Publisher:||University of Toronto/Université Laval|
|Year of publication:||1979|
|Year of revision:||1979|
|Access Date:||June 2, 2023|