GIRARD (Giran, Gyrard), JACQUES (his Christian name is not certain), missionary; b. c. 1712 in the province of Auvergne, France; d. January 1782 at Jouarre (dept of Seine-et-Marne), France.
When Abbé Jacques Girard was sent to Quebec in the spring of 1740, he was described by the directors of the Séminaire des Missions Étrangères in Paris as “a little priest from Auvergne, of a candid nature and great zeal.” Sick upon arrival, he did not recover until the following year. In 1742 Bishop Pontbriand [Dubreil*] sent him, along with Jean-Pierre de Miniac, to Acadia, where he became parish priest at Cobequid (near Truro, N.S.). The British authorities did not accept the bishop’s right to send missionaries to Acadia, and Paul Mascarene*, president of the Nova Scotia Council, raised difficulties before agreeing to the appointment of the two priests.
At the outbreak of the War of the Austrian Succession in North America Girard considered leaving his mission, but he changed his mind and agreed to work with the French army. He became closely involved in Jean-Baptiste-Nicolas-Roch de Ramezay’s Acadian campaigns in the winter of 1746–47, transmitting information on British troop movements to Ramezay, undertaking, with Abbé Pierre Maillard* to obtain provisions for the forces, acting as liaison between the various detachments, and sheltering wounded French soldiers in his presbytery. Early in 1750 Governor Edward Cornwallis had him arrested, along with four Acadian deputies, for having advised his parishioners not to take an unconditional oath of allegiance to the British king. After three months in prison Girard was allowed to settle in the region of Minas Basin, the inhabitants there having petitioned Cornwallis for a priest to assist Claude-Jean-Baptiste Chauvreulx*. He had, however, to take the oath himself and to promise explicitly not to counsel against it again or to return to his former parish. For having kept his word Girard was criticized in 1752 by the Baron de Longueuil [Le Moyne*], administrator of New France, who believed that the missionary “could with a perfectly clear conscience have used his authority over the habitants at Cobequid to alienate them from the English.”
According to the Abbé de L’Isle-Dieu, the bishop of Quebec’s vicar general in France and the only one to mention the incident, Girard was captured by Micmacs in 1751 and taken into the woods for a time. In the spring of 1752, on the bishop’s order, he crossed to Île Saint-Jean (Prince Edward Island). The bishop’s decision to send him there reflected the French government’s policy of attracting to the island the Acadians living under British rule [see Claude-Élisabeth Denys* de Bonnaventure]. He became parish priest at Saint-Paul-de-la-Pointe-Prime (Prim Point), where many Acadians from Cobequid had settled. Distressed by the abject poverty of his parishioners, he asked for help from Louisbourg, Île Royale (Cape Breton Island), describing to the authorities there the refugees’ utter destitution.
After the fall of Louisbourg in 1758 Girard and more than 300 of his parishioners were put on board the Duke William on 20 October. On 13 December the ship sank off the coast of England. Girard explained that “the crew saved themselves and rescued me and four of my habitants and parishioners”; however, a 19th-century account implies that he had been urged by the captain to abandon his flock after having exhorted them to submit to their unhappy fate. After a month of misery, difficulty, and privation, Girard arrived in France at the end of January 1759. He was badly received at the Séminaire des Missions Étrangères, where he was accused of having left his parish without permission and where he was required to pay for his keep. He was able to support himself only through the gratuities which the Abbé de L’Isle-Dieu obtained for him from the king. His difficulties led him in 1761 to launch a law suit, with Abbé Jean Manach*, against the directors and superior of the seminary. After losing the case on 6 Sept. 1764, Girard was struck from the society’s list of members.
In June 1765 the Abbé de L’Isle-Dieu obtained for Girard the post of prefect apostolic of Saint-Pierre and Miquelon, but the ship taking him and his colleague Manach there was wrecked and ran aground on Martinique. Girard was unable to return to France until 1766 and was then in poor health. The following year the new bishop of Quebec, Jean-Olivier Briand, tried to get permission to send him to ale Saint-Jean, but the plan failed. Girard stayed in France and was made perpetual chaplain of the abbey of Jouarre, near Meaux. In 1774 he turned down an offer to become parish priest of the Acadian colony in Poitou [see Jean-Gabriel Berbudeau]. He remained at Jouarre, where he died in January 1782 “in the odour of sanctity.”
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