LECOQ, CHARLES (baptized Isaïe-Marie-Charles), Roman Catholic priest, Sulpician, teacher, and superior; b. 4 Nov. 1846 in Nantes, France, son of Isaïe Lecoq, a shipyard worker, and Rose-Angèle Maunoury; d. 6 April 1926 in Montreal.
Charles Lecoq was a brilliant student in the classical program at the Lycée Impérial in Nantes from 1855 to 1863, and he continued his education at the Séminaire de Nantes, which was run by the Sulpicians, until 1868. Ordained deacon on 19 Dec. 1868 when not yet old enough to be priested, he did his solitude (Sulpician noviciate) in 1869–70 and received ordination to the priesthood on 24 Sept. 1870.
Lecoq began his career in France as a professor of philosophy at the Séminaire d’Issy-les-Moulineaux, where he taught from 1870 to 1876. While there, he became known as an excellent professor who was scrupulously orthodox and who rejected Cartesianism. He also showed exceptional courage in the disturbances of 1871 under the Paris Commune, at the time the Communards occupied the seminary in April and May, forcing the Sulpicians to flee under heavy gunfire and to take refuge in a building at the far end of their property.
Designated for missionary work, Lecoq arrived in Montreal on 19 Aug. 1876. His assignment was to organize the autonomous “philosophy” program for students from the Petit Séminaire de Montréal which was housed in the east end of a large building begun in 1854, but was not integrated into the Grand Séminaire in the west end. He was the superior of the Séminaire de Philosophie until 1881, when he was appointed superior of the Grand Séminaire. He served in this capacity until 1903, while continuing to teach courses, including diaconales (sexual ethics) and canon law. Since the Grand Séminaire had become the faculty of theology of the Université Laval in Montreal in April 1878, he was also dean of this faculty from 1882 to 1904. The seminarians had a high regard for him because of his exemplary life, clear theological thinking, and fatherly devotion. By their content and conviction, Lecoq’s lectures, which were informed by his vast erudition in religious and secular matters, revealed surprising spiritual dimensions in every subject covered.
During his 22 years as head of the Grand Séminaire, Lecoq carried out a number of major projects. In 1894 he moved the Séminaire de Philosophie to a new building on Chemin de la Côte-des-Neiges. In 1900 he began the reconstruction of the chapel of the Grand Séminaire, the masterpiece of architect Jean-Omer Marchand*, and from 1900 to 1902 he had the west side of the seminary enlarged.
On 3 Dec. 1902 Lecoq was elected superior of the Sulpicians in Montreal, succeeding Louis-Frédéric Colin*, who had died in November. In 1907 he had to account for the costs of reconstructing the chapel of the Grand Séminaire. He was secretary of the first Plenary Council held at Quebec in 1909. At the request of Archbishop Paul Bruchési* of Montreal, he organized the founding of the École Sacerdotale Saint-Jean-l’Évangéliste (1911), a petit séminaire in the strict sense of the words. He also oversaw the construction of the Bibliothèque Saint-Sulpice (subsequently the Bibliothèque Nationale du Québec) on Rue Saint-Denis, which was built from plans drawn up by architect Eugène Payette and was opened to the public in 1915.
Lecoq was the last Sulpician from France to head Saint-Sulpice in Canada. Since his Canadian colleagues were demanding more administrative positions, he humbly accepted the decree of the general council in Paris in 1908, which stipulated that there must be “an equal number of Canadian and French” members on the two boards (one consisting of 12 assistants and the other of four consulteurs or advisers). The transition took place at a time of Lecoq’s choosing, and when he resigned because of a serious illness in 1917, Narcisse-Amable Troie*, a Canadian, was elected to succeed him.
In his retirement, Lecoq became the ecclesiastical superior of the Sisters of Charity (Grey Nuns) of the Hôpital Général in Montreal. As their spiritual director, he developed close ties with many of them, which more than 850 letters show to be the case. The last years of his life were clouded by two ailments, diabetes and facial neuritis of the trigeminal nerve, from which he had suffered since 1914 and which had sent him frequently to hospital. He spent his leisure working on an annotated version of the New Testament, which he translated from the Greek.
Charles Lecoq was a priest of exceptional merit; the eulogies published after his death emphasized that he was a brilliant man possessed of a prodigious memory, a broad humanist education, and competent, sound theological judgement, who dedicated himself to almost absolute poverty, deep humility, fervent union with God, and untiring charity towards his fellow human beings. Although neither a great orator nor a far-sighted administrator, he is remembered for having been a priest to the very depths of his being, in all places and circumstances.
Arch. de la Compagnie de Saint-Sulpice (Paris), Dossier 18 C 3 (corr. passive de M. Garriguet); Sect.N, dossier Vigourel. Arch. Départementales, Loire-Atlantique (Nantes, France), État civil, Nantes, 6 févr. 1843, 4 nov. 1846. Arch. du Séminaire de Saint-Sulpice (Montréal), Voûte 2, armoire 6, boîte 127 (consulteurs); armoire 7, tiroirs 148–49, cartons 66–68 (lettres et fascicules d’œuvres manuscrites). L’Action catholique (Québec), 8 avril 1926. Le Devoir, 7–8 avril 1926, 2 déc. 1939. J.-B.-A. Allaire, Dictionnaire biographique du clergé canadien-français (6v., Montréal et Saint-Hyacinthe, Qué., 1908–34). Émile Boucher, “L’œuvre sulpicienne de la formation cléricale, les supérieurs du grand séminaire,” Le Séminaire (Montréal), 22 (1957): 317–28. Ægidius Fauteux, Monsieur Lecoq: souvenirs d’un ancien séminariste (Montréal, 1927). Barthélemi Gattet, “M. Charles-I. Lecoq, p.s.s.,” Le Séminaire, 5 (1940): 48–49. Henri Gauthier, Une âme sacerdotale: Charles Lecoq, prêtre de Saint-Sulpice, 1846–1926 (Montréal, 1939). Bruno Harel, “Le grand séminaire de 1840 à 1940: une période d’établissement et de rayonnement,” in Le grand séminaire de Montréal de 1840 à 1990: 150 années au service de la formation des prêtres, sous la dir. de Rolland Litalien (Montréal, 1990), 93–103. Josette Michaud et Bruno Harel, Le séminaire de Saint-Sulpice de Montréal ([Montréal], 1990). Les prêtres de Saint-Sulpice au Canada: grandes figures de leur histoire (Sainte-Foy, Qué., 1992), 360–64.