SAINT-GERMAIN, JEAN-BAPTISTE (sometimes written Saint-Germain, dit Gautier, but he signed Saint-Germain), secular priest; b. 1 April 1788 at Sainte-Famille-de-Boucherville (Boucherville, Que.), son of Jean-Baptiste Saint-Germain and Amable Sénécalle; d. 3 Dec. 1863 at Saint-Laurent, Montreal Island, Canada East.
Jean-Baptiste Saint-Germain attended the College de Montréal from 1798 to 1806. After completing his theological studies, he was ordained priest on 15 Sept. 1811. He was curate of the parish of Notre-Dame at Montreal for five years, then in 1816 took over the parish of Sainte-Anne-des-Plaines. In 1818 he became parish priest of Saint-Louis-de-Terrebonne.
From 1821 Saint-Germain became involved with the religious dispute centring on the role of the Séminaire de Saint-Sulpice in the town and district of Montreal. The French members of the seminary were fiercely resisting the establishment of an episcopate in Montreal which would put an end to the Sulpicians’ traditional place and threaten their property. Saint-Germain subscribed to the views of this group. As early as 1822, the assistant of Bishop Joseph-Octave Plessis* of Quebec in Montreal, Bishop Jean-Jacques Lartigue*, suspected Saint-Germain, along with Augustin Chaboillez*, the parish priest of Longueuil, and François-Xavier Pigeon, the parish priest of Saint-Jean-François-Régis (Saint-Philippe-de-Laprairie), of being members of a coterie that had circulated a petition by the priests of the diocese of Montreal against this establishment. In December 1828 Saint-Germain was one of the few priests of the district who refused to sign the petition against the transfer of the seigneurial rights and duties of Saint-Sulpice to the government, which the seminary desired. To protect its interests, the seminary attempted to have Saint-Germain appointed to the episcopate. On 25 Feb. 1833 he was appointed coadjutor to the bishop of Quebec by the Congregation of the Propaganda, but Gregory XVI never ratified the appointment. In March 1836, through the influence of Jean-Baptiste Thavenet*, the Sulpicians’ agent in Rome, he ran unsuccessfully for the coadjutorship of the new diocese of Montreal. In 1842 Ignace Bourget*, who had become bishop of Montreal, still counted him among the episcopate’s opponents. But the battle had lost its significance, and Saint-Germain took no further part in the disputes between the seminary and the bishop. He devoted his energies instead to reviving religious practice in the parish of Saint-Laurent; he had been its priest since 1829.
The crisis that had set Bishop Lartigue against the seminary had convinced the latter that it must protect its property by displaying unswerving loyalty. Since he shared the interests of the seminary, Saint-Germain found himself siding politically with the government’s allies, who were strongly biased against the French Canadian lower bourgeoisie and its aspirations to national leadership. From 1834 on, he denounced the manœuvres of the “so-called Patriotes” and hoped for an episcopal pronouncement against their liberalism, which, through the 92 Resolutions, was spreading among the inhabitants. In November 1837 he refused to sign the clergy’s petition to the government since, on the basis of his royalist theology, he approved its rigorous intervention. Yet the prevailing panic of the time appears in the notion, held by the entourage of Bishop Lartigue in November 1838, that the parish priest of Saint-Laurent would shortly be imprisoned for having supported the Patriotes. He was in fact appointed army chaplain in December 1839 as a reward for his steadfast opposition to the advocates of insubordination and revolution, with whom some of the clergy (including Lartigue himself, Saint-Germain at one time claimed) were in sympathy.
At the height of the crisis, Saint-Germain, although leaning towards the ultra-loyalism of the Gallican party (the seminary), nevertheless showed keen interest in the new Italian liturgy and the most recent pastoral trends in France. In 1837 he had requested that a Way of the Cross be set up in his parish church, as well as an altar to Ste Philomène, the object of a rapidly developing popular cult. In the pastoral field, his ideas were similar to those of Bishop Bourget. He took part in the great preaching tour of Bishop Forbin-Janson*, and even prepared for the establishment of French missionaries in his parish, a plan that Bishop Bourget did not succeed in implementing during his trip to Europe in 1841. In addition, from 1845 on, Saint-Germain took steps to bring teaching brothers to Saint-Laurent. These negotiations bore fruit in May 1847 with the arrival of eight brothers, four sisters, and two priests of the Congregation of the Holy Cross, whom Saint-Germain supported financially, particularly in the founding of the Académie Industrielle (1849), which became the Collège de Saint-Laurent in 1861.
AAQ, 12A, F, 165, 184; G, 196, 226v; 210A, XII, 434, 501, 511; XIII, 426, 502; XIV, 10, 13, 20, 86, 98, 310; XV, 266, 291, 420; XVI, 80, 394. ACAM, RLB, 1–12; RLL, 1–9; 355.105; 420.013. Archives de l’évêché de Saint-Jérôme (Saint-Jérôme, Qué.), 332.182 (1810–29), dossier Saint-Germain. ASSM, 11, tiroir 47; 27, tiroirs 95–97. Lemieux, L’établissement de la première prov. eccl. Pouliot, Mgr Bourget, I, 94, 127–28, 190. Rumilly, Hist. de Montréal, II. Sainte-Croix au Canada, 1847–1947 (Montréal, 1947), 39–40, 50–51, 53, 55–56, 58, 61–62, 64, 74, 125, 158, 201, 524–25, 533, 591.