MADRAN, JEAN-MARIE (sometimes referred to as Joseph), Roman Catholic priest; b. 13 Feb. 1783 in Saint-Ours, Que., son of Jean-Baptiste Madran and Josephte Gamarre; d. 2 June 1857 in Petit-Rocher, N.B.
Jean-Marie Madran was one of ten children in a poor family left fatherless while he was still an adolescent. An intelligent and pious altar boy, he was brought to the notice of Abbé Pierre Fréchette, parish priest of Belœil. Fréchette was to pay for his studies at the Séminaire de Québec, from 29 Sept. 1810 to 9 Feb. 1813. After ordination on 12 June 1813 at Quebec, Madran served as assistant priest in Saint-Pierre on Île Orléans in 1813–14 and in Sainte-Famille at Cap-Santé in 1814.
His first posts as parish priest started well but ended with Madran desperate to leave. On 15 Oct. 1814, accompanied by one of his sisters, he arrived in the predominantly Acadian parish of Saint-Jacques-de-la-Nouvelle-Acadie (Saint-Jacques) north of Montreal [see Jacques Degeay*]. He quickly pacified quarrelling factions and persuaded the parishioners to complete the interior of the church. Madran himself donated 3,000 livres towards the total costs, which had mounted to approximately 28,500 livres and which the parish, in the midst of an agricultural crisis, was unwilling or unable to meet. But his conversion of a Protestant girl, Marie Brousse (Bruce), in July 1818 so outraged her father and caused such scandalous rumours that Madran asked Bishop Joseph-Octave Plessis* to transfer him. The continued goodwill of many parishioners was shown at a meeting when they voted the return of his 3,000 livres.
In the summer of 1819 Madran arrived in the Îles de la Madeleine, full of optimism: Plessis had considered the islanders model Catholics. But by September of that year Madran was complaining that outsiders had undermined native piety. Moreover, poverty compelled him to ask unsuccessfully for the additional parishes of Margaree and Chéticamp in Cape Breton and to consider the sale of dispensations. By 1821 quarrels between the Catholic inhabitants of Hâvre-Aubert and Hâvre-aux-Maisons, over who was to pay for the parish church and the chapel that they shared, combined with loneliness and poverty to drive Madran to despair. In a letter to Bishop Bernard-Claude Panet* of Quebec, he described this period as three years of misery and begged for a mainland post.
Madran went on to serve a number of parishes in succession: Saint-Joachim in Châteauguay, 1822–25; Saint-Patrice in Rivière-du-Loup, 1825–30; Saint-Georges in Saint-Georges de Cacouna, 1830–32; L’Assomption in Berthier-sur-Mer, 1832–34; and Saint-François in Saint-François-Montmagny, 1834–35.
He was to find a home in Petit-Rocher, N.B. On 26 Aug. 1835 he arrived and took charge of the parishes of Belledune and Petit-Rocher at Nepisiguit Bay. Madran built a new church in Bathurst and completed the chapel in Belledune. Although he found the life exhausting, he considered his parishioners to be people of goodwill and piety who respected him. While at Petit-Rocher, Madran bought several blocks of land and built a private house.
On 15 Jan. 1837 he became the parish priest at Caraquet with responsibility also for Tracadie. But parishioners disputing over church sites once again destroyed his early optimism. Around 1839 he was back in Petit-Rocher. A move to Shediac in 1848 was of an even shorter duration. Finding the church locked and the members of the congregation hostile, Madran quickly returned to Petit-Rocher without gaining the permission of Bishop William Dollard of New Brunswick. By June 1849 he was ill and asking for either retirement or a much quieter parish than Petit-Rocher. Dollard refused his request and sent him back to Shediac and Grande-Digue, where he served from 14 Oct. 1849 to 4 Nov. 1852. Throughout this period he was to be again plagued by contentious parishioners reluctant to pay their tithes.
From 1853 to 1857 Madran was officially the assistant to the priest in Richibucto, but by 1855, once again ill, he had returned to Petit-Rocher. There he was cared for until his death by Marcel Burgo and his daughter, the local schoolteacher, who in return were made heirs to his modest estate which included 140 acres of land, £300 in plate, and £60 of personal possessions. The community of Madran near Petit-Rocher was named in his honour.
A conscientious priest, Madran was anxious to confine himself strictly to spiritual duties. He tried to avoid the frequent controversies that other priests in Acadian parishes were encountering in trying to re-establish church control after the independence of the deportation period. His life provides an interesting contrast to those of contemporary Canadian priests such as François-Xavier-Stanislas Lafrance* and Antoine Gagnon* who sought a wider leadership role in Acadian society.
AAQ, 311 CN (mfm. at PANB). Arch. de l’évêché de Trois-Rivières (Trois-Rivières, Qué.), François Aché à Thomas Cooke, 8 juin 1837; F2, J.-M. Madran à Cooke, 17 nov. 1835; F4, Madran à Cooke, 22 sept. 1835. Arch. of the Diocese of Saint John (Saint John, N.B.), Dollard papers, 22 Aug. 1848, 25 June 1849, 3 Jan. 1850. Arch. paroissiales, Saint-Pierre-aux-Liens (Caraquet, N.-B.), Reg. des baptêmes, mariages et sépultures (mfm. at PANB); Saint-Polycarpe (Petit-Rocher, N.-B.), Reg. des baptêmes, manages et sépultures (mfm. at PANB). ASQ, mss, 432: 284. PANB, RG 7, RS64, 1857, J.-M. Madran. Gleaner (Chatham, N.B.), 6 June 1857. Guy Courteau et François Lanoue, Une nouvelle Acadie: Saint-Jacques de L’Achigan, 1772–1947 ([Montréal, 1949]). Robert Rumilly, Les îles de la Madeleine (Montréal, 1941; réimpr., 1951). Léon Thériault, “Les missionnaires et leurs paroissiens dans le nord-est du Nouveau-Brunswick, 1766–1830,” Rev. de l’univ. de Moncton (Moncton, N.-B.), 9 (1976), nos.1–3: 31–51.
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