GUÉGUEN, JEAN-PIERRE, Roman Catholic priest, Oblate of Mary Immaculate, missionary, and author; b. 18 Sept. 1838 in Ploudalmézeau, France, son of Vincent-Gabriel-Marie Guéguen, a commission agent, and Marie-Anne-Michelle Le Borgne; d. 22 Oct. 1909 in Maniwaki, Que.
Jean-Pierre Guéguen, who was a pupil at the Collège de Lesneven in France from 1852 to 1858, finished his classical studies there in brilliant fashion, winning seven first prizes. In September 1858 he went off to the seminary in the diocese of Quimper. Two years later, drawn to the missions for Canadian Indians, he entered the noviciate of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate in Nancy. On 5 July 1863, having completed the theological studies he had pursued in Marseilles and Autun, he was ordained priest. The following year his superiors gratified his wishes by appointing him to the Indian missions in the Red River colony (Man.). Shortly after his arrival in Lower Canada, however, while he was waiting to continue on to the Red River, he was posted to the missions in eastern Canada.
Father Guéguen began his ministry in the lumber camps of the Gatineau region. From 27 Dec. 1864 till the following 15 February, in company with an experienced missionary, Father Jean-François-Régis Déléage*, he visited 38 camps and met 750 people. From the outset he noticed that they were well disposed to religion, wanted to have a priest amongst them, and needed religious instruction. Ministering to the camps was dear to his heart, and he would carry it on in wintertime for the rest of his life.
In March 1865 Guéguen was sent to the missionary residence of Saint-Claude, in the Timiskaming region, where he was to learn about missions to native peoples. Left alone during the summer by his two companions, who had gone off to preach and teach, the young apostle enthusiastically settled down to studying the Algonkin language, at the same time taking charge of the mission chapel and responding to pastoral appeals, which came from as far away as Mattawa, in Upper Canada. His ministry to native people began in the summer of 1866, when he went to join the Algonkin in the Lake Abitibi and Timiskaming regions. From 1867 to 1899 Guéguen was the official missionary for the Saint-Maurice missions, where the Tête-de-Boule – now called the Attikamek – were located, although their base was at Weymontachingue (Weymontachie). He also served in the missions to the Cree of Waswanipi and Mégiscane, south of James Bay, and those to the Algonkin of Grand Lac Victoria, Lac Barrière, Hunter’s Lodge (Kipawa), Kipawa, and the other trading posts along his route. Every summer he stayed for periods of varying length in each of these posts.
Guéguen spent the longest stretch, about three weeks, at Weymontachingue, with the Téte-de-Boule of that area and those from the surrounding trading posts. There were prayers, masses, catechism classes, religious instruction, and ceremonies, particularly a great procession in honour of the Virgin Mary, who was devoutly venerated by the people. Evangelized in the days of New France, the Tête-de-Boule responded eagerly to his zealous endeavours. Guéguen was usually satisfied with his flock, although at times he had to act firmly to get them to mend certain kinds of disorderly conduct. On his first visit the young Oblate had begun to learn their language, which belongs to the Algonkian linguistic family. In 1889 in Montreal he brought out a work published in that language, known in French under the title Recueil de prières, catéchisme, chemin de la croix et cantiques à l’usage des sauvages du Saint-Maurice.
Guéguen’s work among the Waswanipi and Mégiscane Cree was especially important because he had to build up the faith of these people, whom clergy from Rupert House (Waskaganish) were trying to win over to Protestantism. Energetic and enthusiastic as a missionary, he did not shrink from the tasks of learning another new tongue and of publishing a catechism in the Cree language, which appeared in 1889.
The round of the Saint-Maurice missions, which he made in the period from May to August, was a journey of some 1,700 miles by canoe and portage. Guéguen always undertook it joyfully and eagerly though, since he was in delicate health and had suffered from birth from a persistent hernia, the trip more often than not was extremely difficult and exhausting.
From 1887 to 1902 and from 1906 until his death, Guéguen was back in Maniwaki, where he had spent his first winter on Canadian soil. In the period 1902–6 he returned to the Timiskaming region, staying first in Ville-Marie in 1902–3, and then in Notre-Dame-du-Nord from 1903 to 1906. He visited the Saint-Maurice missions faithfully every year until 1899 and the camps until 1908. In addition, at Maniwaki he ministered to the Indians from the reserve and the white people in the parishes that were being established, in particular Baskatong (Dépôt-Baskatong) from 1887 to 1900 and Montcerf from 1887 to 1892.
Jean-Pierre Guéguen had devoted himself earnestly and intelligently to working among the Indians and whites in vast stretches of northern Quebec. A fervent man who tenaciously pursued his endeavours, he was open-minded and cooperative with his superiors. Upon the people to whom he devoted his life – most of whom were poverty-stricken – he had a beneficent religious and humanitarian influence. His numerous letters reveal his kind and at the same time respectful attitude towards them. A township and a river in the province of Quebec perpetuate his name.
The Arch. Deschâtelets, Oblats de Marie-Immaculée (Ottawa), holds a number of manuscripts by J.-P. Guéguen: HEB6924.J91C, no.1 (Catéchisme ou abrégé de la foi); no.2 ([Discours sur les missions indiennes]); no.4 (Charlatanisme); and no.8 ([Rapport sur Maniwaki]); HR906.A39R, no.14 ([Quelques mots algonquins-français]); HR952.C93R, no.1 (Catéchisme cris); and no.2 (Catéchisme en langue crise; [Notes linguistiques en langue indienne]); HR1181.T34R, no.1 ([Dictionnaire Tête de Boule]); HR1192.T34R, no.1 ([Sermons en Tête de Boule]); no.2 ([Catéchisme en Tête de Boule]); and no.3 ([Catéchisme et cantiques en Tête de Boule]); and HR150I.N81R, no.12 (Journal du curé dans ses affaires de paroisse).
Guéguen also published several works: Kiskinoamatimasinaigan gaie aiamie kokwedjimitowini-masinaigan, à l’usage des sauvages du Saint-Maurice (postes de Wemontaching, Okikendatc, Manawan, Coucoucache) et de Mekiskan (Montréal, 1889); Niirawe aiamie masinaigan ou recueil de prières, catéchisme, chemin de la croix et cantiques à l’usage des sauvages du Saint-Maurice (postes de Wemontaching, Okikendatc, Manawan, Coucoucache) et de Mekiskan (Montréal, 1889); Ocki mino masinaigans; kanacteng Ka odidjikatek kitci aioate kakina niina anicinabek ([Montréal], 1893); and Recueil de prières, catéchisme et cantiques à l’usage des sauvages de la baie d’Hudson (postes de Moose Factory, New-Post, Albany, Waswanipi et Mékiskan) (Montréal, 1889; 2e éd., 1907). In addition, he edited [L.-M. Lebret], Kiskinoamati-masinaigan ([Montreal], 1889) and Kiskinoamati-masinaigan gaie aiamie kakȣedjindiȣini-masinaigan ([Montréal], 1906), and produced several articles: “Mission chez les sauvages Tête de Boule,” “Mission de Témiskamingue,” and “Mission du Saint-Maurice,” in Annales de la propagation de la foi pour la prov. de Québec (Québec et Montréal), 8 (1879): 113–24, 12 (1880): 220–31, and 16 (1882): 20–24 respectively; “Missions de Témiskamingue et du Saint-Maurice” and “Missions du Saint-Maurice” in Rapport sur les missions du diocèse de Québec . . . (Québec), no.19 (mai 1870): 9–19, and no.20 (mai 1872): 44–53; and “Missions du Saint-Maurice,” Assoc. de la Propagation de la Foi, Rapport (Montréal), 24 (1872): 21–27.
Arch. Deschâtelets, Oblats de Marie-Immaculée, HEB6924.J91C, no.9 (Certificat de baptême et lettre de L. Normand du 13 mars 1958); no.10 (Extrait des actes de naissances de la commune de Ploudalmézeau). Arch. des Oblats de Marie-Immaculée (Montréal), Maniwaki, dossiers 1882–1909, corr. de Guéguen; Mattawa, dossiers 1869–1908, corr. de Guéguen; Témiscamingue, dossiers 1863–1909, corr. de Guéguen. Gaston Carrière, Dictionnaire biographique des oblats de Marie-Immaculée au Canada (3v., Ottawa, 1976–79), 2: 118; Histoire documentaire de la Congrégation des missionnaires oblats de Marie-Immaculée dans l’est du Canada (12v., Ottawa, 1957–75), 9: 203–302; 11: 190–91, 286; Le père Jean-Pierre Guéguen, o.m.i., 1838–1909: un grand voltigeur; Mattawa, Nipawa, Tête du lac, Weymont, Maniwaki (Québec, 1978).