PRESSART, COLOMBAN-SÉBASTIEN, priest, superior, and vicar general; b. 30 Sept. 1723 at Le Faouët (dept of Morbihan), France, son of François Pressart, a merchant, and Angélique Lorans; d. 27 Oct. 1777 in Quebec.
Colomban-Sébastien Pressart studied at the diocesan college in Quimper and received the tonsure there; on 23 Dec. 1747, minor orders and the priesthood were conferred upon him in Paris. He arrived in Canada during the summer of 1748 with Christophe de Lalane, a director of the Séminaire des Missions Étrangéres who had been sent temporarily to Quebec as superior. Soon a member of the council of the seminary, Pressart was appointed a director of the Petit Séminaire (1748–50) and then of the Grand Séminaire (1750–52). He served as bursar from 1752 to 1756, assisted by Joseph-André-Mathurin Jacrau. When the superior, François Sorbier de Villars, had to return to France to attend to the seminary’s affairs, the directors in Paris appointed Pressart to replace him on 26 April 1756, and this appointment was renewed in 1759. As a consequence he was in charge of the seminary during the painful years of the war and the siege of Quebec. In the summer of 1759, before the bombardment began, Abbé Pressart, Abbé Henri-François Gravé* de La Rive, and some pupils from the upper forms took refuge with the Sulpicians in Montreal. There Pressart taught theology. He returned to Quebec the following summer.
In 1762 his appointment as superior came to an end and Urbain Boiret replaced him. Since there were few students in theology, Pressart apparently resumed the office of bursar, again with the assistance of Jacrau, who had, however, become an invalid. The work of this period of rebuilding was immense and difficult, at the seminary and the farms and mills of its seigneuries. When the Petit Séminaire reopened in 1765, it had to provide classrooms for day pupils because the Jesuits had had to give up all hope of resuming their teaching of classical studies. The institution’s new orientation was approved by the seminary in Paris, which retained some authority over the activities of the seminary in Quebec, although Governor Murray was no longer willing to accept foreign interference. Pressart, who from 1768 till his death bore the title of “first assistant” to the superior, resigned the office of bursar on 1 June 1770 to become head of the Grand Séminaire until 1772. While he held these different offices and even afterwards, he evidently continued to teach; he was referred to as “a teacher of theology at the Séminaire de Québec” in the letters issued by Bishop Briand on 18 Oct. 1774, appointing him vicar general. But in this era people’s health gave out early, and a man was old at 60. During the siege of Quebec by the Americans (December 1775 – May 1776), Pressart suffered “an attack of apoplexy and paralysis,” which left him very weak. As soon as the siege was lifted, he obtained a room at the Hôpital Général. He stayed there several times for lengthy periods because of intermittent attacks of what was probably angina pectoris. He died on the morning of 27 Oct. 1777.
Pressart may have had some knowledge of the law. In any event he helped Jacrau write a summary of the custom of Paris, which Governor Guy Carleton* had requested of the priests of the Séminaire de Québec in 1768. It served as a basis for one of five abstracts of laws published in London in 1772 and 1773 and known collectively in Canada as the “Extrait des Messieurs.” Written entirely in French, each bore a long English title. Francis Maseres*, a former attorney general of the province who supervised the publication of the abstracts, seems to have appreciated the contribution made by the priests of the seminary: in his correspondence he expressed his admiration for the “learned Mr Jacrau . . . and the very intelligent Mr Pressart. . . .”
AHGQ, Communauté, Journal, II. ASQ, Lettres M 160; P, 120; R, 15; mss, 12, ff.16, 28, 36, 38; Séminaire: 3, nos.106–17. Le séminaire de Québec (Provost), 450. Philéas Gagnon, Essai de bibliographie canadienne . . . (2v., Québec et Montréal, 1895–1913), I, 2–3. A.-H. Gosselin, L’Église du Canada après la conquête, I. O’Reilly, Mgr de Saint-Vallier et l’Hôpital Général. M. Trudel, L’Eglise canadienne, II. Albert David, “Les spiritains dans l’Amérique septentrionale au XVIIIe siècle,” BRH, XXXV (1929), 318. Leland, “François-Joseph Cugnet,” Revue de l’université Laval, XVII, 448–56, 820–34. P.-G. Roy, “L’Extrait des Messieurs,” BRH, III (1897), 78.