MILLIER, HILAIRE, Roman Catholic priest; b. 26 Feb. 1823 at Contrecœur, Lower Canada, son of Jean-Baptiste Millier, a farmer, and Thérèse Labossière; d. 13 Aug. 1889 at Saint-Hyacinthe, Que.
Hilaire Millier received a classical and theological education at the Séminaire de Saint-Hyacinthe, and after ordination to the priesthood on 9 Feb. 1851, taught philosophy there for more than four years. He then served in the parish ministry until his retirement in 1885. A missionary at Stanstead from September 1855 to September 1856, he was parish priest for four years at Saint-Hilaire, then from 1860 to 1861 at Saint-Athanase in Iberville, and finally was appointed parish priest at Sorel on 11 Sept. 1861.
On his arrival at Sorel, Abbé Millier set out to finish the construction of a general hospital, begun by his predecessor Joseph-Magloire Limoges. When it opened on 22 Oct. 1862, the Sisters of Charity of the Hôtel-Dieu in Saint-Hyacinthe took over its management. He also endowed the Congregation of Notre-Dame with a magnificent convent. His major achievement, however, was the founding of the Petit Séminaire or classical college of Sorel. The idea of building the college was first advanced in 1853 by a lay committee. The bishop of Saint-Hyacinthe, Charles La Rocque*, at first had reservations about the project, thinking it would harm the colleges already in the diocese; he did not admit its importance until 1868 when he instructed Abbé Millier to proceed with it. The bishop, however, wanted to exclude laymen from the enterprise. “This undertaking,” he wrote on 20 Feb. 1868, “must be supposed to be an entirely ecclesiastical endeavour, and must be the work of the priest and not of the citizens of Sorel, however worthy they may be.” In addition to the classical programme, the college was to organize an industrial one for young people seeking a career in commerce or industry. The college would in the event be directed by school commissioners from its beginnings in September 1868 until 1870, when it came under the control of the Roman Catholic Episcopal Corporation of Saint-Hyacinthe.
When disputes arose between Bishop La Rocque and a group of liberals of Saint-Hyacinthe [see Charles La Rocque], Abbé Millier offered the former the hospitality of Sorel; he declared himself a determined adversary “of the irreligious and impious ideas” that seemed prevalent in the small episcopal town. “In these circumstances,” he wrote on 6 Feb. 1868, “may I suggest Sorel to you, My Lord, as a place where Your Lordship will be more at ease, at least this is my hope, for you will breathe in a more Catholic atmosphere. I venture to say, My Lord, that there is no trace here of that Voltairian spirit on which the town of Saint-Hyacinthe seems to pride itself and which Christian faith and the episcopacy deplore.”
In 1869 Millier asked his bishop to retire him, for reasons of health. A petition from the inhabitants of Sorel commending him, and the pleas of Bishop La Rocque, led him to reconsider his decision. In 1874 further disabilities forced him to ask for a less onerous charge. Finally, in 1875 he was given the quiet parish of Saint-Mathieu in Belœil, with a curate to relieve him of the heaviest tasks. He himself, however, had to convince his flock of the necessity of renovating the parish church. After a ministry of ten years at Saint-Mathieu, he retired to the convent of the Sisters of St Joseph at Saint-Hyacinthe, where he served as chaplain. He died there on 13 Aug. 1889.
Hilaire Millier, a man heedful of the views of his superiors, received from Bishop La Rocque the titles of diocesan adviser in 1866 and vicar general in 1868. In 1875 the new bishop of the diocese, Louis-Zéphirin Moreau*, maintained him in his offices and in 1877 made him canon of the cathedral. As a churchman he did not perhaps make a profound impression, but in the light of his achievements, the praise of Abbé Azarie Couillard-Després for “his fine intelligence, his pastoral zeal . . . and his talent as an administrator,” seems merited.
Arch. de la chancellerie de l’évêché de Saint-Hyacinthe (Saint-Hyacinthe, Qué.), XVII, C-54, 1884; C-66, 1868–69, 1874; Cahier hors série, Isidore Desnoyers, “Monographie de la paroisse Saint-Pierre-de-Sorel,” 177ff.; “Notice biographique sur les missionnaires et les curés de Sorel,” 33–34; Reg. des lettres des évêques, sér. I, 5: 380. AP, Sainte-Trinité (Contrecoeur), Reg. des baptêmes, manages et sépultures, 1823. Le Courrier de Saint-Hyacinthe, 15 août 1889. Le Sorelois (Sorel, Qué.), 16 août 1889. C.-P. Choquette, Histoire du séminaire de Saint-Hyacinthe depuis sa fondation jusqu’à nos jours (2v., Montréal, 1911–12), I. Azarie Couillard-Després, Histoire de Sorel de ses origines à nos jours (Montréal, 1926), 207–22.