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BERTHO, ÉMILE-DÉSIRÉ, named Brother Louis-Bertrand, member of the Brothers of St Gabriel and teacher; b. 28 Nov. 1855 in Saint-André-des-Eaux, France, son of Pierre Bertho, a ploughman, and Marie-Josephe Nourry; d. 1 Sept. 1936 in Saint-Laurent-sur-Sèvre, France.

Émile-Désiré Bertho belonged to a family that had settled in the region of the Brière marshes, north of the Loire estuary in France, by the beginning of the 19th century. He began his primary schooling in his commune and in 1869 enrolled in the juvénat (for studies preparatory to the noviciate) at Saint-Laurent-sur-Sèvre (dept of Vendée) to become a teaching brother. He entered the noviciate of the Brothers of St Gabriel in 1872 and took the name of Brother Louis-Bertrand. This order was dedicated to the Christian education and religious instruction of youth; it was also responsible for schools for the blind and for deaf-mutes. He took his first vows on 19 Sept. 1874 and his final vows in 1879.

From 1874 Brother Louis-Bertrand was a teacher in a number of schools (in Currière, Orléans, and Bordeaux), especially in schools for deaf-mute boys. In 1883 his superiors, realizing his considerable merit, assigned him to classes at the noviciate in Saint-Laurent-sur-Sèvre, where he was also assistant director. At the same time, he pursued the studies required to obtain specialized teaching diplomas.

Following the general chapter meeting of the Brothers of St Gabriel in 1883, the community’s general council, aware of the many difficulties encountered by members of religious orders in France, gave increasing thought to directing some of them towards Canada. Around the same time, a wealthy property owner in Montreal, François-Xavier Beaudry, developed plans for a huge building that would become the Orphelinat Saint-François-Xavier. He died on 24 March 1885, before seeing the project fully carried out, but he left sufficient funds for this purpose to the executors of his will, Sulpician Léon-Alfred Sentenne, curé of Notre-Dame parish, and Louis-Amable Jetté*, a judge. Benjamin-Victor Rousselot*, a Sulpician and curé of Saint-Jacques parish who had been a pupil of the Brothers of St Gabriel, persuaded Archbishop Édouard-Charles Fabre* of Montreal to accept the order into his archdiocese and assign them, as their first mission, to work in the orphanage just getting underway.

Brother Louis-Bertrand reached Montreal on 25 Sept. 1888, leading a group that consisted of brothers Herbland, Jean de Prado, Sylvère, Augustin, and Raoul. They moved into the orphanage, which was located at the corner of Rue Sainte-Catherine and Rue Saint-Urbain. The undertaking proved difficult for several reasons. Since the facilities were not finished when they took up residence, the brothers had to wait for a year before accepting their first boarders, some 50 in all. Organizational problems forced them to close the orphanage in July 1894. The building would burn to the ground in 1899.

From 1890, with the arrival of several groups of brothers, Brother Louis-Bertrand had been able to meet the recurring requests of parish priests and school boards by establishing schools in the area around Montreal (including the region that would become Montérégie) and around Saint-Maurice. He even sent teachers to Vermont in the United States. The founding of these schools meant that the superior had to travel frequently and engage in regular correspondence.

Ever since coming to Canada, Brother Louis-Bertrand had been thinking about buying a house for a noviciate. After his appointment as provincial for Canada in 1891, he believed it was even more necessary that his community become a property owner and have its own mother house. The curé at Sault-au-Récollet (Montreal), Charles-Philippe Beaubien, let him know that one of his parishioners was planning to sell his property on the Rivière des Prairies, a large house with outbuildings and garden. On 22 May 1891 Brother Louis-Bertrand took possession of it in the name of his community.

In 1892 the conferences of the St Vincent de Paul Society of Montreal, with the support of the Séminaire de Saint-Sulpice, appealed to the Brothers of St Gabriel for help in setting up a charity similar to the Orphelinat Saint-François-Xavier, the Patronage Saint-Vincent-de-Paul. Located at first in temporary quarters, it moved four months later into larger premises on Rue Chenneville that could accommodate some 100 boarders. For nearly 60 years, it would be home to thousands of orphaned or abandoned boys aged 14 to 19. Some of the brothers taught them French and religion and helped them find work as apprentices in various industrial enterprises.

During the decade between 1888 and 1898 Brother Louis-Bertrand had established a youth hostel and nine parish schools (eight in Canada and one in the United States), and had provided a mother house for his community in Canada. Sixty young people had enrolled in the noviciate since it opened. The general chapter meeting in 1898 decided that Brother Louis-Bertrand, who had set in motion so many promising projects, could undertake duties at the general council in Saint-Laurent-sur-Sèvre. Regretfully, he left Canada to work for two five-year terms as secretary general of the council and to take charge of Chronique, the international publication of the Brothers of St Gabriel, which was first issued in Angers in December 1898. From 1903 to 1905 he was also acting provincial for Canada, following the departure of his successor, Brother Paul de la Croix, for health reasons.

While serving in this acting capacity, Brother Louis-Bertrand sent teaching brothers to the Petit Séminaire de Montréal and the Collège Sainte-Marie-de-Monnoir, in Marieville, and opened three schools. He participated in the early activities of a charity that would be of great assistance to needy boys in the Montreal area for 70 years. In 1904 he signed a lease for some lots in Villeray (Montreal) that would be used for the construction of the Orphelinat Saint-Arsène, of which Arsène-Pierre Dubuc, a retired priest, was the distinguished benefactor. The appointment of Brother Euphrone as the new provincial for Canada relieved Brother Louis-Bertrand of his double responsibility, and he was sent to Belgium, where the general council had taken refuge from 31 July 1903.

In 1908 Brother Louis-Bertrand returned to Canada as provincial, an office he would retain until 1917. He continued to set up new schools. In 1909, at the request of the curé of Saint-Arsène parish in Montreal, he took charge of a school belonging to the Commission Scolaire de Parc-Amherst, which would be given the name of Christophe-Colomb. Six years later he would also take on responsibility for Saint-Étienne school. In 1913, when the older building of the Orphelinat Saint-Arsène could no longer accommodate the steadily growing number of boarders, 140 boys aged 6 to 14 moved into new premises. The same year marked the celebration of the 25th anniversary of the arrival of the Brothers of St Gabriel in Canada. This was a notable event that occasioned a souvenir album and an article by Abbé Édouard Gouin published in the September issue of Montreal’s Revue canadienne.

Brother Louis-Bertrand’s stay in Canada came to an end in 1917. He was appointed director of the noviciate and the scholasticate at Saint-Laurent-sur-Sèvre, where, a few years later, he was made director general of the mother house. The walls of his office were covered with photographs of Canada. In 1932 he took his well-deserved retirement at Saint-Laurent-sur-Sèvre, and he died there on 1 Sept. 1936.

The ribbon of an officier d’académie, presented to Brother Louis-Bertrand by the French ministry of education in 1932, bears an inscription honouring him for the founding of 14 French schools and for his 20 years as a school administrator in Canada. This decoration summed up the life of Émile-Désiré Bertho, a man who, as the mayor of his hometown said during preparations for the centenary of the Brothers of St Gabriel’s arrival in Canada, “went boldly to the ends of the earth, to teach French culture and traditions.”


André Forget

Arch. Départementales, Loire-Atlantique (Nantes, France), État civil, Saint-André-des-Eaux, 28 nov. 1855; Vendée (La Roche-sur-Yon, France), État civil, Saint-Laurent-sur-Sèvre, 1er sept. 1936. Arch. des Frères de Saint-Gabriel du Canada (Montréal), 7532-020.04 (corr. avec le maire de Saint-André-des-Eaux, 1987–88), 28 juill. 1987; 7641-015 (L’œuvre du patronage des jeunes apprentis catholiques de Montréal: historique et procès-verbaux de la Société Saint-Vincent-de-Paul de la cité de Montréal, 1892–95); D-001 (Orphelinat Saint-François-Xavier); D-003 (École St Johnsbury, É.‑U.); D015 (École d’Acton Vale); D-026 (École Christophe-Colomb, Montréal); D-028 (École Saint-Étienne, Montréal). Arch. Générales des Frères de Saint-Gabriel (Rome), 211 (chaps. généraux), 133, 140; 859 (reg. général des profès), Reg. des profès du Canada, 1. BANQ-CAM, CN601-S227, 22 mai 1891; CN601-S556, 31 mai 1904. BANQ-O, CN703-S1, 27 févr. 1885. Univers Culturel de Saint-Sulpice (Montréal), Dép. des arch., P1 (fonds Prêtres de Saint-Sulpice de Montréal), 35 (congrégations, patronages, confréries, assoc., et autres), 16. Le Monde illustré (Montréal), 13 mai 1899. Louis Bauvineau, Histoire des Frères de Saint-Gabriel: au service des jeunes à la suite de Grignion de Montfort et de Gabriel Deshayes (Rome, 1994). Louis Bauvineau et Lucienne Favre, Libérer sourds et aveugles: initiatives de congrégations montfortaines (Paris, 2000). Chronique (Bruxelles), no.113 (1932): 62. Cinquantenaire de l’arrivée des Frères de St-Gabriel au Canada: 1888–1938 (Montréal, 1938). Stéphane Divay, “Le Patronage Saint-Vincent de Paul de Montréal: (1892–1913)” (mémoire de ma, univ. d’Angers, France, 1999). Adélard Faubert, Les pionniers de la province canadienne des Frères de St-Gabriel: il y a 100 ans le 25 septembre 1988 (Sainte-Julienne, Québec, 1988). Les Frères de Saint-Gabriel dans l’Amérique du Nord (Roulers, Belgique, 1913). É[douard] Gouin, “Les Frères de Saint-Gabriel au Canada, 1888–1913,” Rev. canadienne (Montréal), nouv. sér., 12 (juillet–décembre 1913): 193–206. Pierre Perrocheau, Distillerie Saint-Gabriel, 1887–1904, maison Pailloncy, 1905–1922 (Les Herbiers, France, 1982). P.‑G. Roy, “L’Orphelinat Saint-Arsène, de 1906 à 1929” (mémoire de ma, univ. de Montréal, 1990). Frère Théophile [Avila Chartrand], Vie de Monseigneur Pierre-Arsène Dubuc, 1842–1922 (Montréal, [1949]).

General Bibliography

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André Forget, “BERTHO, ÉMILE-DÉSIRÉ, named Brother Louis-Bertrand,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 16, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed September 18, 2014, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/bertho_emile_desire_16E.html.

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Permalink: http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/bertho_emile_desire_16E.html
Author of Article: André Forget
Title of Article: BERTHO, ÉMILE-DÉSIRÉ, named Brother Louis-Bertrand
Publication Name: Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 16
Publisher: University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication: 2013
Year of revision: 2013
Access Date: September 18, 2014