CARON, THOMAS, secular priest, teacher at the seminary of Nicolet; b. 19 June 1819 at Saint-Antoine-de-la-Rivière-du-Loup (Louiseville), L.C., son of Louis Caron, farmer, and Euphrosine Béland; d. 24 Sept. 1878 at Nicolet, Que.
Like many young men of his parish and the surrounding area, Thomas Caron enrolled at the seminary of Nicolet in 1831 for his classical education. Seven years later he began the study of theology, at the same time teaching the adolescents of the seminary. He was ordained priest in 1842, lived in the institution that had trained him, and was at first a teacher of rhetoric and theology there. Subsequently he was in turn director of students, teacher of theology, and director of seminarists. His bishop appointed him three times superior of the seminary of Nicolet (1855–59, 1861–68, 1871–77), and in 1857 chose him as vicar general of the diocese of Trois-Rivières.
As a priest Thomas Caron was profoundly imbued with the evangelical spirit. Always ready to give of himself ungrudgingly, and of exemplary goodness, he was loved by all those who lived near him. It was no doubt for this reason that pupils called him “papa Thomas.” When he was teaching the seminarists, he drew up courses which have survived in manuscript form and which are a sound synthesis of the numerous theological treatises that were to be found in his personal library. He was most careful to provide teaching of good quality.
As a member of the corporation of the seminary of Nicolet, Caron worked towards the affiliation of the seminary with the Université Laval. In 1863 he succeeded in smoothing away the difficulties that had been delaying the realization of this project for ten years. The authorities of the seminary of Nicolet had indeed feared to lose their independence to the seminary of Quebec, whose priests directed the Université Laval. This question had barely been settled before he had to take up the problem of the poor results of the Nicolet students in the university examinations.
The finest moment of his life was probably in 1869, when his bishop, Thomas Cooke*, chose him to accompany Bishop Louis-François Laflèche* to the Vatican Council; Laflèche and Caron were friends of long standing. But on his return Caron had to defend his college against the inhabitants of Trois-Rivières, who insisted that the seminary of Nicolet close its doors. He opposed this demand with all his strength, so much so that his health was affected. According to Bishop Joseph-Antoine-Irénée Douville, who knew him well, this affair was one of the reasons for his premature death.
ASN, Boîte I; Boîte II; Polygraphie, V, 19, 21–24, 32–33; Séminaire, VII, 56; Séminaire, IX, 39–51. L’Écho de Saint-Justin (Louiseville, Qué.), 2 mars 1925. J.-A.-I. Douville, Histoire du collège-séminaire de Nicolet, 1803–1903, avec les listes complètes des directeurs, professeurs et élèves de l’institution (2v., Montréal, 1903), I, 409; II, 115–21. Germain Lesage, Histoire de Louiseville, 1665–1910 (Louiseville, Qué., 1961), 170.