CHAZELLE, JEAN-PIERRE, Roman Catholic priest, Jesuit, and missionary; b. 12 Jan. 1789 in Saint-Just-en-Bas, France, son of Pierre Chazelle, a farm labourer, and Blandine Chalette; d. 4 Sept. 1845 in Green Bay, Wis.
Jean-Pierre Chazelle did his classical and theological studies in France at the Séminaire de Montbrison, near Lyon. He was ordained priest on 14 June 1812 and immediately began teaching philosophy, theology, and rhetoric in the seminary; he reputedly taught Jean-Baptiste-Marie Vianney, who became famous as the Curé d’Ars and was eventually canonized. Chazelle was made parish priest at Moingt in 1816, and then served as military chaplain to the 28th infantry regiment of the Légion du Gard in 1817 and to the École Royale et Militaire at La Flèche in 1819.
Wishing to become a Jesuit, on 1 March 1822, at 33 years of age, Chazelle entered the noviciate of Montrouge, near Paris. At that time the Jesuits were in wide demand for a variety of undertakings. After six months’ probation Chazelle was made professor of theology at the Jesuit theological college in Paris. Appointed to the Collège de Montmorillon, near Poitiers, in 1823, he was to serve in turn as minister, assistant, and rector. In 1828 the Jesuits were excluded by ordinance from the field of teaching in France, and with the revolution in July 1830 they were expelled from the country.
Chazelle, who was then in Bordeaux, was appointed superior of Jesuit missions in North America and left for the United States on 19 Nov. 1830 with two other Jesuit priests and a brother of the order. The four were responding to a request that Benoit-Joseph Flaget, bishop of the diocese of Bardstown, Ky, had made in 1828 to the Jesuits’ provincial in France, Nicolas Godinot. They arrived in New Orleans in February 1831 and were detained by the winter season. There they examined carefully Bishop Léo-Raymond de Neckère’s proposals for carrying on their work in his diocese instead. When Chazelle set off again in April, he left two of his companions behind and went with the third to the diocese of Bardstown. Bishop Flaget welcomed them warmly but could no longer offer them St Joseph’s College as he had promised in his letter to Godinot. Thinking that the Jesuits would not come, he had entrusted that institution to his secular clergy. Chazelle considered returning to New Orleans, but in the end Flaget put him in charge of St Mary’s Seminary, which had been founded by William Byrne around 1819. Under Chazelle’s guidance it soon offered more advanced courses and began to expand remarkably.
In 1839 Chazelle received a letter from Joseph-Vincent Quiblier*, the superior of the Séminaire de Saint-Sulpice in Montreal. Quiblier invited Chazelle in the name of the bishop of Montreal, Jean-Jacques Lartigue, to come in August as preacher for the first sacerdotal retreat to be held in the diocese. Despite the troubled times in Lower Canada and the discretion essential on Chazelle’s part, his stay there did not go unnoticed. His presence rekindled memories of the Jesuits, whose past deeds had left a lasting impression. Their return to the province was keenly desired on all sides.
When Ignace Bourget* succeeded Lartigue as bishop of Montreal in 1840, he wanted to pursue his predecessor’s desire to bring Jesuits to Lower Canada. In 1841 he went to Rome and sought out their general, Jean Roothaan, to request a few men for one of the Lower Canadian colleges and for the Indian missions. Chazelle was also in Rome, where he had been sent by Flaget, and he met Bourget, whom he knew from his stay in Montreal. Soon Chazelle was named superior of the Jesuits in Canada and charged with recruiting the necessary personnel.
On 31 May 1842 Chazelle arrived in Montreal at the head of a group of nine Jesuits. Staying temporarily in the bishop’s palace, in July he agreed to take on the parish of Notre-Dame-de-la-Prairie-de-la-Madeleine (Nativité-de-la-Très-Sainte-Vierge) at La Prairie, near Montreal, whose curé, Michael Power, had just been named the first bishop of Toronto and was preparing to depart for his diocese. Chazelle gave sermons, conducted retreats, and served as a military chaplain. He refused, however, to take charge of the Collège de Chambly, and the Sulpicians were very reluctant to hand over the Petit Séminaire de Montréal to him. Furthermore, the Jesuit noviciate opened in the bishop’s palace attracted no candidates and had to be moved to La Prairie in July 1843.
Meanwhile, in the summer of 1842 Bishop Power and the archbishop of New York, John Joseph Hughes, were proposing to bring Jesuits into their dioceses, and General Roothaan and the provincial of France, Clément Boulanger*, were considering the matter. Early in the autumn Power invited Chazelle to come and preach a sacerdotal retreat prior to the synod marking the inauguration of his diocese. During his stay in Upper Canada Chazelle became enthusiastic about the missions to the Indians who had been evangelized by his predecessors at the time of the early Canadian martyrs [see Isaac Jogues*]. That November Power made a formal request to Roothaan, and in July 1843 two French Jesuits, Pierre Point and Jean-Pierre Choné, arrived in Toronto, where they were met by Chazelle. Some days later they took charge of the parish of L’Assomption at Sandwich (Windsor), the point of departure for the missions Chazelle was to found on Walpole Island, Manitoulin Island in Georgian Bay, and Sault Ste Marie, in Upper Canada. On 31 July 1844, at Power’s request, the Jesuit mission in the Canadas was split: Chazelle was appointed superior of the Upper Canadian section, and Félix Martin* superior of the Lower Canadian [see Clément Boulanger].
On 4 Sept. 1845, in the midst of his apostolic activity, Chazelle died at Green Bay. He had been travelling through the United States on his way to Sault Ste Marie. His colleagues lost in him a totally committed person who hesitated before no task. With a temperament that seemed unable to tolerate inaction, Chazelle had a quality of obedience which was linked to an utter open-heartedness and a faith in Providence. These qualities explain the notable achievements of a life given to teaching, administrative duties, and sacerdotal retreats.
The records relating to Jean-Pierre Chazelle and to his works are largely held at the Arch. de la Compagnie de Jésus, Prov. du Canada français (Saint-Jérôme, Qué.), Fonds général and Sér.A. B, and D. Additional material is in Archivum Romanum Societatis Iesu (Rome), Fonds Missio Kentuckeiensis and Missio Canadensis; the author has in his possession microfilm copies of many of the items from this repository.
ACAM, 465.103; 901.055, 846–13; 901.062. AD, Loire (Saint-Étienne), État civil, Saint-Just-en-Bas, 12 janv. 1789. Allaire, Dictionnaire. G.-É. Giguère, “La restauration de la Compagnie de Jésus au Canada, 1839–1857” (thèse de phd, univ. de Montréal, 1965). Laval Laurent, Québec et l’Église aux États-Unis sous Mgr Briand et Mgr Plessis (Montréal, 1945). Édouard Lecompte, Les jésuites du Canada au XIXe siècle (Montréal, 1920), 27–55, 59–70, 82–84, 87–90, 116–17, 163–64. F. X. Curran, “Father Pierre Chazelle, S.J., 1789–1845,” Catholic Hist. Rev. (Washington), 41 (1955): 1–17; “The Jesuits in Kentucky, 1831–1846,” Mid-America (Chicago), 24 (1953): 223–46. F. J. Nelligan, “Father Pierre Chazelle, S.J., 1789–1845,” Canadian Messenger of the Sacred Heart (Toronto), 58 (1955): 383–89. Léon Pouliot, “Notes sur le court supériorat du P. Chazelle à Montréal (1842–1844),” Lettres du Bas-Canada (Montréal), 11 (1957): 97–101; “La première retraite ecclésiastique du diocèse de Montréal: 21–30 août 1839,” La Semaine religieuse de Montréal (Montréal), 98 (1939): 230–36.