COLIN, LOUIS-FRÉDÉRIC, Roman Catholic priest, Sulpician, teacher, and superior; b. 14 Jan. 1835 in Lignières, France, son of François Colin, a farmer and locksmith, and Marthe Guitton, a merchant; d. 27 Nov. 1902 in Montreal.
Louis-Frédéric Colin attended the Petit Séminaire de Chezal-Benoit in the diocese of Bourges. He continued his studies at the Lycée Saint-Louis in Paris and obtained a baccalauréat ès sciences. He then earned admission to the École Normale Supérieure, a centre that trained the future élite of France. This opened the way for him to a distinguished scientific or intellectual career, but he felt called in a different direction. He spent time with Alexis-Marin Pinault, a Sulpician from the Séminaire d’Issy-les-Moulineaux, who was a talented scientist and teacher. Pinault encouraged him in his priestly vocation and pointed him towards theology. From 1855 to 1859 Colin studied in Issy-les-Moulineaux and at the Séminaire de Saint-Sulpice in Paris. Ordained to the priesthood on 17 Dec. 1859, he returned to his home diocese, first as a curate and then as a teacher at the Petit Séminaire de Chezal-Benoit. Eager to serve in a foreign country, he entered the Society of Saint-Sulpice and did his solitude (noviciate) at Issy-les-Moulineaux in 1861–62. Despite poor health, he agreed to leave for Lower Canada.
Colin was assistant priest and bursar at the parishes of Notre-Dame-de-Grâce and Saint-Henri in Montreal from 1862 to 1865. He then became assistant priest of Notre-Dame parish in Montreal, where he distinguished himself as a brilliant preacher and a learned and interesting lecturer. He had remarkable success with young people and the educated. No other priest was nearly as eloquent as he, or as profound in his talks on the history of philosophy. He drew inspiration from the French philosopher Victor Cousin, and his lectures on ethics were based on the ideas of Jules Simon, another French philosopher. In the fall of 1867 Colin became director of the Cercle Littéraire, set up ten years earlier “to promote, especially among young people, a love of sound principles and of wholesome literature.” He steered the group’s discussions towards philosophical and social questions. His lectures enjoyed a great deal of success. It is thought that reasons of health, and probably also criticisms from certain circles in Montreal, the Jesuits among them, concerning his intellectual mentors, led Colin to discontinue his lectures in 1868.
The following year Colin was given a one-year leave to go to the Sulpician seminary in Baltimore, Md. He used the time to recover his health and to study English. When he returned to Montreal in 1870 he was assigned to the Grand Séminaire, where, for nearly 11 years, he taught in turn canon law, moral philosophy, homiletics, and singing. After a year as assistant to Joseph-Alexandre Baile*, the superior of Saint-Sulpice in Montreal, Colin himself became superior in 1881. This “lively and mysterious little man, at once authoritarian and diplomatic,” was interested in the extension of his community’s influence and in the education of the young. He supported the construction of the Séminaire de Philosophie in 1894 and the expansion of the Grand Séminaire in 1900. He also strove to establish strong and harmonious ties with the Montreal episcopate, and in particular with Archbishop Édouard-Charles Fabre*.
Before he took office as superior, Colin had been involved in founding a branch of the Université Laval at Montreal. This initiative had proven controversial because of Laval’s desire to dominate the university scene in Quebec [see Ignace Bourget*; Elzéar-Alexandre Taschereau*]. In 1878 the Grand Séminaire de Montréal had become the faculty of theology in the new branch, with Colin as its first dean. Over the years the subordination of the Montreal campus to the Université Laval at Quebec led to a number of problems which Colin had to face, and so he worked to make his branch more autonomous. The publication of the papal bull Jamdudum by Pope Leo XIII in February 1889 pleased him. Henceforth the vice-rector of the university would be appointed by the episcopate of the ecclesiastical province of Montreal; the colleges affiliated to the branch could participate in developing certain programs; the Montreal School of Medicine and Surgery would become the faculty of medicine [see Thomas-Edmond d’Odet* d’Orsonnens]; and the Jesuits would enjoy special status. The Sulpicians took charge of the new university. They donated some land on Rue Saint-Denis and contributed $70,000 for the construction of a building. Led by Colin, they also set up the faculty of arts. In 1920 the faculty would recognize his contribution by instituting a prize in his name, to be awarded annually to two students earning the baccalauréat ès arts.
Colin did not confine his activities to the province of Quebec or to Canada. He participated in founding a Canadian college in Rome to provide theological training for young priests. The plan involved some difficulties, but it received the enthusiastic support of the Canadian episcopate. Colin negotiated with the Canadian and British governments for authorization to use the assets of Saint-Sulpice outside the province. From 1885 he followed the construction of the college closely and he was present at its opening ceremonies in November 1888.
Although he was diplomatic, Colin carried out his responsibilities with authority. Like most of his predecessors, however, he had difficulty accepting the fact that Saint-Sulpice had more and more Canadian members [see Jean-Henry-Auguste Roux*]. He preferred to recruit his co-workers in France rather than in Canada.
Louis-Frédéric Colin suffered almost all his life from rheumatism. In his later years, it brought on a serious heart condition. He died in Montreal on 27 Nov. 1902. His funeral occasioned a remarkable outpouring of sympathy. Archbishops, bishops, civil authorities, and many practising Catholics came together in Notre-Dame church to pay him their last respects. He was buried in the crypt under the chapel of the Grand Séminaire. Narcisse-Amable Troie, who was the superior of Saint-Sulpice from 1917 to 1919 and knew Colin well, observed: “M. Colin was a man of talent [and] exceptional skill, a consummate diplomat. He took his time, he chose his moment, but when he had made his plans, he knew how to achieve success.”
Arch. Départementales, Cher (Bourges, France), État civil, Lignières, 14 janv. 1835. Arch. du Séminaire de Saint-Sulpice (Montréal), Carnets de N.-A. Troie, p.s.s.; Corr. générale, 1670–1920, lettres de H.-J. Icard; Enseignement, armoire 6, univ. de Montréal; Hist. et géog., biog., divers, 1600–1920, hist. et divers, carton 106.49; Séminaire de Saint-Sulpice, règlements, visites, comptes rendus des assemblées, 1657–1900. Arch. du Séminaire de Saint-Sulpice (Paris), Fonds canadien, dossier 121, nos.4–30, 33; dossier 126. Alfred Archambault, “M. Colin et l’université,” Bull. trimestriel des anciens élèves de Saint-Sulpice (Montréal), 8 (1903), no.28: 146–51. Émile Boucher, “L’œuvre sulpicienne de la formation cléricale, les supérieurs du grand séminaire,” Le Séminaire (Montréal), 22 (1957): 233–38. Ferdinand Brunetière, “Un Français au Canada,” Bull. trimestriel des anciens élèves de Saint-Sulpice, 8, no.28: 151–54. Jean Dombreval [Henri Gauthier], Archives et souvenirs (Montréal, 1938), 34–37. André Lavallée, “Les Religieuses hospitalières de Saint-Joseph et l’École de médecine et de chirurgie dans la querelle universitaire (1843–1891),” L’Hôtel-Dieu de Montréal (1642–1973) (Montréal, 1973), 271–307. “Nécrologie,” Bull. trimestriel des anciens élèves de Saint-Sulpice, 8, no.28: 139–46.