DESJARDINS, dit Desplantes, LOUIS-JOSEPH, Roman Catholic priest and missionary; b. 19 March 1766 in Messas, France, son of Jacques Desjardins de Lapérière, a merchant, and Marie-Anne Baudet; d. 30 Aug. 1848 at Quebec.
Louis-Joseph Desjardins, dit Desplantes, studied in France at the Petit Séminaire de Meung-sur-Loire and at the Séminaire Saint-Martin in Paris; on 20 March 1790 he was ordained priest in Bayeux. During the revolution he and his brother Philippe-Jean-Louis* were imprisoned and threatened with death, as were many of their fellow priests who refused to take the oath to the Civil Constitution of the Clergy, which the Constituent Assembly required from 1 Oct. 1791. By good luck they managed to escape and cross to England late in the summer of 1792.
In 1794, abandoning all hope of returning to his native land in the near future, Desjardins resigned himself to joining his brother, who had emigrated to Lower Canada the year before. He reached Quebec in June, along with Jean-Denis Daulé*, Jean-Baptiste-Marie Castanet*, and François-Gabriel Le Courtois*. After serving as assistant priest to Joseph-Octave Plessis*, the parish priest of Quebec, in 1795 he agreed to a proposal from Bishop Jean-François Hubert* of Quebec that he and Abbé Castanet go to serve in the settlements scattered along the shores of Baie des Chaleurs, replacing Joseph-Mathurin Bourg*. The missionaries left on 21 July, at the same time as Hubert set out on a pastoral visit with Philippe-Jean-Louis, who had been made vicar general.
The two young priests were not prepared for the exhausting ministry that apostolic zeal had led them to choose. Castanet soon ruined his already delicate health and returned to Quebec, where he died on 26 Aug. 1798. Desjardins held on for three more years. He won the esteem and affection of those to whom he ministered, as is evident from a letter written in 1801 by his successor at Baie des Chaleurs, René-Pierre Joyer, to Plessis, the bishop of Quebec: “Everywhere I have been aware of people who greatly miss – and with reason – M. Desjardins, for whom I am but a pale substitute.” According to Joyer, what the region needed was “a man of as amiable a nature as M. Desjardins.” After his recall in 1801 Desjardins was assistant priest, and then priest, of the parish of Notre-Dame at Quebec until 15 Oct. 1807. Plessis then appointed him chaplain to the nuns of the Hôtel-Dieu in Quebec. He was also superior of the Ursulines of Quebec from 1825 till 1833.
Desjardins accompanied Plessis on his first pastoral visit to the Maritimes in the summer of 1811. It was he who organized the practical details of the trip, and in 1812 and 1815 he again looked after preparations for the bishop’s visits to that part of his immense diocese. Subsequently Desjardins continued to give many missionaries moral and financial support. “I have so much writing and calculating to do,” he observed in 1830, “that I scarcely know how to manage: my relations with the missions have always been a heavy burden for me.”
His brother Philippe-Jean-Louis had returned to France in 1802, and in 1817 sent him nearly 200 religious pictures to make available to parishes and communities in the diocese of Quebec. Louis-Joseph conscientiously carried out his task, which led to his becoming friends with the painters Antoine Plamondon* and Joseph Légaré* and some of their pupils. He commissioned works from them and on several occasions entrusted them with touching up paintings and making copies of them. Furthermore, the Ursuline annals relate that “M. Desjardins was not satisfied with simple encouragement; through subscriptions among the clergy and his friends he obtained passage to Europe for his protégés, trying in all respects to encourage application and talent.”
In 1836 age and disabilities, including a sprain suffered in 1824 that kept him on crutches, forced Desjardins to tender his resignation as chaplain of the Hôtel-Dieu. To show their gratitude the nuns let him have the use of his rooms until his death in August 1848. He was buried in the convent chapel. Tributes to him were unanimous in their praise of his goodness of heart, gentleness, and graciousness, and his kindly, unfailing charity.
AAQ, 311 CN, V: 150–68; VI: 4–6, 12, 19. Arch. du monastère de l’Hôtel-Dieu de Québec, Fonds L.-J. Desjardins, t.4, c.600, nos.1–5 Arch. du monastère des ursulines (Québec), Fonds L.-J. Desjardins; Fonds P.-J.-L. Desjardins. ASQ, Fonds Viger–Verreau, sér.O, 085–86. “Quelques prêtres français en exil au Canada,” ANQ Rapport, 1966: 141–90. La Minerve, 13 févr. 1834. Caron, “Inv. de la corr. de Mgr Hubert et de Mgr Bailly de Messein,” ANQ Rapport, 1930–31. Barthe, Souvenirs d’un demi-siècle. Burke, Les ursulines de Québec, vol.4. Dionne, Les ecclésiastiques et les royalistes français.