DOLBEAU, JEAN, Recollet priest, missionary in New France; b. 2 March 1586 in the Duchy of Anjou; d. 1652 at Orléans (France).
In 1605 he joined the Recollets of Balmette, near Angers. After his philosophical and theological studies, he sought permission from his superiors to go and preach the faith in the East or West Indies. Named to the Canadian mission, he sailed from Honfleur on 24 April 1615. On 25 May of that year his ship dropped anchor off Tadoussac and on 2 June he was at Quebec. As soon as he arrived he busied himself with building little rooms for the missionaries and a chapel, which he dedicated to St. Charles. On 25 June he celebrated the first mass said at Quebec.
In December of the same year, he was given charge of the Montagnais mission at Tadoussac. But the threat of failing eyesight soon obliged him to return to Quebec where he officiated at the burial of Michel Colin on 24 March 1616. After a short visit to Trois-Rivières at the end of June, he accompanied Samuel de Champlain and Father Joseph Le Caron back to Quebec on 11 July. While Champlain and Father Denis Jamet and Le Caron went to France to interest the Compagnie des Marchands de Rouen et de Saint-Malo and all men of goodwill in the Canadian missionary undertaking, Father Dolbeau remained at Quebec to minister to the French, to evangelize the Indians who came there, and to bolster the courage of the settlers who had, in the words of Gabriel Sagard, “many crosses and little bread.”
After making a trip to France in the summer of 1617 to try in his turn to overcome the greed and covetousness of the merchant partners, Father Dolbeau arrived back in Quebec on 27 June 16l8. He returned with the title of provincial commissioner and brought from France a jubilee – the first ever gained in Canada – which he proclaimed on 29 July in the chapel at Quebec “to the great satisfaction and solace of every one.” On 3 June 1620 he blessed the corner-stone of the “first convent and first seminary” in the country, in the building of which both French and Indians worked under the leadership of François Gravé Du Pont. In the autumn of that same year, Father Dolbeau returned to France, taking with him an Indian boy named Pierre-Antoine Paste-Dechouan, in order to have him educated.
In France, Father Dolbeau served successively as master of novices and definitor; in May 1633 at Toledo he attended the chapter of his order in his capacity as custodian of the province of Sainte-Madeleine.
In demand as a spiritual director, he passed away at the convent of Orleans on 9 June 1652. At his death he left a manuscript in which he had recorded the marvellous workings of grace in the soul of Anne de Pichery, whom he had directed. This manuscript, which is supplemented by an abridged life of Father Dolbeau, was slightly revised for publication by the Benedictine monk Dom Gilles Jamin, but it was never printed. The manuscript is preserved in the Municipal Library of Orleans in five versions, each differing slightly from the others.
Bibliothèque municipal d’Orléans, MS 509, manuscrit du XVIIe siècle. Le Clercq, First establishment of the faith (Shea), I, 82, 85, 87, 89, et passim. Sagard, Histoire du Canada (Tross). The Catholic encyclopedia, an international work of reference . . . of the Catholic Church, ed. C. G. Herbermann et al. (17v., New York, 1907–22). Jouve, Les Franciscains et le Canada (1615–1629). Conrad Morin et Archange Godbout, “Le Père Jean Dolbeau, récollet, missionnaire en Nouvelle-France, 1615–1620: I, Vie; II, Lettres spirituelles,” Chronique françiscaine du Canada, déc. 1941, 169–236.