LE BLANC, GUILLAUME-MARIN, Roman Catholic priest; b. 5 April 1836 in Arichat, N.S., son of Pierre Le Blanc and Barbe Martel; d. there 12 Jan. 1907.
Descended from Acadians of Grand Pré, N.S., who had been deported to Philadelphia and had eventually settled in Arichat, Cape Breton, Guillaume-Marin Le Blanc was a late recruit to the priesthood. He had left school early to support his widowed mother. For several years he worked in a dry-goods store in Halifax, saving enough money to be able to continue his education. After studies at St Francis Xavier College, Antigonish, N.S., and at the Grand Séminaire de Québec from 1863 to 1865, he was ordained on 22 April 1866, probably in Arichat. LeBlanc, who spoke French, English, and Gaelic, served in Cape North and Ingonish before returning to the province of Quebec in 1867. He taught at the Petit Séminaire de Sainte-Thérèse for two years and then went back to Nova Scotia.
In August 1869 Le Blanc became pastor of the newly established parish at River Bourgeois, a small Acadian village near Arichat. He served there for over eight years, ministering on occasion to neighbouring localities. Late in 1877 he was assigned to Port Felix. Reluctant to leave, he told Bishop John Cameron that he should not move because the River Bourgeois parish had a major debt, because he wished to retire from the ministry, and because he did not believe he could satisfy his new parishioners. Cameron expected complete obedience from his priests, and when Le Blanc continued to refuse to take up his new charge he sent a stern reprimand and suspended Le Blanc’s faculties. Le Blanc submitted and agreed to leave River Bourgeois. After successfully defending himself against charges of irregularities in the administration of certain sums, he was transferred to Cow Bay (Port Morien), where he stayed from 10 March to 3 November 1878. In December he finally took charge of Port Felix, but he remained for only nine months before being appointed to another new parish, Saint-Joseph-du-Moine, at Friar’s Head (Cap Le Moine). Bishop Cameron blessed its new church on 16 Nov. 1879, just over two months after Le Blanc’s arrival.
In Saint-Joseph Le Blanc worked to secure better educational opportunities for his Acadian parishioners, in the hopes of forming an educated élite. He built and equipped a three-storey convent, and saw to it that the school held there by the sisters gave instruction in English and French and was capable of preparing students to meet the entrance requirements of the provincial Normal School. In the presbytery he opened a small library to provide his parishioners with books in French. He also encouraged Acadian boys to continue their studies, spending much of his savings and even redeeming his insurance policies to pay for their education.
Anxious to further the cause of the Acadians, Le Blanc attended the Acadian national convention of 1890 in Church Point. He returned there the following year to meet and encourage the Eudist priests who had arrived to establish an institution of higher learning [see Jean-Marie Gay]. Le Blanc left his parish in 1892. Acadian senator Pascal Poirier* later alluded to a conflict between Le Blanc and his ecclesiastical superiors which may have caused his departure. In 1880 Le Blanc had opposed the transfer of the seat of the diocese from Arichat, a predominantly Acadian town, to Antigonish, settled by Highland Scots, since endowments which he believed had been bequeathed for the benefit of Acadians had accompanied the bishop. Poirier suggested that Le Blanc, who had remained an outspoken critic of his superiors, was obliged to take “the bitter road of exile.”
During the years following his departure from Saint-Joseph-du-Moine, Le Blanc turned to Acadian genealogy, a long-time passion, and he travelled through the Maritimes and Quebec gleaning material from church registers. He also visited friends, went on spiritual retreats, and journeyed to Europe and the Holy Land. The circumstances which had led to his exile from Nova Scotia seem to have been forgiven or forgotten by 1904, since on 1 March of that year he was made pastor at St Francis Harbour. This charge was followed seven months later by an appointment as first pastor of Lower River Inhabitants, where he remained until his retirement in August 1905. He returned to Arichat to work on a book of Acadian genealogy, but died before completing it. He left various bequests to members of his family and donated the convent and its furnishings to the sisters who were occupying it; the remainder of his estate went to the Eudists for the education of Acadian boys. Poirier mourned the loss of a brave soldier, “covered with wounds and scars acquired in the service of God and [his] nation.”
[The author would like to thank Professor Raymond A. MacLean of Antigonish, N.S., and Stephen A. White of the Centre d’Études Acadiennes, Univ. de Moncton, N.-B., for their assistance. p.m.c.]
Arch. of the Diocese of Antigonish, A. A. Johnston file, ms sketches. ASQ, Fichier des anciens. Centre d’Études Acadiennes, Fonds Placide Gaudet, 1.65-25, 1.71-25. Richmond County Registry of Deeds (Arichat, N.S.), I-1: 125–27. L’Évangéline, 2 avril 1896, 24 janv.–28 févr. 1907. Le Moniteur acadien, 30 oct. 1891, 24 janv. 1907. Allaire, Dictionnaire. Éphrem Boudreau, Rivière-Bourgeois: paroisse acadienne du comté de Richmond, au sud du Cap-Breton, en Nouvelle-Écosse (Yarmouth, N.-É., [1984?]). Le Canada ecclésiastique . . . (Montréal), 1901, 1903. F.-L. Desaulniers, Les vieilles familles d’Yamachiche (4v., Montréal, 1898–1908), 4: 122. A. A. Johnston, A history of the Catholic Church in eastern Nova Scotia (2v., Antigonish, 1960–71). R. A. MacLean, Bishop John Cameron: piety & politics (Antigonish, 1991). [Alphonse Saulnier], Histoire commémorative, St-Joseph du Moine, 1879–1954 ([St-Joseph-du-Moine, N.-É.], 1954; copy in the possession of Rémi-Joseph Chiasson, Antigonish).