MÉTHOT, MICHEL-ÉDOUARD, Roman Catholic priest, teacher, educational administrator, and domestic prelate; b. 28 July 1826 in Sainte-Croix, Lower Canada, son of Joseph Méthot, a farmer, and Marie-Xavier Desrochers; d. 6 Feb. 1892 at the Hôpital Général in Quebec and was buried three days later in the crypt of the chapel of the Séminaire de Québec.
Michel-Édouard Méthot did well at the parish school, and then began his classical studies at the Petit Séminaire de Québec in 1839; he was promoted to the third form in 1840. In his sixth year he had the good fortune to study under Pierre-Henri Bouchy, a young French priest invited to the school by John Holmes*, the prefect of studies; Bouchy remained Méthot’s friend and mentor. Méthot also formed a friendship with another French priest, Charles-Étienne Brasseur* de Bourbourg, who spent several months at the seminary in 1845–46. During the summer holidays Méthot spent happy weeks with his uncle Elzéar Méthot at Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pérade (La Pérade), where he had the opportunity to meet some of Louis-François Laflèche’s family.
After succeeding brilliantly in his classical studies, Méthot entered the Grand Séminaire in the fall of 1846. As was customary, he was put in charge of the third form at the Petit Séminaire for two years and of the fourth when he was in his final year of theology. Since he also supervised the boys in the study hall, during games, and in the dormitory, he confessed to his uncle Benjamin Desrochers, who was then parish priest at Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré, that he had scant time for theological studies; he could only attend classes for an hour each day. The archbishop of Quebec, Joseph Signay*, seemed to have reservations about Méthot and delayed tonsuring him on the grounds that he had poor eyesight. Bishop Ignace Bourget*’s secretary reportedly let him know that he would be most welcome in the diocese of Montreal. But Méthot sought treatment for his eyes, and obtained assurances of an allowance from his uncle, an arrangement that satisfied Signay.
Ordained a priest on 30 Sept. 1849, Méthot went on teaching at the Séminaire de Québec, where he was made a member of the community on 16 Nov. 1852. Until 1865 he taught the sixth-year class (Rhetoric) and was an excellent teacher of literature, probably one of the best at the seminary in the second half of the 19th century. In 1856 he was given the position of prefect of studies and joined the council of the institution.
Blessed with talent, Méthot also possessed good judgement and knew when to take time for study and reflection. Thus in 1860 he asked for a year’s leave to travel in Europe. He went to France and Italy, where he visited museums, churches, and other places of interest, as well as toured colleges and high schools to inform himself about teaching practices. His tour of France naturally included a visit to his friend Bouchy.
On returning to Quebec, Méthot resumed his double responsibility as prefect and sixth-form teacher. In 1865 he again requested a year’s leave for further theological studies at his own expense in Louvain, Belgium. He also wanted to observe a Catholic university in operation, for he knew that the following year he was to be given the rectorship of Université Laval. His travel diary reveals that at Louvain he paid close attention to the professors and to the classes he attended, as well as to university life and its political ramifications in Belgium. By the end of his stay he felt a desire to join a religious order and wondered whether doing so might not be preferable to being the superior of a seminary. But he returned to Quebec in June 1866 and within a few days was appointed superior of the Séminaire de Québec and rector of the university.
Following Louis-Jacques Casault*, a scientist, and Elzéar-Alexandre Taschereau, a theologian, the third rector of Laval was a humanist. During his two three-year terms (1866–69, 1880–83) and the interim appointment he reluctantly accepted in 1886–87, as well as during his two years as vice-rector in Montreal (1878–80), Méthot performed his duties quietly and efficiently, with no outstanding achievements; he worked with tireless dedication, writing accurate reports, and loyally defending his colleagues, even those who were freemasons [see Jean-Étienne Landry*]. From 1872, he also taught theology and Scripture at the Grand Séminaire, of which he was the director from 1870 to 1873.
When he was named a domestic prelate in 1886 by Pope Leo XIII, Méthot was deeply touched by this honorary appointment. The following year he was obliged because of illness to resign as a member of the council and superior of the seminary. Thenceforth he devoted a great deal of time to preaching and hearing confessions in convents and colleges, he officiated at ceremonies in which sisters took the habit, and he visited friends who were parish priests at Sainte-Croix and Montmagny. On 13 June 1890 he taught his last class at the seminary.
The portrait of Michel-Édouard Méthot in the Séminaire de Québec corresponds to the description given by historian Joseph-Edmond Roy*. He had an unusual face and head, invariably caricatured by the students in art class, but his dark eyes made people forget his ugliness and revealed his fine intellect. His colleagues and students enjoyed his conversation, which was always pleasant and full of wit. He was not a great orator, but according to Roy his lectures were “carefully prepared, well structured . . . meticulous.” A man of great modesty and shy by nature, he was kind-hearted and generous.
AAQ, 12 A, 0: f.51; 516 CD, I, 19 oct. 1860. AC, Québec, État civil, Catholiques, Notre-Dame de Québec, 9 févr. 1892. ANQ-Q, CE1-40, 29 juill. 1826. ASQ, Fichier des anciens; Journal du séminaire, I: 284, 286, 318; mss, 16, 26, 299, 433, 436, 611–15, 626–27, 631, 676; mss-m, 28, 146, 487, 648; Polygraphie, XXVI: 46, 123–24; Séminaire, 16; 21; 39, no.80; 54, nos.25, 31a, 36, 45–45a, 52–53; 71, nos.125–26; 73, nos.21, 21b; SME, 16 nov. 1852; 8 juill., 27 sept. 1854; Univ., cartons 39, no.105, 82, no.8; 105, nos.8, 12, 23, 60, 73; 107, no.95; 108, no.30; 180, no.52; 214, nos.59, 63, 78–79. Le séminaire de Québec: documents et biographies, Honorius Provost, édit. (Québec, 1964). Jean Hamelin et al., Brochures québécoises, 1764–1972 (Québec, 1981). Yvan Lamonde, Je me souviens; la littérature personnelle au Québec (1860–1980) (Québec, 1983). Lavallée, Québec contre Montréal, 53, 94–95, 110–11. Camille Roy, L’université Laval et les fêtes du cinquantenaire (Québec, 1903). J.-E. Roy, Souvenirs d’une classe au séminaire de Québec, 1867–1877 (Lévis, Qué., 1905). David Gosselin, “Papiers de famille,” BRH, 28 (1922): 108–10. T.-E. Hamel, “Mgr M.-É. Méthot,” Univ. Laval, Annuaire (Québec), 1892–93: 41–43. “Les Méthot,” BRH, 39 (1933): 80–81.