NOLIN, JEAN-BAPTISTE, Roman Catholic priest, Jesuit, teacher, and editor; b. 12 July 1849 in Saint-Athanase (Saint-Alexandre), Lower Canada, son of Ambroise Nolin and Sophie Lagüe; d. 16 Nov. 1914 in Midland, Ont.
From his youth, Jean-Baptiste Nolin was intensely committed to spiritual life, academic studies, and sports. Between 1863 and 1870 he attended the seminary at Saint-Hyacinthe. Active in the Sodality of Our Lady, he helped students, especially anglophones, who had difficulty adapting to seminary life. In 1868 he volunteered for the Canadian Zouaves, who were preparing to defend the Papal States against Piedmontese forces [see Édouard-André Barnard*], but an appeal by his widowed mother convinced him that he should not go. On 30 July 1870 Jean-Baptiste entered the noviciate of the Society of Jesus at Sault-au-Récollet (Montreal North). After two years of training, he was assigned to the Collège Sainte-Marie in Montreal to serve as prefect of students and teach grammar and science. By 1876 his health had so deteriorated that his superiors sent him to study theology at Montauban in southern France. Not expected to live long, on 27 May 1877 he was ordained to the priesthood on compassionate grounds.
Nolin came back to Canada, and from the Jesuit parish in Guelph, Ont., he began a ministry to outlying areas as far north as the Bruce peninsula. His health having stabilized, in 1879 he went to Wales to study philosophy and theology at the College of St Beuno. During the summer of 1883, he returned to missionary work in Ontario, this time at Sudbury, where he established the parish of Sainte-Anne-des-Pins for francophone Catholic labourers constructing the Canadian Pacific Railway. The next year he was sent to St Andrew’s parish in Port Arthur (Thunder Bay). Taking time off in 1885–86 to complete his last year in theology at Sault-au-Récollet, he risked his health by volunteering for work with smallpox victims in an isolation hospital.
In 1886 Bishop Édouard-Charles Fabre* appointed him director of the Société de Colonisation du Diocèse de Montréal, founded seven years earlier by François-Xavier-Antoine Labelle*. With missionary fervour, Nolin persuaded families in Montreal to settle in the healthier Ottawa valley and the region northwest of the city. Within a year he had received more than 71,000 members into the society. Recognizing his zeal, his superior, Henri Hudon, in 1887 appointed him director of the Apostleship of Prayer. Over the next 17 years, Nolin established 225 centres for the apostleship and recruited about 200,000 associates. To further this ministry, he began the monthly Le Messager canadien du Sacré-Cœur de Jésus (Montréal) in 1892. He also published a well-conceived work, Le catéchisme du Sacré-Cœur de Jésus ou manuel dialogué . . . (Montréal, 1892).
Nolin was appointed pastor at Massey on the north shore of Lake Huron in 1904, and two years later, at the request of Archbishop Denis O’Connor of Toronto, he founded St John’s parish in Waubaushene. On Martyrs’ Hill nearby, he built a chapel in 1907 to honour Jean de Brébeuf*, Gabriel Lalemant*, and their companions, French Jesuits who had died ministering to the Huron during an attack by the Iroquois in 1649. Nolin organized pilgrimages to the site to educate the faithful about the work of these martyrs. However, the opening in 1926 of the Martyrs’ Shrine, which overlooks the reconstructed mission of Sainte-Marie among the Hurons, near Midland, established that area as the focus for commemoration of the 17th-century Jesuit missionaries.
At Waubaushene Father Nolin built a church and rectory, which were destroyed on 14 Nov. 1914. A fire that began in the cellar of the rectory in the early morning spread rapidly to the church. While rescuing the Blessed Sacrament, Nolin was overcome by smoke and collapsed. He seemed to recover, but died two days later. An energetic and devoted leader, he is remembered for having organized with great skill the Apostleship of Prayer, Le Messager canadien du Sacré-Cœur, and St John’s parish at Waubaushene. In Sudbury a creek, a street, and a diocesan building bear his name.
Arch. de la Compagnie de Jésus, Prov. du Canada Français (Saint-Jérôme, Qué.), A-6-1, nos.9–10 (Nolin au procureur provincial, 21 juill., 10 août 1910); BO-27-7-47 (Carrière à Hudon, 22 nov. 1914); BO-30-1-7 (Desjardins à l’archiviste [Melançon], 10 août 1941); BO-53-1-15 (mort de Nolin, texte de père Maynard, 1914); BO-78-16-18–23 (lettres de la Direction supérieure des Ligues du Sacré-Cœur à Désy); BO-79-2-35–111 (Nolin à Martineau, 1885–90); D-7, Nolin à Carrière, 9 déc. 1912; D-7-3 (pubs. du Bureau Central de la Ligue du Sacré-Cœur, 15 nov. 1887; lettre circulaire, 15 juin 1888); “Litteræ annuæ provinciæ canadensis Societatis Iesu a die la aug. 1912 ad diem lam aug. 1917” (typescript, Montreal, 1923; photocopy in Jesuit Fathers of Upper Canada Arch., Toronto). Dictionary of Jesuit biography: ministry to English Canada. 1842–1987 (Toronto, 1991). [Louis Héroux], “Aperçu sur les origines de Sudbury,” Soc. Hist. du Nouvel-Ontario, Doc. hist. (Sudbury), no.2 (1943). Alphonse Raymond, “Paroisse Sainte-Anne de Sudbury, 1883–1953,” Soc. Hist. du Nouvel-Ontario, Doc. hist., no.26 (1953).