PAMPALON, ALFRED, Roman Catholic priest and Redemptorist; b. 24 Nov. 1867 in Lévis, Que., son of Antoine Pampalon, a builder and contractor, and Joséphine Dorion; d. 30 Sept. 1896 in Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré, Que.
Alfred Pampalon would certainly not be remembered were it not for the reputation as a saint by which he became widely known after his death, and for the various proceedings instituted to establish the heroic nature of his virtues.
After attending primary school for two years, Pampalon entered the Collège de Lévis in 1876 in order to study commerce. Five years later, after an illness, he began classical studies, intending to become a priest. Shortly before his sixth year (Rhetoric), he contracted pneumonia and, believed to be close to death, he was given extreme unction. Following his recovery, which was attributed to St Anne, he undertook a pilgrimage on foot from Lévis to the shrine of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré in June 1886. At that time he asked the rector of the Redemptorists, Jean Tielen, for permission to enter the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, which his brother Pierre had already joined.
A month later Pampalon set out for Belgium with a few companions and he entered the Redemptorist noviciate at Saint-Trond. On 8 Sept. 1887 he took perpetual vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. Given the precarious state of his health, the superiors had been reluctant to receive him into the community, but his exemplary piety outweighed all objections. He then went on to philosophical and theological studies at the Redemptorist seminary of Beau Plateau. By working relentlessly, he made up for his rather mediocre abilities. Ordained priest on 4 Oct. 1892, he remained for some time at Beau Plateau. The following year, on 31 August, he was appointed to the monastery at Mons, where he carried out various duties, replacing absent priests or on occasion accompanying those who went to preach in neighbouring parishes. From April to September 1894 he undertook a second noviciate at Beau Plateau, which among the Redemptorists served as a preparation for conducting missions and parish retreats.
Meanwhile Pampalon’s health continued to deteriorate and the Belgian climate did nothing to improve it. He spent a few months at Mons and Beau Plateau, and then his superiors, hoping that in his native clime he would recover, decided to send him back to Canada. He returned in September 1895 and was assigned to the monastery at Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré, where he was able to carry out simple duties, preaching in the basilica and hearing confession. On 5 Feb. 1896 he entered the infirmary for the last time. Those around him marvelled at his piety, patience, and resignation. He died on 30 September, at the age of 28, from tuberculosis complicated by dropsy. A few hours before his death, to everyone’s astonishment, in a loud voice he sang the whole of the Magnificat.
The year after Pampalon’s death the same illness caused the death, at Lisieux, France, of the young woman who would be known as St Theresa of the Child Jesus, and whose life was somewhat reminiscent of his. Pampalon’s conduct had been so self-effacing that many were astonished at the introduction in 1922 of the cause of his beatification, a reaction similar to that of several companions of St Theresa.
Those who knew and were close to Pampalon were struck by the extraordinary way in which he accomplished ordinary things. He set an example of unwavering obedience to the rules of his congregation, of admirable patience in suffering, and of great devotion to God and the Virgin Mary. It remains for the Roman Catholic Church to pronounce by papal decree on the heroic nature of his virtues, the stage preceding beatification. The faithful have not waited for this decision to show their devotion to Pampalon. Almost constantly since his death, people have attributed to his intercession answers to their prayers.
AC, Québec, État civil, Catholiques, Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré, 2 oct. 1896. ANQ-Q, CE1-100, 24 nov. 1867. Arch. des Pères rédemptoristes (Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré), M13, PA(Al). L’Événement, 30 sept. 1896. Allaire, Dictionnaire. Le Jeune, Dictionnaire, vol.2. Beatificationis et canonizationis servi dei Alfredi Pampalon . . . positio super virtutibus (Rome, 1981). J.-P. Asselin, Les rédemptoristes au Canada; implantation à Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré, 1878–1911 (Montréal, 1981). Pierre Pampalon, Une fleur canadienne dans l’institut de Saint-Alphonse, ou notice biographique du R.P. Alfred Pampalon (Montréal, 1902).