PELLETIER, DIDACE (baptized Claude), Recollet lay brother and master-carpenter, whose cause for beatification was introduced as early as 1713; b. 28 June 1657 at Sainte-Anne de Beaupré, son of Georges Pelletier (baptized 1624 at Dieppe), who had come to New France in 1652 and married Catherine Vannier in 1656; d. 1699.
Confirmed by Bishop Laval* in 1666, Claude Pelletier in 1668 entered the Saint-Joachim School of arts and crafts, which the bishop had established that same year, and was trained as a master carpenter. His first work was on the second church of Sainte-Anne do Beaupré, begun about 1676, and here no doubt his inclinations to the religious life received strong reinforcement, for it was already a famous shrine. In 1658 a small “Sailors’ Chapel” had been built on this site, at which miracles were reported; of the first church proper, begun in 1660, Mère Marie de l’Incarnation [see Guyart] wrote in 1665 that “seven leagues from Quebec there is a place called le Petit Cap, where there is a church of Sainte-Anne in which Our Lord does great miracles on behalf of this holy mother of the Holy Virgin. Paralytics may be seen walking there, blind recovering their sight, and the sick of every sort recovering their health.” The larger church which in turn replaced the 1660 building was of stone, its design traditionally ascribed to the curé, François Fillon, though in fact probably determined by Bishop Laval and Claude Baillif; Pelletier’s work must have had to do with the roof, clocher, and other structural woodwork.
Two years later (1678), the carpenter applied for admission to the Recollet order, was accepted in 1679, and in 1680 took the name “Frère Didace.” From 1682 on he accompanied Father Joseph Denys*, also Canadian-born but educated and ordained in France, to various far-flung Recollet mission stations – to Percé on Île Bona-venture, to Plaisance (Placentia) in Newfoundland, to Ville-Marie (Montreal) for six years, finally to Trois-Rivières where on 21 Feb. 1699 he died of a cold contracted while working on the Recollet church there. He is buried in the former conventual chapel of the Recollets (now the Protestant church) on Notre-Dame Street, Trois-Rivières.
Long acquaintance with his manner of life and death convinced Father Denys of his lay assistant’s sanctity, and with the assistance of Bishop Saint-Vallier [La Croix*] beatification proceedings were begun. The Archives du Séminaire de Québec contains a copy, made between 1720 and 1744, of Father Denys’ account of some 22 miracles taking place in connection with Brother Didace’s relics, and other letters concerning him. Nothing, however, came of the action, and Brother Didace was completely forgotten until the discovery in the later 19th century of contemporary engravings of him – “Le vray portrait du très religieux Frère Didace, mort en odeur de S’teté . . . 21 fev 1699” – one in Quebec, another in the BN, Paris; since that time interest in him has been steadily maintained. Of his carpentry no evidence, tangible or documentary, has survived.
ASQ, Fonds Verreau, 073, Actes du Très devot frère Didace Recollet mort en odeur de sainteté en 1699. Odoric-Marie Jouve, “Étude historique et critique sur les actes du Frère Didace Pelletier, récollet,” BRH, XVII (1911), 54ff.