PORLIER, PIERRE-ANTOINE, priest; b. 19 May 1725 in Montreal (Que.), son of Claude-Cyprien-Jacques Porlier, a merchant, and Angélique Cuillerier; d. 15 Aug. 1789 at Saint-Ours (Que.).
Pierre-Antoine Porlier did his classical studies at the Petit Séminaire in Quebec and was ordained priest on 8 June 1748. Entrusted that year with the parish of Sainte-Geneviève-de-Batiscan, in 1749 he became the first resident parish priest of Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pocatière (La Pocatière), a charge he held until 1778.
When he succeeded Charles Lefebvre Duchouquet, the priest ministering to Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pocatière, Abbé Porlier seemed rather lost but enthusiastic, and above all determined to organize this parish in his own way. Noticing that certain parishioners had become somewhat casual with regard to the respect due holy places, he appealed to Intendant Bigot, who published an ordinance on 12 April 1749 enjoining “the habitants and young men of La Pocatière not to indulge in any more quarrels outside the church . . . or to commit any irreverent acts on feast-days.” Abbé Porlier was an active priest, enjoying the esteem and confidence of his colleagues and generally of Bishop Briand. Nevertheless his stay at Sainte-Anne de-la-Pocatière was marked by many disputes. His correspondence reveals differences of opinion with his bishop, particularly over the amount of money the parish priest himself collected. On several occasions the bishop accused Porlier of being too demanding; in 1762 he wrote: “I have had the examples of several parish priests who [manage to] subsist and whose incomes are not as large as yours. Everyone, even the most comfortable, eats very simply at the present time. Is it fitting for priests to be unwilling to feel in any way the effects of the public distress?” In 1771 Briand made a fresh attempt and recommended that Porlier practise Christian mortification.
Abbé Porlier supported his parishioners at the time of the conquest and, as a loyalist, took a firm position against the American incursion of 1775–76 [see Richard Montgomery]. His relations with Bishop Briand seem to have been at their best during the latter period. He kept up a copious correspondence and took pains to describe to Briand his parishioners’ behaviour during the invasion in his “Mémoire d’observations sur la conduite des habitans des deux paroisses de Ste. Anne et de St. Roch au sujet de l’invasion des Bostonois rebels et de l’exécution des ordres de son excellence monsr. de Carleton pour les repousser de la pointe Levi sous les ordres de mr. de Beaujeu.” Pursuing the goal of repelling the invaders he urged his parishioners to enlist in the troops recruited by the seigneur of ile aux Grues, Louis Liénard* de Beaujeu de Villemomble. But the acceptance of republican principles by a number of his parishioners [see Clément Gosselin*] and the massacre of Liénard’s troops were painful experiences that profoundly touched him.
Abbé Porlier had to cope with many other difficulties in his 29 years as parish priest of Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pocatière. On 13 Oct. 1766 a careless workman set some wood chips alight, and the resulting fire got out of control, destroying the parish church. The walls remained standing, however, and thanks to a collection in the surrounding parishes and to some ten carpenters who volunteered their services, the church was rebuilt before the severe winter cold set in. Depressed by the disaster, Abbé Porlier is believed to have asked for a new parish charge at that time.
Drawn to the parish of Varennes, and alleging ill health, Pierre-Antoine Porlier made repeated requests for a change in the 1760s. Bishop Briand offered him a post as missionary to the Tamaroas, and then a parish in Quebec; but each time the parish priest’s unreasonable demands exceeded his bishop’s offers. Having at last become parish priest at Saint-Ours in 1778, replacing Abbé François Cherrier*, Porlier probably thought he would now have a more peaceful existence. But his early years at Saint-Ours were marked by many quarrels with the parish council and some of his parishioners. Everything seemed to be a source of misunderstanding: the improvement of church premises, the sale of pews, the allotment of expenses, the purchase of materials, the building of a strong-box, and so on. The smallest purchase engendered controversy, and many times the parish priest called upon Bishop Briand and the vicar general, Étienne Montgolfier, to settle the dispute. Under this stress, Porlier fell ill in February 1781. His repeated requests for a curate were granted in October 1787, when Abbé Jean-Baptiste Boucher-Belleville*, who would succeed him as parish priest at his death, came to assist him.
Pierre-Antoine Porlier died at Saint-Ours on 15 Aug. 1789 and was buried two days later. Documentary sources give no indication of the cause of his death.
Archives du collège de Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pocatière (La Pocatière, Qué.), CAC 1038, nos.726.3, 726.5. Allaire, Dictionnaire, I, 442. Caron, “Inv. de la corr. de Mgr Briand,” ANQ Rapport, 1929–30, 51, 87. Azarie Couillard-Després, Histoire de la seigneurie de Saint-Ours (2v., Montréal, 1915–17), II, 118–61. N.-E. Dionne, Sainte-Anne de la Pocatière, 1672–1900 (Lévis, 1900). Gérard Ouellet, Histoire de Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pocatière, 1672–1972 (La Pocatière, Qué., 1973). [P.-F.-X.-O.-M.-A.] Paradis, Notes historiques sur la paroisse et les curés de Sainte-Anne de la Pocatière depuis les premiers établissements (Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pocatière, 1869). N.-E. Dionne, “L’invasion de 1775–76,” BRH, VI (1900), 132–33.