RÉMY (Rémy de Saint-Rémy), PIERRE, priest, Sulpician, first priest to be ordained in Montreal, ecclesiastical superior of the sisters of the Congrégation de Notre-Dame, bursar of the Saint-Sulpician seminary in Montreal, parish priest of Notre-Dame de Montréal and of Lachine, missionary at Sainte-Anne, chaplain and ecclesiastical superior of the Montreal Hôtel-Dieu, school teacher, procurator of the Montreal seminary; b. 1636, in the parish of Saint-Sauveur, Paris, son of Michel Rémy, king’s counsellor and “paymaster of the gendarmerie of France,” and Élisabeth Le Moyne; d. 24 Feb. 1726 in Montreal.
On 14 July 1666, Rémy entered the seminary of Saint-Sulpice in Paris, and studied there until he left for New France as a sub-deacon in 1672. During his first four years in the colony he taught at the school for boys in Montreal and worked as bursar at the seminary. In October 1674 he was fined successively 10 and 50 livres for refusing to appear in court over the Salignac* affair. In May 1676, he was ordained a priest in the Montreal Hôtel-Dieu by Bishop François de Laval, and accepted the responsibilities of ecclesiastical superior of the sisters of the Congrégation de Notre-Dame. In July 1680, he became parish priest of Notre-Dame de Montréal, and in November of that year was appointed parish priest of Lachine, an office which included serving the mission of Sainte-Anne. His first major task in Lachine was to give some semblance of order to the parish records, which were in complete disarray. In 1685 after living in a mill for some time, he suggested that a presbytery be built, and covered the initial costs of construction with his own funds. Two years later he took in a boarder, Jean-Baptiste Pottier, who served the parish as church cantor, school master, notary, and parish secretary.
In 1688 Rémy was appointed chaplain of the Montreal Hôtel-Dieu. In August 1689 the massacre of Lachine took place and Rémy had many of the orphaned children of the parish placed with the sisters of the Congrégation in Montreal. Within five years he was able to convince the sisters to re-establish their convent in Lachine. In 1691, Rémy was appointed ecclesiastical superior of the Montreal Hôtel-Dieu. By the time he returned to his parish in October 1692, he had significantly reduced the number of taverns operating in Montreal.
Rémy now gave his attention to the writing of an abridged catechism to prepare children for their first communion, and copied dictionaries of the Algonkian and Illinois languages for the use of young missionaries. In 1703 he relinquished his responsibilities at the Sainte-Anne mission, and, in June of 1705, decided to retire as parish priest of Lachine and live in the Montreal seminary. However, he enjoyed only a few weeks rest. There was a shortage of Sulpicians in the colony and François Vachon de Belmont, superior of the Montreal seminary, sent Rémy back to Lachine on 17 July. During the following year Rémy and many other priests experienced difficulty in collecting the tithe, and they finally appealed to Intendant Jacques Raudot to issue an ordinance on the subject.
Rémy continued as parish priest of Lachine until 29 Sept. 1706, when he installed his successor, Louis-Michel de Vilermaula*. He remained in Lachine for one more year, assisting Vilermaula during the services and replacing him when he was in Montreal. Rémy was suffering from old age, however, and could hardly muster enough strength to raise the chalice. He finally returned to the Montreal seminary, where he served as procurator of the order until death took him at the age of 90, in his 51st year in the priesthood.
Pierre Rémy’s life was truly one of devotion and fortitude. He sacrificed the comfortable life of a counsellor’s son in Paris for the challenges of a frontier settlement on Lac Saint-Louis. He was held in high esteem by his superiors in both Montreal and Paris, and was undoubtedly loved and respected by his parishioners.
ASSM, Biographies: Pierre Rémy; Correspondance générale, 2e partie, lettres à M. Tronson. Jug. et délib., I, 862, 866, 867. Eccles, Frontenac, 68f. Henri Gauthier, La Compagnie de Saint-Sulpice au Canada (Montréal, 1912), 84, 100, 107, 112, 113, 116, 119, 121, 126; Sulpitiana (Montréal, 1926), 253f.