RICHARDS, JACKSON JOHN (also known as Jean Richard and Richard Jackson), Methodist minister and Sulpician; b. 21 Feb. 1787 in Alexandria, Va, son of Thomas Richards and his wife Anna; d. 23 July 1847 in Montreal.
Jackson John Richards came from a Protestant family with at least three children. Very early his father destined him for the ministry, and to that end entrusted him to a Presbyterian clergyman who taught him the rudiments of Latin and Greek. Little is known of Richards’s life until 1807, when he became a Methodist itinerant and set out for the Canadas. After a stay in Buffalo, N.Y., and a visit to Niagara Falls, he reached York (Toronto), where he preached to Methodist congregations and Indians.
Richards arrived in Montreal on 19 Aug. 1807, having come by boat from Kingston. Shortly afterwards he contacted Sulpicians Jean-Henry-Auguste Roux*, Candide-Michel Le Saulnier*, Jean-Jacques Lartigue, and Simon Boussin. It seems that he wanted to convert the priests of the Séminaire de Saint-Sulpice, but things worked out differently. On 31 October, in the presence of notary Thomas Barron and Denis-Benjamin Viger*, Richards formally abjured Protestantism. From 1807 till 1809 he furthered his education at the Petit Séminaire de Montréal, and, since he wished to become a priest, he began theological studies while serving as a regent in the college.
Having received permission to ordain Richards from John Carroll, the bishop of Baltimore, Bishop Joseph-Octave Plessis* conferred the priesthood on him at Notre-Dame church in Montreal on 25 July 1813. Richards left the Petit Séminaire de Montréal in 1815 to embark upon what was to be a long and fruitful parish ministry. He served principally at the chapel of Notre-Dame-de-Bonsecours in Montreal, where he gathered the town’s English-speaking Catholics, most of whom came from Ireland.
Richards was admitted to the Sulpician community as a member on 17 Feb. 1817 and became assistant to the bursar in 1821. He rapidly won the confidence of Roux, the superior. In the 1820s the seminary was deeply divided on the questions of its property and the authority over the institution of archbishops Plessis and Bernard-Claude Panet* of Quebec and Bishop Lartigue, their auxiliary in Montreal. Richards shared the opinion of the majority, who came from France, and the bishops’ letters clearly show their opposition to his influence and ideas. Richards accompanied Roux to Europe in June 1826 and stayed there until August 1828. He acted as Roux’s interpreter in the political and ecclesiastical circles of London. In particular, the superior was negotiating a settlement of the question of Saint-Sulpice’s property, but the Canadian bishops and priests did not accept his solution. The Sulpicians were, in fact, ready to cede some of their seigneurial rights in return for a fixed, perpetual annuity.
On his return to Montreal, Richards resumed his ministry and his administrative duties. In September 1829 the exasperation of the archbishop of Quebec reached a peak when Roux named Richards acting curé of Notre-Dame during Le Saulnier’s illness. Panet challenged the practice followed by Sulpician superiors of appointing parish priests by virtue of their office, without seeking canonical confirmation from episcopal authority. In addition, like Lartigue, Panet considered Richards a foreigner who did not have sufficient knowledge of French. The following December, in the face of the two bishops’ repeated protests, Roux appointed Claude Fay curé of Notre-Dame in place of Richards, without, however, seeking episcopal confirmation.
In 1831 Richards, who had been naturalized the previous year, officially became the priest in charge of English-speaking Catholics, who now held their own services in the chapel of the Recollet friary. He continued his ministry to the Irish until the end of his life. In 1833 he added the duties of bursar to the Séminaire de Saint-Sulpice, assuming responsibility for ensuring good administration and the physical well-being of those living there.
Contemporary correspondence indicates that Jackson John Richards had a most beneficial influence on the priests and faithful in Lower Canada and the United States. He was asked for advice and sometimes for material help. In 1847 a typhus epidemic broke out among the Irish immigrants. Those stricken were herded into lazarets at Pointe-Saint-Charles (Montreal). Richards was unsparing in his aid. He caught the disease himself and died on 23 July. Jean-Charles Prince*, the coadjutor bishop of Montreal, buried him in Notre-Dame church the following day.
ACAM, 465.101, 818-1, 829-1, -2, -3. ANQ-M, CE1-51, 24 juill. 1847. Arch. du séminaire de Saint-Sulpice (Paris), Fonds canadien, mss 1230. Arch. of the U.S. Province of the Sulpician Order, St Mary’s Seminary and Univ. (Baltimore, Md.), Obituary notes, vol.1. ASSM, 11, B, no.25; 21; 24, B; E. Mélanges religieux, 30 juill. 1849. Desrosiers, “Inv. de la corr. de Mgr Lartigue,” ANQ Rapport, 1941–42; 1942–43; 1943–44. Louis Bertrand, Bibliothèque sulpicienne ou histoire littéraire de la Compagnie de Saint-Sulpice (3v., Paris, 1900), 2: 582. Chaussé, Jean-Jacques Lartigue. Golden jubilee of the reverend fathers Dowd and Toupin . . . , ed. J. J. Curran (Montreal, 1887). J.-M. Leleu, Histoire de Notre-Dame de Bon-Secours à Montréal (Montréal, 1900). Lemieux, L’établissement de la première prov. eccl. J. R. Danaher, “The Reverend Richard Jackson, missionary to the Sulpicians,” CCHA Report, 11 (1943–44): 49–54.