ROUPE, JEAN-BAPTISTE, Roman Catholic priest, seminary administrator, missionary, and Sulpician; b. 9 Jan. 1782 in Montreal, son of Samuel Roupe and Marie-Joseph Clocher; d. there 4 Sept. 1854.
Jean-Baptiste Roupe was descended from a Protestant family whose native town was Linsbourg, Switzerland. His father came to New France in 1757 and was converted to the Roman Catholic faith at Quebec the following year. Jean-Baptiste was born in the family dwelling on Rue du Saint-Sacrement, Montreal, near the house of the Sulpicians, and attended the primary school they ran; he received his classical education from 1794 to 1802 at the Collège Saint-Raphaël (which in 1806 became the Petit Séminaire de Montréal). He was reasonably good in Latin, was noted especially for his diligence as a student, and at that time expressed a desire to join the Sulpicians, a desire not to be fulfilled until some years later. During his final years at the college he served as a regent, and on 23 Sept. 1800 he received the tonsure from Pierre Denaut*, bishop of Quebec. After a brief stay at the Grand Séminaire de Québec, where he undertook theological studies, he received the subdiaconate at Quebec on 30 Oct. 1803; his father had meanwhile settled on him an annuity of 150 livres secured by half the property on which he had been born.
Bishop Denaut wanted to found another seminary at Nicolet, and named Roupe, his protégé, as its first director of students. The institution opened in January 1804 under the leadership of Abbé Alexis-Basile Durocher, the local parish priest. Roupe’s task was no sinecure. He had to serve concurrently as director, prefect of studies, bursar, professor, and regent, as well as assistant parish priest. On 27 Jan. 1805, when Roupe had completed his theological training, Denaut ordained him priest at Longueuil. After Denaut’s death in 1806, Joseph-Octave Plessis*, the new bishop of Quebec, contributed from his own pocket to help Roupe meet the seminary’s financial obligations. But observing that Roupe’s health was deteriorating, Plessis sent him in August 1807 to serve as assistant priest in the parish of Sainte-Anne at Varennes.
A month later Plessis entrusted Roupe with the Indian mission of Saint-Régis, appointing him to replace Roderic MacDonell who had just died. When he arrived at the mission on 31 October, Roupe set about studying the Mohawk language and he mastered it in a short time. His parish covered a vast territory stretching from the village of Les Cèdres to Kingston in Upper Canada. His ministry among the Iroquois proved barren and difficult because their customs did not accord with his teachings. In addition, Bishop Plessis asked him to undertake the training of young clerics. Accordingly he prepared Joseph Marcoux for the priesthood in 1812 and 1813 and taught him the Mohawk language; Marcoux subsequently took over the mission of Saint-Régis, in succession to Roupe. During the War of 1812 he exhorted his flock to obey the British authorities. The Americans took the mission by storm during the night of 23 Oct. 1812. Made prisoner, Roupe was soon released. He continued to serve in the mission until June 1813.
Through Bishop Plessis, Roupe then obtained permission from the governor of Lower Canada, Sir George Prevost*, to join the Séminaire de Saint-Sulpice, at Montreal, as a replacement for Michel Leclerc* (who had died the month before) at the mission of Lac-des-Deux-Montagnes (Oka) in the Petite-Nation seigneury. He worked there as a missionary until 1829. From the time of his arrival he devoted himself to spreading the gospel among the Iroquois; he also breathed new vigour into the Confrérie de la Sainte-Famille there. On 26 Oct. 1814 he was made a member of the community of the Grand Séminaire de Montréal. After September 1815 he made two pastoral visits a year to those of his flock scattered in missions along the Ottawa River. He founded the parish of Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours (at Montebello) in 1821 and established several other places of worship along the river, in the settlements that became Buckingham and Aylmer and on the Île des Allumettes. It was at this time that Roupe sparked a sharp public controversy with his views on “mixed” marriages between whites and Indians. He was strongly opposed to such marriages but his colleagues did not share his opinions. When a mixed marriage was sought in 1826, Governor Lord Dalhousie [Ramsay*] went to the mission to hear the reasons for Roupe’s refusal to solemnize it.
Roupe was recalled to the Petit Séminaire de Montréal on 25 Sept. 1829, and began a new ministry during which he gave his attention to all kinds of charitable organizations. Among others, he reinvigorated the Congrégation des Hommes de Ville-Marie in the period up to 1833. From 1834 he was chaplain to the Confrérie de la Sainte-Famille in the parish of Notre-Dame in Montreal; he also held that office at the Hôtel-Dieu and at St Patrick’s Hospital, serving both the Religious Hospitallers of St Joseph and their French-speaking patients. In 1834 as well the superior of the seminary, Joseph-Vincent Quiblier, put Roupe’s name forward as a candidate to succeed Jean-Jacques Lartigue*, who was then ill, as bishop of Telmesse. That high office, however, went to Ignace Bourget* three years later, after Lartigue had become bishop of Montreal. Roupe continued to discharge the various offices he held until 1854. In addition, he acted as assistant priest of the parish of Montreal from 1851 until his death. There he was responsible for a considerable number of penitents, and his sermons were highly appreciated. He fell ill at the beginning of August 1854 and died on 4 September, apparently of some form of cholera. He was buried under the Cathedral of Notre-Dame in funeral rites presided over by Bishop Bourget.
Like many of his colleagues at the Grand Séminaire de Montréal, Jean-Baptiste Roupe was conspicuous for his willingness to accept every office his superiors gave him. He carried out humble but necessary tasks in sparsely populated missions. Yet he did not hesitate later to take on a host of responsibilities in the rapidly growing parish of Montreal.
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