SAINT-PÉ, JEAN-BAPTISTE DE, priest, Jesuit, missionary, superior of the Jesuit missions in New France; b. 10 Oct. 1686 in Pau, France; d. 8 July 1770 in Quebec.
Jean-Baptiste de Saint-Pé was admitted into the noviciate of the Jesuits of the province of Aquitaine in Bordeaux on 13 Oct. 1703. When his noviciate was ended, he did two years of philosophy at Limoges (1705–7), after which he taught grammar for a year at La Rochelle. During the academic year of 1708–9 he returned to his studies at Poitiers, and taught grammar and humanities at Périgueux from 1709 to 1712 and rhetoric at Agen until 1714. He then embarked upon his four years of theology at Bordeaux and completed his final year of religious training at Marennes.
Father Saint-Pé sailed for Canada, where he is found in 1720. Immediately on his arrival his superior, Pierre de La Chasse, sent him to the mission to the Ottawas. Did he, at the beginning, stay at Michilimackinac? It is possible, for he took his final vows there, between the hands of Father Joseph-Jacques Marest* on 2 Feb. 1721. The following October he was at the Saint-Joseph mission (probably Niles, Mich.), and on 23 Aug. 1724 he took part in a council held at Baie-des-Puants (Green Bay, Wis.) with a view to restoring peace between the Foxes and the tribes allied to the French. It was he who was designated to accompany Pierre Gaultier de Varennes et de La Vérendrye in his explorations into the west, but he was replaced by Charles-Michel Mésaiger. On 10 Oct. 1733 he was at Michilimackinac, where he certified a statement of accounts by Nicolas Rose, and in September of the following year he again visited the Saint-Joseph mission, without our knowing just where he usually lived. In 1737 he was back at Quebec. In the summer of 1739 he served the Montagnais missions at Tadoussac and La Malbaie; on 21 September he succeeded Pierre de Lauzon as superior of the Jesuit missions in New France, assuming thereby the office of rector of the Jesuit college in Quebec.
During his superiorship the most disagreeable matter that he had to deal with was probably the accusation of complicity in the contraband trade with the English colonies which was brought against the Jesuit missionaries at Sault-Saint-Louis (Caughnawaga) [see Pierre de Lauzon] and maintained by the intendant, Hocquart*. In the autumn of 1742 Saint-Pé sailed for France, leaving Father Mésaiger to look after the college and the mission. The following year he returned on the Rubis, which took 96 days to make the crossing.
In October 1748 Saint-Pé was replaced as superior by Gabriel Marcol, and shortly afterwards became superior of the residence in Montreal, where the Jesuits, who had already in 1727 and 1731 hoped to open a college there, maintained a church and offered hospitality to their missionaries who passed through. His stay in Montreal lasted until October 1754; then he returned to Quebec, having again been appointed superior of the missions. In addition to his administrative work he carried out the functions of extraordinary confessor to the Hôtel-Dieu of Quebec.
On 30 March 1759 Saint-Pé, along with the procurator, Father Augustin-Louis de Glapion*, signed the official papers appointing Mathieu Hianveu notary for the seigneuries of Notre-Dame-des-Anges, Saint-Gabriel, Sillery, and Bélair. This was probably the Jesuits’ last seigneurial act under French rule. A short time later the superior followed the example of Bishop Pontbriand [Dubreil] and took refuge at Montreal, to remain in touch with the missions. He was already 73 years old, and the superiorship was a heavy burden for him. But it was difficult to replace him, because of the English government’s determination to expel the Jesuits from the former French colony. In 1762, through Alain de Launay, procurator in Paris of the Jesuit missions in New France, Saint-Pé requested the general of the society, Lorenzo Ricci, to appoint a new superior; the following year he was replaced by Father Glapion. Jean-Baptiste de Saint-Pé remained in Quebec, where he died on 8 July 1770 at nearly 84 years of age.