TABEAU, PIERRE-ANTOINE, Roman Catholic priest and vicar general; b. 11 Oct. 1782 in Montreal, son of Jean-Baptiste Tabeau, a voyageur and militia captain, and Françoise Prou; d. there 18 May 1835.
After studying at the College Saint-Raphaël in Montreal, Pierre-Antoine Tabeau received the tonsure on 23 Sept. 1800, and then did his theology at the Séminaire de Québec. He was ordained sub-deacon on 30 Oct. 1803 and deacon on 14 October of the following year; he also served as secretary to Bishop Joseph-Octave Plessis. On 13 Oct. 1805 he was ordained priest in Montreal. Vicar general Jean-Henry-Auguste Roux, to whom young Tabeau had sometimes appeared “a little undisciplined,” remarked that day, “This young man has talent, good health, virtue, and there is reason to think he will render service to the church.”
Tabeau was curate at the cathedral of Notre-Dame in Quebec from 1805 until 1810, and then was entrusted with various responsibilities. He was parish priest of Sainte-Anne at Sainte-Anne-des-Plaines from 1810 until 1813, parish priest of Saint-Jean-Port-Joli from September 1813 until 1814, and curate of the parish of Notre-Dame in Quebec from October 1814 until 1815. From October 1815 to 1817 he was chaplain to the nuns of the Hôpital Général of Quebec and was also responsible for ministering to the mission chapels of Notre-Dame-des-Anges and Notre-Dame-de-Foy at Sainte-Foy. During those two years he was organist at the cathedral as well. Between September 1817 and the end of September 1831 he served as parish priest of Sainte-Famine at Boucherville. Liked by his flock despite his thoroughly military way of running the parish, Tabeau had a genuine concern for education. In 1821 he set up a Latin class which lasted some ten years.
In May 1816 Bishop Plessis delegated Tabeau to accompany the governor of Assiniboia, Miles Macdonell, to that remote region in order to study the prospects for a permanent mission there. On learning of the skirmish at Seven Oaks (Winnipeg), during which the governor of the Hudson’s Bay Company territories, Robert Semple*, was killed, Tabeau decided to venture no farther west than Rainy Lake. In his report to Plessis in 1818 he recommended against establishing a mission at Red River while there was still conflict between the HBC and the North West Company [see William McGillivray]. The bishop had nevertheless taken the decision to set up two missions, one at Red River, the other to serve Sault-Ste-Marie (Ont.) and Fort William (Thunder Bay), and in April 1818 he urged Tabeau to accept one of them. He chose the second, which he visited periodically.
Tabeau always inspired great confidence in his superiors. In the spring of 1829, for example, the archbishop of Quebec, Bernard-Claude Panet, delegated him to accompany Abbé Thomas Maguire*, the principal of the Collège de Saint-Hyacinthe, to Rome and London. Their mission had several aims. They were to support a petition to the king from the Lower Canadian clergy which had been transmitted by Governor Sir James Kempt* in February and which requested that the Sulpicians be left in possession of their estates. They were also to obtain letters patent for the College de Saint-Hyacinthe [see Antoine Girouard], and to support a petition to the king from Archbishop Panet and his coadjutor, Joseph Signay*, dated 18 May 1829, for a bishopric in Montreal. Moreover, Jean-Jacques Lartigue*, the auxiliary bishop in Montreal to the archbishop of Quebec, who strongly favoured this last measure, had made them his personal representatives. Tabeau and Maguire reached London on 7 July 1829, but they made little progress in their initiatives. In the autumn, they left for Rome where they were to remain three months. The reports and petitions they brought to the authorities in Rome, among them the petition they presented to the pope on 16 December concerning Bishop Lartigue’s differences with the Séminaire de Saint-Sulpice [see Jean-Charles Bédard; Augustin Chaboillez], had meagre results. However, at their meeting on 1 March 1830 the cardinals of the Sacred Congregation of Propaganda temporarily suspended the permission they had previously given the Sulpicians to alienate their seigneurial holdings, such a permission being necessary since the holdings belonged in the first instance to the church [see Jean-Henry-Auguste Roux].
Tabeau returned to Montreal in the summer of 1830, and on 27 Sept. 1831 he was named vicar general to the archbishop of Quebec. At the same time he left Boucherville to become Lartigue’s assistant at the Séminaire Saint-Jacques in Montreal. Bishop Lartigue was thinking of making him his successor one day. In November 1830 Lartigue had advised Nicholas Patrick Wiseman, the Canadian bishops’ agent in Rome, to promote both the creation of a separate Montreal diocese and Tabeau’s appointment to replace him. In January 1832 Archbishop Panet also put Tabeau’s name forward to Rome as successor to Lartigue; so too did the new archbishop of Quebec, Signay, in May 1834. On the following 2 October, as a result of pressure from Maguire, who was again on a mission in Rome, Pope Gregory XVI approved the choice of Tabeau, leaving it to Signay to consecrate him at the right moment.
The news of his appointment in December 1834 as bishop of Spiga and auxiliary to Lartigue filled Pierre-Antoine Tabeau with dismay. He at first refused, then let himself be persuaded by Lartigue. But he was soon to fall ill, and late in January 1835 his condition began to cause concern. Shortly afterwards he was hospitalized. He grew steadily worse and on 11 May received the last sacraments. He died a week later, without having been consecrated bishop, just before the papal order of 7 March 1835 constraining him to accept the episcopate reached Quebec. His death was a terrible blow for Lartigue, whose every plan was upset. Tabeau was buried a few days later in the church at Boucherville. He was remembered as an affable man, full of gentleness despite his quick temper, and genuinely humble.
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