TIELEN (Thielen), JEAN, Roman Catholic priest and Redemptorist; b. 2 Sept. 1824 in Eksel, Belgium; d. 9 Oct. 1897 in Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré, Que.
Jean Tielen studied at the Collège de Beringen in Belgium, and then at the Petit Séminaire de Rolduc and the Petit Séminaire de Saint-Trond, before taking his vows in the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer on 15 Oct. 1847. He was ordained a priest on 26 Dec. 1852. Before long he was given positions of trust within the community, including master of novices and later rector in Brussels and Antwerp.
In 1879 Tielen became the first Belgian superior of the monastery of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré and curé in the parish of that name. Its church, which had attracted pilgrims since the mid 17th century, had been served by secular priests from the diocese of Quebec. During the 1860s and early 1870s there had been a sharp increase in the number of visitors. It led the archbishop of Quebec, Elzéar-Alexandre Taschereau, to bow to pressure from parish priest Jean-Baptiste Blouin and allow the construction of a much bigger church which could meet the needs of pilgrims. Begun in 1872, the church was opened for worship four years later. The founding of the periodical Annales de la bonne sainte Anne de Beaupré in 1873 [see Nazaire Leclerc*], followed by the declaration of Pope Pius IX in 1876 which made St Anne the patron saint of the ecclesiastical and civil province of Quebec, noticeably enhanced the popularity of the shrine, but also greatly increased the workload of curé Antoine-Adolphe Gauvreau and his curates. Gauvreau therefore asked the archbishop to replace the secular priests with a religious community. The Redemptorists from the American province of Baltimore accepted this difficult task in 1878. Some of them were of German origin and spoke little French. They stayed only a year at Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré, soon realizing that the problems, particularly those of language, were insurmountable. They in turn were replaced by Belgian Redemptorists. Tielen, who had been appointed rector, arrived in Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré with three other priests and three lay brothers on 21 Aug. 1879.
The Belgians resolutely set to work under the skilful and energetic guidance of Tielen. He proved the man for the task, whether dealing with the members of his own community, with pilgrims and visitors, or with his parishioners. He oversaw the completion of the church and the construction of an enormous monastery and three schools. The Redemptorists’ practice of conducting parish missions, a special concern of the order, became firmly established in the province of Quebec, in the Maritimes, and even among the francophone population of New England. Finally, through the efforts of Tielen and with the support of Archbishop Taschereau, Pope Leo XIII conferred on the church of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré the title of minor basilica in 1887.
Tielen was fortunate to have the assistance of colleagues equal to the situation. He was also helped by a team of lay brothers who by their dedication and unstinting efforts gave indispensable support to the community. Altogether Tielen served as rector and parish priest from 1879 to 1887 and from 1892 to 1894. In the intervening years he held the post of minister (bursar) and master of lay novices, responsibilities which did not preclude his preaching many retreats and missions to both clergy and laity.
Jean Tielen was on the verge of celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of his religious profession when he died on 9 Oct. 1897, after a few days of illness. His funeral took place on 12 October in the basilica. The coadjutor to the archbishop of Quebec, Louis-Nazaire Bégin*, presided at the service, and the eulogy was delivered by Gauvreau. According to the Annales de la bonne sainte Anne de Beaupré, Tielen was “one of the most zealous servants of the great Miracle-Worker of Canada.” This tall, robust, kindly old Flemish man, whose face shone with goodness and simplicity, as his portrait shows, must have had a singular appeal for the thousands of pilgrims and visitors who came to Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré during the 18 years in which he served at the shrine.
AC, Québec, État civil, Catholiques, Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré, 12 oct. 1897. “La mort de R. P. Tielen,” Annales de la bonne sainte Anne de Beaupré (Lévis, Qué.), 25 (1897–98): 173–75. “Mort du R.P. Tielen, C.SS.R.,” La Semaine religieuse de Québec (Québec), 10 (1897–98): 146–48. Le Courrier du Canada, 11 oct. 1897. L’Événement, 11, 13 oct. 1897. J.-P. Asselin, Les Rédemptoristes au Canada; implantation à Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré, 1878–1911 (Montréal, 1981). P. Wittebolle, “Le Rév. Père Jean Tielen; le zélé serviteur de Ste Anne,” Annales de la bonne sainte Anne de Beaupré (Québec), 27 (1899–1900): 212–18.