VILERMAULA (Villermola), LOUIS-MICHEL DE, Sulpician, parish priest; b. at Charmey (Switzerland); d. March 1757 or 1758 in France.
Louis-Michel de Vilermaula is an enigmatic figure. References to him are cursory and little survives from his own hand beyond entries in church registers and a few documents that he witnessed. He entered the seminary of Saint-Sulpice at Paris on 27 Nov. 1691 and arrived in Canada in July 1697. Evidently he spent some time in Montreal before his appointment in 1702 to the nearby parish of Prairie-de-la-Madeleine (Laprairie). Vilermaula was an energetic parish priest and he promoted the interests of the Jesuits, who were the seigneurs of Prairie-de-la-Madeleine.
In 1704 and 1705 Vilermaula supervised the construction of a stone church at Prairie-de-la-Madeleine (Laprairie) to replace an earlier wooden chapel. The events in the parish during the autumn of 1704 are recorded in three rare letters by Vilermaula, addressed to members of the Society of Jesus in Canada. The construction of a new church strained the resources of the parish, and Vilermaula considered the possibility of completing the church at his own expense. In September 1704 the Jesuits offered the churchwardens of Prairie-de-la-Madeleine 800 livres in exchange for the right of patronage. If the Jesuits, as seigneurs, were considered the donors of the stone church they would have the right of presenting their candidate to the bishop for appointment as the parish priest. Vilermaula saw no objections to this arrangement and assured Father Pierre Raffeix*, procurator, that “the affection I have had for the Society [of Jesus] will ensure that I shall support your plan with all my power.” Late in October Vilermaula wrote to Father Pierre Cholenec*, superior of the Jesuits in Montreal, that “it would need only a word from your mouth” to obtain the consent of the Baron de Longueuil [Charles Le Moyne*] for the transfer of the right of patronage.
The parishioners of Prairie-de-la-Madeleine however, proved unpredictable. They opposed Father Cholenec and the proposal of the Jesuits. Vilermaula was crestfallen and in November he reported that his parishioners blamed him “for having pushed them with excessive eagerness.” It was said, even by the senior churchwarden, that Vilermaula only wanted to get hold of the Jesuits’ money to indemnify himself. Vilermaula advised the Jesuits to follow another course in future “and not to address themselves to a mob of rude and ignorant persons, as has been done, but only to the churchwardens.” In any event, the work on the church continued and it was inaugurated in 1705. In the same year Vilermaula was instrumental in establishing a convent at Prairie-de-la-Madeleine for the sisters of the Congregation of Notre-Dame.
On 29 Sept. 1706 Vilermaula became the parish priest of Lachine on Montreal Island and for the next dozen years he remained there. It was said that he had fallen into icy water while crossing the St Lawrence River and because “he became subject to frequent ailments as a consequence of that fall, M. de Belmont [François Vachon*, superior of the Sulpician seminary] ade him curé of Lachine.” He encouraged the development of the parish with the same zeal and generosity he had shown at Prairie-de-la-Madeleine. He built a new priest’s house and in 1712 Gédéon de Catalogne* wrote that at Lachine Vilermaula “has facilitated and contributed to an establishment of the sisters of the Congregation for the education of young girls.”
Vilermaula was recalled to France by his superiors in September 1718 and he died in that country in March 1757 or 1758. We know practically nothing about the last four decades of his life. He left the Company of Saint-Sulpice; indeed, according to one anonymous writer, he was expelled “because of his Jansenist sympathies.” If this is so, one is forced to remark that Vilermaula’s conduct in New France on behalf of the Jesuits made him a very unusual Jansenist.
[The author has in his possession a letter written by Louis-Michel de Vilermaula to Pierre Raffeix dated 20 Sept. 1704. ANQ, AP, Samuel Bouvard (Vilermaula à Bouvard, 10 nov. 1704); AP, Pierre Cholenec (Vilermaula à Cholenec, 26 oct. 1704). ANQ-M, Greffe d’Antoine Adhémar, 3 juill. 1705 (notarial acts relating to the establishment of the Sisters of the Congregation of Notre-Dame at Prairie-de-la-Madeleine); Juridiction de Montréal, 4, 10, 21 avril, 23, 28 mai 1711 (feuillets séparés). “Mémoire de Gédéon de Catalogne sur les plans des seigneuries et habitations des gouvernements de Québec, les Trois-Rivières et Montréal,” BRH, XXI (1915), 267. Allaire, Dictionnaire. Ivanhoë Caron, “Liste des prêtres séculiers et religieux qui ont exercé le saint ministère en Nouvelle-France (1691–1699),” BRH, XLVII (1941), 296. Gauthier, Sulpitiana. Gowans, Church architecture in New France, 131. Lemire-Marsolais et Lambert, Histoire de la Congregation de Notre-Dame, II, 113, 144; III, 34, 44, 57–60, 285. BRH, IV (1898), 223; this anonymous inquiry about Vilermaula contains valuable information which cannot be completely verified. p.n.m.]