Canadian Blesseds

Blessed Louis-Zéphirin Moreau (1824-1901)

Feast Day: 24 May






Louis-Zéphirin Moreau was born in 1824 in Bécancour, Quebec. He was the fifth of thirteen children from a farming family. Due to his poor health, he was poorly suited to working the fields, but beneath his meagre stature was a keen and bright intellect. Pious, gentle, modest, and tenacious, he studied at the seminary of Nicolet in preparation for the priesthood, studying theology while at the same time teaching poetry. His health soon obliged him to take some rest. When he asked Bishop Signay of Quebec to admit him to the priesthood, he was refused because the Bishop felt he already had too many feeble priests in the diocese.

Still a young man of twenty-two years, he presented his candidacy for the priesthood to Bishop Bourget of Montreal and was welcomed. He was ordained a priest on December 19, 1846 and served as Master of Ceremonies of the Cathedral and assistant secretary to the Bishop, before becoming the head of the diocesan chancellery and chaplain to the hospice for the poor, l’Asile de la Providence.

For six years, Father Moreau familiarized himself with diocesan administration and pastoral tasks to which he did not feel personally inclined, but his kindness towards the poor was so great that they called him “the good Monsieur Moreau.” Under the direction of Bishop Bourget, he developed a devotion to the Eucharist, to the Virgin Mary, to the Sacred Heart, and to the Church. Upon the creation of the diocese of Saint-Hyacinthe, in 1852, Father Moreau was named, at 28 years of age, secretary-chancellor of the first Bishop, Jean-Charles Prince. He was also rector of the Cathedral, prosecutor, and chaplain to women religious, posts he would occupy for nearly 24 years during the terms of the first three bishops of the diocese, before succeeding them in 1876. As Bishop of Saint-Hyacinthe, he took as his motto: “I can do all things through him who gives me strength.”

Bishop Moreau founded new parishes, built the Cathedral, and created the diocesan chapter. He invited and created new religious communities to educate children and to assist the priests. His charity brought him to spend his own salary and give his clothes to the poor. He was called “holy” Bishop Moreau. He knew the works of socially active Catholics in France and read their publications. Inspired by their works, he founded the Union of Saint Joseph in 1874, in order to help workers and alleviate injuries, sickness, and unemployment.

Tireless in his ministry, he maintained a significant correspondence and even the finances of his diocese with prudence and efficiency. Close to his priests, cordial, honest, and concerned for their ongoing formation, he organized ecclesial conferences and published the discussions which stemmed from them. He became involved in the debates surrounding Liberalism, in the situation of the Université de Montréal, and in the Manitoba Schools Question. He died on May 24, 1901. He was beatified by Pope John Paul II on May 10, 1987.