Déguire, Father Pierre

1895, February 27

Date of Birth:  1833, August 2

Fathers and Very Dear in Our Lord:

No Memorial Card is Available

Last February 27th, a telegram announced the death of Father Déguire, pastor of Notre Dame of Montreal in Canada.

Father Pierre Déguire, one of the Canadian members of our Society, was born at St. Laurent, a village near Montreal, on August 2, 1833. He made his studies at the College de Montreal, conducted by our Fathers, and entered the Grand Seminary of that city in October 1856. During all the length of his stay in these two houses he was noted for his keeping of the rule, for his application to his work, and for his good disposition. Allowed to undertake the regular testing for the Society, he came to Paris in 1860, and he made his novitiate at the Solitude the following year during which he was ordained priest in 1861. [Father Déguire is listed as a member of the St. Charles College faculty in 1861.]

On returning to Montreal in August 1862, he first fulfilled, for a year, the duties of Chaplain at the Hotel Dieu. Then, up to 1889, he was engaged in different jobs in succession for the work of priestly formation in the minor seminary and in the Grand Seminary. First, teacher of Philosophy, then teacher of Theology and Treasurer at the Grand Seminary, he became at length Director of the College or minor seminary, a charge that he exercised for about twelve years. In these various positions Father Déguire did considerable good. By the regularity of his life, by his solid and lucid piety, by his devotion to duty, by the goodness of his heart, by his judicious and conciliatory spirit, he was good at winning the respect and affection of all those with whom he came in contact. With the students he was more a father and a friend than a teacher. Moreover, all those who had him as their Superior have only the pleasant memories of him.

While he was Director of the College, he had at the same time to act for some years as the Ecclesiastical Superior of the Gray Nuns of Montreal. Thus, he busied himself with the cause of Sister Marguerite Bourgeois’ beatification. The religious communities which then had anything to do with him and which benefitted from his direction will not forget the solidity of his conferences, the wisdom and prudence of his counsel.

In 1889 Father Déguire gave up his positions at the Seminary for the parochial ministry and was named pastor of St. James’ parish replacing the lamented Father Rousselot. He brought to this new position the same conscientious and busy application. He truly had a zeal for souls, and he soon earned the trust of his parishioners by his wisdom, by his kindness, by his great tact and charity – as clever ferreting out those in need most deserving of his compassion as he was generous in helping them. Also zealous for God’s house, he recoiled from no effort however enervating to accomplish successfully repair and construction work undertaken at St. James, works which made the church an admirable edifice. There can be no doubt that even in the midst of unending cares and worries of every kind which laid claim to his ministry – courageous as he was – he did not sufficiently reckon with his health; for from then on it began to weaken and some disturbing symptoms appeared. Two years ago, while he was vacationing at the Lake of the Two Mountains, he was stricken with a first attack of apoplexy. In time he recovered a bit from that episode, and he did not hesitate to resume his usual tasks.

In June 1894, when the pastor of Notre Dame parish was obliged by illness to resign from his post, Father Déguire, who seemed to have sufficiently recovered his strength, was chosen to replace him. It was hoped that he could still for quite a while render good service in that important position. 

Welcomed by all, he betook himself to the work with good will and his characteristic zeal. But from October on, his health suffered new assaults. Frequent dizziness, a fainting spell, suddenly occurred.The doctors insisted on a long rest. After several little trips for that purpose to the Lake of the Two Mountains and elsewhere, Father Déguire went on February 1st of this year to visit one of his confreres and a childhood friend who lived in a little town in Vermont, not very far from Montreal. At first, he felt better, but on February 19th he was stricken with a paralysis which left him without movement in his legs. A slight improvement developed over the following days, allowing him to return to Montreal.

He arrived on Monday, the 25th, at the Seminary of Notre Dame, submitted himself to God's will, and nevertheless still hoped for a cure. But on the very next day after his arrival, there occurred a new attack which this time could not be wished away. The patient lost the use of speech, though still fully conscious. On Wednesday morning he received Holy Communion as the Viaticum. Towards eleven o’clock, Father Superior of the Seminary gave him Extreme Unction. He received it in such a way as to edify the many of his confreres gathered around him. The end came very soon. His Grace, the Archbishop was told and came to the Seminary. But the patient had just expired, about three in the afternoon, conscious to the last moment and giving evidence that from his heart he was joining in with the pious ejaculations suggested to him by his confessor.

Father Déguire’s death occasioned numerous and touching marks of sympathy on the part of the clergy and laity. More than twelve thousand people came to visit the chapel – ablaze with candles – where his body was laid out at the Seminary.

The funeral, celebrated on Saturday, March 2nd, was simple in its outward details, conforming to the spirit and customs of St. Sulpice; but it was very impressive by reason of the outpouring of priests of religious communities, and of the throng of the faithful who filled the huge edifice. His Grace, the Archbishop of Montreal, himself deigned to sing the Mass and to give the absolution. Bishop Emard of Valleyfield, several prelates, vicars-general, canons, and some representatives of all the religious communities came to share the sorrow of our Confreres and to pray with them for the revered deceased.

After the service, escorted by a very long procession, the body was brought to the Grand Seminary of the Mountain, where it was buried in the little Sulpician cemetery.

The Semaine Religieuse of Montreal announced Father Déguire’s death to its readers, adding these words: “In him the Society of St. Sulpice loses one of its most eminent subjects; the clergy of the diocese, one of its most respected and beloved members; Notre Dame parish, a model priest.”

Accept, Fathers and very dear Confreres, the assurance of my affectionate regards.

A. Captier

Superior of St. Sulpice