PAUL DE CHOMEDEY DE MAISONNEUVECCHeritage - Paul de Chomedey de Maisonneuve
, along with a group of affluent Catholic mystics in France, were moved by visions to build a missionary centre in the wilderness with the intention of converting the natives.Maisonneuve was born and baptized in Neuville-sur-Vanne in the province of Champagne in 1612.His
family was deeply religious, well-known, and well respected.As was the custom, Maisonneuve's military career began early: he
became a soldier at thirteen.Maisonneuve's inclination toward a role in the New World took root as he
was recovering from a war wound received in Arras (Flanders).His
long recovery proved to be a time of enlightenment, sparked by his
reading of Paul Le Jeune's Account of What Happened in New France on the Great Saint Lawrence River, wherein the Jesuit priest describes his
evangelistic mission to a Montagnais tribe in Tadoussac.Aware that a handful of English citizens had recently crossed the Atlantic in the Mayflower to establish a devout Protestant society in the New World, Maisonneuve
reasoned, "Why not attempt the same on French and Roman Catholic land?"
At thirty years of age, Maisonneuve
retired from soldiering and went to Paris to seek employment.There, he
met Jesuit Charles Lalemant, the procurator of the Canadian mission in France.Lalemant informed Maisonneuve
of a project to create in Canada a station for the evangelization of the natives led by J,r,me de La Dauversi,re, a friend of Lalemant's.La Dauversi,re had founded the Soci,t, Notre-Dame de Montr,al and was in charge of acquiring the island, appointing a governor, and financing the colony.A meeting was arranged, and La Dauversi,re, finding Maisonneuve
to be "a gentleman of virtue and heart," appointed him the governor of the new colony.Maisonneuve's
mission was to establish a Catholic settlement at Montreal for evangelization and colonization.He
summarized it in four points: evangelize the Algonquin, teach them agricultural skills, provide them with medical assistance, and educate them.Maisonneuve and his recruits left for New France in two ships on May 9, 1641.
was resolute: "Nothing shall turn me one inch from my mission.Those who send me want me in Montreal, and it is my honour to fulfill their wish.Should each tree of the island be changed into an Iroquois, I would go."On May 17, 1642, Maisonneuve founded Ville-Marie on the island of Montreal, naming it after the Virgin Mary to whom he entrusted the protection of the colony.
After consulting with the chaplains, Maisonneuve
promised that he
would carry a cross to the top of Mount Royal if the waters that were already surging against the gates of the fort subsided without causing serious damage.He
promise in writing; had it read publicly; and then placed a cross, at whose foot was the written statement, on the bank of the overflowing river.After much prayer and invocations for the Virgin's protection, the waters subsided.Two weeks later, Maisonneuve
carried a cross through the bush to the top of Mount Royal.Today, an illuminated cross marks the spot.
Soon, a few Algonquin made contact with the settlement, which offered them food and protection.By 1643, however, Indian attacks were endangering the mission.Warring Iroquois forced Maisonneuve
to return fire, first with thirty men against two hundred Indians, then with an organized, permanent defense.France, comparing persecuted Ville-Marie
to the early church, sent new recruits.Maisonneuve was a revered leader who governed wisely and kept order in the growing colony.He
ordered brawlers to pay the medical bills of their victims and slanderers to praise each other in public.
Over the years, Maisonneuve
was recalled to Paris many times to discuss how best to preserve Montreal's religious purpose amid growing economic interests.He
took part in the powerful Communaut, des Habitants assembly to save Montreal from becoming only a relay for the fur trade market, arguing that "money leads to perdition."He also led fund-raising drives and recruited homesteaders in France.
was recalled to France permanently in 1665.Although he had lived in Ville-Marie for twenty-three years, he never became a landowner, choosing to dedicate himself to his religious cause.
Back in Paris, he
lived in a secluded cabin that he
built, and remained humble and discreet until his
death in 1676.