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Le Courant

Fall 2010 | 12

St-Mathieu of Dixville

Susan Beaton

The St Mathieu Catholic Church is located at 300, Ch. Parker in the village of Dixville. This church is known by the parish name of St. Mathieu de Dix¬ville which is a part of the district of the Coaticook MRC and, is under the direction of the Sherbrooke Diocese.

The mission circuit

A mission circuit was first established on April 21, 1914 by the Bishop of the Diocese, his emi¬nence Paul LaRocque. He requested Abbe Joseph¬ Ernest Simard, the recently appointed priest at St. Edmond Church in Coaticook, to organize this cir¬cuit for catholics in Barford, Coaticook and Dixville. Abbe Simard was able to set up a chapel in an old store on the west side of the village which was soon found to be too small and inappropriate for the congregation. Bishop LaRocque urged Abbe Simard to begin a search for a more centrally located place in order to build a church.

The registration book for births, marriages and deaths was officially opened in 1915. Norman Adrien Major, the son of Eugene Major and Leo¬nie Crete, was born and baptised on February 27, 1916. This was the first recorded baptism. The first recorded marriage in the book was between that of Norman Morin who wed Fidelia Lessard on Janua¬ry 10, 1916. He was the son of Huges Morin and Eveline Berard. Fidelia Lessard was the daughter of Onesiphore Lessard and Albina Messier. Eugene Major, husband of Zoe Lavertue, had the distinction of being the first recorded death in the registry book as well as being the first member of the congrega¬tion to be interred in the newly appointed cemetery on Ch. Chamberlain. He died on March 10, 1916 and his funeral was held on March 13, 1916.

The house and property owned by Harba Wat¬son Child came up for sale and was purchased on December 30, 1915. This house was then modified to meet the needs, of the priest who would be living in the presbytery and would include a chapel and sacristy. Once the work was completed, the church was then built in 1916 according to the specifications of a Sherbrooke architect, Louis N. Audet. This church was a wooden structure 82 feet in length. The church was attached to the presbytery on the side of the sacristy and the chapel. On the left side in the front of the building was a bell tower and a bell which weighed 550 pounds. This bell came from the parish of St. George de Windsor and was no longer needed. There were three entrances to the church: the main entrance for the congregation was in the back of the church, a door was located in front on the left side and, the entrance from the sacristy which was used by the priest.
The formal benediction of the bell and the church took place on June 24, 1917. Dignitaries included his eminence Hubert Olivier Chalifoux, Bishop of Aureliopolis and Auxiliary of Bishop LaRocque in Sherbrooke, Father Joseph-Ernest Simard, Father Octave Martin, Father Bonin and, Father Henri O.Deseve, the first resident catholic priest in Dixville. It was a very celebratory mass. His eminence Bishop Chalifoux baptised the bell under the names of Mathieu, Benoit, Paul, Hubert and Henri. Father Deseve held this mass of dedication and Monseigneur Chalifoux read the sermon. The choir came from the parish of St. Jean in Coaticook and their voices filled the church with song. Apparently, a magnificent performance. At the close of the mass, the bell was rung for the first time.
There were changes to the parish of St. Mathieu over the years: a section was added to the parish of St. Suzanne de Stanhope in 1931 and another section added to the parish of St. Edmond in 1947. On February 21, 1977 it was resolved ta combine the parish of St. Suzanne with that of St. Mathieu de Dixville. Father Denis Grenier held regular masses in Stanhope until the church was sold in 1997.
The following is a list of the priests of St. Mathieu- de Dixville: Joseph Oscar Henri Deseve (1916-1918), Joseph Horace Boulay (19181930), Albert Horace Vallieres (1930-1932), Onesime Lanouette (1932-1963), Claude Champagne (1963-1974), Guy Saint-Jean (1974-1975), Denis Grenier, (1975-1993). Father Grenier was the last priest to live in the presbytery but he would continue to administer the church from 1993-1999. The church is currently under administration by Abbe Gilles Baril who began his tenure in the year 2000.

The Reverend Father Joseph Henri Oscar Deseve
Father Deseve, the son of Oscar Deseve and Kate C. Curran, was born in Sherbrooke on November 11, 1880. He attended his classical studies at St. Charles Barromee Seminary in Sherbrooke and he completed his theological course of education at the Grand Seminary in Montreal. On June 29, 1906 Father Deseve was ordained a priest at the Sherbrooke Cathedral. He was then ordained as the parish priest of Windsor Mills on July 13, 1906.
Father Deseve went on to serve other appointments in his career as a parish priest: parish priest of Richmond September 26, 1907, administrator at St. Raphael de Bury on September 2, 1908, the first parish priest of St. Mathieu de Dixville on January 18, 1916. On September 23, 1918 he was appointe, the parish priest in St. Gabriel, Stratford. The last appointment Father Deseve received was at Notre Dame de la Merci Parish in Rock Island on July 9, 1926. He was also the Rural Dean for the district for many years.
Father Deseve died at home in Rock Island after a long illness on February 14, 1948. The local newspaper wrote that hundreds of people attended his funeral and was one of the largest held funerals in the community. A great testament to the respect held by this community.

The Reverend Father Onesime Lanouette
The residing priest who served St. Mathieu the longest was Abbe Onesime Lanouette with thirtyone years of service. Abbe Onesime Lanouette was born at St. Edouard de Gentilly on April 26, 1880. He was the son of Onesime Lanouette of Gentilly and Hermine Tousignant who came from St. Pierre les Becquets. The young Onesime studied at the St. Antoine School in Gentilly and went on to complete a more formai education.
Classical studies were undertaken at St. Charles Barromee Seminary in Sherbrooke. In 1916, he was ordained a priest in Brompton, by the Most Reverend Paul LaRocque. Father Lanouette went on to study another year at the seminary following his ordination.
Father Lanouette had a distinguished career as a priest before coming to Dixville. Appointments included: Vicar at St. Aime d'Asbestos for 30 months, one year at St. Andre de Sutton, two years at Notre Dame de la Merci in Rock Island, nearly two years as a priest at St. Jacques le Majeur in Wolf County and a year and a half at St. Ephrem in Fitch Bay. After a period of relaxation in Louisiana, he was assigned as a Vicar at St. Andre de Biddeford, Me. as well as in Sandford, Me.
In 1932, Abbe Lanouette was named to become the parish priest of St. Mathieu Church in Dixville. A man close toi the people of the village, he was a spiritual guide during the difficult years of the Depression and World War Il. Many persons benefitted from his gardening skills and his generosity. His delivery of potatoes and vegetables in the early days of the Dixville Home has always been remembered. Abbe Lanouette also had a hobby... bee keeping and he kept several hives across the road from the presbytery.
Abbe Onesime Lanouette was still the priest at St. Mathieu Church at the time of his death in 1963. He died at 83 years of age.
The Diocese of Sherbrooke is currently proposing a reorganization of parishes in the Coaticook MRC with the objective being a decrease in the number of operating churches. St. Mathieu de Dixville Church, which has been the spiritual center for Catholics in Dixville and surrounding area for nearly a century, is one of the churches under review for closure by 2013.
Documents on file at the Municipal office, Dixville: establishment of the Catholic Mission In Dixville, letter describing the mass for the benediction of the bell and St. Mathieu, etc. Cadastral Index To Imovables, Lot 121, Lot 122; registrefoncier.gouv.qc.ca. Mgr. H.O. Chalifoux, Men of Today in the Eastern Townships, pg. 128, pub. 1917. Quebec Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection, on line). Rock Island, 1798-1985, G.L. Monty, pg. 176, newspaper clipping on funeral Father Deseve. Paroisses de Dixville, Baptemes et Sepultures, La Societe de genealogie des Cantons de l'Est Inc., 1900-1992, pg. 75, 76.

Le Courant

Le Courant is published by the Society every year. Society's members, professional and amateur historian shared with the readers results of their searches. Articles are available in English and French. This publication received generous support from local sponsors that the Society wishes to thank with all it's gratitude.


Fall 2010 | 12 | Sommaire

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