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The article below was published in the
Attakapas Gazette
Volume XII, No. 4, Winter 1977

LOUISIANA'S FIRST ACADIAN RELIGIOUS

By James F. Geraghty

Quite fittingly for the purposes of epic poem, Longfellow cast the aging, exiled Evangeline in the role of a Sister Mercy, nursing the sick and wounded comforting the bereaved, and engaged in other humanitarian works during the twilight of her long and frustrating search for Gabriel. This, of course, added to the romanticism of her character and lent a divine justification to her life. Without doubt, no Acadian religious served as Longfellow's exemplar although Evangeline's religious counterparts did exist.

Some months ago, the thought occurred that even if the Ursuline nuns of New Orleans had not established any convent in the bayou country of Southwest Louisiana, their influence might hay been felt in settlements as distant a Poste des Attakapas (present-day St. Martinville) and Poste des Opelousas. The author subsequently inquired as to whether or not the Ursuline archives contained the names of any girls from these outposts received in the convent as boarding students. The Ursuline archivist's immediate response was negative. The only "lists" of the colonial period were incorporated into such account books which had escaped the catastrophic fires and floods so destructive in New Orleans' past. These ledger books, however, seldom included he students' place of origin.

After a lapse of several months, the author received a more complete reply, again not answering the immediate question, but providing an interesting and thought-provoking insight into the Acadian exiles' initial contact with the world of New Orleans:

Ursuline Academy
2635 State Street
New Orleans, La.
May 29, 1977

...I have found one reference to the Acadian girls in a secondary source. Father Charles Bournigalle was chaplain of the Ursulines from March 10, 1890 until his death in January 31, 1894.  He had access to all the early extant records of the Ursulines, and he was assisted in his work by one or more Sisters. He left a typed unbound manuscript called Annales des Ursulines de la Nouvelle-Orleans. It ends with the Spanish colonial period. In volume II, chapter 2, he devotes some pages to the Acadians.  There is one brief paragraph that refers to the Ursulines.

Dans cette circumstance les Ursulines furent comme toujours à la hauteur de la situation; quoique bien pauvres a cette epoque, elles cédèrent tout l'emplacement dont elles pouvaient disposer, et allongèrent leurs tables pour donner place à un grand nombre d'orphelines acadiennes. p. 22

[Translation] In this situation, the Ursulines were, as always, on top of things; though very poor at this time, they disposed of whatever goods they could and lengthened their tables to give place to a great number of Acadian orphans. p. 22

I was more successful with the Sisters. Notes on the latter have been taken from a large manuscript volume, Registre pour écrire les receptions des Rses. de France et postulantes [Mar. 4, 1726 - Sept. 20, 1893] et les lettres cfrculaires (July 6, 1728 - Jan. 31, 1894]. Receptions and professions are recorded in the first half of the book and the circular letters (really obituary accounts) which were sent to the houses in Europe are copied in the second part. 

Rose LeBlanc

Excerpt from page 17: 

Rose LeBlanc was the legitimate daughter of Rene LeBlanc of Grand Pré, native of Acadia in Canada and of Anne Terriot;  was baptized in the parish of the said place; 29 years old; widow of Raphael Broussard, resident of Précou Riat in Canada. She had been at the convent some months and all the religious agreed, at a meeting held [on] August, 14, 1765, that she should be admitted to the novitiate in view of her good will, her gently disposition and kindness to all. She was received as a coadjutrix Sister, March 31, 1766 and received the religious habit [on] April 29, 1766 before the begin­ning of the very hot weather.  Reverend Père Antoine, Spanish Capuchin, officiated at the ceremony.

Excerpt from page 20:

She was given the name Sister Ste. Monique and made her vows in the presence of Father Dagobert, Capuchin, April 30, 1768.

Excerpt from [a] circular letter [on] page 232:

Sister Ste. Monique LeBlanc died [on] February 6, 1773 at the age of 38 years, 6 months. She had come from Acadia with all her family.  "We have received her and she has edified us very much during the short time she was with us. 

As soon as she learned that there was a religious community in New Orleans she asked to be received. She was a very useful member of the community, skillful in all things, of a gay disposition, fervent and exact in all her duties, rendering prompt service to all alike. 

She was so grateful for her vocation that she said she could never thank God enough for the great favor of her religious vocation.

She died of smallpox.

Note: Rose LeBlanc is the 5th Great-Grandaunt of Stanley LeBlanc, site host.  Rose lost her husband, Raphael Broussard, and 2 children during the exile.

Marguerite Bourg

Excerpt from page 18:

Legitimate daughter of Joseph Bourg and Marie Landry, resident of the parish of St. Charles of Grand Pré des Mines in Acadia, Bishopric of Qu6bec in Canada; about 19 years of age.  She was received unanimously as a coadjutrix sister. She had passed more than a year at the Ursuline boarding school in New Orleans. She received the religious habit [on] October 26, 1767.  Father Prosper, Capuchin and chaplain of the Ursulines, presided.   She received the name Sr. Ste. Claire. In April 1768, the community decided that she did not have the qualities required for the religious life and she returned to her family. [Note: She married Jean-Baptiste Cormier, fils]

Anne Gertrude Braud

Excerpt from page 21:

Legitimate daughter of Charles Braud and Claire Trahan; native of Pigidie and baptised in the parish of the Assumption of the same place  in  Acadia,  bishopric  of Canada; about 23 years of age; arrived here with her family and  desired to consecrate herself to God in the Ursuline Convent; asked to be received at the novitiate.  [On] March 24, 1768 the community consented that she test her vocation as a coadjutrix sister.  [On] April 30, 1770, she received the religious habit as a coadjutrix  sister.     Father Dagobert presided. She received the name Sr. Marie Joseph. 

Excerpt from page 23:

She  made  her  religious profession [on] April 30, 1772.

Excerpt from page 247:

Sister Marie Joseph died in 1818. The month and day are not given.

This dear Sister presented herself at the parlor with one of her sisters to ask to become a coadjutrix sister. She was ad­mitted to the house and after sufficient trial she was received at the novitiate.   She made her religious profession with great fervor, a state which she retained all her life. Sister served the community in every way she could.   She had great charity seeking to be of service to everyone. She died at the age of 72, having passed 47 in religion.

Elizabeth Bro

(Sister of Gertrude Braud mentioned above.)

On page 21 there is a very short entry: August 6, 1768, Elizabeth Bro [sic], sister of Gertrude, asked to be received at the novitiate and was accepted. Her health became always worse and she died [on] May 12, 1771 after having received the last sacraments. She has been buried in our cemetery.

Note: I find the case of this Sister very puzzling.  In every other case where a novice was found not to have the health necessary to function as an Ur­suline, she was returned to her family.  I wonder what was so exceptional about this Sister that they kept her at the novitiate for nearly three years even though her health was becoming steadily worse. 

I am sorry we do not have more to offer you about these Acadian girls.

 Sincerely yours,

Sister Jane Frances Heaney,
O.S.U., Archivist

We can be grateful for Sister Jane Frances' diligent search.   Besides revealing the existence of some in­teresting persons, the letter cited above provides a small idea of the wealth of information in this 250-year-old educational institution, the United States' oldest convent-school. By the same token, the LeBlancs, the Theriots, the Broussards, the Breauxs, the Landrys, the Trahans, the Bourgs and others in the Acadian Litany of Saints (and sinners) can take great pride that of their name and lineage came Louisiana's first Acadian religious.

Note1: Harold Breaux, a 5th great-grandnephew of Anne-Genevieve and Elisabeth Braud, and a 6th great-grandnephew of Rose LeBlanc, has prepared an essay that outlines the Breaux Exile, Arrival in Louisiana and the accomplishments of notable Breaux descendants.  He has given me permission to convert the essay to PDF format - See Nuns Breaux

Note2: The First Acadian to become a Mother Superior was Rose Landry White [LeBlanc] in Baltimore, Maryland.

Note3: The First Nun who was born within the later limits of the United States was Marie Turpin, daughter of Louis Turpin, Captain of the Militia of Kaskaskia, and his second wife Dorothée Mechiperouta, the widow of Charles Danis whom he married September 11, 1724. Marie was born about 1731 at Kaskaskia and entered the Order of Ste. Ursula at the convent in New Orleans as a postulant on June 27, 1749. [Source: Kaskaskia Under the French Regime by Natalia Maree Belting, Notes on the Census of 1752, Kaskaskia, p. 90]

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