St. Thomas Parish / Memramcook
Established in 1755
First church: 1754
First resident priest : 1781
It is the first Acadian parish founded in the current archdiocese’s territory. During the Deportation in 1755, Acadians were already settled on the banks of the Memramcook River. They steadfastly resisted the efforts to make them leave.
A first chapel had been built in 1754. After the Deportation, a second church was built in 1780. Fr. François Thomas Leroux (1781-1794) was the first missionary priest to reside in the parish. After a fire destroyed the church situated at La Montain, the new church was built in Saint Joseph around 1841 the same year that Fr. Ferdinand Gauvreau laid the foundations for the present church.
In 1864, Fr. Camille Lefebvre, c.s.c. assumed direction of the parish and its missions. The one who became known as the Acadian Apostle took over the educational work undertaken by his predecessor Fr. François-Xavier LaFrance and founded the Saint Joseph College which would become Saint Joseph University. This institution, in collaboration with the Holy Cross Fathers, was responsible for training most of the Acadian elite for many years. This college would eventually become the Université de Moncton.
The first National Acadian Convention was held in Memramcook in 1881. It was then that the Virgin of the Assumption was chosen as the patron saint of all Acadians and August 15th became the national holiday.
Two feminine religious congregations were also founded in this parish. In 1873, the Sisters of Charity of Saint John established a convent in Saint Joseph. This convent would later become the mother-house of the newly founded Notre-Dame-du-Sacré-Coeur congregation in 1924. A second religious community also came to be in this village. In 1880, ‘Institut des Petites Soeurs de la Sainte Famille’ was founded by Mother Marie-Léonie whom Pope John Paul II beatified during his trip to Canada in 1984.
Saint Thomas parish is the mother church of all of Memramcook Valley. For several decades the Holy Cross Fathers served here as well as in surrounding parishes.
Several founders of surrounding towns and villages were born here. An impressive number of priests and religious were also born here.
Important pages of Acadian history were written here. It is still a vibrant community which delivers services and adapts to changes in today’s Church and society.