EMAIL mj.morris@live.ca


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Father Albert Burns joined Jesuit order serving in many capacities then returned to Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church in Chapleau

The grandparents of Father Albert Burns s.j., Lambert and Adele (Roy) Lafrance were among the first families to settle in Chapleau after the community was established in 1885.
Lambert Lafrance arrived in 1885 to work for the Canadian Pacific Railway and his wife and children followed in 1886. Other children were born in Chapleau.

In 1886 when 
 Adèle (Roy) Lafrance, the grandmother of Father Burns arrived in Chapleau with the children, the Canadian Pacific Railway passenger train apparently stopped seven miles east of the community.

It would appear that his mother Elmire, arrived at her new home by baggage cart, after travelling from her home in Le Bic, Quebec. She married Robert Burns in Chapleau.

Father Burns attended the local Roman Catholic school where due to regulations in place at the time, all courses were taught in English except for half an hour a day in French.

By 1926 he was attending College Sacre Coeur, which was run by the Jesuits, and by 1934, he was attracted to the order and reflected on joining them in Montreal that year.

According to his biography, he hesitated joining the Jesuits until he met the Bishop at Vankleek Hill at a ceremony. Bishop Joseph Halle told him, "Follow the path to where the Lord has called you."

On September 7, 1934 he entered the novitiate of the Jesuits, and his first request was to become a missionary to the Chinese or aboriginal people. It was decided that he would serve the Mohawks near Montreal and he studied their language for two years as well as serving at College Jean de Brebeuf in charge of discipline.

After studying theology, he was ordained to the priesthood on August 15, 1947, and his first ministry was among the First Nation people at Kahnawake in 1949 where he also taught at the local high school as well as organizing sports and theatrical productions and serving as chaplain at the hospital.

By 1954 Father Burns was experiencing health problems, and was named chaplain of the Montreal Children's Hospital for a year. He requested that he be able to return to Sudbury ane became an English professor at College du Sacre Coeur for two years, and then was moved to the mission of Saint Regis near Cornwall, then back to Kahnawake as a vicar from 1961 to 1964.

For the next 20 years, Father Burns served at various parishes in Northern Ontario. He eventually returned home to Chapleau and served as vicar until September 2002 when he moved to the Jesuit Retreat House at St. Jerome, Quebec

Father Burns has written about his home church which was established about 1885 on the site where Collins store is at Lorne and Birch streets by the Jesuits. A new church was built in 1891 and added to by 1898.

Father Burns explained the beginnings of the parish: "To place the beginning of the history of the Chapleau Sacred Heart Parish ... one must refer to the work of the Society of Jesus in Northern Ontario, those Jesuits who have followed the construction gangs building the Canadian Pacific Railway at the end of the last century. Many have dedicated themselves to opening new parishes and missions among the Native People. Once these parishes were established, the Jesuits would hand them over to the local Bishop and his clergy. This is what happened to Chapleau. The Jesuit Fathers had been in charge of it from 1883 to 1911."

In 1911, the Jesuits turned the parish over to Father Romeo Gascon, who was the parish priest for 47 years, and who baptized the future priest.

Father Burns recalled that when he was four years old, on December 18,  1918, fire destroyed the church which was located on the site where the present church is located.

A new church was built under the direction of Father Gascon and ready for the Christmas Eve mass on December 24, 1919. Father Burns, at that time, was an altar boy. It was in this church that he received his first communion and his confirmation. Later, in 1947, he celebrated his first solemn mass after his ordination.

On June 19, 1965, Father Burns preached the sermon at the ordination service to the priesthood of Father Lucien Bouillon, who was also a Chapleau native. Father Bouillon was the first Chapleau boy to be ordained in Sacred Heart Church.

It was in this same church that Father Burns celebrated his 50th anniversary of his priesthood with Bishop André Vallée and several other priests in attendance.

The biography prepared by the Diocese of Hearst says: "
 Father enjoys reminiscing of how God guided him through his religious vocations, between the Jesuites, the native mission, and teachings, up until the day of his return to his diocese where he first started... He is still a Jesuite Priest where he continues to work along side with other priests in his diocese of Hearst."

Father Albert J. Burns s.j. died at the age of 88 on March 25, 2003. 

Thank to Anne (Zufelt) McGoldrick for research assistance. My email is mj.morris@live.ca

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Michael J Morris

Michael J Morris
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