George Pelletier


Somebody said: "holiness consists in building an interior space to place God in there". That applies perfectly to this Recollet monk (franciscan) who lived in New-France between 1657 to 1699. An extremely skilful carpenter and at the same time a true saint, this is brother Didace! For more than three centuries, in spite of some eclipses, the popular devotion to honour this saint has never stopped and many favours have been obtained over the years. For the franciscains and Mgr Andre-Marie Cimicella, in charge for the Committee of the founders of the Canadian Church, the time came to formally introduce the cause of beatification of the brother Didace Pelletier.

Mgr de Saint-Vallier presented the first documents himself in 1701 and 1713. Following a ceremonial visit made to the tomb of this saint in Three-Rivers, the bishop of Quebec was unexpectedly cured of an obstinate fever: "We, Bishop of Quebec, attest... that at the last day of neuvaine... we were relieved and cured... It is the testimony which we owe to the truth and which we return our recognition to brother Didace... "

Georges Pelletieroriginating in a suburb of Dieppe (Normandy) emigrated to New-France in 1654 and is installed on land located in Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré. The next summer, his wife, Catherine Vanier, joined him. Their first child, Claude, was born on July 28th 1657. He was to become brother Didace. He will have two sisters, Marie-Madeleine and Catherine. It is Mgr de Laval which gives the sacrament of confirmation to Claude and to Madeleine in 1666. "Claude became a young man strong and robust, raised in a poor family but rich of virtues" said his biographer, the father Joseph Denys, recollet. His very portrait, according to father Denys who undoubtedly ordered it, shows a man of strong physique, good and smiling, with curly hair, presenting a broad and solid hand of a manual worker.

At the very beginning of New-France, the colony had the greatest need for builders: everything had to be build! "Although endowed with much spirit for all arts, Claude learns the work of carpentry". In 1676, a new stone church is build in Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré: Claude, then 18 years old, undoubtedly worked on it. Did he belong to the "Brotherhood of the carpenters of Madame Sainte Anne", founded in Quebec in 1657? His father George Pelletier became the first "marguillier" of Sainte-Anne (1669) and from 1671, he assumed the tasks of "bedeau" for about 20 of years.

The builder of God

At 21 years old, Claude Pelletier devoted himself to the brothers récollets of Quebec whose convent "Notre-Dame des Anges" is part the current buildings of the General Hospital. In 1679, Claude wears the "bure franciscaine" and will be known from now under the name of brother Didace in the honor of a saint of the Order, Didace d'Alcala.

The récollet father Joseph Denys who was charged with building chapels and churches in Percé, Ile Bonaventure, Terreneuve, Montreal, Quebec, Three-Rivers: for the communities of the time, asked for the assistance of brother Didace. He spend twenty years with him, becoming his confessor, friend, superior and later his biographer. He quickly noticed brother Didace for his spirit of devotion, his placid mood, his great charity and his talents as a builder. Father Denys also recognized the holiness of Didace by his fidelity with his wishes (through great interior fights), his heroic obedience in the smallest things, his extreme poverty, his fasts and his burning love of the Virgin Mary.

But father Denys enjoined brother Didace to spare himself because he found him to be too severe upon himself  "... when I presented to him that he could not live a long time by not giving any slackening to nature, brother Didace requested from me, being his superior, to let him be... liking better to die ten years earlier and to have the consolation of mind to have observed our rules then to live ten more years and to have to reproach himself for having saved himself... adding that the religion had done without him before he was there and that it would still be there well after his death!"

 Three-Rivers church.

While working on the construction of the church of Recollets in Three-Rivers brother Didace contracted pleurisy. He died peacefully in the company of his fellow-members and his old father, reciting to himself the prayer for the dying. They placed his body in the crypt of the convent. This place is currently the property of the Episcopalian Church. 

Right from the day he died, popular enthusiasm canonized him! Many say that he cured and provided favours of all kinds. The first canonical investigation took place eight month after his death and his image circulated everywhere.

Two centuries later, in 1894, it is the good brother Frederic de Guyvelde who gave the best help to the cause by publishing a biography of brother Didace Pelletier.

Two hundred thousand images were printed which were distributed in all the province. Since they, people continue to pray to brother Didace, especially in Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré where he was born and in the Three-Rivers area where he passed away. There is a statue  of brother Didace in a niche at the front of the basilica of Sainte-Anne in Beaupré.

Many historical points remain obscure about brother Didace but as Rene Bacon, o.f.m. reminds us "the cause of brother Didace could well, after all, need more believing people than documented historians". Let us wish that serious archaeological excavations take place in a near future so that we can find, identify and honour the invaluable individual who was Saint brother Didace Pelletier.

Lucie Bélinge

Article published in the "Notre-Dame du Cap", # october 1992 in the saints chronicles.
translation: Pascal Pelletier


brother Didace Pelletier, God's builder

Author : Lucie Bélinge
Published in french only in page 5 of La Pelleterie, volume 6, no 4 - summer 1992. 

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