Blessed Louis-Zephirin Moreau served as a priest and bishop in Quebec in the late 1800s. Despite poor health which limited his education, he was known as a kind, saintly, and virtuous leader of the church. Bishop Moreau worked hard to expand his diocese, promote education (especially for priests), aid those affected by fires, and encourage temperance. He was beatified by Pope Saint John Paul II in 1987.
Blessed Louis-Zephirin Moreau’s Childhood
Louis-Zephirin Moreau was born in 1824 in what was then Lower Canada (now Quebec). He was the fifth of thirteen children, and was always delicate and sickly because of his premature birth. His parents saw that his health would make him unsuited for work on the family farm, and so encouraged his intellectual pursuits. He attended the local school, where he learned Latin, and then at age 15, he entered the Seminaire de Nicolet.
When he graduated from the seminaire at age 20, he was immediately offered the position of poetry teacher. He also met the Archbishop of Quebec, who was on a pastoral visit to Nicolet. Moreau entered holy orders, and that fall he continued teaching while also beginning his own theological studies. However, a year later, poor health forced him to leave the seminary and move back to his home parish. He continued studying at a slower pace, but his health did not improve over the next year.
In 1846, the archbishop recommended that Moreau return home and give up the priesthood. Instead, on the advice of his teachers at Nicolet, he went to Montreal and offered his services (and letters of recommendation) to Bishop Bourget. The bishop accepted him into the episcopal palace to finish his studies, and moved him rapidly through the stages of ordination. On December 19, 1846, Louis-Zephirin Moreau was ordained a priest. He continued his studies for the next five months, but always felt that his theological knowledge was lacking.
Father Moreau’s Work
Over the next few years, Father Moreau served in various positions at the cathedral, including chaplain and secretary. He enjoyed the communal life in the Montreal episcopal palace. He was also deeply influenced by Bishop Bourget’s spirituality—”a life of meditation and prayer, devotion to the Eucharist, the Blessed Heart, and Mary, and reading the Bible” (Biographi.ca) Bishop Bourget had been instrumental in the spiritual revival of the 1840s.
In 1852, the 28-year-old Father Moreau moved to Saint-Hyacinth to serve as secretary and chancellor to the bishop there. Over the next twenty years, Father Moreau assisted three bishops, administering the diocese during their absences or between their appointments. He was also at various times chaplain to a boarding school, to the nuns at the Hotel-Dieu, and to the sisters at a convent. He was known for his hard work, order, and efficiency.
Father Moreau was also concerned with the daily lives of his flock. In 1874, he founded the Union Saint-Joseph. This Roman Catholic mutual aid society provided protection for members and their families from severe blows such as unemployment, accidents, and early death. Fires were a common catastrophe of this time, which left families homeless and in dire need of shelter and clothing. The Union Saint-Joseph also sought to strengthen its members’ spiritual life.
When the bishop of Saint-Hyacinthe died in 1875, the priests and parishioners recommended his right-hand man, Father Moreau, as his successor. The late bishop had recommended another bishop instead, seeing some of the weaknesses exhibited by Father Moreau. However, the bishops of Quebec rejected this suggestion and instead voted unanimously for Father Moreau. On January 16, 1876, Father Louis-Zéphirin Moreau was consecrated as the fourth bishop of Saint-Hyacinthe.
Bishop of Saint-Hyacinthe
Bishop Moreau served his people for the next twenty-five years. During that time, he reopened the episcopal palace in Saint-Hyacinthe, built a cathedral, created an officiality and a court for matrimonial cases, and founded the Sœurs de Saint-Joseph de Saint-Hyacinthe in 1877 and the Sœurs de Sainte-Marthe in 1883. He also held synods, ecclesiastical conferences, and annual pastoral retreats to ensure that his colleagues were well-trained intellectually and spiritually.
Bishop Moreau suffered ill health again at the end of his life. For the last five years of his episcopacy, his parishioners saw him only on special public occasions. He celebrated the 50th anniversary of his ordination as a priest and also the 25th anniversary of his consecration as bishop. He still had a reputation for saintliness and kindness, and even before his death, miracles were attributed to his intercession.
On May 24, 1901, Bishop Louis-Zephirin Moreau passed away. Popular veneration of the bishop lead to the opening of his cause for canonization in 1925. He was beatified in 1987 for heroic virtues. His feast day is celebrated on May 24 and he is the patron of his diocese of Saint Hyacinth, as well as the two orders of nuns he founded. He is one of twelve Catholic blesseds in Canada.
Prayer to Blessed Louis-Zephirin Moreau
The Diocese of Saint Hyacinthe has written a prayer to Blessed Louis-Zephirin Moreau regarding the current pandemic.
Blessed Louis-Zéphirin Moreau, in this pandemic time, we look to you.
You often said: ” My supreme happiness is to share widely
with those who are dear to me,
and especially with the most needy and poor.”
With you, we want to turn to them.
In these times when contagion afflicts our humanity,
and forces us to containment,
teach us to take care of each other, in a new way.
Inspire our faith and our Christian charity so that
we manifest to our beloved brothers and sisters
our closeness by the support of our prayer and the possible gestures of our day.
Through your intercession, may the Lord,
in his immense tenderness, deliver us from all evil.
May he give us bodily health, peace of heart and soul!
By your prayer, may the Immaculate Heart of Mary intercede for us.
May the Holy Spirit open us to the Word of God.
Let him help us discover, for today, the motto of our Blessed Bishop Moreau:
“I can do everything in him who strengthens me” (Phil 4:13). Amen.