Translated from Histoire de Sainte-Anne-du-Ruisseau, Belleville, Rivière-Abram written by Père Clarence-J. d’Entremont (pages 51-60):
Father Jean-Mandé Sigogne was born on 6 April 1763 in Beaulieu, a neighbouring commune of Loches, Department of Indre-et-Loire, France, to his parents Mandé Sigogne and Marguerite Robert. Ordained in 1787, he was named vicar of the parish of Manthelan, diocese of Tours, in the autumn of said year, where he was to exert the saint ministry until 1791.
A year earlier, in November 1790, the French government had voted for the separation and independence of the church of France from Rome. In spite his father’s pleas, Father Sigogne never wavered, remaining true to his allegiance with Rome. He travelled to England in 1792, where he served his community many ways, such as teaching French, Latin, and geography.
In the meantime, the Acadians of southwest Nova Scotia were requesting a priest. On 15 April 1799, Monseigneur Lamarche, bishop of Saint-Pol-de-Léon, who took care of the francophone priests in Britain, finally wrote the bishop of Quebec:
I have just gotten the passport from the government for a good and virtuous ecclesiastical, named Mandé Sigogne, who has left for Halifax to serve under your command.
His Arrival in Halifax
On 14 April 1799, Father Sigogne embarked on an English vessel dubbed the Stag in Blackwall, near London, which weighed anchor the 16th of that month, arriving in Halifax the 12th of the following month. He was to stay with Father Jones for a few weeks, landing in Rocco Point 4 July, having made the voyage from Halifax in Basile Bourque’s small fishing boat.
The Beginning of His Ministry
Upon his arrival in Sainte-Anne-du-Ruisseau, Father Sigogne stayed with Joseph Bourque, Basile’s brother.
On 7 July, he performed his first baptisms in Sainte-Anne-du-Ruisseau. Then on 14 July, he was at Amirault’s Hill. On 20 July, he performed thirteen baptisms in Pubnico.
On 29 July, Father Sigogne left for Saint Mary’s Bay, in the district of Clare, arriving there the following morning. This would be his permanent place of residence from then on.
However, he returned to Sainte-Anne-du-Ruisseau on 5 September for an eleven week stay, leaving again on 20 November.
During these eleven weeks in the Cape Sable region, Father Sigogne settled many questions and issues concerning the religious lifestyle of his flocks. On 20 September he named six people to help him devise regulations and rules of conduct to ensure the parish would function as smoothly as possible.
These six were Michel Boudreau, from Lower Tusquet; Jean Bourg, of Sainte-Anne-du-Ruisseau; Benoni d’Entremont, of Pombcoup; Jean Mius, from Sluice Point; François Gilis, of Sainte-Anne-du-Ruisseau; and Paul Surette, of the same village. These nominations, in the Register of the Fabric, are followed by the names of 44 people, including the above mentioned, most of whom signed with a cross.
The same day, these six advisors named two churchwardens, Paul Surette and Joseph Babin, of Sainte-Anne-du-Ruisseau, who were required to serve a term finishing on the last visit of the priest the following year. On 14 December 1800, Ange Amirault of East Pubnico replaced Joseph Babin, the oldest of the first churchwardens. In those days, churchwardens were people chosen to manage the temporal goods of the parish with the priest. A special bench was reserved for them in the front of the church, which was known as “the churchwardens’ bench”.
The following 6 October, the appointment of a sexton was carried out, whose functions were to be numerous. The honour was bestowed upon Charles LeBlanc of Belleville. Father Sigogne lists his functions in the Register of the Fabric: to serve the Mass; to give the public the signal of offices; to light and extinguish the candles; the maintenance of the church, i.e. to sweep and wash it; to gather the branches for Palm Sunday; to accompany the priest on his visits to patients and to bring them communion; to make the bread (or hosts) for mass; to assist in burial and funeral services; to distribute the blessed bread, which the parishioners formerly offered in turn to be blessed during the Mass and to be distributed to faithful; to assist the priest with baptisms and marriages; to keep the cemetery clear of all undergrowth and other debris; to make the pits in which to bury the dead; to keep the stoups clean. For wages, each family was to give him a half-bushel of potatoes at the time of harvest, and, moreover, he was to receive accidentals or honorariums for baptisms and funerary services, according to the tariff determined by the bishop.
On 27 November 1799, Father Sigogne named three midwives: Anne Suret, wife of Dominique Pothier; Isabelle Mius, wife of Amand LeBlanc; and Marie Modeste Doucet, wife of Jean-Baptiste Mius, who pledged the oath prescribed in the ritual of this diocese.
Other Acts of the Ministry
During his stay in the district of Cape Sable in the autumn of 1799, Father Sigogne performed several marriages. They were mostly revalidations of earlier marriages that had simply been performed in front of witnesses (for lack of a priest). Similarly, Father Sigogne performed a certain number of baptisms.
On 20 November he left once again for Saint Mary’s Bay.
The Rules of Conduct
It was during his eleven-week stay that Father Sigogne wished to subject his parishioners to a rule that was subsequently adopted under oath. It comprised 28 articles, preceded by an introduction, “to cure the vices of those living in sin, and in order to ensure everyone understood his Christian duties”.
The first articles related to the nomination of the four wise men who were to judge, with the priest, the differences and conflicts that could arise among the inhabitants. On top of this list of people, “Assessors” were added, whose responsibility was to act if the priest should be absent for any of the said conflicts. These people were to be nominated by the priest and approved by the faithful. The wise men were to see that the Christians of the county do their duties, outlined in the rules of conduct. In the event of a scandal, the guilty party was to be privately warned and advised to return to the path of righteousness. If, after three warnings, no effort was made, this person would be denounced from the church.
One or two catechists were to be elected for each canton, for the responsibility of conducting lessons in catechism with the children on Sunday and three times during the week.
The head of each family was to adopt this rule of conduct, without which the family would lose the privilege of having a pew in the church. If a family refused to contribute to the expenditure of worship, its members would be received at church only on Easter.
There is also an article stipulating that the rules must be presented to the bishop during his next pastoral visit for his approval. Every six years, the parishioners would have to adopt these rules again.
The 28 articles are succeeded by the following note:
We, the catholic inhabitants of the parish of Sainte-Anne du Cap-Sable, Anglice Argyle, assembled today, twenty-four October one thousand seven hundred ninety nine, wanting to secure our salvation in living righteously, accept freely and in good faith this present regulation in all its content; and we promise sincerely, in front of God, and the Saint Gospel, to observe it faithfully and to be subject to it. In witness hereof we sign and approve it by signing our name and our marks.