Parishes and Cemeteries in the St John Valley

The First Pastors of Ste Luce, Frenchville, Maine


Ste. Luce was originally a mission served from St. Basile by Father Elie Sirois who built the first chapel in 1826-1827. Initially named St Emilie, the name was changed to Ste. Luce. Father Francois Xavier Romuald Mercier succeeded Father Sirois in ministering to the faithful of Ste Luce in November 1831. Father Antoine Langevin became pastor of St. Basile in 1835. St Basile, the mother church of all the churches in the St. John River Valley, was founded in 1792.

The pastors for the first 100 years of the Ste. Luce Parish were:

The following pastors served the Ste. Luce Parish for the next 50 years:

Father Henri Dionne
Father Charles Swéron
Father Thomas Bergeron
Father Alexandre LaVenture
Father Pierre Hamel
Father Philippe Dubé
Father Charles Rivard
Father Zenon Charette
Father Roger Proulx
Father Angelo Levasseur

Father Henri Dionne 1843 - 1860

Father Henri Dionne (1814 - 1861), who had served Ste. Luce as an assistant to Father Langevin at St. Basile, was named the first pastor, when the Parish of Ste. Luce was established in 1843 after the Webster-Asburtun Treaty settled the boundary dispute between the United States and Canada and between Maine, New Brunswick, and Quebec. His first task as pastor was to complete the rectory he had begun while serving the mission from St. Basile.

In 1843-1844, he built the first church to replace the chapel erected by Father Sirois in 1826-1827. Father Dionne was responsible for the building of the Red Church at St. François de Madawaska, and the churches of St. Joseph in Wallagrass, and St. Louis in Fort Kent, according to the Souvenir Centenaire de la Fondation de la Paroise Sainte Luce (1843 - 1943) (Note the pages were not numbered).

An excellent write-up on Father Dionne is available on the Upper St John Valley web site.


Father Henri Dionne

Father Charles Swéron 1860 - 1908

Father Swéron (1828 - 1908) was born on 15 October 1828 in Weert, Belgium in the Flanders region. He had been recruited by Bishop Connolly of St. John, N.B. during a visit to the College of Propaganda in 1857-1858. Ordained on February 7, 1858, Father Charles Swéron, was appointed as assistant to Father Dionne on 29 August 1858. The two men found their personalities were not very compatible. Father Swéron's brusque character clashed with Father Dionne's mild demeanor.

In January, 1859, Father Swéron was named the first pastor of St. François de Madawaska, thus easing the tension between the two priests. When Father Henri Dionne retired in December 1859, Father Swéron became his replacement in January 1860. He continued to minister to St. François until 1864 when Father Dougal S. McDonald was named the resident pastor. Father Swéron was to remain pastor of Ste. Luce for 48 years until his death in 1908.

During this time, he built the second church in 1889-1890 to replace the first chuch destroyed by fire started by lightening on May 19, 1889. A strong proponent of eduction, he was instrumental in bringing the Sisters of the Holy Rosary (les Soeurs du Saint Rosaire) to the parish and built their first convent in 1901-1902. On Sep 5, 1905, the convent caught fire which lept to the church and completely destroyed both buildings. The families of Damas Levesque and Michel Gagnon provided the sister temporary lodging. Amidst controversy with his parishioners on which to rebuild first and where to rebuild, Father Swéron rebuilt the convent first in 1905-1907 and then the third church of Ste. Luce in 1907-1908 in their previous locations. Father Swéron celebrated the first mass in his new church on 8 March 1908. He died eleven days later and is buried in the parish cemetery in plot #153 shown on page 2 of the cemetery plot map pages.

Father Charles Sweron

Father Thomas Bergeron 1908 - 1915, 1916 - 1927

Father Bergeron (1877 - 1928) was born in Les Eboulements, Quebec on 22 December 1877, the son of Léandre and Angele (Larouche) Bergeron. He studied philosophy and theology at St. Bernard's Seminary in Rochester, New York and was ordained in Valleyfield, Quebec on 12 July 1903.

At 31, one of the youngest priest in the diocese, he replaced the oldest one. Almost immediately after his arrival, Father Bergeron constructed a new rectory, which still served as the pastor's residence until the tri-parish of Ste. Agathe, St. Joseph of Sinclair, and Ste. Luce were consolidated at St Agatha in 2002.

In the fall of 1914, Father Bergeron was diagnosed with a sort of non-contagious pulmonary tuberculosis. On advice of his doctor and the Bishop, he accepted a transfer to Waterville in August 1915. Father Louis A Renaud replaced him in Ste. Luce. However, Father Bergeron found the task of ministering to a large parish more taxing on his health than the cold climate. So six months later he returned to Ste. Luce in February 1916 and Father Renaud was assigned to Skowhegan. In September 1928, he left Ste. Luce and took up residence in Edmundston, N.B. where he died on 16 June 1930. His funeral was held at Ste. Luce and he was buried in the parish cemetery in plot #151 on page 3 of the cemetery plot map pages

Father Thomas Bergeron

Father Alexandre LaVenture 1928 - 1938

Father Alexandre LaVenture (1877 - 1928) was born on 13 March 1870 in Joliette, Québec, the son of Prosper and Leocadie (Tarte) Champoux dit LaVenture. Father LaVenture, who did not use the name Champoux, received his theological training from the Grand Seminaire de Montreal, where he was ordained in 1892.

Father LaVenture was responsible for replacing the original bell with three bells in 1929. At the blessing of the bells in 1929, the largest was named "Alexandre, after the pastor", the medium one "Luce after the patron of the parish", and the smallest "Elizabeth after Elizabeth Daigle, who was la ménagère du presbytère". (Raymond, p. 27,citing Dubé, 1954).

He also built the Parish Hall. Father LaVenture died on 11 February 1938 in Lawrence, Massachusetts. His funeral was held four days later at Ste. Luce and he was buried in the parish cemetery in plot #66 as shown on page 1 of the cemetery plot map pages.


Father Alexandre LaVenture

Father Pierre Hamel 1938 - 1941

Father Pierre Hamel (1894 - 1957) was the first American born pastor of Ste. Luce. He was born in Central Falls, Rhode Islands, on 15 July 1894. He was a graduate of Assumption College, in Worcester, MA and the Seminary of Philosophy in Montreal. He was ordained on 22 June 1922 for the Diocese of Portland.

Father Hamel was known for his excellent counsel, which came at a time when the parish was experiencing the worst of the depression and a drain of its young men who were leaving in mass to seek employment in the manufacturing plants in Connecticut.

His pastorship at Ste. Luce was a brief three and a half years. He was transferred to Ste. Bridget's in North Vassalboro in 1941. He died on 23 April 1957 at Waterville's Sisters' Hospital and is buried in his native parish in Rhode Island.


Father Pierre Hamel

Father Philippe Dubé 1941 - 1954

Father Philippe Dubé (1878 - 1960) was born in the parish of St Louis de Kamouraska, Québec on 3 Mar 1878, like many of the early settlers in the parish. He studied theology at the Seminary in Joliette and was ordained on 28 August 1904.

Father Dubé, who had been a vicar in the Ste Luce parish in 1925, became its pastor in 1941. One of his first responsibilities as pastor was to organize the centennial celebration of the parish in 1943. Father Dubé was responsible for several renovations in the parish, adding the aluminum roof to the church and renovating the church interior, and replacing the front porch of the rectory.

Since the old convent no longer met building codes for a school, the Bailey School was built by the Town of Frenchville in 1951 to replace the convent during Father Dubé's tenure. The sisters continued to teach in the public school for several years. Father Dubé was responsible for enlarging the old cemetery in the early 1950s.

Father Dubé, who may be remembered for his brusque manner, deeply loved Ste. Luce and his people. He retired from Ste. Luce after 50 years in the priesthood. He died on 24 January 1960 in Joliette, Québec.

Father Philippe Dube

Father Charles Rivard 1955 - 1960

Father Charles Rivard (1900 - 1970) was born in the parish of St. Germain de Grantham, Québec on 20 August 1900. When he was seven, his parents relocated to Fall River, Massachusetts. He studied theology at the Seminary in Nicolet and was ordained on 7 July 1927.

Father Rivard's first pastorate in the St John Valley was at St Mary's in Eagle Lake. His congenial personality contributed to the great support he received from his parishioners. He loved children and took great interest in their academic and moral education. He frequented the schools and was visible at the assemblies.

He is well remembered for the changes to the exterior of the church. In the summer of 1956, Father Rivard launch a construction project to add a faux granite exterior to the church, a multi-colored stucco-like covering called perma-stone was added over the worn clapboard. The following year, the wooden porch at the entrance of the church was replace with cement steps. Several fund raisers, Charlemagne card parties, were held in the parish hall to defray these construction costs.

Father Rivard was transferred to Caribou on April 10, 1960. In 1967 he served as pastor of St. André's in Biddeford and in 1968 he assumed his last pastorate at Ste Ann's in Bradley. He retired on 25 May 1969 and resided at the diocesan retirement home in Waterville where he passed away in his sleep on 3 September 1970. He is buried in the Sacred Heart Cemetery in Yarmouth, Maine.

Father Charles Rivard

Father Zenon Charette 1960 - 1979

Father Zenon Charette (1910 - 1979) was a native of Fort Kent, son of Thomas and Elise (Daigle) Charette. He studied philosophy and theology in Montreal and at St. Augustine's Seminary in Toronto, Ontario. He was ordained by Bishop McCarthy in Portland on 15 June 1935.

Father Charette received his pastorate at St Joseph's parish in Sinclair. Father Charette served Ste Luce during the time of the Vatican II Council and was responsible for introducing French in the liturgy to replace the traditional Latin mass. He responded to the new challenges by first educating his flock on the reasons for the changes. In March 1968, the main gothic alter and the two side alters were dismantled. Father Charette possessed great woodworking skills and personally did much of the needed carpentry work.

In June 1979, Father Charette was hospitalized suffering from angina. As part of his convalescence, he decided to take a short trip to the Gaspé Region of Québec. On the 3rd of July, while on that trip, he died suddenly in his motel room in New Richmond, Gaspé, Québec. He is buried in the Ste Luce Cemetery.

Father Zenon Charette

Father Roger Proulx 1979 - 1991

Father Roger Proulx (1921 - ), the son of J. François Proulx and Rose Anna Sevigny, was born in Springvale, Maine. He studied philosophy at St. Hyacinthe, Québec and theology at St. Augustine's Seminary in Toronto, Ontario. He was ordained by Bishop Daniel J. Feeney in Portland on 31 May 1947.

Father Proulx was assistant at St Joseph's parish in Wallagrass in 1948. Father Proulx became pastor of St. John's parish in St. John in 1962, where he served until 1967. He became pastor at Ste Luce in September 1979.

Father Roger Proulx

Father Angelo Levasseur 1991 - 2000

Father Angelo Levasseur 1952 - 2009, was born Jan. 14, 1952, son of Irene and Lewis LeVasseur, in Grand Isle, where he was raised. Father Angelo attended Van Buren District High School and the University of Maine - Fort Kent, where he studied English, and later taught in Van Buren and Mars Hill school districts. He studied philosophy and theology at St. Mary's Seminary & University, Baltimore, where he received a master of divinity.

While at St. Mary's, Angelo ministered to the sick and dying at Johns Hopkins University Hospital. While a seminarian, Father Angelo was deacon at St. Theresa of the Infant Jesus Parish, Mexico, Maine. Father Angelo also studied at Georgetown University, Washington, D.C.

On July 31, 1983, Father Angelo was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Portland at St. Gerard Church of Notre Dame du Mont Carmel Parish, Grand Isle, by the Most Rev. Edward C. O'Leary.

Father Angelo became pastor of St. Luce Catholic Church, one of the oldest churches in the St. John Valley region and in the state of Maine, and director of the Christian Life Center, Frenchville.

Father Angelo LeVasseur died Sunday, May 31, 2009, at Hospice House, Auburn. He is buried in the family plot at St. Gerard's Cemetery in Grand Isle.

Father Angelo Levasseur


A History of Chautauqua, Dionne Plantation, Dickeyville, Frenchville compiled by Hal and Emma (Martin) Underhill, published by the Frenchville Historical Society, 1994

Liver D'or de la Paroisse Ste. Luce, by Fr. Phillippe Dube, 1954 (as cited by Father Raymond)

Sainte Luce 1843 - 1993, A History of the Sainte Luce Parish, Upper Frenchville - Frenchville, Maine, 1843-1993, by Father David R. Raymond, 1993

Souvenir Centenaire de la Fondation de la Paroise Sainte Luce 1843 - 1943 Frenchville (en haut), Maine

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