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Bishop Antoine Racine (1822-1893), First Catholic Bishop of Sherbrooke

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racine.2.jpgMonseigneur Antoine Racine, the first bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Sherbrooke, was born in Saint-Ambroise-de-la-Jeune-Lorette, near Quebec City, in 1822. He received his early education from an uncle, who was a priest in a nearby parish. In 1834, he entered the Petit séminaire de Québec, and later attended the Grand séminaire de Québec, where he studied theology to become a priest.

Ordained in 1844, Racine's postings as a vicar and later as a parish priest took him to La Malbaie (1844-1848), Stanfold (1848-1851), Saint-Joseph-de-Beauce (1851-1853), and Saint-Jean-Baptiste, in Quebec City (1853-1874). The pinnacle of Racine's career was his appointment in 1874 as the first bishop of the new Diocese of Sherbrooke, a post he held until his death in 1893.

During Racine's tenure in Sherbrooke he played a major role in the French Canadian colonization movement, founding in 1881 and serving as the first president of the Société de colonisation de Sherbrooke. He was also active in local efforts to repatriate Franco-Americans from New England.

Upon his appointment to the diocese in 1874, he set out to build an ecclesiastical seminary, which opened the following year under the name Séminaire Saint-Charles-Borromée. Racine was the first Superior of the seminary (1875-1878), and taught theology for a number of years. Among his other accomplishments, he founded Sacré-Cœur Hospice, Saint-Michel Cemetery, and the Collège des Frères du Sacré-Cœur. Bishop Antoine Racine died in 1893.

Antoine Racine has the distinction of having not one but two towns named in his honour. In 1875, immediately after his appointment as bishop, the municipality of Ely-Partie-Est (between Lawrenceville and Melbourne) adopted the name "Racine" for its local post office. The town officially changed its name to Racine in 1961.

In a different corner of the Townships, the parish of Saint-Léon-de-Marston (between Scotstown and Lake Megantic) named its post office "Valracine" in 1887. In 1957, the municipality officially adopted the name Val-Racine.(1)

(1) Commission de toponymie du Québec, Noms et lieux du Québec : dictionnaire illustré, 1996.