Demers, Bishop Modeste
b. 1809-10-11
d. 1871-07-28
Bishop Modeste Demers was born in Saint-Nicholas-de-Levis, Lower Canada, in 1809, and was appointed the first bishop of Vancouver Island, as well as administrator of the diocese of the Queen Charlotte Islands and New Caledonia, on 30 November 1847.1
Demers rose to prominence for his work in the HBC's Oregon-Country outposts, mostly due to his aptitude for languages, which helped him to compile a dictionary, a catechism, a book of prayers, and a collection of hymns in Chinook jargon.2 Demers travelled extensively throughout Oregon Country, and became the first missionary to reach the area that is now mainland British Columbia.3
For several years after his consecration, Demers travelled throughout Europe to collect funds and additional missionaries to help establish his episcopal see.4 Akrigg and Akrigg note that when Demers finally arrived on Vancouver Island, at Cadboro Bay in 1852, he prostrated himself on the beach and kissed the sand before kneeling to pray at a driftwood log.5
In his later years, Demers was forced to leave Vancouver Island on several occasions due to health concerns.6 While en route from France to Rome, in 1870, Demers was severely injured in a train accident, from which he would never recover fully; he died at his home in Victoria on 28 July 1871.7
  • 1. Jean Usher,Demers, Modeste Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online.
  • 2. Ibid.
  • 3. Ibid.
  • 4. Ibid.
  • 5. G. P. V. Akrigg and H. B. Akrigg, British Columbia Chronicle, 1847-1871 (Victoria: Discovery Press, 1977), 11.
  • 6. Jean Usher,Demers, Modeste Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online.
  • 7. Ibid.
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