Union Saint-Jean-Baptiste d'Amérique

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Union Saint-Jean-Baptiste d'Amérique
Saint-Jean-Baptiste Society of America
L'Union Saint-Jean-Baptiste d'Amerique.svg
Merged intoCatholic Financial Life (1991)
Established26 February 1899 (1899-02-26), de facto
7 May 1900 (1900-05-07), official
Location
Area served
United States of America
Archives and cultural documents donated to Assumption College, 2007-2013

The Union Saint-Jean-Baptiste d'Amérique (USJB), also referred to by its member organizations as the Société Saint-Jean-Baptiste d'Amérique (lit. "Saint-Jean-Baptiste Society of America"), was a Franco-American benefit society first organized in 1899 when the Saint-Jean-Baptiste Society of Holyoke (French: Société Saint-Jean-Baptiste d'Holyoke) invited several other so-named independent organizations to form a national committee, by 1929 the Boston Globe described it as the largest French Catholic fraternal organization in the United States.[1]

History[edit]

The Félix Gatineau Memorial in Southbridge, Massachusetts, by Lucien Gosselin, with the USJB ensign visible; Gatineau was an instrumental figure in the organization's founding, along with numerous affiliates

The society's first meeting was held on February 26, 1899; in the following year its first national congress was held on March 27, 1900, and the national organization was officially incorporated on May 7, 1900 in Woonsocket, Rhode Island.[2] While L'Union was primarily formed for the purpose of creating sick, disability, and death funds for American French-speaking Catholics, the organization would also provide scholarships, civic education, and held cultural events including celebrations on Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day, parades, culinary and musical events, including French opera performances.[3] The USJB also maintained a large collection of Franco-Americana that it purchased from the estate of American Civil War Major Edmond Mallet in 1908. Conducting the entirety of its business in French for most of its existence, in 1966 the organization became officially bilingual, adding English content to its bimonthly newsletter in 1972. After 1982, non-Catholics were granted membership, and from 1977 until its merger 1991, the Society held the Franco-American Interest in the Handicapped, known as Project FAITH, an annual seminar discussing advancements in the providing of care for the mentally and physically disabled.[4] Other services included distribution of grants to French language programs at several colleges, guaranteed student loans, charter trips, and an annual pilgrimage language development program.[5] Following a period of decline, the organization's mutual functions were merged with Catholic Financial Life in 1991.[6][7]

Today[edit]

Although the mutual functions of the organization were folded into Catholic Family Life, a handful of chapters remained active in some form as recently as 2019. In New Britain, Connecticut there is the Societé St. Jean Baptiste, Inc., which continues to maintain a social club with a bar and billiard tables, open to all nationalities.[8] Following the dissolution of its parent organization in 1991, a local chapter in Southbridge, Massachusetts, Union Saint-Jean-Baptiste, Chapter #12, began organizing trips for members and non-members to New York City and Boston, as well as Franco-American cultural events, such as hosting French Canadian singers at Southbridge's La Salle Reception Center.[9]

Further reading[edit]

  • Rivard, Simon Rioux (February 2019). Fêter la Saint-Jean-Baptiste en Nouvelle-Angleterre: Entre L'Érable, le Lys et L'Étoile (PDF) (Thesis) (in French). Université du Québec à Montréal.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Ready to Dedicate Gatineau Shaft at Southbridge Today". The Boston Globe. Boston. September 2, 1929. p. 5. The memorial erected to State. Representative Felix Gatineau of Southbrldge, founder of L'Union St John the Baptist in America, the largest French Catholic fraternal organization in the United States, will be dedicated tomorrow. Labor Day, and a parade in which 3000 persons will participate, will be a feature.
  2. ^ "L'Union St. Jean Baptiste d'Amerique". Worcester Magazine. Vol. XVIII. Worcester Chamber of Commerce; Belisle Printing & Publishing. 1915. pp. 184–185.
  3. ^ "Nearly 5000 in Line in Colorful Holyoke Parade". Springfield Republican. Springfield, Mass. October 13, 1925. p. 5.
  4. ^ Brault, Gerard J (1986). The French-Canadian Heritage in New England. Hanover, NH: University Press of New England. p. 179.
  5. ^ Statistics of Fraternal Benefit Societies. National Fraternal Congress of America. 1991. p. 180.
  6. ^ "About Us". Saint-Jean-Baptiste Educational Foundation. Archived from the original on April 23, 2017. Retrieved November 22, 2018.
  7. ^ Marie Louise Bonier; Raymond H. Bacon (1997). The beginnings of the Franco-American colony in Woonsocket, Rhode Island. Assumption College Insitut Français. p. 552. The Union Saint-Jean-Baptiste reached its high point in 1953 with 80,000 members. It was down to under 40,000 when it merged in 1991, for reasons of fiscal stability, with Catholic Family Life Insurance Company
  8. ^ "Union Saint-Jean-Baptiste Chapter 12" (PDF). Auburn News. Stonebridge Press. March 15, 2019. Archived from the original (PDF) on November 9, 2019. Union Saint-Jean-Baptiste, Chapter #12, Southbridge, is sponsoring a variety of excursions for all to enjoy in 2019. We are a non-profit family oriented Franco-American fraternal society since 1900. As always, you do not have to be a member to participate in any of the scheduled events. All are welcome. Gift certificates purchased in any amount can be used by the recipient to any event at face value. For information or reservations contact Ted at (508) 764- 7909. 2019 2019 is the Society’s 27th anniversary in providing members and non-members alike the opportunity to experience excursions of a day or extended days. All are welcome to travel with our organization.
  9. ^ "Union Saint-Jean-Baptiste Chapter 12" (PDF). Auburn News. Stonebridge Press. March 15, 2019. p. 12. Archived from the original (PDF) on November 9, 2019.

External links[edit]