Father Pierre du Jaunay: a Jesuit missionary in North America

Pierre du Jaunay, or Pierre-Luc du Jaunay is said to have been born 11 August 1704 [see note at end of article] or 10 August 1705 at Vannes, France. We cannot be quite certain of the date and investigations are currently being undertaken in an attempt to clarify the matter. He died 16 July 1780 at Quebec in Canada.

Pierre du Jaunay entered the Jesuit order in Paris on 2 September 1723 and studied theology at La Flèche from 1731 to 1734. After ordination he was sent to the French colony of Michigan in 1734, and in 1735 he accompanied fellow priest, Jean-Baptiste de Saint-Pe to Michilimackinac [now Mackinaw City] where he first met the Ottawa Indians to whom he would minister for nearly thirty years.

The risk involved in missionary work among the tribes in North America was made tragically clear to du Jaunay early in his ministry when his friend Jean-Pierre Aulneau was killed in the Lake of the Woods in 1736. Despite this he made several requests to be sent to the Mandans and other tribes of the far west. These wishes were not granted by his superior and instead his career was based at the trading town of Michilimackinac.

With this settlement as a base he served other small communities in the Upper Lakes region. His first documented baptism took place on 21 June 1738 at St Joseph Mission near present day Niles but the exact location of the site is now lost. He was apparently at this mission only briefly before returning to Michilimackinac but he visited it again for short times in 1742, 1745, and 1752 and his ministrations are recorded in the surviving registers. Father Pierre also journeyed to Sault Ste Marie where he is recorded as saying the Mass in 1741. Extensive travel was not necessary for him because the travellers and traders of the Upper Lakes made frequent trips to Michilimackinac. The parish register there records the presence from time to time of people from Saint Joseph, La Baye [now called Green Bay], Sault Ste Marie, and Chagouamigon [near Ashland, Wisconsin]. Though he attended to the French people of the area, Father Pierre's primary love was for the Indians, and he was deeply upset by the treatment they received from the whites. He saw this as a stumbling block to securing potential Indian converts.


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