Second bishop of Montreal, Canada; b. Saint-Joseph-de-Lévis, Canada, Oct. 30, 1799; d. Montreal, June 8, 1885. Bourget attended secondary school in Quebec and began his work in theology there, finishing it in Montreal under J. J. Lartigue, the auxiliary bishop to whom he was secretary. When Montreal became a diocese (1836), Bourget was named vicar-general; the following year he was consecrated coadjutor bishop, and in 1840 he succeeded to the see.
His first concern was to obtain the priests and institutions Montreal needed. He entrusted the direction of its Grand Seminary to the Sulpicians. In 1841, he went to Europe and obtained the services of several Oblates of Mary Immaculate (1841), Jesuits and Sisters of the Sacred Heart (1842), and nuns of the Good Shepherd from Angers (1844). He also made arrangements for the coming of other religious institutes: the Clerics of St. Viator and the Fathers, Brothers, and Sisters of the Holy Cross (1847). He founded two institutes of charity—the Sisters of Providence (1843) and the Sisters of Mercy—and two institutes of instruction—the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary (1844) and the Sisters of St. Anne (1848). He also welcomed into the diocese the Brothers of Charity of Gand (1865).
Although a man of action himself, Bourget was a great believer in prayer; he collaborated in the foundation of a Canadian contemplative institute, the Sisters of the Precious Blood (1861), and he established the Carmelites of Reims in Montreal (1875). His zeal was not limited to his own diocese, and he sent out to the poorest of the dioceses, and especially to the missions of the Pacific Coast, numerous secular priests, monks, and nuns. "The best means of preserving the Faith," he said, "is to propagate it far and wide."
In concord with many bishops of his time, he favored ultramontanism, or papal supremacy, and he had to withstand heavy attacks from liberals and the supporters of gallicanism of the period. Ten years after the foundation of Laval University at Quebec (1852), he tried to obtain an independent Catholic university for his episcopal city. Although his 15-year effort was unsuccessful, he advanced all the arguments that ultimately led to the establishment of the independent University of Montreal (1920).
No less important was the struggle he waged for the spiritual well-being of Montreal. By virtue of a privilege dating from the 17th century, which he himself had confirmed in 1843, the Seminary of Montreal was empowered to minister in perpetuity to the entire city as a single parish. Because of the rapid increase in the city's population (to 100,000 in 1860), this privilege became more burdensome than useful. In 1865 Rome granted Bourget the right to establish new parishes in the city in accordance with the needs of the faithful, thus enabling the Diocese of Montreal to progress at the same rate as the rest of the country during the second half of the 19th century. The prestige and the reputation for sanctity that accrued to him during his lifetime did not cease with his death; in 1903 a monument was erected to him in front of the basilica, and his remains are interred in a marble tomb in the center of the bishops' funeral chapel.
Bibliography: a. leblond de brumath, Monseigneur Bourget, archévêque de Marianapolis ancien, évêque de Montréal (Montreal 1885). f. langevin, Mgr. Ignace Bourget, deuxième évêque de Montréal (Montreal 1931). l. pouliot, Monseigneur Bourget et son temps, 5 v. (Montreal 1955–1977).