The Men Who Lived At Sainte-Marie

The people who lived at Sainte-Marie were all French men, with the exception of one Italian priest. No women accompanied them. The Natives, drawn by curiosity, often came to visit the priests and their helpers to learn about their ways.

Jesuit Priests

The Jesuit Priests belonged to the Society of Jesus, an order founded by Ignatius Loyola in 1534. This active order was well organized, efficient, and disciplined. Only outstanding men, whose character and particular talents could be well utilized, were admitted to the Society. The process of becoming a Jesuit took between 13 and 15 years. Often called the “soldiers of Christ”, the Jesuits were organized along military lines.

A steady number of priests arrived after 1639, since Sainte-Marie would operate as a mission headquarters. As many priests as possible were needed to ensure that newcomers could be properly trained by more experienced priests. Some of the priests found life in New France difficult.

Lay Brothers

The Society of Jesus also included men who took vows as Lay Brothers. Each of the five Lay Brothers at Sainte-Marie was a skilled craftsman and devoted Catholic.


The Donnés were another group of men at Sainte-Marie. They signed a contract with the Jesuits to help the priests and brothers with their missionary work.

Some of these men had specific skills such as carpentry or smithing, while others were labourers.


Not all the men at Sainte-Marie took vows. The Jesuits hired men to help with building the wilderness mission of Sainte-Marie. They often would take the vows of a Donné after a year or two of working at the mission.


Soldiers sometimes accompanied the flotillas of canoes making the 1,250 kilometre journey from Québec. They spent the winter in Wendake, returning to Quebec the following spring. The Jesuit Fathers worried at first that the soldiers' conduct might set a bad example for the Wendat, but good behaviour soon set these fears to rest.