The story goes that before becoming a Trappist monk, a rich French nobleman named Jacques d’Aubigny donated money toward the foundation of a parish and that Aubigny was consequently named in his honour. But there are a number of things that contradict this scenario.
Jacques d’Aubigny was indeed a young French nobleman when he came to Canada in 1893. His trip had two main destinations; the World Fair in Chicago and Ste Rose-du-Lac in northern Manitoba. He had a few connections in Ste Rose including the town’s Oblate parish priest Fr. Eugène Lecoq, and Joseph de La Salmonière, both former classmates in France. Perhaps charmed by the place, perhaps at home amid the small community of French who were establishing the town, perhaps also inspired by the opportunities, he settled his affairs in France and established a small ranch for himself in Ste Rose the following year. He was generous toward the local church and busied himself raising horses, opening a general store and starting a cheese-making business. On a visit to Winnipeg in 1898 for dental work followed by a second retreat at the newly established Trappist monastery he felt called to religious life. The following year he took the name Brother Marie-Antoine.
At the time the Trappist monks are housed in a rudimentary wooden building. When Jacques d’Aubigny took his vows in 1901, he returned to France with his superior to sell his property and to solicit the generosity of his family members. Conforming to the vow of poverty every monk takes, he donated this to his community on the condition that the money be used to build a suitable stone church. Permission was granted for this project and the church was completed in 1904. Brother Marie-Antoine lead a humble life in its shadow, working alternately as a nurse, beekeeper, hotel keeper, rabbit breeder, sacristan, and stamp collector until his death in 1958.
The town that bears his name does so because of Mgr Langevin. We know this because in 1907 when Aubigny’s parish priest, Fr Desrosiers, wrote Mgr Langevin to inform him that the town’s name was being abbreviated from St-Antoine-d’Aubigny to Aubigny, Mgr Langevin replied and explained that he had chosen St Antoine as patron because of the religious Trappist, the once rich Viscount, hoping that he might be provoked to donate something to the fledgling mission. But nothing came of it. Langevin admits in this letter to Desrosiers that he doesn’t know if Brother Marie-Antoine was even made aware of the town’s naming.
Langevin’s wish was granted only in the mistaken re-telling of the town’s foundation. Jacques d’Aubigny’s most generous donation stands on the grounds of the St-Norbert Provincial Park shrouded in anonymity.