MONSIGNOR MAURICE O’BREADY
Perhaps the most noted son of Wotton, and one of few relatively famous relatives is Monsignor Patrick Anatole MAURICE O'Bready, son of Elie O'Bready and Victorine Belisle. Maurice studied at St. Charles Seminary and at the Major Seminary in Montreal. He was ordained a priest by Msgr Alphonse-Osias Gagnon June 29, 1926 in his home parish of St. Hippolyte in Wotton, QC. (HW, p.233)
At the centennial celebration of his birth, in May 2002 in Sherbrooke, Mr. Bruno-Marie Bechard, the keynote speaker, said “How could we not be fascinated by the journey of this one-man orchestra who gave constantly: in education, administration, history, philosophy, music, literature, genealogy and the defense of the French language.” He is considered by many as an innovator and the co-founder of the University. He had a hand in every aspects of its creation: creating its by-laws, selecting the site for the first buildings, outlining the curriculum, reviewing the budget, recruiting both faculty and students.
Maurice O’Bready’s long career was always focused on education. He was a professor at the Seminary from 1922-1934, studied for a doctorate in Paris (1934-1936) and a diploma in Gregorian chant at the Gregorian Institute of Paris. He was professor of history at the seminary (1936-1954), secretary general of the University of Sherbrooke (1954-1960), vice-rector of the University (1960- 1965), principal of the Normal School (teaching college) of the University (1960-1968), founder of the Regional History Chair (1969-1970).
He was also the founder of the Gregorian Institute of Sherbrooke, and secretary of the region's Historical Society for more than 20 years. He authored several books, including the history of Wotton.
Historians also note that he had a personal hand in changing the labels geographers use to speak about regions in Canada. He created the term “Estrie” in 1946 to describe the area then known as “les Cantons-de-l’Est” or the Eastern townships.” The term became the official designation for the region in 1981. The term retains the “Est” or eastern connotation, while adding an ending that ties it to its French roots. He noted that “trie” as the ending of a place name, designates a rich and fertile land.” (Noms et lieux)
The archivist for the Archdiocese of Sherbrooke, Father Guy Boulanger, in sending me these notes, added that from his personal knowledge, Monsignor O'Bready left a definite mark on the life of the church in this region, a fact taken into account at the University of Sherbrooke and at Wotton during a centennial celebration of his birth in 2002. (Archives, Arch. of Sherbrooke)
At the centennial celebration, one speaker noted “The pioneers who created this University were in touch with the needs of their times. They sowed seeds here in fertile soil. Today we see the result of their vision for a top-notch school.”