Father Leclerq

drawings by Father Leclerq

Apart from some historical accounts, all we know about our priests of long gone days stands in the church books, in  the way they did their job of writing down the events; I mean the legibility of their handwriting and the amount of info (i.e. place of origin, cause of death) they have given about a person. Of which way genealogists can sometimes despair.

There is one priest in the church books of Triebswetter who has won my heart: Father Leclerq.

Pierre Francois Leclerq was born in 1741 in Bastogne ( Belgium). He came to the Banat in 1773, where he started in September as an administrator in Sankt-Hubert. On October 10, 1773 he began his pastoral activity in Triebswetter. His brother, Louis Joseph, was a colonist here, where he died on March 26, 1786, at the age of 40.

In March, 1776 the president of the Banater Administration, Josef Baron von Brigido, reported to Bishop Engl von Wagrain that the priest of Triebswetter has accorded to his flock, in exchange for a certain amount of money, 12 extra holidays, thus encouraging  "idleness" among the colonists. He demanded from Engl to intervene energetically. The Bishop's reaction is still to be researched.

One year after the above report, Father Leclerq died, on April 5, 1777, at the age of 36. He was buried „in his church“, in front of the sanctuary, in the center, between the benches. In those times, it was customary in Lorraine, just like in other places, to bury the priest in the church, even if the floor of this was not tiled. This has been one of the customs our colonists have brought with them..

These are the facts I could find out to date about the case. And they certainly leave room for speculations.

I found a mention about these "extra holidays" in Triebswetter in Treffil 331 Q. He accounts about the cancellation of six extra holidays in 1875, holidays about which he says that they have been introduced by our ancestors, who were "godfearing, religious Christians". There seems to have been a deal between the community and the priest, by which the community paid the priest and the cantor for holding extra masses on the following occasions:

- the third day of respectively Christmas, Easter and Pentecost
- the 1st of May
- the 24th of June, day of St. John
- the 16th of August, day of St. Roch.

It seems that the story of Father Leclerq repeats itself in 1875, with denunciations, pressure, provoked by the need of some to profile themselves. I will deal with the tensions in our village in a later chapter. All I want to say here is that, like so many constructed conflicts, these too have been driven by greed and dwelt on ignorance.

Merging the above facts with Father Leclerq's drawings in the church books of Triebswetter, I, for myself, believe that Father Leclerq has been a sensitive, good soul and that the scandal has broken his heart. A man who, on a lonely winter day, draws flowers and little bees at the light of a candle is that kind of man who, to my opinion, helps his fellows out of compassion, not driven by greed. The year of these poor peasants was filled with so much hard work that it is not difficult to imagine what an extra day of rest meant to them. And how much they must have respected Father Leclerq for trying to improve their life conditions.

In this attempt to rehabilitate the memory of a long forgotten and ignored man, I can't stop drawing a thin parallel between the life of Father Leclerc and that of St. Roch. Both were Frenchmen, both lived far from home, served the needy and died after being falsely accused.

The drawings on the next page have been made by Father Leclerq during the first days of January 1777, after the scandal and three months before his death.

his drawings
St. Roch
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