2. Thursday, November 11, 2010 - 12:13 AM
This credit union was established at the Paroisse Sainte-Marie, one of Manchester's several Franco-American Catholic parishes, to serve the city's substantial French-Canadian immigrant population. The credit union, or caisse populaire in French, was a common financial institution in French Canada, having become widespread as a result of a caisse populaire "movement" in Quebec. So, in Manchester, and soon in the other "Little Canadas" of New England, credit unions were founded by immigrants already quite familiar with them. The caisse populaire of Sainte-Marie de Manchester was founded in November 1908 by Alphonse Desjardins, a noted Franco-American attorney in Manchester, in an office located in his home on Notre Dame Street. Desjardins believed that the caisse populaire was necessary to "complete" the "infrastructure" of the Franco-American parish. In a lecture he delivered on October 10, 1910, he counseled other parishes to follow Sainte-Marie's example: "Next to the temple of prayer, the temple of light (school), and the temple of brotherhood, you would do well to erect a temple of thrift!" (reported in L'avenir, Oct. 11, 1910, p. 8). Paroisse Sainte-Marie was representative of many Franco-American parishes in New England, having a church, a hospital, two orphanages, two schools, a rectory, a residence for the Brothers, a residence for the Sisters, and a credit union! I think the guess that the term "credit union" was not familiar is a correct one, especially given the possibility that the founders of St. Mary's "Bank" might have been uncertain as to how to best translate caisse populaire. Anyway, I think that Alphonse Desjardins would be well pleased that many have taken his words of counsel to heart, perhaps now more than ever.
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Feb 26, 2010
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