Born at Lorgues (Var), February 27, 1836.
Taking of the habit at Notre-Dame de l’Osier, August 14, 1855.
Oblation at Notre-Dame de l’Osier, August 15, 1856. (no. 415)
Ordination to the priesthood at Marseilles, September 8, 1958.
Dispensed from his vows, September 25, 1863.
Bishop of La Rochelle (1892-1902).
Archbishop of Aix (1902-1920).
François Joseph Edwin Bonnefoy was born at Lorgues in the diocese of Fréjus on February 27, 1836. At twenty years of age, he had already completed his theological studies at Fréjus. On August 14, 1855, he entered the novitiate of Notre-Dame de l’Osier where he made his oblation on August 15, 1856. He was admitted to vows on July 29, 1856. In the report of the General Council, the secretary wrote: “The notes submitted by Rev. Father Vandenberghe about this individual were consistently good. They present him as a young man about whose religious vocation there is no doubt whatsoever, devoted to the Congregation, endowed with a cheerful disposition, above average in talent and with a very adequate health.”
He spent his scholasticate at Montolivet where he taught history and literary composition from 1857 to 1861. In his reports, Father Mouchette, moderator of the scholastics, judged him rather harshly. For example, he wrote: “1856, fragile health. He has been less regular in his observance, a little dissipated; 1857, he works and makes his students work.. He was expecting to attend the “advanced course,” he manifested a little too much conceit and complacency in this encounter; 1858, concerns about his health. Sometime his work is non-existant; he aches all over. Too worried about what will be done with him and does not seem sufficiently detached.”
He spent the summer of 1858 resting at Notre-Dame de Lumières and was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop de Mazenod on September 8. He then continued to teach at Montolivet before being sent as a mission preacher to Angers in 1861-1862 then to Paris in 1862-1863. In the Personnel Registry of 1862-1863, we find written: natural talent for pulpit ministry and for higher learning. His tastes incline him toward more advanced studies and high society... He has the capability of being successful in every realm.”
These final remarks explain, no doubt, why from 1862 on Father Bonnefoy asked to leave the Congregation to become a Jesuit. In 1863, he insisted on it. His case was examined at the General Council session of September 25, 1863. In his report of the session, the secretary wrote: “After having received most motherly care from the Congregation, after having given rise to solidly grounded complaints against him, after having been granted the favour of being treated at the seaside spas near Nantes. September 19, he wrote Father General a letter that was totally correct as to its sentiments of submission or gratitude, of sorrow for the past and promises for the future. On September 22, Very Reverend Father General received a second letter in which he asked once again permission to become a Jesuit. This letter gave rise to genuine indignation. Even though this unworthy conduct must be laid at the door of the Jesuits themselves because of their allurements, it is evident that this conduct must be branded as the blackest kind of ingratitude and of disloyalty. As for the rest, in view of the past dispositions on Father Bonnefoy’s part, in view even of the indiscrete and compromising conduct of this priest during the past year, the Congregation can only bewail his departure as a genuine loss. The council unanimously decided that Reverend Father General should take no other action than to grant him the dispensation of his vows.”
Abbé Bonnefoy subsequently joined the clergy of Paris. He worked as assistant priest at several parishes, parish priest of Neuilly in 1890, bishop of La Rochelle in 1892 and archbishop of Aix in 1902. He died in 1920.
Yvon Beaudoin, o.m.i.
Sources and Bibliography
Oblate General Archives in Rome. Oblation formula August 15, 1856. Two letters to Father Fabre (1862-1863) two to Father Soullier (1894-1895) and four to Bishop Dontenwill (1911-1917).
BAUNARD, Bishop, L’épiscopat français... 1802-1905, Paris, 1907, p. 530-531.