Born at Lantriac (Haute-Loire), March 5, 1828.
Taking of the habit at Notre-Dame de l’Osier, February 13, 1850.
Oblation at Notre-Dame de l’Osier, February 17, 1851. (no. 300)
Ordination to the priesthood at Marseilles, June 26, 1853.
Died at Diano Marina, February 3, 1909.
Jacques Bonnet was born at Lantriac in the diocese of Puy, March 5, 1828. He entered the novitiate of Notre-Dame de l’Osier February 13, 1850 and made his oblation there on February 17, 1851. In presenting him for vows, Father Santoni, the master of novices, wrote: “His conduct was without reproach during his entire novitiate; most solid virtues; delightful character; sound judgment; adequate talents.”
After two years of theology at the major seminary of Marseilles, he was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop de Mazenod on June 26, 1853. Then, for a few months, he attended the lectures given in “advanced course”, a course designed to better prepare the young priests for preaching.
We possess few details about his first years in the ministry. According to a few letters from some Oblates, he was at Notre-Dame de Bon Secours in 1856 and at Notre-Dame de Sion in 1859-1860. When the left Sion, Father Conrad wrote Father Vincens on March 8, 1860: Extreme poverty at Sion. “Father Bonnet alone made a hole in our finances to the tune of 300 francs to buy the clothes he needed and to pay for his trip. He had two cassocks tailored for him, a ruff, two pairs of shoes, etc., without bothering his head about whether that would leave the rest of us anything to live on.” Subsequently, Father Bonnet was a mission preacher at Notre-Dame de Cléry (1860-1863), at Aix (1863-1864), at Notre-Dame de Bon Secours (1864-1871) where he was superior from 1868 to 1871. In 1870, he welcomed into his community a few scholastic brothers expelled from Autun and taught them theology.
In 1871, he received his obedience for the major seminary of Fréjus where he remained until 1906. At various times, he taught fundamental theology, Sacred Scripture, church history, canon law and sacred eloquence. When the Oblates were driven out of the seminary in 1901, he remained as a professor with the diocesan clergy. The diocesan clergy were driven out, in turn, in 1906. Father Bonnet, well on in years and ill, then retired to the Oblate community of Diano Marina in Italy. That is where he died on February 3, 1909.
Upon Father Bonnet’s death, Abbé H. Arène wrote in La Semaine religieuse de Fréjus: “Father Bonnet always proved to be a model religious; And if the young seminarians spied on him to make fun of his absent mindedness which had become legendary, they were even more edified at seeing how faithful he was to the rule, what a priestly prayer life he had and his complete lack of pretension which even went so far as to display a certain nonchalance with regard to external appearance. A cultured individual, in the past, he had caught the attention and earned the esteem of Bishop Dupanloup while he was in residence at the house of mission preachers of Notre-Dame de Cléry. Also, when we, young levites, were called to prepare ourselves for the grace of an ordination, we enjoyed and profited from his lectures, filled with doctrine, concise, sensible literary biblically based commentaries [...] This worthy priest was pleasant and approachable. He loved jokes that were genuinely funny. And when he was not the one making the verbal sallies, on the receiving end he was always ready with an ironic or wittily mordant rejoinder without hurting anyone’s feelings. The cast of his features, generally austere and angular, would at times broaden into a mischievous grin which rendered him endearing and we truly spent some enjoyable moments in his company.”
Yvon Beaudoin, o.m.i.
Sources and Bibliography
Oblate General Archives in Rome. Oblation formula, February 17, 1851; ten letters, 7 of which were written to Father Fabre (1867-1870).
Obituary of Father Jacques, Pierre Bonnet, 1828-1909. Three typewritten pages.
ARENE, Abbé H., “Le père Bonnet,” in La Semaine religieuse du diocèse de Fréjus et Toulon, 43rd year (February 13, 1909), p. 106-108.