Born at Martres-de-Veyre (Puy-de-Dôme), February 11, 1826.
Taking of the habit at Notre-Dame de l’Osier, October 31, 1847.
Oblation at Notre-Dame de l’Osier, November 1, 1848. (no. 223)
Ordination to the priesthood at Marseilles, February 15, 1852.
Expelled from the Congregation on June 30, 1882.
Étienne Bretange was born at Martres-de-Veyres in the diocese of Clermont-Ferrand, February 11, 1826. On October 31, 1847, he began his novitiate at Notre-Dame de l’Osier where he made his oblation on November 1, 1848. In the October 2, 1848 session of the General Council, he was admitted to vows because they considered him “a prayerful young man, regular in observance, of sound character and sufficiently talented, but a bit too entrenched in his own ideas.” He studied theology at the major seminary of Marseilles and was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop de Mazenod on February 15, 1852.
Father Bretange was always a preacher, but he often changed from community to community. In 1854-1855, he was at Limoges where Father Soullier begged the Founder to send this priest some place else. In a May 22, 1855 letter, he declared: “I cannot make any use of him in any way. Unfortunately, he is a wayward individual enamoured of his own ideas who finds a way of systematically evading any directions given to him by his superior. I never see him; he keeps to himself to write up his sermons as well as for his spiritual direction. He is in need of a firmer, more practiced hand than mine to reform his judgment, train him in the ministry of preaching missions and guide his rather outlandish character.”
According to the correspondence of his superiors and the reports about the preaching of Oblates in Missions O.M.I., he remained in residence at Notre-Dame de Lumières in 1857, Notre-Dame de Bon Secours in 1858-1859, at Nancy in 1859-1860, at Notre-Dame de Bon Secours from 1861 to 1869, at Notre-Dame de la Garde in Marseilles in 1874-1875, at Notre-Dame de l’Osier in 1878, at Le Calvaire in Marseilles from 1878 to 1881 when the Oblates were driven out. At the time, the superiors did what they could to assist the priests in dispersing and encouraged them to find work someplace. Father Bretange went to work at Trinity parish, no longer lived as a religious, lived alone in a “filthy apartment” and gathered up a nest-egg for himself. His case was often discussed in the meetings of the General Council in the years 1881 and 1882. In order to deliver him from this situation, they gave him an obedience to go to Vico where the priests had not been evicted. He refused to go. The June 30, 1882 session of the General Council, considered this an act of insubordination and judged it sufficient reason to expel him from the Congregation.
Yvon Beaudoin, o.m.i.
Sources and Bibliography
Oblate General Archives in Rome. Oblation formula, November 1, 1848.
He is frequently enough mentioned in Missions O.M.I., see Tables analytiques.