Born at Josselin (Morbihan), January 13, 1835.
Taking of the habit at Notre-Dame de l’Osier, October 31, 1853.
Oblation at Notre-Dame de l’Osier, November 1, 1854. (no. 375)
Died at Montolivet (Marseilles), January 19, 1856.
François-Marie Camper was born on January 13, 1835 at Josselin in the diocese of Vannes. For his primary school education, he went to the Christian Brothers’ school at Morlaix and the college of Lannion. For his secondary education, he went to the minor seminary of Saint-Pol-de-Leon. After a year of philosophy and one year of theology at the major seminary of Quimpers, he began his novitiate at Notre-Dame de l’Osier on October 31, 1853. He set out the reasons for his choice: “I chose the little congregation of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate above all others: 1) Because, from the time I felt called to the religious life, that is, in the fourth form, I keenly desired to belong to a congregation dedicated to the Blessed Virgin [...]; 2) Because I learned that the members of the Oblate congregation held for her a complete filial trust, a devotion that sprang from the heart; 3) because in the abovementioned congregation, I found the two-fold object of my desires: religious life and the foreign missions; 4) finally, because, once he got to know me well, my spiritual director believed I was being called by God to become a part of this congregation...”
The novice Camper made his oblation on November 1, 1854. The October 22 General Council session admitted him, together with his friend Joseph Lestanc, to vows. In the session’s report, the secretary general wrote: “Good candidates with regard to prayer life, to attachment to their vocation and their cheerful disposition, and Brother Camper is endowed with above average talent.”
He continued his studies of theology at Montolivet. Shortly after his arrival, Father Mouchette, the moderator of scholastics, wrote in his report: Camper “fragile health which is unsettled by the least thing; that is his only deficiency. He is a saint, solid in virtue, heartfelt prayer life, perfect charity, entirely docile, all of this in the greatest serenity, and great simplicity which in no way makes him conspicuous among his confreres. He is a model for the community. Wants to go to the foreign missions.”
In the scholasticate as in the novitiate, he practised all the virtues and was exemplary in his regular observance and prayer life. At the end of September, 1855, he was confined to bed because of rheumatism in the joints. Shortly thereafter, the fact that he was spitting blood made it obvious that he was suffering from tuberculosis. The illness made rapid progress and scholastic Brother Camper died a holy death on January 19, 1856 at the age of 21 years and six months. At that point, Father Mouchette wrote about him: “His virtues which we so admired never left him for an instant until he drew his last breath. He was a model for us as regards his warm-hearted prayer life, his love for God, his unshakeable patience.”
Bishop de Mazenod, in person, presided a pontifical funeral Mass in the Montolivet scholasticate chapel. François Marie Camper’s remains were laid to rest in the funeral chapel of the Oblates in the Aix cemetery.
Yvon Beaudoin, o.m.i.
Sources and Bibliography
General archives: oblation formula, November 1, 1854; 61 letters to relatives and friends (1848-1856); 8 letters from relatives (1851-1855); notes on spirituality: review of meditations and miscellania (c. 150 pages); notes on Scripture(c. 200 pages). Life story: manuscript and correspondance.
[Mouchette, Antoine, o.m.i. et Jeancard, Mgr Jacques], Vie de François-Marie Camper, scolastique O.M.I, Paris, 1859, 308 p.