Born at Lambo (Vosges), April 20, 1823.
Taking of the habit at Notre-Dame de l’Osier, October 6, 1849.
Oblation at Notre-Dame de l’Osier, October 7, 1850. (no. 282)
Ordination to the priesthood at Marseilles, October 28, 1850.
Died at Notre-Dame de Sion on July 20, 1903.
Jean-Baptiste Conrard was born at Lambo in the parish of Racécourt in the diocese of Saint-Dié on April 20, 1823. he made his secondary studies at the college of La Marche and at the minor seminary of Châtel. After five years of philosophy and of theology at the major seminary of Saint-Dié, he entered the novitiate of Notre-Dame de l’Osier on October 6, 1849 and made his oblation there on October 7, 1850. Bishop de Mazenod ordained him to the priesthood in Marseilles on October 28 of the same year. When he was admitted to vows at the General Council session of September 4, 1850, the secretary general wrote in his report: Brother Conrard “has above average talents, a very sound judgment, an excellent character, an above average virtue; he would do well in preaching.”
During the Founder’s lifetime, a number of Oblates complained of priests being moved around too frequently from community to community. This continued to some extent in the term in office of Father Fabre, at least for a few individuals of whom Father Conrard was one. He changed communities twenty-one times between 1850 and 1882. But he lived principally at Nancy and Notre-Dame de Sion. He was recalled six times to each place.
Immediately after his ordination, he received his obedience for Nancy, but Father Dassy sent him with Father Soullier to Notre-Dame de Sion where Bishop Manjaud was calling for Oblates to deal with the influence of the Baillard brothers who had apostatized from the faith and were under interdict in the diocese. Bishop de Mazenod in an October 29 letter levelled a few critical comments at Father Dassy in ths regard: “Is it not a mistake to send our young men all alone to this fearful battlefield?” (Oblate Writings I, vol. 11, no. 1055, p. 28) Turn and turn about, these two priests replaced each other at Sion from November 12 1850 to June 29, 1851. They were then recalled to Sion where Father Conrard was appointed chaplain of the prisons. In September 1853, the Congregation accepted to return to Sion. A rectory was purchased by the bishop who appointed Father Conrard as pastor of the parish. Father Conrard returned to Nancy as prison chaplain in 1858-1859, 1862 and 1864 and returned to Sion in 1860-1861 and 1863.
After thirteen years spent in the diocese of Nancy, his superiors sent him to preach in several dioceses whle living at Notre-Dame de Cléry in 1864-1866 (superior), at Autun in 1866-1867 and 1871, at Rennes in 1868, at Saint-Andelain in 1869 (parish priest), at Tours in 1870 and 1872, at Notre-Dame de Sion in 1874-1878 (superior, master of novices and treasurer) and at Nancy from 1878 until the expulsions of 1880. He then accepted to be chaplain of the boarding school of the Ladies of Jesus and Mary at Remiremont. He returned to Notre-Dame de Sion in 1882 and remained there until his death.
He preached hundreds of retreats and missions, especially in the diocese of Nancy. In a report written by Father Y. M. Le Jeune, the superior of Sion in 1900, we read this: “Since Father Conrard could no longer find any corner of Lorraine he had not explored, any new name to add to his list of the members of his spiritual family, he has ceased running about and has found his cradle in which to rest.”
In 1900, they celebrated the golden anniversaries of his oblation and ordination to the priesthood as well as the fiftieth anniversary of the Oblate foundation of Sion. (Missions O.M.I., 1900, P. 293-312. In 1903, ill and in his eightieth year of life, he was expelled from Sion like the rest of the priests of the community. Before leaving the house, he died on July 20.
Yvon Beaudoin, o.m.i.
Sources and Bibliography
Oblate General Archives in Rome. Oblation formula, October 7, 1850; forty letters to a dozen Oblates, 7 of which are to Bishop de Mazenod (1850-1860), 8 to Father Antoine (1888-1898), 5 to Father Fabre (1865) and 12 to Father Vincens (1853-1860)
Nothing has been written about Father Conrard except for the few details we find in Missions O.M.I., from 1863 to 1903. See Tables analytiques.