Born at Saint-Jérome, Marseilles, June 30, 1824
Taking of the habit at Marseilles, December 31, 1843
Oblation at Notre-Dame de l’Osier, January 1, 1845 (no. 131)
Ordination to the priesthood at Marseilles, May 29, 1847
Died at Talence, February14, 1880.
Joseph Marie François was born at Saint-Jérôme, a suburb of Marseilles, June 30, 1824. He studied at the church school of Abbé Audric, parish priest of Saint-Barnabas. He then pursued his studies at the minor seminary of the Sacred Heart and entered the major seminary in the fall of 1842. He began his novitiate at the seminary on December 31, 1843. He was sent to Notre-Dame de l’Osier at the end of May of 1844. On the 21st of May, 1844, the Founder wrote to Father Vincens that he was sending him Coste and Coutelen: “They felt that they just couldn’t live outside the novitiate.” (Letters to the Oblates of France, 1843-1849, Oblate Writings I, vol. 10, no. 841, p. 67) Brother Coste made his oblation on January 1, 1845. He then continued his theological studies at Marseilles and after that at Notre-Dame de l’Osier.
In the spring of 1846, he taught at the juniorate of Lumières for a few months. During the summer, he attended the preaching course taught by Father Vincens to some ten priests at Parmenie. He was then sent to Aix. In a July 24, 1847 letter, Bishop de Mazenod wrote to Father Courtès: “What you tell me of Father Coste gives me great pleasure. I pray you to take good care of this young man who will be one of our resources for missions in the Provençal language. I insist much that you give him a good education, so that we may get out of the sterile abundance of all these sluggards who find it easier to endanger their reputation and ours than to give themselves the trouble of studying.” (Letters to the Oblates of France, 1843-1849, Oblate Writings I, vol. 10, no. 933, p. 164)
In 1848, alleging that his ministry in Marseilles was harmful to his soul, Father Coste begged Bishop de Mazenod to give him permission to join the Carthusians. In a September 23, 1848 letter to Father Courtès, the Founder confided: “Good Lord, I did not think he was so lacking in judgment! The matter had to be decided immediately. I tried to calm this agitation and did not have too much difficulty in proving to him that his impulse did not have common sense.” (Letters to the Oblates of France, 1843-1849, Oblate Writings I, vol. 10, no. 988, p. 235) To take his mind off these concerns, Bishop de Mazenod sent him to preach at Gréasque. Did Father Coste actually spend time at the Carthusians? It seems he did. On July 8, 1849, Bishop de Mazenod wrote once again to Father Courtès: “Father Coste must have returned to you. I recommend him to your charity. With a few little kindnesses, you will be able to improve this man... He needs advice and direction.” (Letters to the Oblates of France, 1843-1849, Oblate Writings I, vol. 10, no. 1010, p. 256)
At the end of 1849, Father Coste received his obedience to Limoges where he was treasurer and then superior from 1862 to 1865. He preached a lot of missions and retreats, ministered to the faithful who attended the chapel on Sunday, then ministered to the military personnel and the domestic servants. He was then attached to the house at Rennes from 1865-1868 and subsequently for a time to the community of Angers and to the community of Talence from 1869 until his death.
Everywhere he did a lot of preaching. From the Lent of 1879 to the Lent of 1880, he preached three major missions and nineteen ordinary retreats. On February 7, 1880, after his annual retreat, he began preaching a retreat to the Holy Family Sisters of Martillac. It was during this retreat that he fell ill and died on February 14. His funeral was celebrated in the parish church of Talence and his body was laid to rest in the Oblate vault in the cemetery of that parish.
Yvon Beaudoin, o.m.i.
Sources and Bibliography
Oblate General Archives in Rome. Oblation formula at Notre-Dame de l’Osier, January 1, 1845; one letter to Father Burfin, February 3, 1863.
BURFIN, M.. o.m.i., “Le père Coste”, in Lettre circulaire no. 101 du père. Fabre, January 6, 1887, published in Notices nécrologiques, vol. IV, Paris, p. 425-437.