Born at Chatanay (Isère), December 7, 1807.
Taking of the habit at Notre-Dame de l’Osier, October 31, 1847.
Oblation at Notre-Dame de l’Osier, November 1, 1848. (no. 215)
Ordination to the priesthood at Marseilles, March 3, 1849.
Died at Notre-Dame de l’Osier, September 30, 1879.
Antoine Cumin was born at Chatanay in the diocese of Grenoble, December 7, 1807. He made his classical studies at the minor seminary of Côte-Saint-André and studied theology at the major seminary of Grenoble. He left the seminary after the sub-diaconate to teach at the seminary of Côte-Saint-André, then at the colleges of Pont-de-Beauvoisin and Juilly where the taught the students of the first form.
On October 31, 1847 at 40 years of age, he entered the novitiate of Notre-Dame de l’Osier where he made his oblation on November 1, 1848. He was admitted to vows in the October 2, 1848 session of the General Council, but not without some problems. In his report of the session, the secretary general wrote that the novice, Cumin, was “one of the most distinguished clerics of the diocese of Grenoble as regards his talents. He is everywhere known for that. But he is a fiery individual with a very volatile imagination, an imagination which it is not always easy to control [...] And yet, he is docile and submits his will to obedience.” After a few months stay at the major seminary at Marseilles, he was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop de Mazenod on March 3, 1849 and immediately launched out on a long and illustrious career as a preacher, while at the same time being successively superior to several communities.
He began preaching in the diocese of Grenoble in 1849 and remained at Notre-Dame de l’Osier where he was appointed second assessor of the house. The Founder communicated this to Father Vincens on May 20, 1849 in these words: “Even though new in the Congregation, his good attitude, his age, his attachment to our family will amply make up for any deficiency in seniority.” (Oblate Writings I, vol. 10, no. 1006, p. 253)
He replaced Father Burfin as superior at Limoges from 1851 to 1854, was director of the house of mission preachers at Romans from 1854 to 1857 and at the same time ordinary councillor for the second Oblate province in France. He returned to preach in the diocese of Grenoble from 1857 to 1859. He was then superior at Autun 1859-1862, at Notre-Dame de l’Osier from 1862 to 1867 and once again at Autun from 1867 to 1872. He then returned to l’Osier where he remained until his death.
The Founder heard Father Cumin preach at Notre-Dame de l’Osier in 1850. He then wrote to Father Tempier on May 28, 1850, “Father Cumin preached us two excellent sermons; we should provide him with the opportunity of preaching a Lenten series some place.” (Oblate Writings I, vol. 11, no. 1044, p. 13) However, Father Cumin preached few Lenten series and even missions in large churches. In his obituary, Father Fabre wrote concerning him: “His preaching career began at Notre-Dame de l’Osier. It was a powerful event! Those who heard him were enthralled by his oratory where the modulations of a vibrant emotion were admirably set off by the elegance of the oratorical form. The only thing lacking was a voice that was more versatile and more powerful. Father Cumin always had a voice that was dull, nasal and muffled. But he made up for his physical defects by the richness of his qualities of heart and spirit to such an extent that it was often given him to achieve powerful levels of eloquence and, for example, to win over the most ill-disposed audiences and to cast them into the arms of Jesus Christ.”
He did, however, a lot of preaching in seminaries, in religious communities and in boarding schools. In this regard, added Father Fabre, “he earned a place among our Oblates who did the most work outside to the great benefit of souls and to the distinguished honour of our beloved family.”
Father Cumin was a robust man and enjoyed good health. He did, however, undergo several operations for cysts produced by inflammation of a sebaceous gland. One of them became cancerous in 1872. That is what compelled him to leave off preaching. It made him suffer for a long period of time and won great merit for him right up until his death which occurred at Notre-Dame de l’Osier, September 30, 1879.
Yvon Beaudoin, o.m.i.
Sources and Bibliography
Oblate General Archives in Rome. Oblation formula, November 1, 1848 and will. Six letters to the provincial of province Nord (1857-1875)
FABRE, Joseph and GANDAR, Édouard, o.m.i., “Antoine Henri Cumin” in circular letter no. 97 by Father Fabre, December 15, 1886. See Notices nécrologiques, vol. IV, Paris, 1883-1887, p. 351-374.