Born in Fontjoncouse, Aude, June 29, 1804
Taking of habit in Aix, January 10, 1827
Perpetual Oblation in Aix, June 4, 1834, (no. 58)
Died in Aix, November 21, 1870.
Jean Bernard Ferrand, the first Oblate Brother to make vows in the Congregation, was born at Fontjoncouse, in Aude, on June 29, 1804, of a farming family. His parents later moved to Roquefort-des-Corbières. From here Jean came to Aix at 22 years of age to begin his novitiate on January 10, 1827. He made his first vows on June 4, 1828 and his perpetual oblation on June 4, 1834.
His first years of religious life were spent at Aix, under the direction of Father Hippolyte Courtes, an exacting and demanding superior who did form good religious. In all the houses in which he lived, Brother Ferrand was either cook, porter or gardener.
In the spring of 1835, he was a member of the first community in Corsica. Father Guibert said that without this Brother, he could not have opened the seminary of Ajaccio (see de Mazenod to Guigues, May 27, 1835)
In August 1836, Brother Ferrand went to Vico with Father Albini who loved the Brother’s flexibility and regularity. During the course of the winter, the Brother experienced a vocation crisis: he wanted to join the Capuchins. Father Albini wrote to the Founder on December 18, 1836: “My ardent wish is that the good Lord will purge our Institute of the leaven which is spoiling the good flour that I love to find within our Congregation; and, for my part, I assure you that I prefer a thousand times more to remain alone here than to have as companions men who belong to the Institute only by some fragile external bonds.” The Brother remained two years at Vico, then came back to the major seminary in Marseilles, where he served from 1838 to 1841. During Father Albini’s illness in the winter of 1839, Brother Ferrand sent him a cake; this occasioned this venerable Father’s last letter: it is dated March 4, 1839. From 1841 to 1847, Brother Ferrand was stationed at Aix.
In spite of his good religious spirit, Brother Ferrand had a vivid imagination. He easily exaggerated the difficulties that crossed his path. In 1846, at Aix, he no longer managed to look after both the kitchen and the garden; and he especially could no longer put up with Father Courtès who would both approve and then condemn him for the same matter (See A. Martin to Mazenod, July 14, 1846). The Brother again went through a crisis: he asked to change houses, and even to become a Trappist. The Founder, who knew him well and esteemed him, managed to calm him down. He instructed him to “give preference to the interior service of the house” and “to sacrifice outdoor work to kitchen work”, for the latter is “essentially the work of our Brothers.” (de Mazenod to Ferrand, Septembre 29, 1846 and de Mazenod Journal, same date).
In the fall of 1847, Brother Ferrand followed Father Courtes to Limoges where a new house was being opened. Father Courtès stayed only briefly there, whereas Brother Ferrand remained until 1853 under the direction of Father Burfin, who did not like this Brother very much. Nor did Brother Ferrand get along with Brother Louis Roux, who was with him there. This was another difficult period for Brother Ferrand. The Founder sustained and encouraged him “to continue practicing holy patience and putting up with one’s neighbour” (de Mazenod to Charles Baret, January 17, 1851).
The Brother was assessed differently by his superiors according to the periods of calm and agitation that marked his life. Father Albini’s assessment of him is contradictory. In one and the same letter the Founder refers to him as a “saintly man” who has nevertheless “very much hurt” the Founder by writing a letter in which he exaggerated the bad state of Father Courtès’ health ( see de Mazenod to Courtès, February 26, 1838). Father Joseph-Alphonse Martin said that, at Aix, Brother Ferrand was “the only servant who had a bit of intelligence” and who is a good cook, who showed “always full devotedness to the works” of the Congregation. (J.-A. Martin to de Mazenod, July, 14, October 7, 1846) Two years later, Father Burfin wrote that Brother Ferrand “had no sense” and was a “bad cook” (Burfin to de Mazenod, July 12, 1849; April 20, 1850).
Brother Ferrand was at Le Calvaire in Marseilles during 1853-1854, then at Montolivet after 1854. When this house was closed in 1863-1864, he returned to Aix.
For many years he suffered from rheumatism of the joints; it became chronic and caused his death on November 21, 1870. He is buried in the Oblate plot of the Aix cemetery. Father Célestin Augier, who wrote his obituary, especially praises his religious obedience, spirit of prayer, and attachment to the Brothers’ religious habit; he spoke strongly in favor of the latter during the 1856 General Chapter.
Yvon Beaudoin, o.m.i.
Sources and bibliography
AUGIER, Célestin, o.m.i., “Le frère Ferrand”, in Notices nécrologiques, II, pp. 147-152.