Born in Cannes (Alpes-Maritimes), December 2, 1799
Taking of the habit, December 21, 1821
Oblation in N.-D. du Laus, May 30, 1822
Ordination to priesthood, December 23 1823
Dispensed from vows, July 23, 1834
Ordained bishop of Ceramis in Marseilles, October 1858
Died in Cannes, July 6, 1875.
Jacques Jeancard was born at Cannes on December 2, 1799 and at baptism was given the names of Jacques-Marie-Joseph. He was the oldest child in the family; he had one brother and a sister who became a religious and eventually Superior General of the Sisters of St. Martha.
He did his secondary studies at the college of Grasse, which was under the direction of several members of the former Oratory. At 16 years of age he informed his family of his desire to consecrate himself to God in the priesthood. His father then took him out of the college and put him to work in his commercial establishment. After a year and a half of work, Jacques was given permission to take his rhetoric year; he remained one year after that as a professor in the college. In October 1818, he entered the major seminary of Aix, which was under the direction of the Sulpicians.
Missionary of Provence and Oblate of Mary Immaculate (1821-1834)
Jacques Jeancard began his theological studies at the same time as did Jacques Marcou (1799-1826). Since April 1813 the latter had been a member of the Youth Congregation and a faithful disciple of Father de Mazenod. Friends that they were, the two Jacques often came to see the Founder at the house of the Mission. They decided to enter the Congregation together. After a week-long retreat, they began their novitiate at Aix on December 21, 1821. They made their oblation at N.-D. du Laus on May 30, 1822 and then continued their theological studies as day students at the major seminary of Aix.
The dioceses of Marseilles and Fréjus were restored in 1823. Bishop de Richery of Fréjus recalled priests and seminarians of Fréjus who were working outside of his diocese. He also informed Fathers Deblieu and Maunier, as well as Jeancard, that he would release them from their vows if they wanted to return to their diocese of origin.
Jacques Jeancard allowed himself to be persuaded. He left the Mission, which was in a crisis because Fathers de Mazenod and Tempier had accepted to be vicars general of Marseilles. On October 30, 1823, he entered the major seminary of Fréjus and on the following December 23 he was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop de Richery. He was sent as assistant priest to Pourrières.
He soon regretted having left the Missionaries of Provence. On October 31, 1823, Father de Mazenod wrote to Father Mie: “I await these infidels at the hour of their death. Jeancard has not waited for this moment to be eaten with remorse. He has written two letters to me which are pitiful and inspire in me the greatest compassion.”
Father de Mazenod then began to correspond with Jeancard and with the Bishop of Fréjus; the latter allowed his diocesan man to re-enter the Congregation. Thus at the end of October 1824 we find Jeancard in the house of Le Calvaire in Marseilles, in charge of teaching catechism to the poor who were brought together twice a week for this purpose. In November he took part in his first mission at Allauch with Fathers Suzanne, Albini and Marcou.
As a member of the July 1826 General Chapter, he was present when the Rules approved by Pope Leo XII were promulgated and he again made his vows, this time as an Oblate of Mary Immaculate.
During his ten years of oblate life, Father Jeancard first worked in Marseilles, then at Notre-Dame du Laus (1828-1829) and finally at Aix. He preached some ten missions, especially from 1824 to 1829. It was with difficulty that he submitted to the simplicity and style that the Founder wanted and that is why he was mostly given sermons for special occasions.
After the July 1830 Revolution, the ministry of preaching missions was forbidden by the Government. Jeancard was sent to teach dogma (1831-1832) and sacred Scripture (1832-1833) in the major seminary of Marseilles. In this closed milieu his character defects came to the fore. The Founder at that time reproached him for being far too sensitive, always biased against some of the Fathers, and openly adverse to certain ministries.
During the summer of 1834 Bishop de Mazenod, now titular bishop of Icosia, allowed him to go home to his family for a rest. From Cannes Jeancard wrote and asked for dispensation from his vows so that, as he said, he could help his parents and regain the peace of conscience he had lost because he saw himself constantly at odds with his religious duties, for he was habitually irregular and lacking in the observance of his obligations. In its session of July 23, 1834, the General Council unanimously granted him this dispensation because his lack of regularity “affects the community adversely”; and the Council added, “What is even more serious is his restless character, his critical spirit and a certain natural insubordination which makes him a burden to superiors and very difficult to his brothers.”
Diocesan Priest of Marseilles, Canon, Vicar General, Bishop of Ceramis (1834-1861)
On July 23, 1834, the General Council secretary noted that Jeancard “is sincerely attached (to the Congregation) which he is always ready to serve as much as possible.” He could have added above all that Jeancard was very attached to the Founder and it is because of this that a “career” opened up for him which allowed him to develop his talents.
With the exception of Tempier, no other Oblate worked so closely with the Bishop de Mazenod and enjoyed to such a degree the latter’s friendship and confidence. As early as 1834 Jeancard was named chaplain to the Grande Miséricorde orphanage; he already was chaplain to the prisons. In 1835 he was made an honorary canon, then titular canon in 1836, archdeacon of N.-D. des Accoules in 1842, vicar general in 1844, Bishop of Ceramis and auxiliary to Bishop de Mazenod in 1858, and capitular vicar at de Mazenod’s death in 1861.
Bishop Jeancard was not an administrator, not even an apostle, but Bishop de Mazenod well knew his talents as an intellectual, a speaker and writer and he used them to the advantage of the diocese and the Congregation. In fact, Bishop Jeancard loved reading and study. One day he confessed that at the college of Grasse he studied much in order to reach first place and, he added, “I got there through long and stubborn work”. At the major seminary he was also keen in his studies. His biographer, the l’Abbé Verlaque, writes: “Not content with reading classical works, he also went to the sources. A considerable quantity of notes made during his studies and found among his papers show how he loved to consult the holy Fathers, to deepen questions by reading their learned writings. He also gave himself to the study of philosophy. Here his favourite authors were M. de Bonald, M. de Maistre and Bergier. Endowed with an excellent memory, he retained everything that he read. But he especially gave himself to the study of moral theology. During the three years that he spent at the Missionaries’ novitiate, he made a thorough study of the saintly Liguori.” As a preacher, the biographer adds, Jeancard was “gifted with an exceptional memory; he had read all the orators who had acquired an reputation in this kind of apostolate and had fully assimilated them. His preference went to Father Lejeune...”
When a regular course in Church history was introduced in the major seminary of Marseilles, it was given to Canon Jeancard. He taught it from 1844 to 1857. Bishop de Mazenod counted on him for sermons on certain special occasions. Thus Jeancard preached on the occasion of the consecration of the church of Le Calvaire in 1825, of Saint-Lazare in 1837. He also gave the funeral eulogy of Father Suzanne in 1829, of Bishop Fortuné de Mazenod in 1840 and of Bishop Eugene de Mazenod in 1861.
Bishop Jeancard especially loved to write. Fortuné and Eugene de Mazenod, when Bishops of Marseilles, made him their private secretary. Bishop Eugene de Mazenod had some reservations, though. During the Icosia affair, he wrote to Father Tempier on November 14, 1833: “Don’t ever go to Jeancard for advice, nor to Courtès; the former is good only for making a good exposé of something that has first been explained to him, in serious matters he is no good, he never approaches any matter from the right angle; he is prone to exaggerate as to both events and people, he always twists everything to suit the point of view that strikes him; he is the right man, in short, to lead his listener away, for he loves the sound of his own voice and he is well able to dress up his ideas.”
Afterwards, however, the Bishop of Marseilles gave greater credit to his secretary’s judgment. Most of his long letters addressed to civil and religious authorities and that treat of important matters were written by Jeancard, or at least in collaboration with the latter. Such, for example, are those that deal with the revolt of the parish priest of Aygalades, the Abbé Jonjon, or the Icosia affair of 1832-1835, the long dispute over the dismissal of the Oblates from N.-D. du Laus in 1837-1842, the struggle for the freedom of education and defending the Jesuits from 1843 to 1850, the complaints against L’Univers excesses in 1853, the protest against the behaviour of the Marseilles civil authorities in 1856, etc.
Bishop Jeancard will always be remembered in the Congregation especially because of his writings which were well-known by the Oblates, namely: the Vie desaint Alphonse de Liguori (1828), the Notice deNotre-Dame du Laus (1829), the Vie du frère F. M. Camper (1859), the death notices of Father N. Mie (1866) and Jean Bernard (1870), and especially the Mélanges historiques sur la Congrégation des O.M.I. à l’occasion de la vie et de la mort du R. P. Suzanne, which was published in 1872.
Beyond the services rendered, Bishop de Mazenod and Bishop Jeancard got along well together because they were sensitive and men of affection and certainly because both of them were most devoted to the Holy Eucharist. The Abbé Verlaque wrote of Bishop Jeancard: “He entertained this love for the Blessed Sacrament of the altar throughout his entire life; he especially manifested it on one occasion that must not be passed over in silence. On the eve before he was to receive the fullness of the priesthood, Bishop de Mazenod suggested a design for his coat of arms; Jeancard refused, however, and said, “If you permit me my freedom, you will see on my coat of arms nothing else except a chalice with the Host above it. “
Bishop Jeancard always resided at the bishopric with the Bishop and the secretary, the Abbé Marc Cailhol. He accompanied the Founder in his trips to northern Italy and to Algeria in 1842, to Rome in 1845 and 1854, to Paris in 1856, 1857, and 1858.
It is not surprising that Bishop de Mazenod chose such a collaborator as his auxiliary. He had been asking for one for some time. On February 13, 1856, he had written to the Minister of Worship: “Allow me to add one more thing: the petition that I again repeat to assign as auxiliary to me my disciple and faithful companion... I have written to you that M. Jeancard is a true son who has not left my side for near forty years now. I formed him in his youth, it is fitting that he sustains me now in my old age.”
In 1859, when he was in Paris for his annual service as senator, the Bishop of Marseilles requested the Minister of Worship for an increase in salary for his auxiliary; he also stated that he would soon be asking for Jeancard to be his coadjutor. Bishop Jeancard thanked him on March 1 and added: “I recognize your fatherly concern in the trouble you have taken in my regard... Be assured of the tender and inviolable attachment that your servant and son his wholeheartedly pledged to you.”
This tender and unshakable attachment was especially evident during the course of Bishop de Mazenod’s illness. Jeancard and Tempier replaced each other for six months at the sick man’s bedside as representatives of the diocese and of the Congregation. During that period Father Tempier addressed several circular letters to the Oblates and Jeancard did the same to inform the parish priests and parishioners about the sick man’s condition. The Lenten pastoral letter of 1861 was composed by Jeancard.
The Last Years (1861-1875)
With the arrival of Bishop Cruice in Marseilles, Jeancard experienced a period of suffering as he defended Bishop de Mazenod and the Oblates. The new Bishop did not want to be surrounded by any of the Founder’s collaborators. He also thanked Jeancard for his services and named him canon of Saint-Denis. The latter retired to Cannes “with great sadness” (Fabre to A. Rey, August 26, 1861).
This exile lasted for some ten years. In that time Jeancard wrote several items mentioned above and the Mémoires historiques sur la Congrégation... He was also preparing to write a biography of the Founder. Each year he left Cannes for a few months to visit Oblates, especially Bishop Guibert at Tours, Fathers Fabre and Tempier in Paris, the scholastics at Autun, etc. In 1870 he accompanied Bishop Guibert to the Vatican Council.
In November 1871, Archbishop Guibert, who had been transferred to Paris, invited the Bishop of Ceramis to come to him and help him in administering his diocese. Bishop Jeancard eagerly responded to this invitation. Even though he did not have the title of auxiliary bishop there, he did fulfill the duties of that position for three years.
He became ill in July 1873 and retired to Cannes. Here he died after one year of illness on July 6, 1875.
Yvon Beaudoin, o.m.i.
Sources and Bibliography
Oblate General Archives, Rome.
VERLAQUE, Abbé, articles on Bishop Jeancard in Semaine liturgique de Marseille, 1876, under the title of Un chapitre de l’histoire contemporaine du diocèse de Marseille, pp. 450-453, 466-470, 505-508, 565-572, 585-588, 603-606, 635-636, 651-653.
Missions O.M.I., a few letters on the occasion of his death.