Born at St-André-d-Embrun (Hautes-Alpes), July 2, 1807
Ordained to the priesthood at Gap, September 18, 1830
Taking of the habit at Saint-Just, August 14, 1834
Oblation at Notre-Dame du Laus, August 15, 1835 (no. 63)
Died at Notre-Dame de Bon Secours, March 29, 1876.
Jean Joseph-Marie Lagier was born the night of 2 to 3 July, 1807 at Saint-André-d’Embrun, diocese of Gap, and was baptized a few days after on July 7. He attended the minor seminary of Embrun and the major seminary of Gap. Bishop François Antoine Arbaud ordained him to the priesthood in the seminary chapel on September 18, 1830. He was then appointed assistant priest in the parish at Embrun.
He knew Abbé Alexandre Dupuy, ex-Oblate, parish priest of Notre-Dame de l’Osier and entered the novitiate at Saint-Just near Marseilles August 14, 1834. He pronounced his vows at Notre du Laus, August 15, 1835. The Founder was the one who presided at the ceremony. On August 16, he wrote to Father Tempier: “Speaking of Father Lagier, I can tell you that I have never seen anyone prepare himself for a holy event of oblation as he did. And in consequence what fruits won’t he drive from it? Father Lagier can’t contain himself for jubilation. He told us, he who has always been so fervent both at the seminary and in the parish, that he has never known such peace and happiness, that he was overflowing with gladness and along with these outpourings from his noble soul he brings a firm resolution to do all for the glory of God, the service of the Church and of the Society, in whatever work obedience assigns him. He is on fire to work for the salvation of souls, but he waits without anxiety for his superiors to choose the ministry in which they wish to employ him. To sum it all up in a few words, a more perfect subject couldn’t be found.” (Letters to the Oblates of France, 1831-1836, Oblate Writings I, vol. 8, no. 533, p. 180)
Father Lagier remained faithful to this good dispositions. He spent a good part of his life in the field of education: professor of moral theology and spiritual director of the major seminary of Marseilles from 1835 to 1841, then from 1846 to 1851; at the major seminary of Ajaccio from 1842 to 1846. During this period, he was temporary superior and master of novices at Le Calvaire during the summer of 1837; in virtue of this position, he participated at the General Chapter of 4 to 8 August. He then spent a year (July 1841-September 1842) as superior of Notre-Dame de Lumières and director of the minor seminarians. During his stay in Corsica, Bishop de Mazenod complained about him because he carried on too voluminous a correspondence with the religious nuns in Marseilles who were his dirigées, especially with the Sisters of Jesus-Mary where, in the spring of 1838, he, along with Abbé Chauvier, had been assigned to conduct exorcisms in the convent. Several of the nuns were being obsessed by the devil.
In 1846, upon the death of Father Moreau, the superior of the major seminary of Ajaccio, Bishop Casanelli d’Istria refused to grant this position to Father Lagier who was recalled to Marseilles. In 1851, the Congregation accepted the direction of the major seminary of Fréjus. Father Lagier was chosen to be its first Oblate superior. In 1856, Bishop Sergent, bishop of Quimper, put forth the plan of entrusting his seminary to the Oblates. Initially, he asked to have two professors on a trial basis. August 23, Bishop de Mazenod proposed Fathers Lagier and Charles Bellon in these words: The two religious designated to begin your great work are first and foremost two men of God, filled with an awareness of their duty of state, devoted to the Church, consummately equipped to communicate the love of God with which they are filled. Both of them have been professors in major seminaries for several years. Both of them have held the position of superior. Father Lagier, whom I present to you as superior for your seminary, is 50 years of age. He is a veteran in this holy ministry. He was assistant parish priest when he joined the Congregation. For more than twenty years, he had been a member of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate. The seminary at Fréjus, whose superior he was until this year, owes to him the fervour that animates that community since he became its’ director...” In 1857, Bishop Sergent changed his mind and left the diocesan clergy in charge of the seminary.
In June of 1857, Father Lagier was free at the time and the General Council, in a way, took advantage of his availability. Initially, in four months, he was assigned to four different houses: Superior of Fréjus in June, master of novices at Notre-Dame de l’Osier, then rather superior at Bordeaux in September and finally superior at Notre-Dame de Bon Secours where he remained in 1857-1858. We then see him as the superior at Le Calvaire in Marseilles from January to August of 1859 until the summer of 1861, superior of the major seminary of Marseilles in 1861-1862, caretaker of the house at Montolivet in 1862-1863.
In 1863, at the death of Father Ambrose Vincens, second assistant general, Father Joseph Fabre, the Superior General, summoned Father Lagier to Paris to replace the departed Vincens. He held this post up until the General Chapter of 1867. He then remained in Paris until 1872 and lived with Father Tempier (1788-1870) of whom he was also the confessor.
Father Lagier finally went to live at Notre-Dame de Bon Secours from 1872 to 1876. It is there that he died, carried off by a stroke on March 29, 1876.
Yvon Beaudoin, o.m.i.
Sources and Bibliography
Oblate General Archives in Rome: Oblation formula, August 15, 1835; 2 letters to Father Casimir Aubert, 6 to Father Martinet in 1863-1864, 2 to Father Tempier (1843 and 1857) and one to Father Le Bihan in 1867; notes for preaching, 160 pages. Father J. J. Lagier’s name is mentioned in about 80 letters written by some 30 of his Oblate contemporaries.
Circulaire n. 81 by Father Fabre, October 11, 1886: Le père J. J. M. Lagier in Notices nécrologiques, vol. III, p. 284-288.