Historical dictionary  vol.: 1  let.: M

Masters of Novices and Novitiates in France


Early enough on and especially from 1818, Father de Mazenod required of his future missionary religious that they undergo a period of formation at the novitiate. In the course of his trip to Rome in 1825-1826, he visited a few religious houses in Italy. He was struck by the consummate regularity that reigned all over. On March 16, 1826, he wrote to Father Tempier: “I conclude from all I see and hear that from the beginning we have sinned with regard to the novitiate and still it not up to the standard where it should be.” (Oblate Writings I, vol. 7, no. 230, p. 62) It was himself, then Fathers Maunier and Tempier who acted as the first masters of novices. They were replaced by Father Courtès from 1823 to 1826. With his time too taken up with the sodality of Christian Youth and ministry in the chapel, Father Courtès did not accompany the novices closely enough. Upon his return to Marseilles in the summer of 1826, the Founder gathered the novices around him at Le Calvaire and entrusted their care to Father Guibert. Father Guibert was not suited for a sedentary life and he soon fell ill. Subsequently, the office of novice master had eight successive occupants from 1828 to 1833. A lasting master of novices finally was found in the person of Father Casimir Aubert who held that office from 1833 to 1841.

Initially, the novitiate was in Aix, then at Notre-Dame du Laus, at Le Calvaire in Marseilles, at Saint-Just in Billens in Switzerland, et at Notre-Dame de l’Osier from 1841 on. A second novitiate was opened in Nancy in 1847. In the registries of the taking of the habit in the novitiates of France from 1816 to 1861, 948 names appear. There were more novices than that because some names have been omitted, especially with regard to the brothers who were sometimes compelled to make their novitiate in the houses where they had entered the Congregation as postulants. About 350 left during the novitiate.

Here is the list of masters of novices and the places where the novitiates were located in France.

In the Midi

1816-1820 Mazenod at Aix, assisted by Tempier and Maunier
1820-1822 Tempier at Notre-Dame du Laus
End of 1822-beginning of 1823 Deblieu at Aix
1823-1826 Courtès à Aix
1826-beginning of 1828 Guibert at Le Calvaire in Marseilles
February-June 1828 Reynier at Le Calvaire
June 1828-June 1829 Guigues at Saint-Just
July-October 1829 Capmas at Saint-Just
November 1829-October 1830 Honorat at Saint-Just
November 1830-1831 Mille at Billens in Switzerland
1832-1833 Honorat, Guibert and Mille at Notre-Dame du Laus
1833-1834 Aubert, Casimir at Le Calvaire
1834-1835 Aubert at Aix
1835-1836 Aubert at Notre-Dame du Laus
1836-1841 Aubert at Le Calvaire
1841-1845, 1847-1848 Vincens, Ambroise at Notre-Dame de l’Osier
1846-1847, 1848-1851 Santoni at Notre-Dame de l’Osier
1851-1852 Richard at Notre-Dame de l’Osier
1852-1861 Vandenberghe, Florent at Notre-Dame de l’Osier
1861-1862 Mouchette at Notre-Dame de l’Osier

Province du Nord: in Nancy

1847-1848 Santoni
October 1848-January 1849 Dorey
1849-1855 novitiate in Nancy is closed
October 1855-January 1857 Soullier, superior and master of novices
February 1857-June 1859 Guinet, (Berne at end of 1857 and beginning 1858)
September 1859-June 1861 J. J. Lagier

Yvon Beaudoin, o.m.i.

Sources and Bibliography
BEAUDOIN, Yvon, o.m.i., Les noviciats et les maîtres des novices au temps de Mgr de Mazenod. Conference delivered at a congress of masters of novices at Rome, March 15-28, 1998, 31 typewritten pages.

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