Born in Fréjus, July 18, 1769;
Married in Fréjus, in 1787or 1788
Ordained to priesthood in Marseilles, September 23, 1797
Entered the community March 18, 1816
Left the Congregation shortly after October 21, 1823
Died, November 5, 1844.
Emmanuel Fréjus Maunier, one of the five first companions of the Founder in 1815-1816, was born at Fréjus on July 18, 1769. His father was Pierre Jean Marius Maunier, associate mayor, and Emmanuelle Claire Martin was his mother.
At 18 or 19 years of age, he married Françoise Félicité de Nigris de la Palud. A daughter, Marie Magdeleine Eugénie was born of this marriage on December 8, 1789. She died eight months later and, two months after that, on October 6, 1790, his wife also passed away. Emmanuel then entered the seminary.
We know next to nothing about the origins of this vocation nor where he made his studies as a seminarian. We do know that at the height of the French Revolution, when those who had not taken the oath required by the Civil Constitution of the Clergy were in hiding, Emmanuel was ordained priest at Marseilles on September 23, 1797, by Bishop de Prunières, of Grasse.
As a priest, the abbé Maunier courageously gave himself to the ministry in the city of Marseilles. From 1797 to 1801-1802, he could only work clandestinely. He celebrated Mass and catechized in private houses. After the Concordat he was assistant priest at Notre-Dame du Mont (1803-1806), then at Saint-Laurent (1807-1809), and in the Holy Trinity parish from 1809 to 1816.
There is evidence that the Founder was acquainted with the abbé Maunier and invited him in 1815 to join his missionary band. Father Maunier signed the January 25, 1816 petition addressed to the Vicars Capitular of Aix; but he only entered the community at Aix on March 18, 1816.
Like all the first Oblates, Father Maunier dedicated himself enthusiastically and zealously to the work of the missions. It seems, however, that he took part only in some 10 of the 40 missions that were given between 1815 and 1823. The reason for this is the same as for Father Tempier: from 1816 to 1820, Father Maunier was in charge of the formation of postulants at Aix; thereafter, in 1821, he founded the house of Le Calvaire in Marseilles, which he directed until he left the Congregation. His many letters to Father Alexandre Dupuy give us a good deal of information about his activities in Marseilles. These letters show him to be very active and zealous. He collected money all over Marseilles in view of buying and restoring the old cloister in Les Accoules near Le Calvaire; he was chaplain to the Providence orphans at Lenche Square; for the youth of the area he founded a Youth Congregation modelled on that of Aix. He attracted the faithful to Le Calvaire by founding, in 1822, an association of the Sacred Heart for men and another of Our Lady of Sorrows for women. Everywhere among the people he promoted devotion to the Holy Cross and in November 1822 he began daily spiritual exercises in favour of the souls in purgatory.
The 1818 General Chapter appointed him second assistant general and secretary of the Institute; that of 1821 named him third assistant general.
Along with Father Sébastien Deblieu, Father Maunier found it difficult to accept the vows proposed during the October 1818 General Chapter; nevertheless, he followed the example of the majority of his confreres and made his oblation on November 1.
He appears to have been very much attached to the Founder and to the Missionaries of Provence. In 1818, Fortuné de Mazenod praised his virtues and qualities: he referred to him as “the saintly abbé Maunier”, mentions his mild and charitable character, but also his sensitivity which he labels as extreme “despite his virtue” (Fortuné to President de Mazenod, July 9, 1818).
When Fathers de Mazenod and Tempier were named Vicars General of Marseilles in 1823, and especially when Bishop de Richery of Fréjus declared the priests native to his diocese released from their vows and promised them honourable posts in the diocese, Father Maunier, following Father Deblieu’s example, did not resist this offer. He left at the end of October, “convinced that I was fulfilling God’s will made manifest to me through the intermediary of my bishop to whom I promised obedience at my ordination” (Maunier to Father Mie, October 21 1823).
The Founder was stunned by this double blow. He saw this as “a great crisis of which the consequences can be terrible” (Mazenod to Courtès, 10, October 1823). What he finds especially difficult to grasp is how “one can trifle with what is most holy under frivolous pretexts and perhaps for reasons less than edifying” (Mazenod to Mie, 31 October 1823). And he continues in the same letter: “And while I see Turks die rather than not live up to their word, when in doing so they invoke the name of God, priests will falsify promises of quite another kind, made knowingly and willingly to Jesus Christ, taking him as witness and under his own eyes!”
This crisis, a consequence of his appointment as Vicar General of Marseilles, was the price the Founder had to pay to assure a higher good that he considered indispensable: having a bishop who would protect the young Congregation.
The abbé Maunier always remained an excellent priest. As soon as he reached Fréjus, he was made a canon and appointed superior of the major seminary. In 1824, he became vicar general and a member of the bishop’s council, positions he held until his death on November 5, 1844.
Yvon Beaudoin, o.m.i.
Sources and Bibliography
COSENTINO, Georges, O.M.I., “Un formateur: le père Maunier (1769-1844) “, in Études oblates, 17(1958), pp. 219-269.