Born in Coldirodi (Italy), October 10, 1837
Taking of the habit at Notre-Dame de l’Osier, May 17, 1854
Oblation at Notre-Dame de l’Osier, May 19, 1855 (no. 387)
Ordination to the priesthood at Marseilles, September 22, 1860
Died at Vico, Corsica, June 8, 1893.
François Semeria was born on October 10, 1837 at Coldirodi in the diocese of Ventimiglia, the son of Maria Rolleri and Giuliano Semeria. He made his secondary studies under the direction of some of the priests of the area and entered the novitiate of Notre-Dame de l’Osier on May 17, 1854. After his oblation, May 19, 1855, he studied philosophy and theology at Montolivet from 1855 to 1860. In his reports, Father Mouchette, moderator of scholastics, listed especially each year the qualities and the virtues of brother Semeria: excellent character, good will, holds his vocation in high regard, love of study, regular in his observance, always ready to make a personal contribution. He does occasionally point out flightiness and a character a bit too quick to react.
After his ordination by Bishop de Mazenod on September 22, 1860, Father Semeria taught philosophy at Montolivet in 1860-1861, at the major seminary in Marseilles in 1861-1862 and at the major seminary of Ajaccio from 1862 to 1867. After two years spent in Rome as socius of Father Tamburini, procurator to the Holy See, he returned to Ajaccio as professor of moral theology from 1869 to 1881. Father Hamonic wrote in Father Semeria’s obituary: “Father Semeria was not what we would call a brilliant professor, but one soon saw in him the man of studies who was diligent in his duty, preparing conscientiously his classes, never letting any occasion slip by in keeping up to date on the issues he was dealing with and of keeping clearly in his mind the various branches of the ecclesiastical sciences.” He was also known for his knowledge of the liturgy. He had made a special study of the rubrics, had a marvellous mastery of them, and was never at a loss when he was consulted on these matters, something that people did readily. As for the ceremonies, he had a special worship of them. He loved to perform the ceremonies; he observed them scrupulously, never neglecting anything to see that they were performed according to all the prescriptions of the holy Church…”
Superior and Missionary
From 1882 to the end of 1887, Father Semeria was superior at Vico. He had repairs made to the convent and the church; he also took part in a few missions each year. In this regard, Father Hamonic wrote: “No one would say that Father Semeria was cut out for grand preaching. God had not endowed him with that communicative warmth which reveals the orator, the power that grips the hearers, which overwhelms, becomes irresistible and bears off the most magnificent prizes. His manner of preaching, more humble, distinguished itself especially by its simplicity and the lucidity of its presentation, the soundness of the proofs offered […] He was destined to succeed in gatherings that were more personal, in retreats to seminarians and to congregations of religious women preached in Corsica or on the continent.”
He lived at Diano Marina in 1888, at Aix in 1889, then from 1890 to 1892, he was moderator and professor of moral theology at the scholasticate of Notre-Dame de Bon Secours, opened to receive the scholastics who were ill. At the end of 1892, he was once again appointed superior at Vico. He preached the mission of San Pietro di Tenda in January-February and the mission of Saint Mary at Bastia in March-April. In this huge church, he had to exert himself mightily to make his voice heard. Here it was that saw the inception of that illness that carried him off on June 8, 1893: pneumonia and then anthrax.
According to Father Hamonic, Father François Semeria always distinguished himself by his spirit of faith, his prayer life, his observance of the Rule and especially his fraternal charity. In this regard, he wrote: “Above all, Father Semeria left us the memory of a good and excellent confrere, a beloved companion with whom one enjoyed the delights of family life. His person was goodness and kindness itself. The only title people had for him was “good Father Semeria” so much did his engaging personality please everyone. From his heart flowed the joy and the gentleness that permeated his whole personality: in his manners, in his words, in his look, on his whole face whose purplish tint contrasted strongly with the striking whiteness of his hair, prematurely white, and which gave him an appearance of one venerable before his time.”
Yvon Beaudoin, o.m.i.
Sources and Bibliography
Oblate General Archives in Rome. Oblation formula, May 19, 1855; sixteen letters to Father Sardou and a few letters to Fathers Fabre and Tatin.
HAMONIC, A., o.m.i., “Le R. P. Semeria” in obituary no. 175 in Notices nécrologiques O.M.I., vol. VI, Bar-le-Duc, 1895, p. 553-566.