Born at Aubagne (Bouches-du-Rhône), May 20, 1810
Taking of the habit at Billens, Switzerland, June 29, 1831
Oblation at Billens, June 29, 1832 (no. 49)
Ordination to the priesthood at Marseilles, June 2, 1833
Expulsion in October 1836.
Joseph André Sicard was born in Aubagne, diocese of Marseilles, May 20, 1810. In June of 1831, he became a postulant and was sent to Billens where he took the habit on June 29. Father Mille, the superior, praised him for his good conduct. The Founder rejoiced in this and, on November 17, wrote: “Well done, Sicard! Here is a heart docile to the inspirations of grace! What hopes for the future his generosity holds out! Oh yes, my son, I ratify the promise you have made to your God who is so good, so little known, and who is hard put to find a handful of disciples amongst all the men he has ransomed with his blood.” (Letters to the Oblates of France, 1831-18436 Oblate Writings I, vol. 8, no. 408, p. 45) Brother Sicard made his oblation at Billens on June 29, 1832.
When he returned to Marseilles at the beginning of 1833 along with the other scholastic brothers, he continued his studies of theology at the major seminary with his residence at Le Calvaire. He was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Eugene de Mazenod in the chapel at Le Calvaire on June 2, 1833. In the April 20, 1834 report on him written by the Oblates, Father Casimir Aubert does not look favourably upon him: Sicard “had need rather of working on mending his ideas and the basic traits of his gloomy disposition than working on the manner of fulfilling his duties. He always liked silence, solitude, regular living and never needed encouragement when it came to practices of piety, but his gloomy disposition a little inclined to mistrust, his excessively timid and over fastidious conscience, a conscience in addition to which was so badly trained that in certain circumstances he was in doubt as to duties that which cannot be disputed. On all of these issues it would have been impossible not to pass negative judgement. I believe that in recent times he has mended his ways under these various aspects. He has renounced his own views to adopt sounder ones and, in spite of any loathing that he may have experienced in the practice of them, he is quite determined to follow a different path and especially to renounce his own way of thinking.”
In the month of October 1835, he was sent to the major seminary of Ajaccio with Father Albini. In a December 8, 1835 letter to the founder, Father Albini wrote that Father Sicard was doing well as a professor. An August 7, 1836 letter has a different tone. Father Albini informed the Founder that Father Sicard was unhappy. Father Guibert had wanted to bring him back with him to Marseilles and should have done so. And Father Albini added that, if Father Sicard had spent some time under the tutelage of the Founder, Bishop de Mazenod could perhaps “have rekindled by his life-giving breath the wick, if it is indeed still smouldering. To be sure, I find his coldness and incommunicativeness painful without commenting any further on that subject, but I would tolerate everything in silence if it were not that certain incidents, suspicious to say the least, did not give me grounds to fear something more serious...”
What actually happened? We do not know. We only know that, by an October 21, 1836 letter, Bishop Eugène de Mazenod, Vicar General of Marseilles, put Father Sicard under interdict etiam a sacris throughout the whole diocese and, after confession and repentance, would permit him to celebrate outside of the diocese. At the same time, he was expelled from the Congregation and dispensed from his vows. The letter ends with these words: “I pray God that, by an act of his mercy, he would draw you from the abyss into which you have plunged and that he would turn aside from you the curses that your unworthy conduct and your obduracy in evil could draw down upon your head.” The reasons for this expulsion were not set forth in the Registry of expulsion. There, we simply read: “Sicard, Joseph André, expelled.”
Abbé Sicard was excardinated from the diocese on November 9, 1836 and went to work in the diocese of Fréjus where, after some time, the bishop sent him back to his home diocese.
In May-June 1838, Abbé Sicard came to see Bishop de Mazenod. He admitted his faults and asked for pardon. He wanted to return to the diocese and even pressed to be readmitted to the Congregation. The General Council rejected his request (Mazenod Diary, June 11, 1838). By a June 15 letter, Bishop de Mazenod authorized Father Sicard to accept a position offered to him by Fr. Sibour, Vicar General of Nîmes.
Yvon Beaudoin, o.m.i.
His dossier in the Oblate General Archives in Rome contains the formulas for his taking of the habit and his oblation as well as his April 28, 1838 letter addressed to the Founder in which he asks for forgiveness and mercy.