Victor Bompart was born at Rochefourchat in the diocese of Valence, France, on January 15, 1830. Following his studies at the minor seminary of Valence where he was awarded the prize for good-conduct he began his novitiate at Notre-Dame de l’Osier on September 1, 1851. At the September 3, 1852 session of the General Council, Brother Bompart was admitted to vows. In the session’s report, we read: “The notes submitted by Father Richard who is presenting him for oblation have consistently been favourable to this novice which he has always considered as an individual with a solid prayer life, completely dedicated to his vocation, perfect in regular observance, endowed with a natural happy bent, with a sufficiently solid health, with talents which are at least sufficient and labouring only under one disadvantage, that of a too great shyness which he has not been able to master.”
Brother Bompart made his oblation at l’Osier on September 8, 1852. Then, he studied philosophy and theology at the major seminary of Marseilles from 1852 to 1854, then at Montolivet from 1854 to 1856. The assessments of the moderator of scholastic brothers were as laudatory as those of the novice masters. In July of 1852, Father Marchal wrote: “Bompart is soft wax; we can do what we want to with him. His simplicity suggests naivety… He has always performed very well.” At Montolivet, Father Mouchette wrote in 1854: “Bompart: Excellent health, an upright and simple soul to whom failing in one’s duty is totally unknown. I do not have the least criticism to make of him. He has always been a bit shy.” And in 1855, he wrote: “Bompart, solid virtue and always on an even keel.” Bishop de Mazenod ordained him to the priesthood in Marseilles on June 8, 1856 and gave him his obedience to Natal. After a few months in England to learn English, Father Bompart arrived in Durban in December of the same year.
The first mission to the Zulus was undertaken in September of 1855 by Fathers Justin Barret and Joseph Gérard, but it was unsuccessful and Bishop Jean-François Allard recalled the two missionaries to Pietermaritzburg. Another attempt was made in February of 1858 and this time Father Gérard was accompanied by Father Bompart, but “the last nine months we have sown and watered with much suffering and labour, and we have seen not the slightest sign of growth,” wrote Bishop Allard.
In 1864, Father Bompart was named to undertake a mission to Delagoa Bay in Mozambique where it was reported to the Bishop four hundred Catholics had no priest. Several months passed awaiting word from the Bishop in Basutoland and finally on May 18, Father Bompart set out from Durban on the long journey through fever infested country accompanied by eight Zulu bearers and, after many difficulties, he arrived at Delagoa Bay on June 20. Although he was welcomed by the Governor, it was explained to him the he would not be allowed to exercise his ministry unless he received special authority from the King of Portugal. Delagoa Bay was, in fact, under the jurisdiction of Goa in India and the privileges granted by the Holy See to the King of Portugal were in force here. It was December and the priest fell ill with fever. He was looked after and cared for, but his situation was still unchanged and on May 2, 1865, although he was suffering from dysentery, he decided to begin his journey home. It required the constant care of Father Sabon in Durban and Father Barret at Pietermaritzburg before he recovered his former health. According to Missions O.M.I., (Vol. VI, 1867, p. 222), Father Bompart made a trip to Basutoland in 1866 and was subsequently sent to Bloemfontein. The finding of diamonds brought many diggers to Barkly West and the first Mass on the “Diamond Fields” was said by Father Bompart on October 2, 1870 at Klipdrift. He remained in Bloemfontein from 1870 until the year before his death. Because of his ill health, he was sent to Kimberley. This was there that he died on September 24, 1904.
In his January 15, 1852 report, Father Richard had written that Brother Bompart “shows himself to be the equal of Brother Gérard in the way of perfection… He is truly a holy young man, simple as a dove, humble to the utmost degree, as prayerful as an angel…” It seems that he hardly changed; he always remained prayerful, humble and retiring. His name is mentioned several times in Missions O.M.I., but without details concerning him. In 1892, however, Father Porte of Basutoland went to Bloemfontein to supervise the printing of a Catechism and Prayerbook. On March 8, he wrote to Father Soullier: “Reverend Father Bompart offered me a gracious hospitality. I was delighted to spent two months in this Father’s company, who, after spending thirty-five years in the foreign mission, is more regular in his observance of the rule than a novice or a scholastic brother.”
Sources and Bibliography
Oblation formula, a few letters received and 57 letters written to Father
Sardou from 1879 to 1897. Notes of the masters of novices and the moderators of
the scholastic brothers.
Missions O.M.I., 1862-1913, passim.
Brady, John E., o.m.i., Trekking for Souls, Cedara, 1952.