Born in Genoa (Italy), May 28, 1824
Taking of the habit in N.-D. de l’Osier, October 31, 1853
Oblation in N.-D. de l’Osier, November 1, 1854 (No.376)
Ordination to priesthood, in Marseilles, May 24 1855
Death in Fort Chipewyan, Alberta, Canada, August 6, 1873,
Marie-Germain Émile Eynard, priest, Oblate of Mary Immaculate, missionary, born 28 May 1824 in Genoa, Italy, son of Jacques Eynard and Marie-Anne Agathe Lévêque, who came originally from Embrun (Hautes-Alpes), France, died 6 August 1873, in Fort Chipewyan, Alberta.
Marie-Germain Émile Eynard began his studies at the classical college of Embrun and completed them at the college of the university, where he obtained his baccalaureate in arts and also in mathematics. After studying at the École polytechnique, he joined the roads department.
In 1847 he was at Longuyon (Moselle) as acting inspector of rivers and forests. He soon left this post and entered the seminary of Metz; he was then admitted into the noviciate of the Oblates at Notre-Dame de l’Osier (Isère), and made his profession on 1Nov.1854. He completed his training at the theological college of Montolivet, near Marseilles, and there, on 24March 1855, holy orders were conferred on him by Bishop Charles Joseph Eugène de Mazenod.
The following year Eynard was living in the presbytery of Notre-Dame de Cléry (Loiret), where because of his frail health and innate timidity he seldom officiated as a priest, but acted as tutor for the Marquis de Poterat’s sons. From there he went to Dublin to study English for some months, before leaving for the missions in the Canadian northwest.
He arrived at Saint-Boniface (Manitoba) in 1857, and during the winter of 1857–58 was curate of Saint-Norbert; he then set out for the missions of the Athabasca-Mackenzie district, together with Archdeacon James Hunter of the Church of England. He was intended for the poor but important mission of StJoseph, at Fort Resolution on the shore of Great Slave Lake. The missionary was exposed to hunger and solitude, and the employees of the mission put endless difficulties in his way. In addition to looking after his flock, Eynard studied the Montagnais language and taught French and the catechism to the children at the Hudson’s Bay Company post. Despite feeble health and weak eyesight, he visited and ministered to the posts at Fort Rae and Fort Providence. His numerous and arduous journeys caused his bishop, Henri Faraud, to remark that he spent “the greater part of his winters with snow-shoes on his feet, and sleeping on the snow.”
From 1863 until his death in 1873 he served at the mission of LaNativité (Fort Chipewyan), on the shores of Lake Athabasca, and at the chapel of Notre-Dame des Sept Douleurs (Fond-du-Lac). From there he went out to various parts of the region, and each year was to be found at different forts: Providence, Resolution, as well as at Salt River. On 15Aug.1867, while living at Fort Chipewyan, he was one of the two assistant priests on the occasion of the modest ceremony at which Bishop Isidore Clut was consecrated.
Timid and not much of a talker, Eynard always experienced considerable difficulty in learning and speaking the Montagnais language, which he styled “unmanageable”; he nevertheless continued to study it until the end of his life. The Indians with whom he dealt considered him a “good man,” and one of them was prompted to say: “With Father Eynard one speaks less, but one prays with more fervour.” His spiritual influence was unrivalled; but because of his absentmindedness he was always deemed unsuited to take on the practical direction of a mission. However, his superiors and his confrères sought out his company and held him in high esteem. He was a levelheaded and sagacious man, and became a member of the vicariate council of the Mackenzie District. Moreover, his conciliatory spirit enabled him to act as an agent for peace between the Catholic missions and the officers of the HBC.He maintained relations of real friendship with Lawrence Clarke, a bourgeois of Fort Rae, and with Roderick MacFarlane, of Fort Chipewyan. In conformity with the attitudes of the time, Eynard deplored the arrival of Protestant ministers in the district, and was ready for any sacrifice to defend his flock.
Father Eynard died while bathing in Lake Athabasca. His body was recovered thanks to his friend MacFarlane. In accordance with the desire he had expressed before his death, he was buried in the old Indian cemetery of the mission of LaNativité. It is said that he was keenly missed by all, Protestants as well as Catholics.
Gaston Carrière, o.m.i.
Sources and Bibliography
G. A.: Oblation formula; about 50 letters, mainly to Bishop Henri
Faraud and Bishop Alexandre Taché.
Mission O.M.I., 1863-1876, passim.
Fabre, Joseph, o.m.i., “Le R. P. Eynard, Circulaire No. 70, 25 January 1874”, in Notices nécrologiques O.M.I., Vol.2, Paris, 1869-1874, pp.423-429.
Carrière, Gaston, o.m.i., “Eynard, Marie-Germain Émile”, in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, Vol. X (1871-1880), Québec-Toronto, 1972, p. 300-301. This article is reproduced here with the permission of Mr. Benoît Bernier, General Editor and without its abundant bibliography.