Saint-Jean-de-Morians, Isère, January 20, 1814.
Took the habit: N.-D. de l’Osier, December 24, 1845.
Vows: Olympia, U.S.A., August 11, 1851 (N. 315).
Died: New Westminster, B.C. Canada, October 3, 1889.
Célestin Verney was born on January 20, 1814, in Saint-Jean-de-Morians, diocese of Grenoble, France. His parents were Auguste Vernay and Véronique Bourgeat. Having served some time as a soldier he entered the novitiate in Notre-Dame de l’Osier on December 24, 1845. For a time he worked in Notre-Dame de Bon Secours and made his five-year vows in before leaving for Oregon in January 1847. He was, in fact, a member of the first group of Oblates sent to Oregon with Father Pascal Ricard. On January 8 and 20, 1847, Bishop de Mazenod presented Brother Verney to Bishop Guigues and Bishop Ignace Bourget in the following words: “I am adding to this little colony a Brother such as you desire; he will be able to do whatever is necessary in the service of the community;” “a Brother who is skilled and able to do many things.”
At first the Brother worked among the Yakima and Cayouse Indians in the diocese of Walla Walla and then in Olympia, Washington State. It was there he took perpetual vows on August 10, 1851. After 1856, it seems that he followed Father Casimir Chirouse to the mission of Saint-Joachim in Snohomish and then to Tulalip, to the north of Puget Sound. Towards 1860 he went to British Colombia and worked in Esquimalt, in Mission City (1880-1887) and Saint Mary’s, New Westminster, towards the end of his life. He suffered from rheumatism and was cared for by the Sisters of Providence. In a letter written on October 26, 1889, Father Chirouse wrote: “Wherever he went, Brother Verney was a good Brother, a faithful servant and a brave soldier of Jesus and Mary Immaculate. For forty-one years, his Oblate zeal and piety were constant… For a long time he was by turns our principal and only cook, herdsman, gardener, carpenter, mason… He was a lively character and quick to lose patience, but virtue quickly brought calm…”
He died in New Westminster on October 3, 1889 and was buried in the Oblate cemetery in Mission City.
Sources and Bibliography
Notes by Father Chirouse, October 26, 1889.
Missions OMI, 1862-1912, passim.
Carrière, Gaston, o.m.i., “Célestin Verney”, in Dictionnaire biographique des Oblats de M.I. au Canada, Vol. III, Ottawa, 1979, p.263, The text has been completed and reproduced here.