Letters of Marcellin – 306

Marcellin Champagnat


It is not easy to say with any degree of certitude exactly what work is being discussed in this letter. According to the copy, it was sent to the parish priest of Saint-Nizier in Lyons. That was Fr. Matthieu Menaide (cf. J.M. Chause, Vie de J.L. Duplay, p. 195). However, Bro. Avit, in the Abrégé des Annales (p. 23) informs us that, The orphanage of St-Nizier, Lyons, was founded by Fr. Desrosier, the priest of that parish. This is definitely an error, since in the annals of St-Nizier (AFM 214.48) he himself wrote, At the time of which we are speaking, Fr. Menaide was parish priest of St-Nizier. He was a holy priest, known and esteemed throughout the city. It was he who, with his own money and that which his excellent and wealthy parishioners gave him, founded the orphanage whose history we are sketching.

This letter obviously deals with that sort of work. Now, again according to Bro. Avit, the orphanage of St-Nizier was founded in 1837. So the question arises whether we are dealing here with the same institution, or with a second one of the same type which Fr. Menaide wanted to add to the first. After much research, we think it was the former, and that Bro. Avit has his date wrong. Actually, it is hard to imagine that the parish priest of St-Nizier, no matter how zealous he was, would have wanted to set up two orphanages in his parish, but if this were the case, Fr. Champagnat would not have had to send him the text of the contract. Moreover, the list of assignments for 1839, which was drawn up by the Founder (cf. Circulaires, I, pp. 292-294) mentions only Lyons, with no other precision. So there was only one community in that city at the time. But the orphanage in Chemin-Neuf or Denuzière had been in operation since 1835. And the Tableau des Etablissements (cf. Circulaires, I, pp. 308-312) mentions only Denuzière, while Izieux and Les Roches, establishments founded in 1839, are both listed. Finally, in one of the account books (AFM 132.2, p. 125) we find an entry for 12th June 1840: For the foundation fees of the establishment in St-Nizier: 800 francs. Even though it has repercussions in all our books, this error in dating is excusable, since Bro. Avit himself states in the annals of St-Nizier that, From the beginning until November 1860 we have no other documents but the foregoing letters, i.e., two related letters from an administrator of the orphanage and from the parish priest, dated 2nd December 1854. We have already noted that the annalist did not have the collection of copies of letters which we have been using. We may add that in checking the list of directors of St-Nizier which he gives, we see from the individual personnel files that Bro. Alexandre, who replaced the first director whose name Bro Avit did not know, did not take over until September 1840, and that Bro. Louis-Bernardin, who according to him took over in 1840, was director in Chemin-Neuf (Denuzière) in Lyons. Considering the proximity of the two houses at the outset, the confusion is readily understandable. Therefore, in conclusion, we think that here we are simply dealing with the orphanage of St-Nizier, which the brothers opened during 1840, and not in 1837.


It would be very inconvenient for us to send you the brothers you are asking for immediately. If it were possible for you to put off carrying out your pious project until Easter, you would get us out of a very awkward situation. However, we would not want to upset your fine plans too much. We are awaiting your reply in this matter.

We are transcribing textually for you the contracts which were made between us and the administrators of the orphanage; they can be the basis for the agreement which should put us in a position to work together at the good work you are planning.

Father, please study the different articles of this agreement and give us your opinion on them.

If it suits you, we will have only to reach agreement on the article of our prospectus according to which, at the time of the foundation of an establishment, we require a one-time payment to the motherhouse of 400 francs per capita for each of the brothers sent there. It has never been less possible for us to give in on this point. I hope that, as much out of charity as out of justice, in view of the great expenses incurred by the motherhouse, you will not raise any difficulties on this point.

I have the honor to be, with profound respect, etc….

Edition: Translation from: Lettres de Marcellin J. B. Champagnat (1789-1840) Fondateur de l?Institut des Frères Maristes, présentés par Frère Paul Sester,1985.

fonte: Daprès la minute, AFM, RCLA 1, p. 159, nº 202


Letters of Marcellin - 305...


Letters of Marcellin - 308...