Charles-Vincent de Paul Cathelin Boujard 1819-1831
Father Charles-Vincent de Paul Cathelin Boujard was the last of the vicars general. During his mandate, he presided over the growth of the Congregation while facing significant pressures from his Italian counterpart, Francesco Antonio Baccari. Boujard resigned in favor of the first superior general of the entire Congregation after twenty-seven years of temporary and at times divided leadership.
He was born 22 September 1751, at Trévoux, in the diocese of Lyons. Perhaps because Saint Vincent exercised some ministry in Trévoux while he was pastor of nearby Châtillon les Dombes, Boujard was given his name. He joined the family of his namesake when he entered the internal seminary in Lyons, 11 November 1769. He took his vows there 12 November 1771. After his ordination, he began his priestly ministry as professor of theology at Toulouse. He was then superior of the seminary at Narbonne until the Revolution.
During the revolutionary period, Boujard fled to Spain, as did many other Vincentians, who received hospitality from their Spanish confreres. He remained there for eleven years, although probably not in any Vincentian house. His service to émigré priests and French prisoners and the wounded in hospitals was so appreciated that he later received a pension from the Spanish king.
He returned to France after the Concordat was signed (1801), taking on the parish of Saint Bernard, near his home town of Trévoux. He informed both Placiard and Hanon of his wish to return, but the vicars general of the archdiocese of Lyons would not allow it. In this, they believed they were in the right, since Pius VII declared that all religious, men and women, in the circumstances of the time, were completely under local bishops either of their birthplace or their residence. This temporary measure assured that religious, whose communities had been suppressed, would at least have a canonical base, but it made it appear that all the internal structures of their communities had also disappeared, and that the bishops substituted for their former superiors. The archdiocesan officials must have relented, since we find him at the major seminary of Saint Flour in 1818.
Father Verbert died on 4 March 1819. Since he had not received authorization to name a successor before that date, the community followed the traditional procedure, particularly since the Holy See had in its decree of 21 March specified what to do. Pierre Claude, the only assistant, who should have convoked the meeting, was ill and thus he authorized Boujard, the assistant superior at the mother house, to replace him. Boujard selected the date of 13 May for the election to be held at the new mother house but informed his confreres that he could not lodge them there since the building was still occupied by workers completing urgent repairs.
At this point, the pro-vicar in Rome, Baccari, weighed in with his opinions in a letter probably directed to Boujard. Since Baccari and his council had not seen the last brief sent to Verbert, he went directly to the pope about it, who referred him to Cardinal Consalvi. What took place was a jurisdictional matter, since Claude had directed his petition to the pope who passed it on to the secretary of the prefect of Propaganda Fide, Joachim-Jean-Xavier d'Isoard, possibly because he was French, and not to Cardinal Consalvi, secretary of State, or to the prefect of the Congregation of Bishops and Regulars. Further, when consulted on the matter, Consalvi, prompted in all likelihood by Baccari, asked for a list of at least two men from which the pope could choose one as vicar general. Unfortunately for Baccari, he wrote on the day of the election in Paris, and so the matter became moot.
Nevertheless, one other point was still of the highest importance. He reminded Boujard that his jurisdiction as vicar general would extend only to the Congregation of the Mission in France and to the Daughters of Charity. The kingdom of Spain, however, after a request to the pope, declared that the Daughters of Charity in that kingdom would depend on the “vicar general of the entire Congregation,” that is, on Baccari. The same was the case for Poland and Lithuania, where the superiors could not be under a foreign superior, a law equally in force in France concerning non-French superiors. For this reason, it would be useless for the French to ask for the general jurisdiction that Verbert had requested but not received.
Twenty-one priests of the Congregation of the Mission met in what they loosely called a “general assembly,” on 13 May. After a mass to beg the aid of the Holy Spirit, Claude addressed the members, reviewing the history of the vicars general. He praised the books written by Brunet, that “tireless scholar.” At his deathbed, Brunet gave Claude the sealed letter containing the name of Placiard. He steadfastly refused to accept the post, but Daughters of Charity, urged on by Claude, helped to persuade him. Then, Claude continued, Hanon succeeded Placiard, to be followed by Verbert. After his exhortation, secret ballots were taken, with Claude presiding. Boujard received seventeen out of twenty-one votes. At sixty-eight, he was the third oldest in attendance at the meetings, yet the average age of all the members was around sixty-three. Among its members were Pierre-Joseph Dewailly, who would succeed Boujard as the first superior general after the Revolution, and Viguier, the secretary general who had played such a controversial role in his support of the Daughters of Charity during their schism. After the assembly, Boullangier, the procurator general in France, then submitted only one name to the Holy See, Boujard, according to the first instructions he received.
Not to be overshadowed, Baccari offered congratulations to Boullangier on the election of Boujard. However, he had spoken with the pope about this election, since he was charged with procuring the papal decree of approval. Since Pius VII had not yet granted this, Baccari believed that the pope was still expecting two or three names to fill out the list. The Vincentian historian, Gabriel Perboyre, wrote concerning this affair: “The facts showed that [Baccari] was using his influence with the prelates to restrict more and more the jurisdiction of the vicar general in France.”
Perhaps because of these jurisdictional disputes and the lack of clarity about how to deal with the Daughters of Charity in various realms, the pope took more than a year to issue the brief approving Boujard’s election. Boullangier repeated his urgent request to Cardinal Fontana, prefect of Propaganda Fide, adding that he hoped the pope’s decree would at least allow the Daughters of Charity in Geneva, who were all French, to remain under Boujard’s jurisdiction.
Papal Confirmation, Conflicts
Pius VII issued the brief approving Boujard’s election, Congregationem Presbyterorum, on 10 August 1820. In it, he named Boujard as vicar general, with no other title, for all lands subject to the king of France, as well as the houses of the Mission “on the eastern shore,” the near east. Boujard did not receive, as Verbert had not, the faculty of naming a successor. But the strangest feature of this latest letter was the following clause: “… while reserving to ourselves the immediate appointment of another superior general in our city, who will preside over the houses of the other priests and sisters spread throughout the rest of the world.” At a stroke of the pen, the pope changed the traditional role of the vicar general in France, who had always been recognized as the superior of all the Daughters of Charity. Further, he used the term “superior general” unwisely, since the more exact title was “vicar general.”
The nuncio, Macchi, felt compelled to send a letter to quiet the fears of the Vincentians and explain the meaning of this unusual turn of phrase. He began by affirming that the pope was happy with the Congregation, and that the French Vincentians and Daughters should know this. What the pope meant to say, he explained, was that, since Baccari had often asked to resign, the pope was now looking for his replacement, hence “another” vicar general. Baccari’s resignation was accepted, 18 September 1820. Despite this, Baccari continued in office, as a patent appointing Marzio Ceracchi superior of the house at Tiburtina attests: “Since by apostolic authority the faculty of ruling and governing our Congregation, except for France, has been specially granted us by the Supreme Pontiff Pius VII….” The Congregation of Bishops and Regulars then planned to ask for nominations from Baccari himself and from the three Italian visitors after consulting their councils. Their choice fell on the superior of the house at Sarzana, Giambattista De Antoni. He, however, showed great reluctance and at length refused to accept the office. For this reason, the pope turned again to Baccari, naming him vicar general once more, 21 May 1821. As before, he continued to ask to resign.
There were at least two unintended consequences of Congregationem Presbyterorum. The first was that many Vincentians believed that the pope would shortly order the transfer of the head of the Congregation to Rome, which would be contrary to the intentions of the French government. This issue would continue to dog relations between the Holy See and the French until the appointment of Dewailly as superior general, with residence in Paris. The second consequence was that the delay between the election of Boujard, 13 May 1819, and his official approval, 10 August 1820, led to doubts whether those who took vows during that period had done so validly. This problem would involve the superior general Jean-Baptiste Nozo and Ferdinand Bailly, superior of the seminary of Amiens, in lengthy and public lawsuits, and force many others to renew the vows they had taken, even after the date of Boujard’s approval.
Monsignor Isoard continued his support of the French Vincentians. He wrote to Bigot, minister of foreign affairs, explaining the entire history, particularly the most recent chapters. He explained the delay in granting Boujard’s approval as “an intrigue . . . to transport to Rome what had been in Paris, and to despoil in their favor the mother house and its superior, if not completely at first, at least in great part.” He detected the anti-French feeling in Rome and did what he could to dispel it, mainly by enlisting important officials such as Cardinals Litta, Pacca and Fontana. The French ambassador to the Holy See was also involved in trying to smooth over the problems. Isoard and the ambassador both cited the memory of Saint Vincent de Paul, esteem for his heritage, the integrity of the two congregations, French glory, honor and national sentiment, as well as French ecclesiastical prerogatives.
Cardinal Consalvi’s cool reply to the monsignor, written before the above letter could be sent, declared that the Holy See saw no reason to exceed the limits of the brief sent to Boujard. He hoped instead that the sons of Saint Vincent would faithfully imitate the example of their founder and conform themselves to the decisions already made. He held out the possibility that the Holy See could make other dispositions in the future when better times arrived. Besides, he added, the pope “had always regarded with a special predilection” the Congregation of the Mission.
Superior General in Rome
As if to put that special predilection to the test, Boujard continued his campaign to obtain the faculty of naming a successor, in accordance with the spirit of the constitutions. In a bold request to the pope, submitted through the nuncio, 21 November 1820, he wondered whether the pope was punishing him for some fault, since the implicit denial of this faculty went against the brief Habita ratione of 16 July 1817. In fact, the brief did not treat this question, so Boujard must have been reading the grant of the faculty into such expressions as “full restitution … according to the old order.” In any case, he reminded the pope that the French government would not allow a non-French superior. If one were appointed, the Daughters of Charity, who now have one hundred novices, would be ruined. The requested faculty was granted a few months later, 30 January 1821, in the brief Sublato e vivis. This permission was enlarged to include the case in which Boujard would not have nominated anyone for whatever reason. Then, at least twelve Vincentians, duly assembled for this purpose, would nominate someone by secret ballot. The pope did not ask, however, for a list of two or three from which to choose someone, contrary to Baccari’s proposal.
Cardinal Consalvi, writing at the same period to the nuncio in Paris, felt constrained to explain the detail that the pope would never establish the superior general in Rome, but rather that he would remain in Paris. This would have come as welcome news to Fathers Boujard and Boullangier, summoned to a cordial meeting with the nuncio a few days before Consalvi’s letter to receive officially the papal brief. The cardinal wrote a soothing letter to Boujard in a few months. “I will never cease working diligently for the prosperity and the happiness of the aforementioned congregation.” Besides, he reported, the pope received your declaration of your “profound submission . . . with special benevolence.”
Within a month, Baccari was finally named by the Holy See to succeed Sicardi, who had died more than two years previously, 13 June 1819, at age ninety. Up to that time, Baccari had been simply pro-vicar, but his appointment had clearly already been decided, despite his repeated wish to resign. He had continued, according to the nuncio in Paris, through obedience alone. The pope had even asked the Italian Vincentians to propose someone else and interviewed two others, but the choice fell on Baccari. To his credit, he wanted to have the Congregation return to constitutional government under a single superior general. In a revealing letter to Boujard, he pointed to the reluctance of the king of Spain, Ferdinand VII, to allow communication between religious in Spain with superiors in France as the reason for the delay. The text of his appointment, unfortunately, continued the ambiguities of previous documents. The Holy See appointed Baccari “pro-vicar general” replacing Sicardi, to direct and govern the Congregation at the good pleasure of the Holy See, until such time as a proper election for a superior general could be held. It is no wonder, then, that Baccari continued in his conviction that he still held power. He concluded his letter by counseling patience while waiting for better times.
If an angry letter from Baccari is to be believed, relations between the Rome and Paris continued to be strained. He wrote to Boullangier, the procurator general in Paris, in response to a recent letter from him. He began with a distinctive expression in place of the traditional salutation coming from Vincent de Paul himself (May the grace of Our Lord be always with us,) substituting instead “May the God of peace be ever with us.” This wish is indicative of the tensions expressed in Boullangier’s letter. He never apparently addressed Baccari as “vicar general of the entire Congregation,” his official title, substituting instead “vicar general of the Congregation in Italy,” “visitor of Rome,” or “superior of Montecitorio.” To put this implied insult into perspective, Baccari launched into a lengthy interpretation of what happened between the French and Italian vicars general. He felt that the Holy See had acted correctly in appointing vicars general to remain in Rome, not only for the Congregation of the Mission, but also for others. However, in France, a few Vincentians met in a private home (Dubois’ residence in the parish of Sainte Marguerite) to select a successor to Hanon, without the approval of the pope or the knowledge of the rest of the Congregation. This was the reason, he claimed, why the pope took so long to approve Verbert’s election. He also blamed Boujard’s problem with the brief Congregationem Presbyterorum as the main source of the division between the (larger) part of the Congregation of the Mission under his, Baccari’s, leadership, and the (smaller) part under Boujard.
In all this, he continued, the French had been acting in accordance with two false principles: that the superior general must be French, and that he must reside in Paris. For Baccari, the important matter was not where the superior general would reside, since the pope could have the superior general move to Rome and appoint a vicar general for France. As to the French missions, he blamed Boujard for grabbing territory that he asserted the French vicar general had not held before. The problem, he asserted, was one of domination or power, not zeal for charity. Should the pope name someone, Boujard, for example, as superior general over the entire Congregation, Baccari threatened to resign and walk away. He therefore urged Boullangier to think seriously about the matter and avoid a schism in the Congregation of the Mission.
To separate fact from fiction and emotion in this extraordinary document would be tedious and unnecessary. Its value for Vincentian history is to see laid out the various differences that had arisen between the two centers of power. The Baccari group clearly felt that they had the power, legitimately given them by the pope, to govern the entire Congregation as well as the Daughters of Charity. The only exception was the small number of Vincentians and Sisters in France. The French group, by contrast, felt that the Roman vicars general, Sicardi and then Baccari, had schemed to carry out their own agenda of depriving the French leadership of its power. Both sides affected a stance of acting for the greater glory of God and preserving the Congregation of the Mission through spiritual means, but their means of accomplishing these goals differed significantly from each other. The gap between them would not easily be closed.
The Congregation in France
Boujard had many other concerns than those provoked by his counterpart in Rome. As with his predecessors, they revolved around the work of the Congregation in France, recovering its personnel, strengthening its finances and providing for the formation of its candidates. There is little information, however, concerning his relationship with the Daughters of Charity.
In his time, pastors and bishops continued to request Vincentians to give missions in parishes of their dioceses. One, in particular, Etienne Antoine de Boulogne, bishop of Troyes, wrote a pastoral letter in support of missions. He characterized the French Vincentians in the past as brilliant and famous, and hoped for more like them. Unfortunately, it would be difficult to satisfy the bishops, since Boujard did not have many missioners at his disposal. In early 1820, the mother house, which he called “Saint Lazare,” numbered thirty-one, plus eleven postulants and twelve students. The funds to support them came from investments, the room and board of students (probably not members of the Congregation), and subsidies from the king. He hoped to be able to cover the excess of expenses for the new mother house through contributions from benefactors.
His report to the nuncio, dated 21 November 1820, was more detailed. At that time he had fourteen priests in the house, four of whom were helping the Daughters of Charity. He had seventeen novices, including Jean-Baptiste Etienne, future superior general, along with three brothers and two domestics. Five others were away preaching missions in the diocese of Meaux, and several others (the numbers are not always given) staffed the seminary of Amiens, which they owned, and those of Saint Flour, Sarlat and Vannes. The house of Valfleury continued to direct pilgrimages. Lastly, he mentioned one priest, François-Joseph Chevrolais (1753-1823), who, with his permission, had begun a work near London, taking care of poor Irish Catholics.
There were, of course, several French Vincentians who had left the Congregation and abandoned their ministry. Their number is far from certain, probably because the vicars general were more interested in inviting back those who had persevered as priests and brothers. Leo XII, in view of the jubilee of 1825, issued a decree, Pastoris aeterni vices (16 December 1824), summoning back all those who had left. He offered a sort of amnesty, provided that the members ask absolution from their superiors. Whatever the impact of this decree was elsewhere, there is no evidence of anyone returning to the Congregation as a result.
In his later life, Jean-Baptiste Etienne, commented on the old age of the men in the mother house when he entered in 1820. Although it is not possible to be certain about the entire community of fourteen priests, the following eleven can be listed, with their ages in that year. Their names are taken from several contemporary lists.
- François Petitdidier, 75
- Charles Boujard, 69, vicar general
- Jean Maisonneuve, 68
- Jean Joseph Istace, 65
- Joseph Mansuet Boullangier, 62, econome general
- Louis Jérôme Lemaire, 62
- Jean François Richenet, 61
- Augustin Delgorgues, 60
- Charles François Lamboley, 57
- Jacques Philippe Billiet, 56
- Pierre Le Go, 53, novice director.
Two elements were clearly missing from this list. The first was Boujard’s council. He apparently got along without one. When the serious issue arose of the expulsion of one Vincentian, described in the minutes as guilty of disobedience, “reprehensible administration of the sacraments,” intemperance, and habitual laziness, Boujard should have received the advice of his council. Since he had none, he summoned eleven members of the house instead, who examined the case and voted to expel this priest. The other noteworthy lack is a group of younger priests, anyone between twenty-rive and fifty. The gap reflects, of course, the years in which the Congregation was suppressed in France. It is no wonder, therefore, that nineteen-year-old Etienne felt a little lost in this group of men whose average age was sixty-two to sixty-three.
Novitiate and studies
Boujard confided the formation of the young candidates to the youngest man on his staff, Pierre Le Go. The program for their preparation is not well known, probably because the situation of the house was disorganized and the need for clergy was urgent. For this reason, the novices made their novitiate exercises as best they could while studying philosophy and theology in preparation for priesthood. Etienne cited Le Go as saying that they were in a chaos, or “an aggregation, and not a Congregation.” They had no fixed chapel, for example, only a part of a corridor that was curtained off for their times of private and communal prayer. For several years, a public Sunday Eucharist was celebrated across the street in the chapel of the hospital of the Incurables.
Together with two other novices, Etienne took his vows most likely in that same temporary chapel, on 18 October 1822, in the presence of Father Boujard.
Because of the difficulties inherent in the mother house, Boujard, like Verbert, looked for another one. His thought was to keep the property at 95, rue de Sèvres for those working in the service of the Daughters of Charity, while moving the central administration to larger quarters, more suitable for students. He repeated, of course, his predecessors’ request for the return of Saint Lazare, then, lacking that, he asked for the former monastery of Saint Martin des Champs in the heart of Paris, or the royal abbey of Saint Denis. All three proposals were rejected for various reasons, such as the small number of Vincentians for the large monasteries, lack of funds, or the promises made to other groups for the same properties.
The omnipresent Etienne had a hand in the decision about a chapel for the mother house, rue de Sèvres. He recounted that he had an occasion to call on the minister of ecclesiastical affairs, Bishop Denis-Antoine-Luc de Frayssinous, and spoke about the lack of a chapel. The minister declared his love for the Congregation, although he did not have any contact with it. His examination of its history led him to believe that “only your Congregation has any future today because its spirit is the only one that can be adapted to the times in which we live.” The bishop signaled his support by, among other things, describing to the new king, Charles X, the Congregation’s good reputation and its observance of its rules. His support led ultimately to the lateral expansion of the Hotel de Lorges, through the acquisition of first the property at 93, rue de Sèvres, and much later, number 97.
At length, under Frayssinous’ prodding, the king authorized the prefect of the Seine to acquire the property at number 93. Its purchase price, 200,000 francs, would be paid for by the royal house (100,000), with the rest divided equally between the ministry of the marine and the colonies, and by the ministry of foreign affairs and public instruction. The buildings on this property were demolished and, in their place, the new public chapel of the mother house arose. Boujard had the pleasure of laying its cornerstone on 16 August 1826. He would be greatly aggrieved by not being allowed to preside at its blessing more than a year later.
Frayssinous also approved the Congregation’s request for increased funding in two letters dated 14 and 17 May 1826. The importance of these letters is in their clear association of the Congregation with the State. The first asked for 5000 francs yearly for the work in Algiers, where the Congregation both served the religious needs of the French there, and provided “useful intervention for their commercial relations.” The second request was for an additional 5000 in general support for the Congregation. The services its members gave to the French establishments overseas, “without regard to religious motives,” was cited as a principal motive. Charles X speedily approved both petitions.
He shared his joys and sorrows with the Congregation in his New Year’s circular for 1827. He reported that, by that date, the French had six major seminaries, three colleges, one minor seminary, one residence for clergy and one mission band. He saw special divine protection over the mother house, especially concerning the acquisition of the property for the chapel. “It has been impossible for us to have a proper place for the Blessed Sacrament, . . . surely the only congregation in France” in this condition. His sorrow was that some of his confreres were infected in their teaching with novel ideas. He urged them to follow the teaching of their ancestors in the Congregation.
Another joy had been the good reputation that the Congregation of the Mission enjoyed at the French court. The Grand Almoner of the king requested that the Congregation officiate at the Tuileries palace at the death of the Louis XVIII, who had reestablished the community and called them “the missionaries of the Bourbons.” Twelve members assisted at the service before the funeral mass at Notre Dame cathedral.
Other sorrows certainly had clouded his life. For one, Charles X issued a general decree concerning the legal existence of women’s religious communities. This decree repeated largely the same concerns expressed in the statutes forced on the Daughters of Charity in the time of Napoleon. The new text read: Art. 2: “No religious congregation of women will be authorized unless their statutes have been duly approved by the diocesan bishop and registered by the Council of State. These statutes cannot be approved or registered unless they contain the clause stating that the congregation, in spiritual matters, is under the jurisdiction of the ordinary.” Fortunately for the Daughters of Charity, this document could be widely and diversely interpreted and, in any case, the reign of Charles X was followed by a revolutionary government in 1830.
Unified government, naming a superior general
The most grievous problem was yet to come. It was similar in its intensity to the struggles concerning Dominique Hanon and the Daughters of Charity, since it dealt with the plan to restore to the Congregation its constitutional government under a single superior general. Neither the Italian nor the French vicar general had the constitutional authority to convoke a general assembly, and consequently only higher ecclesiastical authority could break the logjam.
By the beginning of 1825, momentum was growing to resolve the issue of the government of the Congregation. Leo XII became pope 28 September 1823, and his pontificate probably offered a catalyst to move along the discussions. Baccari had by that time spoken to the pope and proposed that a general assembly be held for the election. He hoped that he would have no part to play in this. He would be severely disappointed when the time came. The Congregation for Bishops and Regulars also stepped in, very likely because of Baccari’s complaints. It proposed holding a general assembly either in Rome or in Genoa, while acknowledging the great expense of holding such an assembly. Because of varying perspectives, the cardinals could not reach a conclusion, and so left the discussion to be continued by Boujard and others. However, it also instructed the nuncio in Paris to summon Boujard to express the Holy See’s displeasure at the lack of union that existed between him and Baccari.
A Vincentian close to the pope was Giuseppe Baldeschi (1791-1849), papal master of ceremonies at the Vatican. One day, he saw the pope who realized that the young priest had a problem on his mind. When asked about it, Baldeschi suggested that something should be done about having a superior general for his Congregation. Leo XII then asked for an official request, and the priest secretly contacted Boujard. He, in turn, sent an official petition to Isoard, his contact in Rome, for forwarding to the pope. Monsignor Isoard too hoped for some movement, and pledged his support to get the discussion going.
Baccari’s circular of 8 February 1826 reported publicly on his conversations with Leo XII and his suggestion to have the Congregation hold a general assembly for an election, “to remove any reason for the separation of our confreres in France from the others in the rest of the Congregation….” Evidently, his perspective was that the French would conceivably split from the others, and not vice versa (the French viewpoint). He was heartened by the pope’s words of support. The pope had two possibilities, either to authorize a general assembly, or to appoint a superior general. He chose the latter possibility since it was recognized that the Congregation was not yet organized well enough to hold a general assembly. Besides, the stakes were very high and the pressures intense.
The French government was also anxious to put the matter to rest and began to push for the choice of a French superior general. The government had good reason to believe that Leo XII would appoint a non-French superior general who would not reside in Paris. In the government’s view, this would run counter to tradition and could give rise to several difficulties, such as the election of non-French generals for other congregations and the assignment of non-French personnel even in those missions already under French protection. However, the government already admitted that, in the case of the Vincentian missions in the Middle East, the majority of the missionaries were either Italians or natives.
Candidates for superior general
Gabriel Perboyre also credits the appointment of Dewailly to the interventions of Bishop Isoard. He had caught wind of the plans to transfer the superior general and the mother house to Rome and so informed Frayssinous.
Jean-Baptiste Etienne wrote years later that he too had been involved in the discussions. He had gone one day to see the nuncio, who thought that since there were only a few suitable members of the Congregation in France, the person would probably not be French. Etienne countered that despite the community’s poor resources, it was not impossible to find someone.
They need not have worried this time, since the pope decided to name on his own authority (motu proprio), that is, without an election, a French superior general from a list of two presented by the nuncio in Paris. The pope had wanted to name someone non-French, but he finally agreed to the proposition by the French ambassador, the duke of Montmorency-Laval, acting, of course, in the name of the king. Whom to name, then? Leo XII correctly sought the opinions of both vicars general about the future superior general. Etienne and Boujard went to see the nuncio, Bishop Macchi, together, and Boujard agreed to compose a memorandum on the subject. Etienne, his young secretary, actually wrote the document, probably because at the time Boujard had no assistants or councilors in Paris to do the work. When Etienne presented the document, the nuncio revealed that the pope had already ruled out Boujard.
Three names had surfaced, apparently after much consultation. The least favored candidate was Boujard himself. A fresh start was needed, Boujard was already seventy-five, and the pope would not consider him.
The favored candidate at first, the one promoted by Baccari, was Theodore Bricet, (1775-1855), superior of the important Vincentian mission in Constantinople. Some questions arose about his abilities and toughness, but Baron de Damas, minister of foreign affairs, believed that he was pious and of good behavior. The grave difficulty in his nomination would be finding a capable successor for him in Constantinople.
The third candidate finally got the nod: Pierre-Joseph Dewailly. How did his name surface? In Etienne’s version, Bishop Frayssinous, minister of foreign affairs, had a priest friend, Michel-Amans Clausel de Coussergues, vicar general of Amiens and administrator of Beauvais. Clausel esteemed the Vincentians he knew at the Amiens seminary, especially its superior, Dewailly. Frayssinous then proposed him to the king, who forwarded his name to the pope. In the opinion of the Baron, no one was more worthy, and the king would look on his appointment with pleasure. Etienne, ever alert to the machinations of the Italians, concluded his exposition by remarking that “Providence was able to bring to nothing all the schismatic intrigues of the Italian missioners.”
Dewailly’s appointment was made in principle 18 July 1826, but the political problem remained of how to be certain that the Roman house, under Baccari’s leadership, would join the Paris house. By the beginning of September the appointment still had not been made public, and the pope was surprised to learn this. When the new French ambassador, Artaud, urged him to see to its publication, the pope said he would work at it. The block seemed to have been the need to procure the unity of the Congregation in advance of the nomination, and there were still some loose ends to tie up, such as one house each in Poland and “Hungary,” meaning the Austro-Hungarian portion of Poland, that would need to be convinced.
Delicate diplomatic maneuvers continued for some time, but a new issue arose to further delay the announcement. Father Boullangier, the long-time econome in Paris, was a confidant of Boujard’s, who knew that someone would be appointed superior general. Boullangier understood the economic issues of running the mother house and of building the public chapel, and understood Boujard’s commitment to seeing its completion, since he had raised funds for its construction and made his own significant contribution toward the purchase of the country property at Gentilly. Besides, “Father Boujard is very sensitive.” Although his health was generally good, it was now less so. Besides, he was a large man and had cataracts, and so he would probably ask on his own to resign within a year. In addition, since his name was on the cornerstone of the new chapel, he hoped to preside over its dedication and the translation of the relics of Saint Vincent, already scheduled for 19 July 1827. Likewise, he hoped to preside at the election of a new superioress general of the Daughters of Charity.
Father Etienne in his highly personal account of the history of the reestablishment of the Congregation stigmatized the procurator general as “of a weak character and small ability.” Since he felt sorry for his friend, Boullangier brought his concerns to Bishop Frayssinous. He agreed with Boullangier’s reasons and promised to do what he could.
Etienne also believed that Boujard wanted to keep Dominique Salhorgne away from Paris at this time, in view of the coming nomination of a superior general. This distinguished confrere would eventually be elected superior general, despite Boujard’s moves. Perhaps thinking that he could avoid further problems, Boujard drew up a document dismissing Salhorgne. As will be seen below, this document provoked outrage among the members of the mother house.
All these considerations, especially Boujard’s own personal interest, led the pope to ask for more information so as to be able to respond to his issues. The decision was finally that Boujard’s needs should give way to the interests of the Congregation of the Mission as a whole and, on this basis, the brief Anteactae temporum, was published 16 January 1827. It named Pierre Joseph Dewailly superior general of the Congregation of the Mission and of the Daughters of Charity. This document was not immediately made public, however, to give time to arrange a way to have both the vicars general, Boujard and Baccari, resign; Baccari did, but Boujard did not. Etienne commented: “Although endowed with excellent qualities, he had the weakness of being attached to power.” In view of Boujard’s reluctance, an unworthy stratagem was devised to encourage him to resign. A certain Abbé Jean-Baptiste de Sambucy, attaché of the French embassy in Rome and former official of the College of Cardinals, came to Paris on business. He took the occasion to call on the vicar general and hinted that the Holy Father might name him superior general, but that he would first have to resign as vicar general. Boujard agreed to this but, of course, Dewailly had already been appointed. The result must have humiliated Boujard even further, at least in the privacy of his own thoughts.
In a letter dated 10 February 1827, Baccari announced to Boujard that the brief of the “creation” of the superior general had been sent, but did not mention the name. As for the writer, he had wished to retire because of age—he was eighty—but he was still not allowed to. He struck a conciliatory note by saying that his hope had always been that the Congregation be governed under one leader, “and this kind of division be removed from among us, which the Italians (although it was not believed) always and generally despised.” The Vincentian historian Jean-Marie Planchet held that there were financial reasons that also played a role in Baccari’s wish to resign or, better, to eliminate the Italian vicariate. In his circular of 8 February 1826, he lamented the poverty of the Roman province in men and money. Certainly by eliminating the expenses involved in his parallel administration of the Congregation, Baccari, who was also the provincial of Rome, would find a partial means of alleviating his financial worries.
The long delay in publishing the decree led Baccari’s frustrations to boil over in a circular sent to the Congregation, 2 July 1827. He had expected the appointment to be made, “…but, alas! I have been deceived! Up to now, the matter seems very undecided. And what is even more troubling, we cannot find out why. We still live in the hope that it will be finally closed and defined at the time of the publication of this pontifical brief which will make known the superior general already named.” He took the occasion as well to vent his frustrations about the Congregation in general, which he viewed as infected by the spirit of the world, indifference, egoism, liberty, dissipation, softness and disobedience.
Last years, death
After his resignation and the appointment of the superior general, Boujard continued to live at the mother house. He did not preside at the dedication of the new chapel that he had so carefully supervised, or at the election of Mother Antoinette Beaucourt. During the revolution of 1830, he fled to Saint Denis for safety, but then returned to the capital apparently to a private house or an apartment, possibly for medical attention. He had suffered from cataracts and agreed to an operation, but died of its effects in that house, 29 May 1831. He was seventy-eight.
Boujard, the last of the French vicars general, is a sad figure. He was caught in webs not of his own making and suffered rejection by those he had sought to serve. His last years, in particular, must have been painful in emotional as well as physical terms. Yet he guided the Congregation through complex issues and handed it on to the first superior general to serve after the Revolution.