Jean Bonnet

From Vincentian Encyclopedia
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Jean Bonnet, Sixth Superior General of the Congregation of the Mission (Fifth successor of St. Vincent de Paul), was born on March 29, 1664 in Fontainebleau. He is received to the Internal Seminary in 1681. Then, he is sent to the seminary in Auxerre. Next became superior in Chartres. In 1703 he was appointed Assistant of Fr Francois Watel, the fifth Superior General. After his death, Eighth General Assembly, on May 10, 1711, elects Fr Bonnet the next Superior General of the Congregation of the Mission.

24 years in office made the longest and fullest generalship of all the Superiors General before the Revolution. He had keen intelligence and great capacity for work. A brief sketch of his life and character is given in the preface to a collection of meditations which he composed and Collet published. He had to pass with his community through the difficult period of Jansenism. His congregation in charge of a great number of seminaries, and hence in close contact with a great number of bishops whose tendencies were very doubtful, was indeed in a delicate position. Rome condemned Jansenism, and Bonnet, regardless of the inconvenience his community might suffer, here and there, as a consequence, held firmly the course marked out by the pope. He expelled from the congregation men otherwise most distinguished such as Himbert and Philopald. After him, Couty and Debras showed themselves equally faithful and courageous in the doctrinal difficulties which still continued.

He worked in concert with Sister Chauveau, Sister Mazurier, Sisters Jouvin and Carlier, and was one of the legislators of the Company. On March 11, 1718, he gave the company statutes which are an internal regulation in addition to rules codified by Fr. Alméras, second Superior General, and sent to all the Houses by Fr. Jolly, the third one.

Fr. Bonnet was the first who divided the Company into Provinces. At first, he erected 14 provinces, and then, in October 1718 erected another 19 ones (including the Province of Poland). He recommended superiors to do canonical visitations of Daughters of Charity houses with big care. He drew regulations for Mother House positions of Superioresses, Seminary Directresses, and sketched timetable of monthly and annual days of retreat.

Due to influx of vocations in France four new Internal Seminaries were established in 1724.

In his last Circular, he addresses Daughters of Charity asking them to engage themselves to the service of sick without fear of plague. Jean Bonnet died on September 3, 1735 in Paris.