January 17 – THE 18th-CENTURY MONTFORTIAN SUPERIORS GENERAL
THE 18th-CENTURY MONTFORTIAN SUPERIORS GENERAL
When G. Deshayes was elected Superior the difference in numbers in the two Congregations under him was considerable. The Company of Mary was made up of a few priests and a few Brothers. The Daughters of Wisdom numbered 778 (including the novices) in 96 houses. Fr. Deshayes was the seventh Superior of the two Institutes.
The first Superior was Fr. Mulot, who died on 12 May 1749 (See 12 May).
The second was Fr. Audubon (1749-1755). In 1742, as he was passing through Saint-Laurent, Marie-Louise Trichet said to him, “God calls you to come here and be with our missionaries”. After joining the Company he was appointed by Fr. Mulot to succeed him. In 1750 and 1755 he went to the court in order to seek royal approbation of his two Congregations. His efforts were fruitless. He died a saintly death at the age of 45 at Poire-sur-Velluire (Vendee) after giving his 80th mission which he preached to the end despite being racked with pain.
The third was Fr. Charles Besnard (1755-1788). Born in Rennes, he was ordained priest in 1741 at the seminary of the Holy Spirit in Paris. He discovered Montfort while reading his biography and joined the Company of Mary in 1743. In 1748 he walked to Rome with two confreres. He was an intelligent man of sound judgement and was elected Superior General in 1755. He filled this post for 33 years until his death. In 1773 he was granted the patent letters officially recognizing the Daughters of Wisdom and the Company of Mary; however, he had to make concessions such as abolishing the vows for the priests. He had the calvary of Saint-Laurent renovated and built the house now occupied by members of the Company of Mary. He wrote a new life of Montfort and a life of Marie-Louise, whom he knew well. These two biographies remained in manuscript form for a long time.
The fourth was Fr. Micquignon (1788-1792). His short term of office was marked by the beginnings of the French Revolution which affected him deeply..
The fifth was Fr. Supiot (1792-1810). He lived through the most tragic moments of the French Revolution (See 29 March). He acquired two. houses: Haute-Grange (the present-day Saint-Michel) and, in 1796, the house which was to become known as Saint-Gabriel (See 5 May). Although he kept the title of Superior General until his death at the age of 87, it was Fr. Duchesne who, from 1810, actually governed the Congregations.
The sixth was Fr. Duchesne (1818-1821). In 1819 he commissioned Fr. Couperie to go to Rome and give Pope Pius VII the respects of the communities of Saint-Laurent; he also granted him his wish which was to work on the foreign missions
-he went to Babylon and became the city’s local Bishop. As Fr. Duchesne had a heart condition, in September 1821 he summoned Fr. Deshayes to Saint-Laurent and invited him to act as his Assistant. Fr. Deshayes took up his duties on 17 December 1821. Fr. Duchesne died five days later.