Saint of the Day – 2 October – Blessed Antoine Chevrier T.O.S.F. (1825-1879) – Priest, Founder of the Sisters of Prado and the Institute of the Priests of Prado, professed member of the Franciscan Third Order, Apostle of Charity, Writer – born on Easter Sunday, 16 April 1825 in Lyon, Rhône, France and died on 2 October 1879 in Lyon, Rhône, France of natural causes. Patronage – the Sisters of Prado and the Institute of the Priests of Prado. His entire life and pastoral mission was devoted to the service of the poor and the education of poor children and those on the peripheries.
Antoine Chevrier was born on Easter on 16 April 1825. He was the sole child born to his parents and received baptism on the following 18 April. From his father he inherited a humble spirit and gentleness while he received from his mother a passionate and energetic disposition. He had his First Communion in 1837. In 1840 – at the age of fourteen – a parish priest asked him if he wanted to become a priest himself. Chevrier never thought about it but said he would like to. He felt immediate happiness in this realisation and decided to become a priest. Chevrier commenced his studies for the priesthood at the age of seventeen in 1842. He received the cassock in October 1846 and received the tonsure in 1847.
Prior to being ordained he wanted to join the foreign missions but his mother opposed and said to him: “You are an ingrate, mister, a bad son. Do you think I raised you for you to be eaten by savages? Savages you can fin in Lyon! If you go in spite of me, I will disown you as my child”. He was ordained to the priesthood on 25 May 1850 by Cardinal Louis Jacques Maurice de Bonald and was sent to Saint-André de la Guillotière as an assistant priest where he became greatly saddened with the miserable conditions of the poor that he encountered.
In the middle of the night on 31 May 1856 a great storm caused flooding. He rescued several victims despite the danger to his own life. On Christmas Eve in 1856 he meditated before the crib and it was there and then that he realised his true mission as a priest was to evangelise to the poor but also to tend to the poor on the streets while forming a religious congregation for all those who were poor. This experience was almost like a sudden “conversion”. In Ars-sur-Formans – in January 1857 – he consulted with Saint John-Baptiste-Marie Vianney (1786-1859) on his mission and who encouraged his work. He asked to leave his parish to pursue this aim and a meeting with layman Camille Rambaud in June 1857 hastened this. Sometimes parents sent him their delinquent children and others asked him to get their children out of prison and take them to live with him for a better life. In 1859 he became a professed member of the Third Order of Saint Francis.
On 10 December 1860 he purchased a disused ballroom in order to establish a chapel and a shelter for poor children and those on the peripheries in order to provide them with a Christian education. In his lifetime he received around 2400 male adolescents . In 1866 he opened a clerical school – that grew into his male institute – for clerical aspirants. The first lot were ordained in Rome in 1876. The female branch of his order – the Sisters of Prado – opened not long after his first was established.
Social unrest threatened Lyon and Paris in 1871 but the conflict in Lyon stalled as Chevrier celebrated the Feast of Corpus Christi and paraded the Eucharist through the streets – the quarrellers dared not interrupt the celebration.
Chevrier was also a writer and he wrote both the “Disciple of Jesus Christ” and “God sends Revolutions”. The latter was a critique of priests who pursued greed and their excessive attachment to material goods.
He fell ill in the spring of 1874 which began his long period of illness until his death. He recovered and made a four-month visit to Rome to be with his future priests.
He knew his death was approaching in September 1879 due to his ailment. Chevrier died on 2 October 1879 after suffering a long illness. Around 10 000 people attended his funeral many of them the people the Work of Prado had helped. He was buried in the chapel he had built and the street in front of it is now named for him. His order was approved of diocesan right in 1924 and was aggregated to the Conventual Franciscans in 1930. The order received the papal decree of praise of Pope John XXIII on 28 October 1959.
Blessed Antoine was Beatified on 4 October 1986 by St Pope John Paul II.