Saint of the Day – 13 May – Saint André-Hubert Fournet (1752-1834) Priest and Co-Founder with St Jeanne-Élisabeth Bichier des Ages of the Congregation of the Daughters of the Cross, Apostle of the poor, needy, children and the aged. He is known as “the Good Father.” Born on 6 December 1752 at Maille, France and died on 13 May 1834 at La Puye, Vienne, France of natural causes. Patronage – the Daughters of the Cross.
André-Hubert Fournet was born on 6 December 1752 in Vienne to Pierre Fournet and Florence Chasseloup. He was the 9th of a family of 10 children . He grew up surrounded by the love of his parents and siblings. He was a carefree child, laughing, exuberant, he preferred play to work. As a pupil at the Châtellerault Secondary School, he was loved by all his classmates for his joyful drive and frankness. André-Hubert’s first teacher, his mother, was surprised by her child’s exuberance but she also knew his heart and his great tenderness. “One day, my good André, you will be a priest. You will go up to the altar and pray for your mother.” His mother planted the idea and then she left all the space to God. God did not seem in a hurry… nor did André-Hubert, who wrote on the first page of one of his books: “This book belongs to André-Hubert, a good boy, who will never be a monk or a priest.” God works His plan in His own time…
After his classical studies, he studied law for just a year. But his studies didn’t go well and so without consulting anyone, he joined the army. One day, in his military uniform, he went to his uncle’s house, the priest of Saint-Pierre de Maillé. His uncle received him coldly with the words: “Your visit is at the wrong address! I don’t have a nephew in the military service.” However, there was a door which was always open to him, that of his mother’s heart. Madame Fournet directed her son to one of his uncles, a priest in Haims, in the Vienne region. This uncle was reserved, austere, meditative. Haims is a harsh, isolated and lonely area of the countryside. In this solitary environment, André-Hubert reflected and prayed. The fruits of this period of quiet and peaceful reflection led him at 22, to enter the Seminary and become a Priest.
In 1776 he was Ordained to the Priesthood and was then sent to his own hometown, (succeeding his uncle) to become the Parish Pries to the great happiness of his mother who had her wish fulfilled.
One day, whilst awaiting some friends for lunch he prepared a table filled with food for them. Then, there was the sound of footsteps and he happily wents to open for his guests, only to find a beggar asking for alms. “I have no money…” “What! No money…” replied the poor man. “Your table is covered with it!” The beggar’s words were for André-Hubert, the Words of Jesus Christ. He cried for a long time, prostrated on the flagstones of the church. Through the beggar’s words, Jesus Christ entered his heart and completely took possession of it. The passionate and generous, André-Hubert, had the courage to change his whole life.
The French Revolution saw him refuse to take the oath and he continued his now illegal pastoral mission in secret. On 6 April 1792 – on Good Friday – he was arrested for his activities. He declined being taken to jail in a carriage and said since Jesus Christ carried His cross it, behoved His followers to travel on foot. He would escape and at one point assumed the place of a dead person on a bier. But confident in Divine Providence, he decided to leave, taking the path of exile to Spain. Spain welcomed the French priest, the fugitive. From 1792 to 1797, André-Hubert took refuge in Los Arcos, a small town in Navarre.
But he misses his abandoned parishioners of Saint-Pierre de Maillé He heard their voices. So, he decided to return to France, alone. In France, calm had not yet returned. Refractory priests were still in danger. These were very difficult times. It was still the era of catacombs! But our Pastor is brave. As a precaution, Fr André-Hubert celebrated the Eucharist clandestinely, sometimes in one place, sometimes in another.
In 1798 he met St Jeanne-Elisabeth Bichier des Ages, who had approached him for spiritual guidance. Their first meeting was decisive. Elisabeth became his collaborator in the founding of the Congregation of the Daughters of the Cross. In the aftermath of the Revolution, Fr André wanted to educate children, the aged and care for the sick. He entrusted this mission to Elisabeth, the young lady he met at Les Marsyllis. Around Elisabeth, a small community was born. Fr André-Hubert became the Spiritual and Apostolic leader of this new family.
In 1801 as better days dawn, Fr André-Hubert returned to Maillé and in 1802, re-established himself in his rectory. His parish was his family. In all their homes, he is called “the Good Father.” He knew all his parishioners. He loved them and is loved by them.
After 40 years of parish ministry, Good Father André retired and left Maillé to dedicate himself in his ageing years to the Congregation of the Sisters of the Cross, which had moved to in a former convent of the Fontevristes in La Puye. Here, he interceded for many miracles – on more than one occasion, he multiplied the food for the members of the new congregation.
Until his old age, the Good Father kept an expression of simplicity and humility. In the sun of God’s love, the transfiguration of his being continued in deep holiness, charity, humility and zeal.
On 13 May 1834, aged 81, Fr André-Hubert opened his eyes to the sun without decline.
After the approval of 2 miracles, he was Beatified on 16 May 1926 by Pope Pius XI and Canonised on June 1933 by the same Pope, after a further 2 miracles.