YULE ISLAND PIONEER BISHOP ON THE WAY TO SAINTHOOD
By Bishop Rochus Tatamai MSC - Bereina
On 16 April 2014 Pope Francis officially recognized the “heroic virtues” of the Servant of God Alain-Marie Guynot de Boismenu. He was born on the 27th December, 1870 at Saint Malo, a town on the coast of Britanny, France. He was the 11th and last child of Francois Guynot de Boismenu and Augustine Desessarts. He never knew his mother since she died 15 days after his birth so his elder sister whose name was also Augustine, became mother to him. They were a family of 8 boys and 3 girls.
He began his primary education with the Brothers of the Christian Schools (de la Salle Brothers) then moved to secondary education at the College of St Malo which was under the direction of he Diocesan Clergy.
Alain de Boismenu always wanted to become a missionary so with the assistance of his confessor and spiritual Director, the Abbe Barbot who had a great devotion to Our Lady of the Sacred Heart and a great admirer of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, he recommended him to join their Apostolic School at Issoudun. He expressed this desire thus: “I have always had the intention of becoming a priest and even a missionary...” Young de Boismenu arrived in Issoudun on the 8th September, 1886. The young MSC congregation was only 32 years old yet it was already the time of major missionary expansion with great adventure of the missions in Micronesia and Melanesia.
Due to the French revolution with anti-religious political legislations, many religious congregations were expelled from France. Thus de Boismenu was sent to Antwerp, Belgium to do his novitiate and had the opportunity to be exposed to many schoolboys, novices, philosophers and theologians from various parts of Europe. In the novitiate he displayed fervent love for souls and strong missionary spirit. He was keen on giving catechetical instructions to the brothers and younger schoolboys.
He made his first profession as a Missionary of the Sacred Heart on 4th October 1888. Between the years 1888 and 1892 he did his philosophical and theological studies in Antwerp. He then made final vows in 1891. The following year 1892 he was appointed to Issoudun to teach in the Apostolic School. He was ordained priest at Bourges on the 10th February 1895.
Some years earlier, de Boismenu had written to Father Henry Verius MSC who was the pioneer Missionary to arrive at Yule Island in 1885 seeking his advice about the best way to prepare himself for live in the mission. The advice was: “Here you need 100 times more virtue, spirit of sacrifice and spirit of faith than in Europe…Consider excellent the day when you are opposed, exercise yourself often in patience, in putting up with the faults of your brothers; this point is essential, patience with yourself, with others and above all with the natives (locals) who discourage you in the mission such a habit of patience is so necessary.”
As a teacher, he was popular amongst his students who apparently later served under him in the Mission at Yule Island. He also developed an interest for Social questions especially inspired by Pope Leo XIII who issued his encyclical on Social questions in 1891. He was concern about the working conditions of the poor and the theological aspects of the Pope’s teaching.
Alain received news of his appointment to the mission on 13th August 1897.He arrived in Sydney towards end of October 1897. However, some of his confreres were skeptical about his suitability for the vigorous life of the Mission. On the contrary, he was appointed Bishop in 1900 and retired to Kubuna in 1945 and died on 5th November 1953. In fact he lived as bishop for 53 years in total.
He offered many pastoral guidelines to the missionaries as well as wrote pastoral letter to offer clarification on issues in terms of evangelization and inculturation. He in fact set out to improve the living conditions of the missionaries and to strengthen the centralization of the administration so to offer more appropriate support to the missionaries in the field.
He was a very good diplomat in dealing with the civil authorities and the rival Protestant missions as regards the official policy of “spheres of influence” as well as the ongoing tribal conflicts.
He reorganized the structure of mission life to regroup missionaries into communities of about six or seven members. Such an arrangement alleviates the serious problems of isolation and loneliness. The men were able to move out from the central station to minister to the different outstations; but they also had a base, a community, to which they could return for support and companionship. Such new structure gave the missionaries the support they needed as well as facilitate the practice of community life with the spiritual, intellectual and material advantages that this offered.
He believed in local (indigenous) vocations so he founded the women Congregation of the Handmaids of Our Lord (A.D. Sisters in 1918) and for the men the Little Brothers of the Sacred Heart. Later he promoted the first indigenous priest Fr Louis Vangeke MSC who was ordained in 1937 and consecrated Bishop in 1970 in Sydney by Pope Paul VI.
Just before Easter we received news that Archbishop Alain Guynot de Boismenu, former Apostolic Vicar of Yule Island has been declared “VENERABLE”. There is now just the need of a miracle that he can become a “BLESSED” and from there a “SAINT”.