Born in la Roche (Hautes-Alpes), November 27, 1806
Ordination to the priesthood in Gap, June 5, 1830
Taking of the habit in Marseilles, October 23, 1837
Oblation in Marseilles, November 1, 1838 (No.76)
Ordained bishop in Marseilles, July 13, 1851
Died in Rome, September 26, 1889.
Jean-François Allard, son of Jean-François Allard and Marguerite Hodoul, was born on November 27, 1806 in La Roche, in the diocese of Gap. Following his studies at the minor seminary of Embrun and the major seminary of Gap, he was ordained to the priesthood in Gap on June 5, 1830 at the hands of Bishop François Antoine Arbaud. Initially, he worked as administrator of the parish of La Rochette and then of Fouillouse. He taught philosophy and mathematics at the minor seminary of Embrun from 1833 to 1838.
On October 23, 1837, he began his novitiate in Marseilles, but he immediately returned to Embrun where he continued on as professor until the end of the school year of 1837-1838. In September of 1838, he returned to Marseilles to continue his novitiate and made his oblation on November 1. Initially, the obediences given to Father Allard were numerous: Notre-Dame de Lumières in 1838-1839, major seminary in Marseilles in 1839-1840, Notre-Dame de Lumières in 1840-1841, Aix in 1841-1842 and once again professor of Sacred Scripture at the major seminary of Marseilles in 1842-1843. In Notre-Dame de Lumières and Aix, he was given the pastoral charge of the chapels of these houses and preached a few missions. Bishop de Mazenod held him in high regard. In a November 13, 1837 letter to Father Mille in Notre-Dame du Laus that his appreciation of Abbé Allard was “without limit” and when he sent him to Father Courtès in Aix on January 8, 1841, he said that he was “a person of great worth.”
At the beginning of 1843, the Founder received bad news from Canada. In August, he sent Father Allard there with powers of visitor extraordinary. He was subsequently replaced in this role by Father Eugène Guigues in June of 1844. In Canada, Father Allard functioned as master of novices in Longueuil from 1843 to 1849. At the same time, he served as master of novices and teacher with the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary. Sent to Bytown (Ottawa) in 1849, he was superior of the college in 1849-1850 and chaplain of the mother house of the Grey Nuns in 1849-1851.
In South Africa
On January 29 of 1851, he was appointed titular bishop of Samaria and first vicar apostolic of Natal. He tried to avoid taking on this responsibility, but Bishop de Mazenod compelled him to come as soon as possible to Marseilles where he was consecrated bishop on July 13, 1851. Bishop Allard and four Oblate confreres arrived in Port Natal on March 15, 1852. He built a chapel and a residence in Durban and in Pietermaritzburg where he established his residence. In January 1854, Fathers Joseph Gérard and Justin Barret arrived accompanied by Brother Pierre Bernard. The bishop, who until this time had ministered only to the white population, decided to evangelize the Zulus. Three attempts were made in Saint Michael’s mission in 1855-1856 and from February 1858 until June 1860, then in the mission Our Lady of the Seven Dolours, all in vain. In view of these failures, Bishop de Mazenod advised them to move more deeply into the interior of the continent. This is what Bishop Allard and Father Gerard did in 1862. They were welcomed by King Moshoeshoe in the land of the Basotho and founded the mission of the Mother of Jesus Village (Roma). In spite of many difficulties, the vicariate grew. According to the report to the General Chapter of 1873, the vicariate at the time had five missions and some mission stations with eight priests, five brothers and more than 3,000 Catholics.
In 1870, Bishop Allard attended the Vatican Council. In his absence, the priests lodged complaints with Father Fabre against their bishop. Father Aimé Martinet, assistant general, was sent to make a canonical visit. He drew up a report that was very critical of Bishop Allard’s administration, stating that the bishop did not know the languages of the country and no longer did any traveling. After his return to Paris in 1872, the General Administration made the decision to confer the direction of the vicariate to someone who was younger. On June 4, Father Fabre communicated this decision to the bishop and asked him to submit his resignation. Bishop Allard refused and accused the visitor of having lacked objectivity and have overstepped his authority. The Congregation of the Progaganda initially stepped in to defend the bishop. After several months of epistolary exchange and negotiations between the Oblates, the Congregation of the Propaganda and the bishop, the bishop finally offered his resignation on June 6, 1874. His resignation was accepted on June 18 by Pius IX who, on the same day it seems, appointed him archbishop of Taron and consultor to the Congregation of the Propaganda.
Bishop Allard subsequently retired in Rome. He lived in a private house at via Monterone 79 until 1887 when he moved to the new scholasticate at via Vittorino da Feltre. There, he lived until his death, which took place on September 26, 1889. His life in Rome was one of recollection and prayer, observing the rule with the meticulousness of a novice.
Yvon Beaudoin, o.m.i.