Born in Trets, Bouches-du-Rhône, February 14, 1800
Taking of the habit, Marseilles, October 28, 1826
Ordination to the priesthood, Marseilles, June 9, 1827 (no. 29)
Oblation, Marseilles, November 1, 1827
Died in Trets, August 27, 1848.
Daniel Valentin André was born in Trets, diocese of Aix, February 14, 1800, son of Marguerite Armand and Valentine André, master baker. He entered the novitiate in Marseilles, October 28, 1826, after finishing his studies at the major seminary in Aix. During his novitiate, Bishop Fortuné de Mazenod ordained him to the priesthood, June 9, 1827. Daniel, then, made his oblation in Marseilles, November 1, 1827 and received his obedience to the Oblate community at La Mission in Aix. He remained a member of this community until his death. One of the confessionals in the church of La Mission was assigned to him. His particular ministry was to be chaplain to the prisons and, occasionally, to the barracks and the hospital.
He was well known in Aix where he was the central character in a number of adventures. In the course of the struggle for freedom of education in 1828, the university students held a demonstration against the Jesuits. One evening when Father André was going home from visiting the hospital, he was met by a party of demonstrators who were shouting: “Hang the missionaries to the nearest lamppost, etc.” He told Abbé Bicheron what he had experienced and heard. Abbé Bicheron reported the incident in the conservative newspaper, La Quotidienne. The chief commissioner of Bouches-du-Rhône wrote Father de Mazenod asking him to assign Father André elsewhere. The Founder proved that Father André’s account was well grounded in fact and that he would be retained at his post of prison chaplain. July 21, 1828, the Founder wrote, “In my books, it is the executioners and not the victims who should be punished.”
During the cholera epidemic of July-August 1835, Father André devoted himself without counting the cost to the care of the sick. The following year, the government recognized his contribution by bestowing upon him a medal of honour.
In 1836, it seems that a man condemned to death said that he would go to confession to a priest if they would release him from his chains. The prison guards granted his request. Hardly were the priest and prisoner alone when the prisoner hurled himself at the priest, throwing him to the ground. He had his knee was crushing the missionary’s chest, pressing down on his cross. Quick intervention on the part of the guards freed him, but the chaplain spit blood and never completely recovered from the psychological trauma he experienced.
For months on end thereafter, he remained resting at his family home. January 16, 1837, Father Courtès asked Bishop de Mazenod “to test Father André’s spirit of obedience to put an end to this strange mode of existence. That is to say, if he would not return to live in community, it would be necessary to expel him from the Congregation.” It was only in the spring of that year that Father André returned to Aix. In a May 29, 1837 entry in his Diary, the Founder wrote: “[Father André] assured me that he narrowly escaped death that winter because of a very unusual disease which called for very special treatment…” Once again, he spent the winter of 1837-1838 in Trets. During the summer, he returned to Aix. That is what he would do in the years that followed. He preached a few missions and continued in his role as chaplain. January 15 of 1844, Bishop de Mazenod wrote to Father Courtès to “inform him that Father André had been twice been given honourable mention in the chief commissioner’s report to the general council. He was the only one upon whom this singular honour was bestowed.”
In 1845, the Founder yet again makes mention of Father André’s state of ill health. The periods of time spent at home with his family became ever more lengthy and it was at home that he died on August 27, 1848 after receiving the Sacrament of the Sick from an Oblate confrere from Aix.
Yvon Beaudoin, o.m.i.