Born at Ivrea, Italy on November 3, 1824.
Taking of the habit at Notre-Dame de l’Osier, August 14, 1842.
Oblation at Notre-Dame de l’Osier, August 15, 1843 (no. 110).
Ordination to the priesthood at Marseilles, December 18, 1847.
Left the Congregation in 1867.
César Albert Depetro was born in Ivrea, Italy, November 3, 1824. He entered the novitiate at Notre-Dame de l’Osier on August 14, 1842. He made his oblation on August 15, 1843. He, then studied theology with the scholastic brothers at the major seminary of Marseilles from 1843 to 1846. During the 1846 to 1847 school year at Notre-Dame de Lumières, he taught some twenty minor seminarians who were in their last year of classical studies.
He was ordained to the diaconate in Marseilles on August 8, 1847. During the course of the autumn, he became too closely linked in friendship with brother Fortuné Chavard whose bad conduct the moderator of the scholastic brothers, Father Bellon, deplored. Brother Chavard was sent to Notre-Dame de l’Osier to redo six months of his novitiate. Brother Depetro was suspended from his functions as deacon and his ordination to the priesthood was postponed. He was ordained to the priesthood on December 18, 1847 and immediately received his obedience for Nancy in order to “train himself in the exercise of the sacred ministry under the direction of Father Dassy and to grow stronger in the habits of regular observance by living in a novitiate community.” In communicating to the superior the fact that he is sending him this priest, in a December 23, 1847 letter, the Founder praised his qualities: “Ah! if you knew the fine man I am reserving for you! He is asked for elsewhere but he is for you. But you will have to be sparing of him, this dear youngster, and especially not make him sing too much, even though he has a pleasant voice and he sings quite well. He will have to be watched concerning the composition of his sermons. He gave the best sermon in the whole seminary. He speaks Latin wel,l knows Italian perfectly, he knows English also, that will be very useful for the Irish novices who are coming. Does he also know Spanish? He is gracious, laughs easily, perhaps a bit too much so; on that point he may have to have some advice, as I have given him here not without some success, for he has acquired more gravity since he has been preparing for the priesthood. In a word, he is a pleasant young man. …” (Letters to the Oblates of France, 1843-1849, Oblate Writings I, vol. 10, no. 959, p. 197)
For one year Father Depetro wrote sermons and taught a bit of English to the novices. The Founder encouraged him in this. On September 18, 1848, he wrote to Father Dassy: “Knowing English is essential for us in most of our foreign missions.” (Letters to the Oblates of France, 1843-1849, Oblate Writings I, vol. 10, no. 987, p. 234) He began to preach with good results at the beginning of 1849. During the autumn of that year, Father Depetro developed a friendship with a novice named Delune, a person the novitiate staff had to send away. Delune wanted to see Father Depetro leave the congregation with him and, in order to obtain that he be expelled, accused him of sexual misconduct. Father Dassy laid out the whole matter before Bishop de Mazenod and asked whether he should dispense Father Depetro from his vows. The Founder did not believe the accusations levelled by the “immoral” Delune, but initially he had a strong emotional response to the situation. On October 16, 1849, he delivered a harsh judgment. He thought that “The best thing this unhappy Depetro could do would be to go to the Trappists and weep over his sacrilege and apostasy. But this effeminate soul is incapable of a generous resolution.” (Letters to the Oblates of France, 1843-1849, Oblate Writings I, vol. 10, no. 1025, p. 273) On November 29, 1849 he complained of the bad conduct of another priest of the Nancy community, Father Aexandre Chaine, who can get along only with men “who are of Father Depetro’s kind, who laugh at everything and prolong their childhood, up to I don’t know what age, through frivolity and childishness.” (Letters to the Oblates of France, 1843-1849, Oblate Writings I, vol. 10, no. 1029, p. 278)
Father Depetro, who always maintained an exchange of correspondence with the Founder, writing sometimes in French and sometimes in Italian, expressed himself with great candor and tact. He admitted that he was an intimate friend of Delune’s and that he did not inform the superior of novice Delune’s conduct. But he strongly denied having committed any grave fault. He asked for forgiveness for his frivolousness. The Founder pardoned him. Father Dassy was keen to keep Father Depetro.
During the autumn of 1851, Father Dassy along with Father Depetro were sent to Bordeaux to found the Oblate community of Notre Dame de Talence. “He is your pupil, it is important that you go on directing him.” (Letters to the Oblates of France, 1850-1855, Oblate Writings I, vol. 11, no. 1088, p. 61) On January 10, 1852, he wrote again, “I am delighted at Father Depetro’s success in the ministry. If I didn’t think it would go to your head, I would compliment you on forming such a good pupil.” (Letters to the Oblates of France, 1850-1855, Oblate Writings I, vol. 11, no. 1095, p. 69)
In the summer of 1853, Father Dassy was recalled to Marseilles. Father Depetro finished the year at Talence and received his obedience for Notre-Dame de l’Osier where he worked until 1865. According to reports found in Missions O.M.I. in 1862-1865, he continuously preached missions and retreats. Toward the end of 1865 and in 1866, it seems he was a member of the community at Aix. He preached an Advent series in this city in 1865 and subsequently parish missions in Provence (Saint-Menet, Rognes, Châteaurenard, etc.)
December 31, 1866, he wrote to Father Fabre informing him that the Bishop of Belley was receiving him into his diocese. He was helping out an aged parish priest at Simandre near Ceyzéziat. He thanked Father Fabre for his “letters so filled with charity” and asked to remain in that parish in order to reflect on his future. And yet, we read in the January 4, 1867 report of the General Council that “Father Depetro was accepted into the diocese of Belley and once again is asking for a dispensation from his vows. Since this individual is more to be pitied than he is guilty, the Most Reverend Father General will contact the bishop of Belley to bring him to understand what would really be in the best interests of this poor misguided fellow.”
Yvon Beaudoin, o.m.i.