Born at Mercoeur (Haute-Loire), August 15, 1833.
Taking of the habit at Notre-Dame de l’Osier, February 24, 1857.
Oblation at Montolivet, June 24, 1858. (no. 461)
Ordination to the priesthood at Marseilles in 1864.
Expelled and dispensed from his vows in August 1865.
Jean-Baptiste Gazard was born in Mercoeur in the diocese of Puy on August 15, 1833. After a few years in the major seminary at Puy, he began his novitiate at Notre-Dame de l’Osier on February 24, 1857 and made his oblation at Montolivet on June 24, 1858. In his notes on the novices, Father Vandenberghe wrote about the arrival of the novices in February of1857: “Reject from the seminary of Puy. I believe that he can be a good candidate with regard both to prayer life and capabilities.” When he sent him to Marseilles in February of 1858, he added: “This brother must review the treatises on the ten commandments, on sin, faith, the Church. He is upright of heart and is of good will. His emotions are volatile and yet he is fearful and easily becomes upset. His prayer life is solid, stern in character, a bit of a tease and annoying, but without malice.”
He made his theological studies at Montolivet in the early years of 1858 and, after his ordination to the subdiaconate, taught at the church school of Vico. He returned to Montolivet in July of 1859. In his reports, Father Mouchette, moderator of scholastics, wrote: “I found him not very communicative. They say that he did not meet expectations at Vico, that there was even a danger in leaving him there.” He spent the 1859-1860 academic year at Montolivet. Father Mouchette found him unsettled and said that he was suffering from “frequent temptations to pride, ambition and impurity.”
He taught at the minor seminary of Notre-Dame de Lumières from 1860 to 1863. His case was examined at the July 22, 1863 session of the General Council. The secretary wrote in the report of the session: “Abnormal situation of Brother Gazard, deacon and teacher at the juniorate. The moods of this brother are variable, neither his prayer life nor his will seem to be steadfast enough. As well, his conduct seems sometimes touchy. It would seem to be unwise to ordain him to the priesthood. Nor can he be put in charge of young people at the juniorate. We are wondering what to do. Since he is in sacred orders, the Congregation must consider itself honour bound to see that he has at his disposal the means to do what is good. How to handle his case in a suitable way will be the subject of a review.”
He was brought back to Montolivet and was ordained to the priesthood at the beginning of 1864. During the summer, he wrote Father Fabre to tell him that he found it hard to endure the inactivity and solitude of Montolivet. He asked to be sent to another house. They sent him to Le Calvaire where, in 1864 and 1865, he preached a few retreats and missions. In July of 1865, Father Bellon, the superior at Le Calvaire, wrote to Father Fabre telling him that Father Gazard had been reported to the bishop of Marseilles because of scandalous conduct. He was sent to Notre-Dame de Bon Secours to go on retreat and, in the General Council session of August 6, 1865, the decision was taken to expel him and to dispense him from his vows. The secretary wrote in the session’s report: “In a long letter, Father Gazard, accused of having made an attempt against the good morals of one of his lady penitents in the parlor at Le Calvaire, admits to his misdeeds at Vico and at the juniorate in Lumières, then, without absolutely denying the acts imputed to him as happening in the parlour at Le Calvaire, casts blame on the conduct of the local superior. Having weighed and thoroughly discussed this whole matter […] the council is of the opinion that we should immediately send away this priest who has already gravely failed on two occasions and who shows no hope for the future. We do not know where to send him, etc.”
Father Gazard left Notre-Dame de Bon Secours about August 15, 1865 and went back home. In September, he wrote to Father Fabre to apologize for the trouble and worry that he caused. He still hoped that the decision in his regard would be revoked and asked to be issued a celebret, Mass intentions and a letter of recommendation for the bishop of Puy.
Yvon Beaudoin, o.m.i.