Born at Metz (Moselle), April 18, 1821.
Ordination to the priesthood at Metz, August 31, 1845.
Taking of the habit at Nancy, March 24, 1859.
Oblation at Nancy, March 25, 1860. (no. 500)
Died at Saint-Hélier, Jersey, July 24, 1894.
Donat Michaux was born at Metz on April 18, 1821. He made his secondary studies at the school run by Abbé Bureaux, studied theology at the major seminary of Metz and was ordained to the priesthood on August 31, 1845. For five years, he exercised his priestly ministry as assistant priest in the parish of Sainte-Ségolène. In collaboration with General Randon, in 1848, he founded an outreach to the men in the armed forces, a work he directed for a few years. Appointed canon at 32 years of age, he did not wish to become entrenched in his office of canon and in ordinary parish ministry or in a pious work of some kind. He took on the work of a mission preacher, preaching retreats and missions from 1853 to 1859. When his mother died, he entered the novitiate of Nancy on March 24, 1859. Father Guinet, the novice master, wrote in his March notes of 1859: “Michaux has been trained in the life of a mission preacher by the preaching he has done. He has had experience and possesses all the qualities to draw people and to succeed… Divine Providence has made it a necessity for him to seek some rest, the interior life in religious life. He chose us. He is happy since he has been with us. Even though he is used to doing whatever he chooses, he obeys like a child…” Father Guinet added in April: “Michaux is ever more happy and content. He helps us much with external ministry, an activity which for him constitutes a necessity. However, his compliance with and his meticulous observance of the rules of the novitiate are edifying. Endowed with a nervous temperament in the extreme, the weather and meatless fare have an impact on his morale… He obeys me, respects me and opens his heart to me like a small child. That is what makes me believe in his perseverance.”
After his oblation on March 25, 1860, Father Michaux remained at Nancy as a mission preacher. During the war of 1870, he acted as chaplain for the soldiers at Liège, then, upon his return, received his obedience for Notre-Dame de Sion where he worked for ten years. In 1880, he set up in Schonau in Switzerland a refuge for the minor seminarians expelled from France and remained with them right up until 1882.
A doughty missionary and tireless fund-raiser, such were the two characteristic traits of Father Michaux. We read in his obituary, when he appeared on the scene as a missionary in a given place, “his fine bearing, his distinguished manners, his kindly appearance, made a deep impression and disposed the most indifferent to view him favourably; in addition to that, he obtained outstanding results.” He had also been gifted by God with an extraordinary gift for fundraising. Thanks to the gifts that he obtained, his confreres were able to finish the construction of the chapel at Nancy and the tower of Notre-Dame de Sion and to build a juniorate there.
In 1882, Father Michaux was sent to Jersey where he remained until his death. The author of his obituary wrote: At Jersey, Father Michaux “took charge of two main works, managing them simultaneously with his usual vigor and enthusiasm, in spite of the already heavy burden of his years. He directed a juniorate established for recruiting vocations and to receive late vocations, and displayed the greatest dedication in obtaining for this charitable work the necessary resources. Then, he provided for the construction of a church for our parish of Saint Thomas in the town of Saint-Hélier. The work was supremely demanding, but he displayed such energy, so much dedication, that Saint Thomas soon found itself endowed with a huge monumental church, the finest in the entire island, a church commonly called the cathedral and which cost more than 700 thousand francs. That can give you an idea of the extraordinary esteem Father Michaux enjoyed among the people, of the general love and trust which surrounded him in every place where he spoke or wherever he solicited funds.” He died suddenly kneeling at his prie-dieu on the morning of July 24, 1894 in the 74th year of his age.
Yvon Beaudoin, o.m.i.