Born in Cassis (Bouches-du-Rhône), December 21, 1807
Taking of the habit, Marseilles, April 25, 1828
Oblation in Marseilles, April 25, 1829 (no. 35)
Ordination to the priesthood, Marseilles, June 29, 1830
Dispensed from his vows, August 25, 1850
Died in Marseilles, June 27, 1885.

Jean-Baptiste Vincent Mille was born in Cassis, diocese of Marseilles, December 21, 1807. He made his first Holy Communion at the church of Saint-Cannat in Marseilles and was confirmed by His Excellency Miollis, Bishop of Digne. From the school of the Christian Brothers, he passed to the minor seminary of the Sacred Heart where, for five years, he was genuinely successful in his studies. In 1826, he was admitted to the major seminary which, at that time, was located on St. Just street in the eastern suburb of the city. At the beginning of the 1827-1828 school year, the seminary was transferred to Rouge street near the cathedral and confided to the Oblates. This is where Vincent Mille met the Oblates. He began his novitiate at Le Calvaire April 25, 1828 and made his oblation April 25, 1829. Bishop Fortuné de Mazenod ordained him to the priesthood June 29, 1830.

After the July 1830 Revolution which, in its initial stages, was very anti-clerical, Father de Mazenod who was resting in Switzerland bought some property at Billens and summoned the novices and scholastic brothers there. Upon his departure in November, he appointed Father Mille as superior of that community. Consequently, he wrote to him often and sent him a lot of advice about formation of the novices, religious life and the studies of the scholastic brothers. He also rebuked him for undertaking to preach too often and, in consequence, neglecting his duties as superior and formator. For example, in an April 21, 1832 letter, he told him: “I will say a word in passing about your zealous works during the Forty Hours. Do you want to know the conclusion that I have come to from your account? It is that you are as good a missionary as you are a poor superior.” (Letters to the Oblates in France, 1831-1836, Oblate Writings I, vol. 8, no. 420, p. 58)

Father Mille was soon able to devote himself totally to preaching which is something in which he excelled. Even before his ordination to the priesthood, the Founder found that he preached well. The author of Father Mille’s brief obituary wrote: “Gifted with a very keen intelligence and great fluency of speech, early on filled with a great apostolic zeal… He possessed all the qualities which made of him a truly popular Christian orator.” The novices and the scholastic brothers returned to France in the beginning of 1833. During the summer, Father Mille received his obedience for Notre-Dame du Laus where he was appointed superior in 1834 after Father Guibert’s departure for Corsica. He finished construction on the bell tower of the shrine, preached many missions and, from 1839 to 1842, had to defend the Oblates against claims lodged by some of the clergy and the bishops of Gap (Bishops N. A. de La Croix, 1837-1840 and L. Rossat, 1841-1844) who wanted to take back the administration of the shrine. In July of 1842, the Oblates were compelled to leave after Bishop Rossat suspended them a sacris.

During the summer of 1837, Father Mille accompanied Bishop Bernet, Archbishop of Aix during his pastoral visit. He took part in the General Chapter of 1837. After the death of Father Mie in 1841, Bishop de Mazenod appointed him fourth Assistant General. In virtue of this office, he participated in the General Chapter of 1843 and was also appointed Procurator General. After his departure from Notre-Dame du Laus, he was called to the seminary in Marseilles where he taught dogma in 1842-1843 and moral theology from 1843-1845.

In the summer of 1845, he was sent away from Marseilles where he had too many friends and relatives. It was with bad grace that he accepted his obedience for Notre-Dame de Lumières in 1845-1846 and then for Aix in 1846-1847. In the month of September, 1847, he was appointed superior of Notre-Dame de Bon Secours in Ardèche to replace Father Dassy who was sent to Nancy. Father Dassy had been doing some building and had incurred some debts. Because of the economic and social crisis that was raging, Father Mille did not succeed in paying the workers and financial help from Father Tempier came only in dribs and drabs. Unhappy with this, without asking permission, Father Mille made his way to Marseilles at the beginning of the summer of 1848 ostensibly to beg for money and most of the time he stayed some place in the city, not in an Oblate community. In July, the Founder compelled him to return to his former posting. It was at this point that Father Mille wrote to Bishop de Mazenod a letter ab irato. Bishop de Mazenod copied it and commented upon it in his Diary under the heading of July 17, preceding it with this observation: “This is a memorial to be conserved to illustrate how far the pride of a slipshod religious may carry him. This letter is worthy of Luther, the kind that this leading heretic in his day used to write to the bishops and to the Pope. And if people only knew all that I have been to this wayward priest, all the things for which I have forgiven him, his outrageous letter would only appear that much more odious.” After this letter, Bishop de Mazenod and Father Mille had a few talks and Father Mille accepted to return to Notre-Dame de Bon Secours.

But, it seems, Father Mille found obedience and the regular life of the religious more and more difficult. On August 25, 1850, he asked for and received dispensation from his vows. The author of his obituary wrote that: “family reasons compelled him to leave the Oblate Congregation.” This could easily be a plausible explanation. In order to give him some means of livelihood, as of October 1, 1850, Bishop de Mazenod appointed him parish priest of Saint-Marcel. Abbé Mille remained in this parish for 35 years and it is there he died June 27, 1885. He set up a number of works in this parish, especially a large school for boys under the direction of the Marist Brothers and an immense establishment devoted to caring for the poor and visiting the sick run by the Sisters of Charity.

The author of his obituary concludes with this overall assessment of Abbé Mille: “A genuine popular eloquence, apostolic zeal, dedication to all great and noble causes, purity of doctrine, devotion to the Holy See and kind heartedness: such are the main traits which characterized this priestly personality and this career in the Church which, while modest, was not without its glory and the memory of which will live on among the clergy of Marseilles.”

Yvon Beaudoin, o.m.i.