Born at Lavérune (Hérault), February 3, 1808
Taking of the habit at Marseilles, December 31, 1837
Oblation at Marseilles, January 1, 1839 (no. 78)
Ordination to the priesthood at Marseilles, November 3, 1839
Died at Mazargues, March 23, 1869.
Jean Viala was born at Lavérune, diocese of Montpellier, on February 3, 1808. He was a cleric in minor orders when he began his novitiate at Le Calvaire on December 31, 1837. he made his oblation on January 1, 1839 and continued studying theology at the major seminary of Marseilles. Bishop de Mazenod ordained him to the priesthood on November 3, 1839.
He received his obedience for the house in Aix where he remained until 1847 with brief stays at Notre-Dame de Lumières and at Le Calvaire in Marseilles. In 1847, he accompanied Father Hippolyte Courtès who had been appointed superior and founder of the Oblate house in Limoges. When Father Courtès left Limoges in May of 1848, the Founder initially wanted to appoint Father Viala superior and then gave up the idea, finding him too lax in following the rule. Nevertheless, he insisted that Father Viala remain at Limoges since the bishop, the clergy and the people liked him. However, Father Viala was sent to Le Calvaire in August of 1848.
At the beginning of 1849, Bishop de Mazenod accepted to send a few Oblates to Algeria. Father Viala was appointed superior of the house of Blida. He only stayed there five or six months. In the fall of 1849, we find him at Notre-Dame de Bon Secours. At the end of 1851, he was appointed superior of Notre-Dame de Lumières, even if the Founder judged that he “had not shown great capability in Algeria. Father Adrien Telmon replaced him in this position in 1854.
Father Viala subsequently resided in Notre-Dame de Bon Secours for a few years and was at the same time extraordinary consultor for the province of Midi. According to Missions O.M.I. 1862 to 1869, he resided at Notre-Dame de la Garde in Marseilles, but no longer preached the length and breadth of Provence.
In his obituary, Father Fabre wrote: Father Viala was “always engaged in the ministry of preaching parish missions in the rural parishes, where he obtained, not the success of a brilliant orator, but that which is the man of God’s only goal, the conversion of souls, the return of the most hardened sinners. His speech was perhaps at times inept, but he put so much heart in his exhortations, he led souls by so many means, he gave of himself with so much generosity, that one would have had to been wilfully blind in order not to see, or to be heartless not to be affected. By this combination of qualities much more than by a native ability to use words, he became a truly popular speaker. The men especially appreciated his preaching. It was, indeed, for this particular group of his listeners that he worked the most energetically and that he expended the best resources of his priestly soul.”
Father Viala died March 23, 1869 in his sixty-second year of age in the course of the parish mission of Mazargues in the suburbs of Marseilles.
Yvon Beaudoin, o.m.i.