Born at Montrigaud (Drôme), October 25, 1825
Taking of the habit at Notre-Dame de Lumières, October 31, 1845
Oblation at Notre-Dame de l’Osier, November 1, 1846 (no. 168)
Ordination to the priesthood in Marseilles, May 25, 1850
Died at Notre-Dame de Sion, January 5, 1891.
Joseph Vivier was born at Montrigaud, diocese of Valence, October 25, 1825. He was one of the first students at the juniorate of Notre-Dame de Lumières in 1842 and that is where he began his novitiate, October 31, 1845. After his oblation at Notre-Dame de l’Osier, November 1, 1846, he studied philosophy and theology at the major seminary of Marseilles and was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop de Mazenod, May 25, 1850.
In the month of March 1848, the Founder was thinking of sending him to Canada with Father Léonard Baveux, but immediately after his ordination, Father Vivier received his obedience for Ceylon where we find him already in the month of August of 1850. Initially, he was learning the Tamil language with Father Joseph Ciamin and worked in the vicariate of Jaffna. In 1856, charges were laid against him. After an inquiry, Bishop Bettacchini told Bishop Semeria that he was compelled to suspend Father Vivier a sacris in accordance with the terms of the bull Contra sollicitantes. To avoid all scandal among the faithful, he requested rather that Father Vivier be sent back to Europe. His case was examined by the General Council in its October 24, 1856 session. In the session’s report, among other things, we read: “Given the circumstances, the priests in Ceylon thought they should comply with the wishes of the vicar apostolic, by sending their accused confrere to France, whom they have, in fact, sent on his way. While admitting the fact that several accusations have been lodged against this unfortunate individual, they think he is not as guilty as he is made out to be and ask on his behalf a general pardon […] After a rather long debate and having heard the opinions brought forth, most reverend Father General, desiring to make mercy prevail, convinced his council not to pass once again the sentence that the guilty party might deserve, but allow him to do the penance that he humbly asked to do and even to keep him in the Congregation if he shows by a sincere and thorough conversion that he is worthy to continue as a member of the Congregation.”
At first, Father Vivier remained at Notre-Dame de Lumières and then was sent as a mission preacher to Notre-Dame de l’Osier. In 1857, after the death of Bishop Bettachini, he asked to return to Ceylon. Bishop de Mazenod approved this endeavour. In an October 10, 1857 letter, he wrote to Bishop Semeria: “Fr. Vincens never stops telling me that Fr. Vivier is less guilty than people think and that he has been more imprudent than culpable in the great affair that has been stirred up against him, that he knows Fr. Vivier better than anyone and that he thinks it would be right to send him back to Ceylon where he would really do a lot of good.” (Letters to Ceylon and Africa, 1847-1860, Oblate Writings I, vol. 4, no. 44, p. 137-138)
Nevertheless, Father Vivier remained in France, first of all as mission preacher at Notre-Dame de Bon Secours, at Vico, at Limoges and at Notre-Dame de Cléry. From 1866 to 1874, he was professor and director at the scholasticate of Autun, then, from 1874 to his death, he taught classical literature at the juniorate of Notre-Dame de Sion. Father Louis Le Jeune who lived with him at Sion says that Father Vivier enjoyed a happy disposition and “appeared happy, cheerful, fully candid, filled with energy and carefree […] He had a hearty laugh, was cordial, convivial, sometimes brilliant; he was always the life of the party during our times recreation and would bring cheer to his confreres.” He faithfully observed the Oblate rule and had a special attraction for simplicity and poverty.
About one year before his death, he suffered a stroke that paralysed his right side. It left him with a bent body and had its effect on his mental faculties. He died at Notre-Dame de Sion on January 5, 1891.
Yvon Beaudoin, o.m.i.