POPE Francis has officially recognised the “heroic virtues” of Alain-Marie Guynot de Boismenu, former Apostolic Vicar of Yule Island, who just before Easter was declared “Venerable”.
There is now the need of a miracle to enable Alain de Moismenu to become a “Blessed” and from there a “Saint.
de Boismenu was born in 1870 in Britanny in France, the 11th and last child in his family. He never knew his mother since she died 15 days after his birth so his elder sister brought him up.
He always wanted to become a missionary and during his novitiate in Belgium he displayed a strong missionary spiritand made his first profession as a Missionary of the Sacred Heart in 1888.
Between 1888 and 1891 he completed philosophical and theological studies in Antwerp, then taught in an apostolic school before being ordained priest in 1895.
Some years earlier, de Boismenu had written to Father Henry Verius MSC, the pioneer missionary who arrived at Yule Island in 1885, seeking his advice about the best way to prepare himself for live in the mission.
Verius’s advice was: “Here you need 100 times more virtue, spirit of sacrifice and spirit of faith than in Europe… Consider excellent the day when you are opposed, exercise yourself often in patience, in putting up with the faults of your brothers; this point is essential, patience with yourself, with others and above all with the natives who discourage you in the mission such a habit of patience is so necessary.”
As a teacher, de Boismenu was popular amongst his students and he developed an interest in social questions. He was concerned about the working conditions of the poor and theological aspects of the Pope’s teaching.
Alain de Boismenu received news of his appointment to the Yule Island mission in August 1897, arriving in Sydney towards end of October. However, some of his colleagues were skeptical about his suitability for the vigorous life of the mission. They were very mistaken.
He travelled to Yule Island, being appointed Bishop in 1900. He was in the office for 45 years = retiring to Kubuna in 1945 and dying on 5 November 1953.
de Boismenu set out to improve the living conditions of the missionaries and to strengthen the administration to offer better support to the missionaries in the field.
He was a very good diplomat in tribal conflicts and in dealing with the colonial Administration and the rival Protestant missions as the churches developed the policy of “spheres of influence” in Papua and New Guinea.
He reorganized the structure of mission life to regroup missionaries into communities of about six or seven members. Such an arrangement alleviated serious problems of isolation and loneliness.
The men were able to move out from the central station to minister at different outstations; but also had a base, a community, to which they could return for support and companionship.
de Boismenu believed in indigenous vocations so he founded the women’s Congregation of the Handmaids of Our Lord and, for the men, the Little Brothers of the Sacred Heart. Later he promoted the first indigenous priest, Fr Louis Vangeke MSC, who was ordained in 1937 and consecrated Bishop in 1970.
Just before Easter, the Catholic Church in PNG received news that Archbishop Alain Guynot de Boismenu, former Apostolic Vicar of Yule Island, has been declared “Venerable”, the first step along the pathway to sainthood.