Educator; b. Bleymard, Mende, France, June 9, 1837; d. Baltimore, Md., December 21, 1902. After early classical studies at the minor seminary of Chirac, he did his philosophical and theological studies at the Sulpician diocesan seminary of Orléans (1857–62), the diocese to which he had become affiliated after an appeal for clerical recruits by Msgr. F. A. P. Dupanloup. For two years after ordination in June 1862, he taught at the minor seminary of La-Chapelle-Saint-Mesmin. Magnien then began his Sulpician work, first as a teacher of science at Nantes (1864–65) and then, after his novitiate at Issy near Paris, as professor of theology and Scripture at Rodez (1866–69). In the fall of 1869, he went to St. Mary's Seminary, Baltimore, Md., where he taught philosophy and then liturgy, dogma, and Scripture. Although Magnien became the sixth superior of St. Mary's Seminary in 1878, he continued his teaching until 1886. After that he had to confine his efforts solely to the administration of the seminary, where his position made him also superior (not provincial) of all the Sulpicians in the U.S.
During his administration, St. Mary's grew in size and in prestige as the oldest and largest major seminary in the country; a new wing was added to the building; its six-year course of studies was thoroughly revised; St.
Austin's College for the graduate training of Sulpician novices was established at The Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C.; the Sulpician fathers assumed the disciplinary and spiritual direction of the young priest students at the University; and the direction of major seminaries in the Archdioceses of New York, Boston, and San Francisco was turned over to the society. Meanwhile, the Abbé Magnien, as he came to be called, was appointed by Cardinal James Gibbons of Baltimore to his archdiocesan council (1879) and made director of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith (1896). For almost 25 years Magnien was the confidant and advisor of the cardinal, and was intimately involved in national and international ecclesiastical affairs. When his health began to fail in the summer of 1897, Magnien went to France, where he underwent a serious operation. After he returned to Baltimore in May 1898, it soon became evident that his strength was failing; he resigned his office in the summer of 1902 and died a few months later.
Bibliography: Bulletin Trimestriel des Anciens Elèves de S. Sulpice (Paris 1903) 160–169. p. j. donahue et al., Very Rev. A. L. Magnien: A Memorial (Baltimore 1903). j. t. ellis, The Life of James Cardinal Gibbons, 2 v. (Milwaukee 1952). m. f. foley, "Very Rev. Alphonse L. Magnien," Catholic World 76 (March 1903) 814–822. c. g. herbermann, The Sulpicians in the United States (New York 1916). Memorial Volume of the Centenary of St. Mary's Seminary (Baltimore 1891).
[c. m. cuyler]