Matignon, Francis Anthony

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Missionary; b. Paris, France, Nov. 10, 1753; d. Boston, Mass., Sept. 19, 1818. He attended the Sorbonne to prepare for the priesthood, was ordained Sept. 19, 1778, and received a doctorate in theology in 1785. Joining the theological faculty of the College of Navarre in 1786, he remained there until the anticlericalism of the French Revolution closed the college in 1791. When Matignon refused to take the oath to support the civil constitution of the clergy, he was forced to leave France.

After a few months in England, he returned to Paris to prepare for a mission in the U.S. In August 1792 Bp. John Carroll of Baltimore, Md., assigned him to Boston, Mass., where he found the Catholics internally divided into French and Irish parties and externally suffering under the contempt of Protestants. Within a year he healed the schism, resolving all differences between French and Irish Catholics in Boston. His influence with Protestants was also notable; when he applied for American citizenship in 1795, his petition was endorsed by five Protestant ministers. In 1796, his friend, Father John cheverus, joined him in Boston for the difficult mission area that covered all of New England.

Matignon, dissatisfied with renting space for church services, initiated plans for building the Church of the Holy Cross, whose architect was Charles Bulfinch. Funds were scarce and he traveled throughout the Diocese of Baltimore for assistance. He himself gave $1,000 for this purpose, and 140 Protestants contributed to the building fund. Construction began in 1799 and the church was dedicated four years later by Carroll. A small school was operated under Matignon's direction from 1804 to 1807. When Matignon refused to have his name sent to Rome, Cheverus was named first bishop of Boston in 1808. Until he died in 1818, Matignon remained the bishop's closest aide.

Bibliography: r. h. lord et al., History of the Archdiocese of Boston 1604 to 1943, 3 v. (Boston 1945).

[t. f. casey]