Perboyre, Jean-Gabriel, St.

views updated


Martyr, priest of the Congregation of the Mission of Saint Vincent de Paul; b. Le Puech (Lot), Mongesty (diocese of Cahors), France, Jan. 6, 1802; d. Wuchangfu (near Hu-pei), china, Sept. 11, 1840.

The eldest of eight children (five of whom became Vincentians) of the farmers, Pierre and Marie Rigal Perboyre, Jean-Gabriel attended minor seminary with his brother Louis at Montauban, founded by their uncle Jacques Perboyre, a Vincentian who had survived the French Revolution. In 1818 Jean-Gabriel became the first French Vincentian seminarian since the revolution. He studied theology in Paris, then accepted an appointment as professor at Montdidier College (1823), and was ordained in 1826.

After working as a teacher, spiritual director, and in other capacities in various Vincentian seminaries and training centers in France, he went to east central China (1835) to replace his brother, Fr. Louis, who had died en route. In the missions of Hunan and Hu-pei Provinces, he acquired a familiarity with the Chinese language and dedicated himself especially to instructing abandoned children. When persecution broke out, he was arrested (Sept. 16, 1839) at Cha-yüan-kou for entering China illegally to spread Christianity. Imprisoned at Wuchangfu, he was interrogated many times by mandarins and by the viceroy and tortured in a vain effort to make him reveal the hiding places of other priests. After eight months' imprisonment he was strangled to death Chinese-style (on a cross) on Ou-tch'ang (Red Mountain), and was buried in the nearby cemetery in Wuchangfu close to the remains of his confrere and fellow martyr, Bl. François Clet.

He was beatified Nov. 10, 1889, the first of the Chinese martyrs to receive the honors of the altar. On June 2, 1996, Pope John Paul II canonized Perboyre, the first saint of China, Patron of the vincentian missionaries.

Feast: Sept. 11 (since 1969).

Bibliography: Life of the Bl. Servant of God, the Heroic Martyr, John Gabriel Perboyre , tr. c. feilding (New Orleans 1894). L'Osservatore Romano, English edition, no. 23 (1996): 12, 5, 12. j. l. baudot and l.chaussin, Vies des saints avec l'historique des fêtes, 9: 252255. a. chatelet, Jean Gabriel Perboyre, Martyr (Paris 1943). l. chierotti, Il beato Gian Gabriele Perboyre: Lo strangolarono ad una croce (Genoa 1995). a. sylvestre, Jean-Gabriel Perboyre: prêtre de la mission, martyr en Chine (Moissac 1994).

[j. krahl]