Bioletti, Father Nizier

1916, July 31

Date of Birth: 1871, February 11

October 20, 1916

Fathers and Very Dear in Our Lord:

I have the sad duty of informing you about two of our dear departed, both from Lyon. Father Bioletti died on the field of battle; Father Boudet, older and infirmed, died in the Vernaison (Rhône) nursing.

Father Nizier Bioletti was born on February 11, 1871, in St. John’s parish at Lyon. At the age of six he entered the clerical school of the Annunciation; from there he went to the minor seminary of St. John where he stayed for six years. From the first he showed himself as one of the best students in his class. In 1896 he achieved honor by winning the prize. His fellow students liked him and had a high regard for him [because of] his frank good nature, his sparkling intelligence, his solid and sensible piety, his participation in sports while at the same time showing in his studies a rich depth of character, the zeal of his example, the will to do his duty and thereby influencing others by his leadership. Priestly vocation had appeared to him in his early years as his God directed path. He stepped into that path without pause or irresolution.

After the classical course of his minor seminary, he went directly to the Seminary of Philosophy at Alix; there he spent two years (1896-1898). He put in one year of military service; then, having taken up again the involvements proper to clerical life, he spent three years of Theology at the Seminary of St. Irenaeus. Serious and other-worldly in his childhood, he remained so into adolescence and youth. He was an edifying seminarian and having arrived at the time when his fellow seminarians were predicting their roles in the ranks of the diocesan clergy, he admitted that he hoped for a service which he deemed better because it involved a sacrifice. He asked to enter the Society of St. Sulpice. After his request was granted, he left for Rome in 1902 and took – with success – courses at the Angelicum.

A Dominican Father who knew him there and to whom he gave his intimate confidences told us quite recently of the edifying impression he cherished of this young student, mild, humble, so sincere in the quest for good, so anxious to acknowledge help and to repay with his deepest affection the attention showed him.

After Rome, the Solitude (1904-1905). By then he was already a priest. His Superior of that period described him thus: of a lively nature, likeable, friendly, endowed with a good spirit, pious, dependable, generous. Of generosity he gave the best proof in spontaneously offering in July 1905, to go to work in our institutions in the United States.

It was a sacrifice which made him separate himself from his family and his country. He did more: he, who in our French seminaries could have undertaken an assignment in Philosophy or Theology, agreed to go to serve in our St. Charles College and to get involved in a ministry to young boys.

We saw him there in our 1910 visitation and we have retained a very pleasant memory of being edified by this young confrere who loved his house, his work, his apostolate with the young, his high school classes, and all the hardships connected with such kind of work – isolation in a distant country, the necessity of making many little check-ups, the help owed to these boys who have wills of their own, characters of their own, independent ideas of their own, and the very marked liveliness characteristic of young Americans.

Father Bioletti was to feel all that because he had an emotional make-up. But faith and zeal had already possessed him to the point of making him carry out the assignment staunchly – beyond that, making him like it and prefer it. He was aware that he was doing good. Many of the boys who were under him had a sincere regard for him; and, no doubt, the announcement of his death caused in his students now grown up, already priests or about to become priests, sincere sorrow.

Father Bioletti was at St. Charles in March 1911, at the time of the great trial: the house was destroyed by fire. The emotion, the losses, the difficult transfer of the community to a new location, the extremely makeshift and imperfect condition of the building – Father Bioletti experienced all that and accepted it; more than that, he influenced others, by word and example to accept it; and more than once his good humor brought a smile or a little joy to the group of confreres and students whom the calamity had to some extent scared.

His last two years in the United States Father Bioletti spent in our seminary in San Francisco. It was from there that he returned to France in July 1914. He was hoping to get some rest. Alas!  After a few weeks war broke out, and he had to leave in great haste. His age and his enlistment-time designated him for service as a stretcher-bearer or attendant on a hospital train. As a matter of fact, till the end of 1914, all of 1915, and part of 1916, he was assigned to this duty. It was the occasion of his coming to Bourget, a transfer station. The pastor of the parish there has pleasant memories of this pious priest, modest and good, who was often his guest and visitor. From time to time, by reason of his status, he was able to come to see us in rue du Regard. He told us of his dissatisfaction in being wrapped up in material concerns which were far removed from his vocational work, without readiness of access to souls. More than once we sympathized and encouraged him, saying that there would be some good tomorrows to make up for these trials, and that we should go on to the end, towards victory: O passi! Graviora dabit Deus his cuocue finem. [O ye who have suffered hardships!  God will give an end to them also.]

His impatience to act was stronger than all our arguments trying to get him to wait. He addressed himself directly to the Commander-in-Chief and secured an appointment as regimental stretcher bearer to the 317th Infantry Division, in which his brother was a captain. He reached there on June 3rd. “My reason for changing,” he said to his brother, “is that if I remain on a hospital train till the end, that will be detrimental to my later ministry. I want to preach by example.”

By June 22nd he was in action, and by his devotion in a hot skirmish at La Main de Massiges he won everyone’s admiration. The regiment later left for Verdun on July 4th to hold a very difficult sector for twelve days. The priest there got hold of a citation of the Order of the Day of General Margin’s army corps. Here is the text:

“Nizier Marie Bioletti, 2nd Class, Stretcher bearer, 13th Company.

“On July 17th volunteered to go in full daylight over uncovered ground under enemy fire to assist the wounded pinned down between the two lines. Always a volunteer for the most dangerous missions, model of devotion and courage. Came to the front at his own request – August 21, 1916.”

The citation carried with it the Croix de Cuerre with a palm leaf. On the date of that citation our dear confrere was already no longer alive. After the advances and retreats around Verdun he had been called to Thiaumont for duty. On July 31st he was in a field hospital which was serving also as a dugout for a major and about forty wounded men or stretcher bearers. There was a still unexplained explosion, and so bad was it that all those huddled there were buried, asphyxiated, and burned so badly that there was no way of aiding them nor later of identifying a single body.

His brother, the captain, who gave us this information added, as a good Frenchman and a good Christian: “I know that he offered his life for France and for the Church; that from the heights of heaven he will look after us.” Yes, we too believe that this good confrere will before God be one of those victims by choice who will be the ransom for the ultimate freedom of victory.

I recommend Father Bioletti to your prayers and I renew to you the expression of my devoted sentiments in Our Lord.

H. Garriguet

Superior of St. Sulpice