Ferté, Father Hippolyte Stanislaus

1895, September 19

Date of Birth:  1821, April 30

December 25, 1895

No Memorial Card is Available

The last days of our vacation period have been saddened by the death of a very worthy confrere whose charity we have experienced at our common retreats at Issy.

Father Hippolyte Stanislaus Ferté was born on April 30, 1821, at Mouchy Humières in the Diocese of Beauvais. He made his classical studies at a Parisian boarding school, entered Issy on October 17, 1839, and two years later St. Sulpice. Ordained priest on September 21, 1844, at the minor seminary of Noyon, he seemed from then on so apt for work in major seminaries that His Excellency, the Bishop of Beauvais, conferred on him at his own seminary the Chair of Dogma, which he filled for four years. Father Ferté’s inclination, however, drew him to the family of Father Olier. In October 1848, he was permitted to enter the Solitude; at the next school year’s start, he was named professor of Philosophy at the Seminary of Issy; but he spent only a year there before leaving for Baltimore where he settled down to the longest and hardest part of his life in the priesthood.

In 1850, the time of Father Ferté’s coming to the United States, Baltimore’s work, beset since its outset by unfortunate problems, was at last on the point of burgeoning. In the number of Providential developments which contributed thereto must be counted the opening of the minor seminary of St. Charles, which, considering the country’s state, might be considered the basis of the work.

At the opening of the school year in 1848, Father Jenkins, Baltimore Sulpician, accompanied by a deacon as his aide and a half dozen young students, occupied the first building and began the first classes. Two years later the number of students had risen to twenty-three, when Father Ferté – newly come to Baltimore – was named President of the new college. He saw its enrollment doubled in the two years he spent there at that time while Father Jenkins – summoned back to Baltimore – was involved in another project. When that was completed, Father Jenkins came back to take charge of the work of St. Charles, work which for the remaining seventeen years of his life, was stamped with the special character and excellent spirit which it still carries.

During those seventeen years, from 1852 to 1869, Father Ferté worked at Baltimore, at the major seminary, St. Mary’s. There he was in turn at different times assigned to Philosophy, Dogma, Holy Scripture; and to these for some length of time he added the role of Master of Ceremonies.

In 1869, on the death of Father Jenkins, he again became President of St. Charles up to 1876. At that time, following serious illness, with his health at low ebb, it was thought that a return to his native land would be beneficial; and Father Ferté, called back to France, first for a year taught Holy Scripture at the major seminary of Limoges. In 1877, having recuperated, he was called to Issy to succeed, for the teaching of the same subject and for ceremonies, the revered Father Degrais, who was coming to the end of his career. Father Ferté filled the Chair of Holy Scripture from 1877 to 1887 and had charge of ceremonies up to his death.

At all times in his Sulpician life, in France and in America, Father Ferté showed himself a model of reliability, of piety, of charity, of zeal. The in-depth self-discipline which underlies solid virtue was visible in him, but without in any way interfering with the ease or even the enjoyment of his relationships with others. A sort of easy-going and open jocularity made him especially attuned to young people. He won for himself to a rare degree the esteem and affection of the Baltimore clergy. This was true in a special way of Archbishop Spalding who gave unequivocal proof in the exceptional situation in which the seminary, St. Mary’s, found itself during the episcopate of that revered prelate.

At St. Charles, during the seven years of his second presidency, Father Ferté – placed at the head of a now numberous community – constantly gave it the edifying example of a zeal as courageous as it was vigilant in all the duties he was charged with. Model of fidelity to the rule, he also however bound himself to everything the students were expected to do; and he knew how to win their hearts by his paternal kindness. In every category – study, piety, material arrangements – he wanted to make things as pleasant as the limited resources he had at his disposal would allow. It was under his administration that was begun the construction which gave to St. Charles’ building its distinctive style and which allows it today to house more than 250 students. When Father Ferté had to 1eave that house for which he had worked so hard, he left there, as is understandable, a large part of his heart. A burse, through which he hoped to continue to help poor students, is, among several others, one proof of that.

In his modest but still fruitful retirement at Issy, where he spent the last eighteen years of his life, Father Ferté continued with humble modesty to do good through his always even virtue.

Always gracious and pleasant with his young confreres as well as with the seminarians, he sometimes made them smile over his readiness to find fault with the slightest liturgical slip or by his fussiness in using up what was provided by the vestry. He could, to speak honestly, be a bit excessive in some ways. We were edified nonetheless by his ever-youthful zeal for God’s house and for the holy directives of the Church, by that spirit of poverty beneath the spirit of thrift by means of which everywhere a maximum result is drawn from limited resources. 

Even though Father Ferté’s life was otherwise hidden at Issy, he was not at the time of his death unknown to a great number of the clergy of Paris. Priests who came to make retreats at Issy were touched by his attentions, by the way he delicately anticipated their needs; they often spoke, when talking over his care of them, of the confidence he inspired in them.

Up to a certain point Father Ferté’s health was better, but without regaining its old vigor. It was deeply affected in his last years by attacks of influenza on top of the infirmities of old age. Our revered confrere valiantly did not stop following the community exercises at Issy, and it can be said his death was hastened by his zeal for his jobs, by his spirit of religion, and by his fraternal charity. He insisted this year, as previously, despite an effort taxing his powers, on carrying the Most Blessed Sacrament in the second procession of Corpus Christi. He acted in the same way on the occasion of our last community retreat. It was always, in this kind of situation, Father Ferté’s utmost concern to be sure of the regular and punctual celebration of more than a hundred Masses in the morning. He spent himself this year with the same attention as was his wont – in all the care necessary to attain that result, but it tired him out completely.

He came down in September with an illness difficult to pinpoint, although the doctor at first had no fear about it. Some hours later, however, its seriousness became evident – so threatening that immediately it was deemed necessary to prepare the holy sufferer to receive the last sacraments. He received them with a great deal of calm after night prayers, touchingly thanked the confreres who were around him, and asked the young man who looked after him after he took to his bed to bless him. Death, nevertheless, despite the expectations of the doctors, still had to wait two weeks. Father Ferté, laid low by his illness, spent this time only half-awake, but constantly giving signs of his holy trust when his eyes were drawn to a picture of the Abandonment of the Soul of the Most Blessed Virgin, a picture hanging in his alcove.

He finally died on September 19th and was buried on the 21st, after a service in the chapel at Issy, in the vault of Montparnasse Cemetery. This September 21st was, by a touching and remarked on coincidence, the fifty-first anniversary of Father Ferté’s ordination. It seemed as if this true son of Father Olier left the world only to go to renew in the eternal tabernacles the youth that his priestly soul had never left behind.

Let us not leave off praying for our revered confrere; for the saints themselves have recommended that we continue to pray for them for a long time.

Accept once again, Fathers. and very dear Confreres, the expression of my very affectionate regards in Our Lord,

A. Captier

Superior of St. Sulpice

We received too late for inclusion in Father Ferté’s obituary notice a memorial offered in his honor by a venerable archbishop of the United States, and we are pleased to pass on here the following section:

Father Ferté was President of St. Charles for part of my stay in that holy house. His kindness, his tender goodness, his deep piety made such an impression on me that my young imagination saw in him the living image of St. Francis de Sales; and I still remember today a number of fine traits which helped to form that notion in my mind. One day, Father Ferté surprised me doing a mean trick such as boys are wont to do. He summoned me to his room, and I expected a heavy punishment or a severe reprimand, which I knew full well I merited. But on the contrary, he spoke to me with such kindness and in such a way that I thought I was listening to St. Francis de Sales. Soon I felt myself melting, very much ashamed of myself; and it is certain that no punishment would ever have done me as much good as Father Ferté’s kind remonstrance.