Rothureau, Father Mathurin

1935 May 4

Date of Birth: 1851, July 10 

No Memorial Card is Available

June 1, 1935

Fathers and Dear Confreres:

The priests of St. Sulpice who received appointments to work successively in our three Sulpician provinces (even before they were canonically set up) have always been in our Society few and far between. The last of them, Father Rothureau, has just been called to God, just when he was about to finish his eighty-fourth year.

Louis Mathurin Rothureau was born at Landemont in the Diocese of Angers on July 10, 1851. His was a very religious family. It enjoyed a certain prosperity. The education he received was completely directed to piety, charity, and zeal. Vocation to the priesthood could be born, develop, and flourish in such an atmosphere. God gave that grace to our future confrere, who accepted it and responded with his best.

After finishing his secondary studies at the minor seminary of Beaupreáu, Louis Rothureau entered the major seminary of Angers in 1873. He was ordained priest on December 22, 1877. The first five years of his priestly life he gave to the minor seminary where he had made his secondary studies. For two years he taught French at Beaupreáu, and for three he taught Mathematics. It was only in 1882 that he definitely turned towards the Society of St. Sulpice. In October of that year he entered the Solitude.

His Solitude over, Father Rothureau received his first assignment. Father Icard sent him to Montreal. He was appointed there to teach Philosophy. Some years previous, in 1876, the Seminary of Philosophy had been opened. The first Superior, Father Lecoq, had been succeeded by Father Delavigne. It was under the supervision of that venerable and much loved priest that Father Rothureau carried out his first Sulpician tasks.

His stay in Canaada was to last three years. He loved to talk about it, citing from here and there edifying and amusing anecdotes, evoking scenes he had witnessed or taken part in, sometimes exaggerating occurrences (at least his hearers so suspected) which, with the passage of time and with distance from the places where they happened, seemed by reason of their copious detail and embellishment to go beyond the ordinary limits to which we are accustomed. Canada and the United States held his fondest affection and his strongest admiration.

He left Montreal in 1886. Father Icard had named Father Rothureau teacher of Sacred Scripture in Baltimore. For eleven years, with the desire of dedicating his whole life to it, he gave himself – without counting the cost – to the Sulpician work begun in the United States by Father Nagot and his companions in 1791 and which since then has never stopped growing.

Father Rothureau taught Holy Scripture in Baltimore for two years. He himself has recounted how during the 1888 vacation he became Treasurer of St. Mary’s Seminary. Father Magnien, then Superior, one day came to his room, battle flags flying, and said to him point blank: “I am looking for a Treasurer. I can’t find one. You will have to take the job!”  And our confrere with simplicity assented to the request of his superior. He was to manage the business office for nine years up to June, 1897.

When he left St. Mary’s Seminary, Father Rothureau left a part of his heart in the United States. He understood and loved America, its clergy, its institutions, and the people he was able to mix with whose openness charmed him. How he liked to talk about the United States!  When anyone got him going on the subject, even in his last years, he came to life. His memory seemed to revive, and so did his imagination. Story followed story, often embellished with new details which he had, it is certain, left out in previous tellings. One felt that he had been enthralled by the vast and throbbing life of the sprawling country across the Atlantic; and, when anyone spoke of it to him, he was delighted.

In the vacation period of 1897, Father Captier named Father Rothureau Treasurer of the major seminary of St. Irenaeus in Lyon. As at Baltimore, he performed his duties punctually and to everyone’s satisfaction, with intelligence, ability, and faithfulness. Admired was his calm, appreciated was his friendliness, loved especially was the gracious simplicity with which he made the clergy welcome. At Lyon – as earlier at Baltimore and later at Angers – he was a treasurer carefully heeded in business matters, and a director thoroughly devoted to the seminarians and priests. Legend has it that he, who was such a traveler, had a little difficulty in giving up long trips. During vacations he made it a point to put a little distance between himself and St. Irenaeus Seminary, which otherwise was not in danger. It was reported that to go from Lyon to Angers, he sometimes went around Robin Hood’s barn. If anyone reminded him of this, he denied doing any such thing and with a smile changed the subject.

“Father Rothureau came to Angers in July, 1905, when, in accordance with the Combes directive it was necessary to replace all the directors of the major seminary. His experience in the office of Treasurer, already exercised at Baltimore and Lyon, quickly allowed him to fit in with the customs and needs of the Angers seminary. Besides, he knew the place beforehand, since he had made his preparation for priesthood there.

He arrived at the beginning of a particularly difficult period. The next year came the inventory (beginning of 1906), then the expulsion (December, 1906). He arranged to save what could be saved and to provide a temporary lodging for the confreres who could not leave Angers. Faced with the impossibility of finding a building large enough to house the entire community (then about 150 students), he had to arrange for three places for them to stay: at Angers, in the Dominican convent, and in 1908 at the Capuchin convent; a second at St. Maur de Glenfeuil, six leagues [about eighteen miles] from Angers; the third at Châtillons [in a place] which has since become the country-house of the Angers seminary. The Treasurer bore much of the cost personally. So for seven years he had to make frequent trips from house to house to keep them stocked and to see to their needs.

“On top of that he had to busy himself with the construction of the new seminary, begun at the end of 1911 and just about finished in July, 1914.

“Moving in at that date could only be something of a problem. It was the war. The house was occupied successively by artillery men, by an English hospital, and by an American hospital. The seminarians lived sometimes in the midst of soldiers, and sometimes were obliged to move out to the country-house. Father Rothureau knew many vexations, for the occupying strangers did a lot of damage which they repaired only paritally. It is true that he spent the greater part of the war outside the seminary. Diocesan authorities asked him to help out in parish ministry. He did so quite willingly, here as pastor, there as assistant. Six parishes were blessed by his zeal.

“In 1919 came the real opening of the new seminary. For the Treasurer it was a very busy year since he had to supervise the furnishing of rooms and bedchambers, the planting of the garden, the whole operation. He went about it methodically, patiently, and with great practicality. In the carrying out of his duties, calm was one of his chief assets. He listened to questions, criticism, and complaints without flinching. He maintained an untroubled outlook which was very calming to others.

“Father Rothureau had often said that at seventy he would ask for retirement, thinking that at that age he would no longer have the strength to work. Providence took him at his word. In May, 1921, he suffered a stroke during Mass. For eight days there was doubt that he would live. Then, little by little, he recovered. Thanks to a rigid diet strictly observed, for five years he enjoyed a relatively good state of health. He was no longer fit for the ordinary tasks of a seminary director. He gave them up completely, content to hear the confessions of a few priests, piously occupying his time in reading, reciting the rosary, visiting the Blessed Sacrament, and making the Stations of the Cross. He was always seen with his rosary in his hand. He did a lot of praying – for the seminary, the Society, and all the intentions recommended to him.

“So passed his last fourteen years. On Tuesday, May 5th, his Mass-server, going to conduct him to his chapel, as he did each morning, found him lying dead on the bedroom floor. The coldness and stiffness of his limbs and various other details indicated that death must have claimed the old man in the evening. The funeral was held in the seminary chapel two days later. In the absence of the Bishop of Angers it was presided over by his Coadjutor, His Excellency, Bishop Costes. A certain number of priests were present. Many others sent their regrets, mentioning the memory they had of their dealings with the venerable deceased and the edification he had given them.

“At Landemont, the parish of his birth, a Solemn Mass was celebrated for him and nearly all his family came to it. They had long ago generously given his family home as one of the free schools of the parish.”

I recommend Father Rothureau’s soul to your prayers, and I renew to you, Fathers and dear confreres, the expression of my fraternal respect in Our Lord.

P. Boisard

Vice-Superior General of St. Sulpice