Roux, Father Pierre

1930, January 14

Date of Birth: 1850, June 2

No Memorial Card is Available

May 9, 1930

Fathers and Dear Confreres:

To write about the life of the little and the humble is always difficult. Hidden, all of a piece, little noticed even by those who are over them, if one does not look at it closely, it may evoke some very desultory lines which do not convey the richness of it. But to anyone who takes the trouble of studying it, the simplest life, when it is one with God, reveals strands of virtue which would not at first have been suspected and which would be especially noteworthy and praiseworthy.

Pierre François Roux was born at St. Etienne on June 2, 1850. His family, of modest means but quite religious, provided him with a good education at the Jesuit college in his home town. He seems to have completed all his classes there up to and including Philosophy. In October, 1868 he entered the Seminary of St. Irenaeus in Lyon to begin his theological studies, and he stayed there for four years – up to the end of 1872. His wish to enter the Society must have been expressed during his fourth year of Theology; for in 1872-73 he was at St. Sulpice as a student of the “grand cours” [special study]. It was only in 1874, at the “Primatiale” of Lyon that he received priestly ordination.

Although destined for its work, Father Roux for two years remained separated from the Society. For family reasons and reasons of health, he was functioning as “Preceptor”, first in the Diocese of Orleans in 1873-1874, then in the Diocese of Besançon in 1874-1875.

It was only in 1876, after a year off, that he entered the Solitude to complete his spiritual formation.

The following year Father Icard sent Father Roux to the United States. He was to stay there until 1911. It was there that all the strictly Sulpician life of our confrere was to be passed.

That life began at the minor seminary of St. Charles in Ellicott City. There Father Roux taught French, Latin, and Greek. His students of the time still remember the enthusiasm which filled him and which he tried to communicate to them when he explained the Iliad and the Odyssey. From 1886 to 1889 Father Roux left St. Charles to go to Boston. There he was appointed to teach Science at St. Joseph’s [sic] Seminary.

But at the end of three years he was able to return to his dear minor seminary and to teach there, with his less advanced teaching which he took up again, mathematics, in which, it seems, he had taken an interest.

To the tasks of teacher and director, Father Roux liked to join manual labor and community activities. At the minor seminary of St. Charles he was never happier than when he was putting on a play or arranging for costumes for its actors. His cleverness in this activity was just about prodigious. It has been written of him: “With a piece of tin, he could make an imposing crown.” This talent doubtless accounts in part for the good he accomplished with the young men of St. Charles through his teaching, his very edifying way of life, and his affability to all who dealt with him.

No one could doubt his attachment to St. Charles. He proved that touchingly in 1898 when, for the golden jubilee of the minor seminary, he began to put together a catalogue which he entitled: “A Complete List of the Students Entered at St. Charles College, Ellicott City, Maryland, from the Opening, October 31, 1848, until the Golden Jubilee, June 15, 1898”. This work, complete, well-conceived, carefully put together, frequently consulted, still cherished today, demonstrated the interest and affection Father Roux had for the minor seminary in which he had taught for more than twenty years.

Three years [sic] later, unfortunately, he was going to have to leave it. When in 1911, fire destroyed the buildings of old St. Charles, Father Roux requested leave and returned to Europe. He was not to see the United States again. From that time on, Father Roux’s life was not intimately connected with our Sulpician houses.

After a short stay at Issy, our confrere worked in several dioceses in various positions.

First he was chaplain of nuns in England where, at the same time, he was busy in giving religious help in a large residential complex for workers. He then returned to the Paris area to take some rest with his family.

The Great War broke out and mobilization summoned from parishes and other apostolic works a number of priests who had to be replaced. Father Roux was not the last, among old-timers in the priesthood who had earned their rest, to offer himself as a substitute for those who were leaving. His services were accepted in the Diocese of Meaux, first at Lagny, then at the School for Late Vocations in Changis St. Jean, where he left a memory as a fine priest and a very good teacher. Later, in 1919, he went to Calmont, near Dieppe, and worked at the parish organized by Father Dufresne in accordance with the social ideas of Abbe de Tourville. He spent four years there. Our confrere was indeed valued and loved. He was liked for his self-effacing simplicity, for his devotion which knew no let-up and which took on all hardships provided they promoted God’s reign. So he spent the whole war and the years following it as an obscure worker, content with little and devoting himself with constancy and admirable abnegation to apostolic works entrusted to him for which he freely offered himself.

But age came, and with it, infirmities. Father Roux had to think of giving up everything. For rest, he retired near Paris to St. Maur des Fossés. Immediately he gave – in a twofold way – the impression of being at home.

His sister-in-law welcomed him joyfully and lavished on him the best of care. At St. Maur Father Roux rediscovered the memory – still alive today – of Father Olier who had retired there with his companions after declining the Coadjutorship of Châlons. And once again giving himself to parochial work, he was to say of himself that he was walking in the footsteps of our founding fathers, like them carrying out parochial duties since the day when Father Bourdoise had come to recommend him to them.

It is certain that Father Roux lived at St. Maur as a model Sulpician, very much wrapped up in his life of personal piety, always ready to help out the clergy and the faithful. I set forth here the testimony paid him by the pastor of St. Maur des Fossés:

“Father Foux was already in my parish when I was named pastor there.

“During the illness of my predecessor, Abbé Demay, he filled in for him at Mass and in hearing confessions at St. Andrew’s Home. The nuns and the girls highly valued his religious spirit and devotion.

“A little later, Father Roux again took up his functions at the parish. There he celebrated Holy Mass each morning at half past seven. He piously said his prayers, then voluntarily heard confessions of those who wished to receive the Sacrament of Penance from him.

“During the day he busied himself with the sick who loved to have him visit them.

“To help out, he did some translating and gave English lessons. Every Saturday he gave good example for all by coming precisely at four o’clock to hear confessions until six. His penitents, male and female, were very thankful to him. The English nuns loved to go to him.

“On Sunday mornings he said a first Mass at seven o’clock at St. Andrew’s Home, then a second at nine in the parish church. Between the two Masses he came to his confessional where there was always a long line waiting.

“His conversation, very informative, was always pleasant and charitable. He spoke little about himself, and never in a boastful way. However, I liked to ask him about his life in America. He answered me freely, and told me in the most intriguing way about the details of a priestly life and a ministry very different from what we knew in Paris.

“Goodness, simplicity, piety, regularity, humility, seem to me the outstanding virtues of this priest whom we all loved and venerated.”

While becoming very “parochial,” Father Roux remained very Sulpician. As often as possible he came to Issy and especially to the seminary on the rue du Regard. It was a comfort and a joy for him. He rediscovered his confreres to whom he had remained very much attached. He asked for news of the Society. He was interested in its sorrows and joys. Up to the last months of his life he corresponded with one of his old confreres in America. And, be it of France or of the United States, he always received with pleasure documents, letters, or news which pertained to St. Sulpice.

Neither St. Sulpice nor the parish of St. Maur abandoned Father Roux in his last years.

The St. Maur clergy always gave him the most respectful and fraternal affection. The pastor and the assistants often visited him and proferred him the most delicate attention. One of them, right up to his death, paid him the duties that a son pays to his father.

The same attitude was noticeable among the faithful. Father Roux was not unknown in the parish, and he was not a respected priest to whom one turned without becoming fond of him. In the very best sense of the word he had become “popular”. On the day of his funeral anyone could see that in watching the long procession which was escorting his mortal remains pass by. And those of his confreres who assisted at the funeral were much amazed at the crowd present. All kinds of people, very recollected, filled the Church of St. Maur during the services for our confrere.

His Eminence, Cardinal Verdier, our Superior General, associated himself with the mourning of St. Maur’s parish. To the pastor he wrote the following lines:

“The good report which you make of his piety, the virtue and devotion of this dear confrere does not at all astonish me. I have known Father roux for a long time, and I esteem him highly. May the good God grant him mercy!  Please give his family all my most sincere condolences. With them I pray that God may reward this good servant right away.”

I recommend Father Roux to your prayers. I beg you to accept, Fathers and dear confreres, the expression of my religious and fraternal respect in Our Lord.

P. Boisard

Vice-superior of St. Sulpice