Serieys, Father Adrien
1908, August 31
Date of Birth: 1850, November 28
November 3, 1908
Fathers and Very Dear in Our Lord:
No Memorial Card is Available
For the fourth time in fewer than seven months, death has visited Montreal seminary. Father Serieys, from whom we had looked forward to long service, was called to God, regretted by all, on August 31st.
Father Adrien Antoine Serieys was born on November 28, 1850, at Touzac, near Rodez, in the Cathedral parish. Raised in a very Christian family, he showed signs of vocation while yet young, and he was encouraged along this path by his maternal uncle, Father Gombert, pastor of Camjac, who had him enter the minor seminary of St. Pierre, but (a rare case) as a day-student. Up to the end of his studies there, Adrien Serieys lodged with his aunt, a holy woman, who lived nearby. It seems likely that in this somewhat lonely situation can be found the seeds of certain character traits later noticed in our confrere: a sort of reserve which he shook off only with his closest friends; also, a certain independence rooted in the habit of thinking and acting for himself. Having earned at St. Pierre’s the respect and sympathy of his fellow-students as well as of his teachers, he continued at the major seminary to be always a model of piety and fidelity to all his duties. These solid virtues were enhanced in him by a loyalty without blemish, a frankness without human respect, a generosity of feeling and confidence which gave them a new lustre – but they had to be found under an exterior which tended to hide them.
He was finishing the equivalent of freshman college when the War of 1870 broke out. Military service was then very much a novelty for an ecclesiastical student. However, Father Serieys enrolled in the mobile guard, instinctively found the art of conducting himself as a good soldier and as a good comrade along with being an avowed Christian. His captain proposed him for the rank of corporal; his great willingness to oblige won the hearts of his comrades, and he used his influence over them only to bring them to their duty and sometimes to bring them back to God.
Discharged toward the end of March 1871, he returned to go through a shortened “junior” year. The little care that he later showed for literary forms can be attributed to these accelerated brief classical studies and to his frequent illnesses. These illnesses led him to seek in various workbooks the only application to studies which often was possible to him. He showed himself clever and ingenious; and, with the help of some scientific studies, he was able to give the communities which he lived in some very worthwhile service, notably as a clock-fixer and as an electrician. He also possessed to a remarkable degree a sense of liturgy. A good judge of such things, Archbishop Fabre, one day gave him a tribute. He was busy arranging a Solemn Pontifical Mass, including ceremonies for an ordination. Father Serieys was suggested as assistant priest. “Yes,” immediately said the Archbishop, “he will do better without preparation than those who would practice everything.”
To return to the early years of Father Seriyes: after finishing at Rodez his courses of Philosophy and Theology, he came to spend a year in Paris as an aspirant to the Society. He was admitted to the Solitude in October 1877, after having received his priestly ordination on the preceding May 26th. In these different communities he always showed himself an exemplary seminarian and a confrere full of charity.
At the end of his Solitude he was named treasurer of Le Puy Seminary. A little later he was placed in charge of the course of Fundamental Theology. The eleven year stay that he made in this first assignment remained in his memory as the brightest period of his life. The very fatherly regime of the good Father Chaussinaud had meant a great deal to him.
“At Le Puy,” said one of the confreres who knew him quite well there, “Father Serieys had a very great influence on the students. His goodness of heart – inspite of his cold and indifferent looks – and the joy that he exhibited when he could do a favor, brought him a great deal of sympathy. The bad condition of his stomach seemed to inspire in him an excessive delicacy for the needs of his confreres’ health. Of himself he took no care. If anyone made some remark about this matter, he invariably replied, with a shake of his head, “Think nothing of it. My only wish is to make use of these troubles for my salvation.”
He loved Le Puy so much that it was a cause of surprise to learn in 1889 that he had expressed a wish to leave for America. To a friend who spoke to him about it, he replied simply: “Father Icard suggested to me that I leave after my year of Solitude. I let him know that I wanted to stay in France for some years on account of my mother; he willingly granted my request. My mother has just died. I feel it my duty to dedicate myself henceforth to work in America.” With the regrets of the seminary and of the diocese, with the merit of such a simple and generous sacrifice, he carried off from Le Puy a deep devotion to the Mother of God who is so particularly honored there. A little statue of Our Lady of France went with him in his travels and was indeed the most beautiful adornment of his room.
On September 2, 1889, Father Serieys arrived in Montreal, that other city of Mary, and inherited the chair of Moral Patrology from his compatriot and friend, Father Marre, who like him had come from Le Puy Seminary. For seven years he filled that assignment, well suited to his cast of mind; he became well-liked by the students for the clarity and interest he put into it. At Dijon and Rodez where later on he also taught Moral, he has been likewise remembered as a much-appreciated teacher.
In 1896, as the treasurership of the seminary became open, he was put in charge of it, a job for which he lacked neither ability nor experience. It happened, however, that certain difficulties made it very embarrassing for him. Not seeing any better solution than that of offering himself for the seminary of San Francisco which was being built, he became in fact treasurer of that new house in the summer of 1898. But there was a new problem.
A temporary administration had preceded his; and to take over, a knowledge of English much better than that he had been able to acquire (which dated back to his early days) was absolutely necessary. After a real attempt, he had to go to his Superior and request a different job in which he might be of more use. This could not be in the just-opened minor seminary because its classes were in English. He therefore did his share by prefecting studies and recreations, but he did his proper work in teaching Theology to some seminarians who had been added in those first days to the teaching staff. During the two years that he spent in San Francisco, he was thus able to bring to priesthood five priests, three of whom stayed on as teachers in the seminary, and who keep an affectionate and appreciative memory of him.
In the vacation period of 1900, without having requested it, he was called back to France to teach Moral at the Dijon seminary. His influence in this new seminary was very great. True Sulpician, always at his post, simple and charitable with his confreres, he gratified the seminarians by his devotion, his indulgent sympathy, and his interesting teaching. But the uprightness of his spirit and his self-possession were never more evident than at the time when the Dijon seminary – wrapped up in a diocesan crisis – all at once shut down at the risk of some serious consequences. It was Father Serieys who, by sending off dispatches in all directions to call the seminarians back, arranged that as early as the next day the delegates of the War Ministry were able to verify the presence of all the seminarians subject to service. At the same time, he was not hesitant about notifying the diocesan authorities in a respectful letter which emphatically called to their attention the penalties which might be incurred if their names were turned over to the military authorities.
However, the crisis – though settled for the seminarians – had various repercussions, one of which sent Father Serieys back to his diocese of origin and to the Rodez seminary. For two years he found there a way again to render great service by replacing a teacher of Moral whose health had made him give up teaching. But in 1905, no longer seeing for himself in Rodez nor anywhere else in France some useful function, he asked the favor of returning to Montreal; and it was at the seminary of Philosophy that he was first employed – as a teacher of Mathematics and as Master of Ceremonies. At the beginning of the 1906 school-year, Father Serieys returned to the Grand Seminary to take up the teaching of Moral and Canon Law, which he had given up ten years previously. Two very busy years were going to finish his too brief career there.
In a correspondence which, after he had left Montreal, he entered into with a confrere there, every one of Father Serieys’ letters brought up the thought of death. Did he have, that early, some vague consciousness of the illness that was threatening him and perhaps was already eating away at him? In his last years at least, he had lost his vivacity and, in the seminarians’ recreations, did much less mixing in.
This serious illness, later on recognized as an abscess of the liver, made itself sharply felt only last July 2nd. Father Serieys, having lost his appetite, was wasting away and becoming enfeebled. Only on July 27th did he consent to go to the Hotel Dieu; when he came in, he said to the Sisters: “I am not very sick, but I shall die here.” Some days later he had to give up saying Holy Mass, and instead received Communion daily. Soon he was forced to take his rest stretched out on a sofa, and finally to keep to his bed. The liver abscess having by that time ruptured, a puncturing was tried, but it did not get to the root of the illness, no doubt too deep; and the weakness of the patient forbade another attempt.
The slow agony of our dear confrere caused others to admire his rare patience and perfect resignation. Several times he had undergone crises, very saddening crises caused by successive embolisms of the lungs. An unspeakable torment then showed in his appearance, but he did not cry out and hardly even groaned. On August 24th, one of these cries so upset the doctor that he advised the immediate administration of the last sacraments. Father Serieys assented without emotion or regret, although he would have preferred to await the arrival of his confessor – then away from Montreal – who returned hurriedly. It was touching to hear the pious dying man pronounce the invocation: Jesu, miserere mei [Have mercy on me, Jesus]. This prayer returned often to his lips even when he was asleep and at certain times of the half-delirium into which on the following days he fell into.
The last agony, characterized by the death rattle, lasted more than thirty hours, during which, now and then, the dear sick man was conscious. Several days since, he had put everything into the hands of God and of his confessor, requesting that no prayers be said for his cure, and causing admiration over his resignation, over his acceptance of his suffering, over the gentleness of his shyness and that of his charity, always concerned with not imposing on any one.
On August 31st at three in the morning, Father Serieys breathed his last. The moving of his body from the Hotel Dieu to Notre Dame brought together – on account of the vacation – a greater number of confreres than was perhaps ever seen in a like situation. In the absence of the Archbishop, Bishop Racicot, his Auxiliary, consented to preside at the funeral. The funeral made clear the wide sympathy that Father Serieys has inspired in his confreres and former students. May God grant to fill up the gap which he has left and to send to the work at Montreal more than one confrere as virtuous and as devoted.
Accept, all of you, Fathers and dear confreres, with the expression of this wish, that of my very affection sentiments in Our Lord.
Superior of St. Sulpice