Father Noury’s project

A well-trained pastor

Pierre Noury was born on the 15th of May 1743 in Lauzach, a small parish in Morbihan, Brittany.

He received a sound education at the Jesuit College, then at the Major Seminary of Vannes and was nominated “rector” (parish priest) of Bignan in 1771.

A man of study and prayer, familiar with the Bible, he was concerned that his parishioners should be able to live by an enlightened and at the same time warm faith, which would enable them to withstand the trials of a future that he foresaw as dark. His passion was preaching.

A pastor, friend of the poor

He also “announced the Good news” through his constant devotion to his parishioners. Close to all, especially the poor and the sick, he was attentive to all their needs. Mr Noury would have liked “a hundred voices to instruct his people, a hundred bodies to do them good”.

Historical background :

At the dawn of the French Revolution in 1789, the Breton peasant population remained on the margins of the effects of economic and social development. Although royal orders required the establishment of schools in all parishes, the Parliament of Brittany gave it scarce attention . Only 6% of men and 1.5% of women could sign their marriage certificate and the mass of peasants were left to their own devices in terms of health care.
Father Noury had no doubt drawn up a project before the French Revolution for a “house of piety and charity” whose operation would be entrusted to young women living together. The activities of these women, who would have to be “educated and capable people”, would be directed towards :
“the relief of suffering people,
the instruction of boys and the education of girls”.

A rule of life for those who would realise the project and the plan of the future buildings were attached to this text, specifying that the aim was “the glory of God and the salvation of souls”.

A pastor in exile: a spiritual author

Historical background :

In 1790, the new Constituent Assembly adopted the “Civil Constitution of the Clergy”, without the agreement of the Pope who condemned it. It obliged bishops and secular priests to swear an oath to this Constitution, thus subjecting them to the authority of the State. Some priests, known as the “jurors” accepted and signed, others, known as the “non-jurors,” refused. The clergy were divided, as was the population.
stained-glass window in Bignan church
Having refused to take the oath to the Civil Constitution of the Clergy, Father Noury was forced to go underground or into exile. He chose exile. In 1792, he left Brittany for Spain and then Portugal.
During his far-off exile, the pastor never ceased to encourage the faith of the faithful of Bignan by sending them poems, letters, hymns, and a translation into Breton of the Old and New Testaments. Some of the works of this “poet with a people’s soul” rank among the masterpieces of Celtic literature.

A difficult return


Historical background :

The disappointment of the peasants who hoped to see an improvement in their living conditions, the persecution of priests who refused to accept the “Civil Constitution of the Clergy”, and the massive conscription for the war against Austria, provoked a movement of protest and popular rebellion in Brittany, the “Breton Chouannerie”. The Concordat signed in 1801 between Bonaparte and Pope Pius VII, and supported by several priests, did not calm the rebellions.
Embalmed Heart of Father Noury
On his return to Brittany in December 1801, in a diocese impoverished and torn by the aftermath of the Revolution, Father Noury once again found his parishioners but only for a brief time. He had to confront the leaders of the “Chouannerie” who were opposed to the Concordat. In 1802, he had to leave his parish of Bignan to become, with a heavy heart, the parish priest of the cathedral of Vannes where he died in 1804.
The parishioners of Bignan, who had a deep veneration for him, went to Vannes to fetch his body and carry it on their shoulders to Bignan. He was buried in the church of which he himself had made the plans. His heart, embalmed and placed in a reliquary, was to remain in the chapel of what became the first community of the Congregation.

A pastor who passed on the flame

Bignan church

Father Noury did not see the realisation of his project. Like the grain of wheat that falls into the ground, this project entered into a slow phase of germination. Two women tertiaries, Anne Jehanno and Yvonne Forget, and then the future rector of Bignan, Yves-Marie Coëffic, would allow the grain of wheat to bear fruit.

Share This