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Joseph Monnier (1825–1874)

by John Hosie

This article was published:

Joseph Monnier (1825-1874), Marist Father, was born on 15 March 1825 at Amathay-Vesigneux in the Jura Mountains, France, son of Xavier Monnier and his wife Agnès, née Perrenet. Educated in a seminary at La Consolation, the philosophy seminary at Vesoul and from 1845 at the theologate at Besançon, he joined the Marist novitiate at Lyon in 1847, took vows as a Marist on 22 December 1848 and was ordained on 18 February 1849 at Belley. A clear thinker, he revealed notable gifts as a public speaker especially by simplicity and lucid explanation. For five years in the parishes of southern France he conducted missions of religious renewal until 1856 when his superiors acceded to his requests to go to the Pacific missions of the order. He worked for eight years on Tonga in the central Oceania vicariate of Bishop Pierre Marie Bataillon.

In 1864 Monnier moved to New South Wales and joined the staff of the college at Clydesdale, near Richmond, founded by Bataillon to train a Polynesian priesthood. The attempt failed through the unsuitable, lonely location and a series of floods. Finding that the school was progressing satisfactorily in 1865, Monnier began to help in the parishes at Penrith and then Campbelltown. As his grasp of English improved, the demand for his preaching grew. Requests to preach missions in parishes and retreats to nuns and priests drew him further afield. From 1866 he was continually on the move through the dioceses of New South Wales and Queensland. James Murray, bishop of Maitland, praised the effect of his missions, particularly upon men. He was about to start a new mission at Wellington, New South Wales, when he was recalled to Sydney by Father Poupinel in September 1868. After Archdeacon McEncroe died, Archbishop Polding had offered his city parish of St Patrick's Church Hill, to the care of the Marist Fathers, and Monnier was nominated parish priest. The church was built beside the home of William Davis, one of the earliest known centres in the colony at which Mass was said, and revered as a shrine by Irish-Australian Catholics. Monnier's unsparing work and genuine love of the Irish melted their opposition to the transfer of the parish to French priests. In 1872 he welcomed Brother Ludovic Laboureyas and the first Marist Brothers to open St Patrick's Boys' School.

Monnier's kindness to others was in marked contrast to the rigorous severity with which he treated his own body. He died from angina maligna on 15 September 1874 and was buried at St Charles's Church, Ryde. After the widely-attended funeral, ardent followers stripped his room of any personal belongings which could be kept as mementos. In 1967 his headstone with those of other Marists was moved to the Villa Maria, Hunter's Hill.

Select Bibliography

  • Memoir of the Late Reverend Joseph Monnier, S.M., translated by W. A. Duncan (Syd, 1876)
  • J. Hosie, The French Mission: An Australian Base for the Marists in the Pacific, to 1874 (M.A. Hons thesis, Macquarie University, 1971)
  • Monnier letters (Marist Archives, Rome, microfilm copies at State Library of New South Wales and National Library of Australia).

Citation details

John Hosie, 'Monnier, Joseph (1825–1874)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1974, accessed online 20 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 5, (Melbourne University Press), 1974

View the front pages for Volume 5

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


15 March, 1825
Amathay-Vesigneux, France


15 September, 1874 (aged 49)
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

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