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Piquet, Jean Pierre (1853–1936)

by Peter McMurrich

This article was published:

Jean Pierre Piquet (1853-1936), Marist Father, was born on 15 December 1853 at Lyon, France, son of Alexandre Piquet, and his wife Antoinie, née Palluy. Educated by the Marist Brothers at Lyon, he entered the Society of Mary (Marist Fathers) at Ste-Foy-les-Lyon in 1870 and was professed on 30 August 1875. He continued his theological studies at the Marist scholasticate, Belley, and in 1878 went to St Mary's College, Dundalk, Ireland, to learn English; he was ordained there in 1879. He returned to France and for several months taught at the Marist college at Montlucan.

Leaving France on 8 September 1880 with a band of Marist missionaries destined for Oceania, Piquet reached Sydney early in November, and was appointed curate at St Patrick's, Church Hill, where he joined Fathers Le Rennetel and Ginisty. Next year he was prominent in the foundation of the Society of St Vincent de Paul in Australia and was its spiritual director for many years.

For fifty-six years Fr Piquet served at St Patrick's. Renowned as a friend of the poor and lover of children, he projected a warm humanity and deep sincerity. He was extraordinarily popular as a confessor and received constant summonses from dying Catholics who wanted him to help them to make their peace with God. A short, intense little man, sporting in later life a well-kept white beard, he was typically seen darting through Sydney streets in response to some urgent call. The provincial superior, Fr Aubry, reported to headquarters in 1899: 'Fr Piquet: health good; activity insatiable'.

His zeal for souls and love of people sometimes caused Piquet to act impulsively; he was something of a handful for Church authorities. In 1907 he was temporarily suspended and excommunicated by Cardinal Moran for administering the last rites outside the boundaries of his own parish and for carelessness in observing Church marriage regulations. Although quickly smoothed over, the incident reflected the unease felt by some Irish clergy at the less strict pastoral approach followed by the French Marists.

Appointed parish priest in 1912, Piquet displayed unexpected worldly wisdom. He raised £30,000 to liquidate the parish debt and to build an impressive parish hall adjoining the presbytery (1915) and boys' school (1919), both opened free of debt. He was replaced as parish priest in 1920 partly because of ill health but mainly because of his tendency to ignore directives from higher authority. In 1930 his golden jubilee at St Patrick's was commemorated by the building of a new girl's school next to the church.

Piquet died in Lewisham Hospital on 10 August 1936 and was buried in the cemetery of Villa Maria, Hunters Hill. His jovial spirits and practical piety had endeared him to a wide cross-section of Catholics. His portrait is held at the Marist Centre, Toongabbie.

Select Bibliography

  • A. Jeffcott, Life and Labours of the Rev. Father Peter Piquet, S.M. (Syd, 1937)
  • A. Jeffcott, One Hundred Years of Spiritual Endeavour (Syd, 1940)
  • Catholic Press, 7 July 1904, 15 Nov 1930, 13 Aug 1936
  • Freeman's Journal (Sydney), 16 May 1918
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 19 July, 10 Nov 1930, 11, 12, 13 Aug 1936
  • Piquet papers and Aubry correspondence (Marist Archives, Sydney).

Citation details

Peter McMurrich, 'Piquet, Jean Pierre (1853–1936)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, https://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/piquet-jean-pierre-8054/text14053, published first in hardcopy 1988, accessed online 24 September 2021.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 11, (Melbourne University Press), 1988

View the front pages for Volume 11

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