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François Victor Poupinel (1815–1884)

by John Hosie

This article was published:

François Victor Poupinel (1815-1884), Marist Father, was born on 14 November 1815 at Vassy, Calvados, Normandy, son of Jacques Poupinel, watchmaker, and his wife Marie-Anne, née Vauthier. Brought up by his widowed mother and uncle, Abbé Vauthier, he left secondary school and entered the Bayeux seminary. His abilities were soon recognized when he joined the Marists at Lyon in August 1838. He took vows on 3 September 1839 and was ordained priest on 15 September. Within a year he was appointed secretary to the founder of the order, Jean-Claude Colin. Victor Poupinel also became procurator in France in charge of the Marist Pacific missions, a position of growing responsibility.

Colin and his successor Julien Favre were worried not only by the loss of lives of missionaries, but also by autocratic bishops under whom Marists suffered gross privations. In 1857 Favre negotiated with Bishop Pierre Marie Bataillon, then in Europe, for a rule to safeguard the Marists. Poupinel was appointed visitor-general of the missions to represent the missionaries. He reached Sydney in September 1857 and was warmly welcomed to Villa Maria by Fr J. L. Rocher.

Based in Sydney for the next thirteen years Poupinel visited isolated missions in New Caledonia, New Zealand, Fiji, Samoa, Tonga and the islands of Rotuma, Wallis and Futuna. With fatherly concern for the missionaries he handled the prickly Bataillon with patient tact and negotiated transfers but resisted the bishop's wish to amalgamate Villa Maria with a college to train island priests. Poupinel visited Europe in 1862, and Rome adopted his recommendation to detach Fiji in 1863 and later Samoa from Bataillon's vicariate, yet the bishop was one of many who sought Poupinel's reappointment to the Pacific for a second term.

Within the Sydney archdiocese Poupinel found the Marists hampered by the suspicion of Archbishop Polding. In 1859 Abbot Gregory had explained to Poupinel that the archbishop's refusal to countenance a Marist secondary college for boys was to protect the ailing Benedictine school, Lyndhurst. Early in 1868 Polding reversed his stand and requested Poupinel for a college and a model school for teacher training. He sponsored the request to Favre; the negotiations did not lead to a Marist Fathers' college but instead brought the Marist Brothers to Australia in 1872, led by Ludovic Laboureyas. Under Poupinel's leadership the Marists in Australia became more confident. With his friendliness and knowledge of church procedures he helped people and several bishops referred priests in difficulties to him. The misunderstandings with Polding were gradually sorted out, and the symbol of complete acceptance by the archbishop came in 1868, not only with the offer of the college but, after Archdeacon McEncroe died, with the offer of his parish of St Patrick's, Church Hill, to Poupinel and the Marists. As first Marist parish priest of this cherished shrine, Poupinel named Joseph Monnier.

In 1870 Poupinel left Australia to take up the post of assistant superior-general of the order, second to Favre. He died of fever on 10 July 1884 at Lyon and was buried in the cemetery of St Foy-les-Lyon. Poupinel had won the affection of all who knew him. He had an immense capacity for work and ability to valuate men and situations. His penetrating reports on Australia and the Pacific missions gave his superiors a sound basis for estimating situations, although they wisely left as much as possible to Poupinel's decisions. He conserved records methodically and his amply documented travels provide valuable historical material about the Pacific.

Select Bibliography

  • J. Hosie, The French Mission: An Australian Base for the Marists in the Pacific to 1874 (M.A. thesis, Macquarie University, 1971)
  • Rocher, Monnier and Poupinel letters (Marist Archives, Rome, microfilm copies at State Library of New South Wales and National Library of Australia).

Citation details

John Hosie, 'Poupinel, François Victor (1815–1884)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1974, accessed online 13 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]

Alternative Names
  • Poupinel, Francois Victor

14 November, 1815
Vassy, Calvados, France


10 July, 1884 (aged 68)
Lyon, France

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