Francis Libermann

Francis Libermann Jacob Libermann as he was initially known was born in a Jewish family at Saverne in Alsace, France in 1802. His father was the chief Rabbi of Saverne, the position which he believed his son Jacob would assume after him. During Jacob’s early life, his father introduced him to Hebrew Scriptures and other Jewish writings. Jacob was sent by his father to Metz for advanced rabbinical studies. During this time, he got acquainted to the European culture and learnt Germany, French, Latin, and Greek languages. He as well got an opportunity to read such writings as the Emile of Jean Jacques Rousseau. Due to this exposure, Jacob abandoned his father’s faith and got introduced to Christianity by reading the New Testament in Hebrew. Together with the influence of his elder brother Samson who had already been converted to Catholicism and after a period of serious prayers, Jacob accepted to be baptized on the Christmas eve of 1826 and took the name Francis.

He manifested a great zeal of becoming a priest and was admitted to the Seminary of Stanislas College and later transferred to St. Sulpice. Francis was struck by epilepsy before he was to receive sub diaconate orders. In 1837, with only minor orders, he was offered the position of assistant Novice master of the Eudist Fathers in Rennes. He continued with his responsibilities until 1839 when he felt called to take a leading role in the project started by his former associates in St. Sulpice, that is, Frederick Le Vavaseur and Eugene Tisserant for the blacks especially the neglected former slaves in French Colonies.

Francis, his two associates and Maxime De La Bruniere began the enterprise of starting a new society which he dedicated to the Holy Heart of Mary.  On September 1841, after waiting for more than ten years, Bishop John Mioland of Amiens ordained him in a ceremony witnessed by the Bishop’s secretary only. Nine days after his ordination, Francis opened the first Novitiate of the new Society at La Neville.[1] He began sending missionaries to Africa especially Guinea.  The main mission of his society was not much different from that performed by the Congregation of the Holy Ghost Fathers. However, the latter though having many missionary territories, had less personnel due to the French Revolution which had claimed the lives of many of its priests. Libermann intended to send missionaries to various places especially where the blacks were living under pathetic conditions in Brazil, America and other African countries not only French colonies.

Rome had proposed a merger between the society of the Holy Heart of Mary and the Congregation of the Holy Ghost Fathers since both had a similar mission. On June 10, 1848, after negotiations, the two societies merged thus giving rise to the congregation of the Holy Ghost Fathers under the protection of the Immaculate Heart of Mary as it is still known today.[2] Libermann became the Superior General of this new coalition, the position he held until his death on 2ndFebruary, 1852 during vespers in the adjoining chapel when the choir was chanting the Magnificat.</>

[1] Koren,

[2] Cf: Alphonse Gilbert. A message From Libermann for our time: You have laid your hands on me.