Philippe Viard

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Philippe Joseph Viard (11 October 1809, Lyon, France — 2 June 1872) was the first Roman Catholic Bishop of Wellington, New Zealand.

Born to Claude and Pierette Charlotte (née Rolland), he attended the parish school of Saint-Nizier and then entered the minor seminary at Argentière about 1827, proceeding to the major seminary of Saint-Irénée at Lyon in 1831. He was ordained priest in Lyon Cathedral on 20 December 1834 by Archbishop de Pins. He was a curate in the diocese of Lyon until 1839.

Bishop Viard College in Porirua to the north of Wellington is named in memory of Bishop Viard's contribution to the Catholic Church and Catholic education in New Zealand.

Marist Missionary[edit]

On 1 January 1839 he joined the recently formed Society of Mary (Marists). After a short novitiate Viard was professed on 19 May, leaving the following day with a group of Marists for New Zealand.

The missionaries sailed from London on the Australasian Packet on 14 June 1839. They arrived in Sydney on 23 October, and sailed for New Zealand on the Martha, arriving on 8 December. Bishop Pompallier sent Viard in May 1840 to set up a mission station at Tauranga with the help of a Maori catechist, Romano.

Vicar General in Auckland[edit]

On 4 June 1841 Pompallier made Viard his vicar general or second in charge, and recalled him to Kororareka. Viard accompanied him on his voyages around New Zealand on the mission schooner Sancta Maria. It was at Akaroa in November that news was received of Fr Peter Chanel's murder on Futuna Island in April. With Viard, Pompallier set out for Wallis and Futuna islands on his schooner, accompanied by the French corvette L'Allier. Pompallier remained at Wallis while Viard brought Chanel's remains back to the Bay of Islands in February 1842. Viard returned to Wallis in April with provisions and was placed in charge of the Pacific Islands.

Assistant Bishop in Auckland[edit]

Viard was summoned back to New Zealand by Pompallier in September 1845 learning by letter that he had been appointed bishop of Orthosia and coadjutor bishop to Pompallier. Arriving at Sydney en route for the Bay of Islands in October, Viard was consecrated bishop by Archbishop Polding on 4 January 1846. A few months later Pompallier went to Rome and Viard was left in charge.

On 23 May 1847, Viard ordained Jean-Georges Collomb (SM; born 1816 – died 1848) in Kororoareka on Pentecost Sunday. Collomb was named Vicar Apostolic of the newly created vicariate of Melanesia and Micronesia. Collomb died of fever in 1848 on Rooke Island, Papua New Guinea. On 15 February 1849, Viard received news from Rome that two dioceses had been created in New Zealand. Pompallier was to retain control of the northern diocese centred on Auckland. Viard was to be Vicar Apostolic of the Southern diocese, headquartered in Wellington, which was apparently Rome's attempt to solve the Pompallier—Marist quarrels, i.e. sending the Marists south of Taupo with Viard as their leader. he set sail from Auckland in April 1850 aboard the Clara and arrived on 2 May 1850.[citation needed]

Bishop of Wellington[edit]

Viard purchased land in Thorndon and the Hutt Valley. In Thorndon (now Hill Street) the Marist lay brothers began building a clergy house and a convent for the sisters. A foundation stone was laid for the cathedral. Viard had a vast diocese and few clergy but was able to open missions or parishes in the Hutt Valley, Hawke's Bay and Nelson. The Akaroa mission was reopened for a time but troubles with the Canterbury Association caused its priests to leave. In 1852 the Wanganui parish and mission were opened and after that there was virtually no Marist help given to Viard until 1859.[citation needed]

In 1860 Viard was appointed first bishop of Wellington. Practical questions continued to tax him during the next decade. In 1861, noting the diminishing number of sisters in the Wellington convent, he invited Auckland Sisters of Mercy to come to Wellington. He also brought French sisters from the Institute of Our Lady of the Missions to Napier, Christchurch and Nelson. With the arrival of new groups of Marists he was able to establish priests in New Plymouth and Christchurch in 1860, and in Marlborough in 1864. During these years he remained keenly disappointed that he did not have the resources to support adequately the Maori missions. The Taranaki wars also interfered for a time with the expansion of Maori work.[citation needed]

A new phase of activity was precipitated by the gold rushes in Otago and Westland. From 1861 Viard kept a Marist at Dunedin permanently, and during the 1860s was able to send more priests to Invercargill and the Otago diggings. The miners of the Otago and West Coast diggings helped Viard build up his depleted finances. He visited Otago and Canterbury in 1864 and the northern part of the South Island and Westland in 1866.

In Westland, Irish priests followed the thousands of Irish miners and their families to the diggings, and parishes were established at Greymouth, Hokitika, Kumara, Ngahere, Charleston, Ross, Westport and Reefton. Viard was greatly embarrassed when it was revealed that several Irish priests were active Fenian supporters, and he spoke out against their activities in 1868.[citation needed]

Final years and death[edit]

Since his appointment as Bishop of Wellington several requests had been made for Viard to visit Rome. On 8 July 1868 he left for Europe. From 1869-70 he attended the First Vatican Council in Rome, presided over by Pope Pius IX. In his absence Dunedin (Otago and Southland) was created a separate diocese under Bishop Patrick Moran. The affection Wellington people had for Viard was evidenced by the crowd which welcomed him back to New Zealand on 19 March 1871. His health had suffered. By 1872 it was evident death was near. He died on 2 June 1872, aged 62, and was buried in the Catholic Cathedral in Wellington. He was succeeded by Francis Redwood SM.

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Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
-
Coadjutor Vicar Apostolic of New Zealand
1845–1848
Succeeded by
-
Preceded by
New title
Apostolic Administrator of Wellington
1848–1860
Succeeded by
New title
Preceded by
New title
Bishop of Wellington
1860–1872
Succeeded by
Francis Redwood