FATHER DUPUIS’ BRIEF BIOGRAPHY

 

1.1  Origin
1.2  Youth
1.3  Priesthood
1.4  A different call – joining the Missions Étrangères de Paris
1.5  Father Dupuis’ commitment
       1.5.1  Father Dupuis’ contribution to Tamil Literature
       1.5.2  Commitment in Ecumenism
1.6  Missionary zeal
1.7  Creation of many foundations
1.8  Father Dupuis’ demise

1.1  Origin                                     
Louis Savinien Dupuis was born on 18th August, 1806 in the Parish of Saint Etienne of Sens –Yonne, Bourgogne in France. He was the second child, his parents were Edme Louis Dupuis and Victoire Remy, and his grandparents were Etienne Dupuis and Marian Dupuis. Their patronymic name was DUPUIS. 

The child Louis Savinien Dupuis was baptized in the Catholics Christian faith on 19th August 1806 in the Saint Etienne Cathedral in Sens. 

The Good Lord had great plans for the young noble hearted Louis Dupuis. His parents never knew that their younger son would become a Catholics priest and a great missionary for the welfare of the people in India.

Edme Savinien Dupuis was his elder brother was fond of his younger brother Louis Savinien. Edme Savinien was blessed with a son and a daughter.  He financially helped his brother when he was in Pondicherry.

Reverend Dupuis’ nephew and niece financially supported their uncle; this is mentioned in the first Superior General, Mother Maria Natchathram’s letter and in one of Father Dupuis’ letter. In the same letter he also mentions that six of his books were offered to his niece, a nun.

1.2  Youth
Louis Dupuis had his primary education in the school run by Jesuit Fathers and his secondary education in the school run by the Society of Saint Sebastian. His elder brother Edme Savinien went to the same school. Louis Dupuis was a handsome lad and an attentive student. His teachers and the class mates noticed in him a keen intellect, extraordinary talent and an exceptional memory power. He excelled in studies and other extra-curricular activities and won the first prizein many competitions. He participated in essay writing, translation. He sang in the choir and he was charitable soul. He was not interested in the material world and wanted to come closer to God, and grow more and more in spirituality.

1.3   Priesthood
Once he completed high school, he understood that God had great plans for him and he decided to join in priesthood. His parents allowed him to join the Seminary of the Diocese of Sens - France. In the Seminary, his good behaviour, his humble nature, his good conduct and intellectual capability were appreciated, and Cardinal de la Fare accepted him in priesthood.
On 25th April 1829, His Grace Dupont ordained him priest.

Thanks to the young priest’s good nature and intellectual disposition, His Grace Dupont appointed him procurator of the Seminary and as his personal Secretary.

Dupuis the former procurator of the Seminary - Sens, the former Secretary of the Bishop of Sens, was ‘a highly esteemed person’ opines Mr.Supries. Though concise the appreciation is appropriate; this will be proved on many occasions in Dupuis’ missionary life.

The Bishop of Sens appointed Reverend Dupuis as the Director of the Anjehel Congregation.
Though young, he was steeped in the spirit of faith, hope and charity. Later on these qualities sustained him as Rector in the Petit Seminaire in Pondicherry; and as founder and director of the Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Pondicherry.

1.4   A different call - Joining the Missions Étrangères de Paris
As procurator of the Petit Seminaire and Secretary to the Bishop, Father Dupuis had the opportunity of going to Paris in 1830. Vincent de Paul’s mortal remains, hidden during religious persecution were recovered Dupuis represented His Grace Dupont and participated in the celebration organized by the Missions Étrangères de Paris.

Dupuis had the opportunity of staying in the Generalate of the Missions Étrangères de Paris. Eager to serve the poor and the downtrodden, he was deeply moved and impressed by Vincent de Paul’s lifeand his selfless service to the poor and, his profound desire to uplift them. During his stay in the Generalate in Missions Étrangères de Paris, he studied the objectives, aims and mission of the Society. He was moved when he saw young priests sail abroad to work for the poor. It was in this point that he decided to join the Missions Étrangères de Paris Society to serve the poor and the needy.

On his return from Paris he discussed with his Bishop about his decision and requested him to grant him permission to join the Society. The Bishop refused to grant his request because of Father Dupuis’ poor health which would not permit him to be a missionary abroad.

But he was determined, hence the Bishop yielded to his request and on 25th May 1831 he joined the Missions Étrangères de Paris.

The training period usually lasts a year, but Dupuis was so determined that he sailed for India within forty days. On 4th July 1831 he started for India the ship navigated through Reunion Island passing through Mauritius. Eight months later on 9th February 1832, Dupuis reached Pondicherry. He was welcomed by the priests of the Missions Étrangères de Paris. He stayed eighty days in Pondicherry and meanwhile learnt some Tamil.

1.5 Father Dupuis’ Mission
On 21st August 1832 His Grace Herbert appointed him as parish priest of Saint Mary’s Basilica in Bangalore. He was also the Chaplain for Catholics soldiers and Europeans. Mr. Brigot Beauclair writes ‘he is a staunch Christian, a champion who never steps back. He has a great capability for learning languages. He is the man in this tower of Babel, in this camp of Bangalore. His good disposition attracts many Europeans, and the way he runs the administration is laudable’.

He served as parish priest of Saint Mary’s Basilica in Bangalore for eight years; during which he learnt three languages: Telugu, Kannadam and English. These languages would help him later in his mission; he mentioned this in a letter dated 16th July 1833, addressed to his Superior in Paris. 

In 1836 His Grace Bonnand was appointed Superior of the Pondicherry Mission; he had called back to Pondicherry Father Dupuis and in 1840 appointed him Rector and Superior of the Petit Seminaire.

1.5.1  Father Dupuis’ contribution to Tamil literature
Well aware of Father Dupuis’ zeal for Evangelization and thanks to his writing and publications in 1841 the Bishop appointed him manager of the Mission Press in Pondicherry. From 1841 to 1871, he wrote and published in Tamil many books pertaining to religion and also some grammar books. His letters to his Superiors in France and to the nuns are found in the archives of Missions Ètrangères de Paris.

Under Father Dupuis’ supervision, Father Giuseppe Constantino’s S.J. (also known as Beschi and Veeramamunivar) the Christian epic “Tembavani” was printed in three volumes from to 1851 to 1853.

1.5.2  Father Dupuis’ contribution to Ecumenism
Father Dupuis in his letter dated 14th July 1834 mentions about Protestant preachers trying to attract Indian Catholics to different sects, claiming  that  Catholics missionaries did not preach Jesus Christ’s teachings. 17

In Bangalore 1839, Father Dupuis retorted and wrote ‘Vedhapuratalai Maruthal’ – ‘Refutation to Heresy against Protestantism’ enabling Catholics to strengthen their faith.  These Protestant preachers tried to pervert Catholics, unfortunately Dupuis’ poor health did not permit him to visit Catholics homes.

In 1868 he wrote two volumes on ‘Ethics of Religious Life’ - Thuravara Uthiyanam-
Once the Congregation was established, he wrote thirty eight letters from 1844 to 1874 till his last days. These letters enable nuns to follow Jesus and to be true and faithful to the Congregation and the Church.

He stresses on these five points:
- Education of girls
- How to improve teaching techniques
- Status of the infrastructure
- Note down important events in the Congregation
- And as a concluding he gives some advice to his daughters.

1.6 Father Dupuis’ missionary commitment
In the past, Tamil girls were not educated.  Even Catholics though influenced by European missionaries did not dare to educate girls. They thought girls would lose their tradition and culture if educated. The Church in Tamil Nadu realized the dire need of education for women.  Women’s education would inspire true piety in Christian families and would strengthen the quality of family life.

It was in God’s plan and the Diocesan Synod was convened to respond to the dire need of the period. On 18th of January 1844 Bishop His Grace Bonnand and many priests attended the Synod held in the Immaculate Conception Cathedral in Pondicherry. It was decided to start for indigenous women, the Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in Pondicherry.

The priests present in the Synod suggested that an Indian sister’s Congregation may be started; and they would educate girls giving them secular and moral instruction. 

His Grace Bonnand President of the Synod considered that as a responsible person Father Dupuis had all the qualities to found and promote a Congregation of nuns. Dupuis was appointed. Father Dupuis accepted the offer mainly to free women from social bondage and promote piety in families. He invited girls to join the Congregation; an elderly Carmelite nun was appointed as Superior. The Congregation started with Mother Superior Sister Thereseammal, three novices Savariammal, Annammal from Cuddalore and Therese Mary from Pondicherry. Ten years later Sr.Theresammal went back to the Carmel Convent and passed away four years later. 

On Wednesday 16th of October 1844, the Congregation of Immaculate Heart of Mary - Pondicherry was opened with Holy Father Pope Gregory XVI’s blessing and His Grace Bonnand’s approval. To start with the nuns lived in house paying a rent of thirty six rupees. The Congregation started functioning and Father Dupuis wanted to put into practice through education, women’s liberation.

On 17th October 1844, a school for girls ‘Immaculate Heart of Mary’ was started. It came as a bolt out of the blue to many.  Father Dupuis wrote: ‘For several weeks no girls turned up, then two or three came, following them many more joined, a few months later the enrolment was fairly good’. The school still exists and is located opposite to the Archbishop’s House in Mission Street, Pondicherry.  More than ten thousand girls are being educated.

1.7   Father Dupuis’ missionary zeal in various foundations
His Grace Bonnand appointed Father Dupuis as Pro-vicar in 1850 and he remained so with three consecutive Bishops. In 1852 he started the Society of Vincent de Paul.

In 1853 he was appointed as parish priest in Nellithope and later on in Oulgaret. He also created many more convents for example: in Nellithope on 22nd November 1854, in Purathakudy on August 1857, in Michaelpatti on 2nd November 1859, in Kumbakonam on 31st May 1860, in Reddiyarpalayam on 21st July 1861, in Ariyankuppam on 25th April 1863, in Tharangambady on January 1866, in Dharmapuri on 8th March 1869 and in Viragalur on 22nd April 1873.

1.8  Father Dupuis’ demise
Due to Indian climatic conditions Father Dupuis suffered from severe illness, His Grace Bonnand, Father Dupuis wrote, ‘In the beginning of 1839, after several months of sufferings, a terrible sickness affected me and I was standing at the threshold of death, I thought I was entering eternity’ Many such references are found in his correspondences addressed to the nuns dated 06 March 1844, 03 December1849 and 18 November 1873. He suffered from migraine, giddiness and poor eye sight. He accepted physical sufferings for his missionary endeavour. Father Dupuis’ health was going from bad to worse and his end was not far. He accepted the deterioration and accepted reality. He was unable to celebrate the Holy Eucharist, he mentions this in his letter dated 19 January 1874 ‘I’ve been unable to offer mass for many days’.

Mother Maria Natchathram, the first Superior General, in her long note to the nuns mentions about Father Dupuis’ demise. ‘On 2nd June 1874, his physical condition became very serious. The Bishop tried his best to save him. The Sacrament of the Sick was administered and Thursday 4th June 1874 the nuns from the Mother House went to see their loving Father in Bishop’s House. He was unable to breath and in the evening started gasping for breath. He breathed his last peacefully on 4th June 1874 at five PM, fulfilling his Mission. He was sixty eight when he was called to God.

The news of Father Dupuis’ demise spread in Pondicherry, the laity thronged the Bishop’s House to pay their last homage. Priests and nuns surrounding his coffin prayed for the repose of his soul. Higher ups from the Education Department, Government of Pondicherry and Monsieur Faran, the then French Governor were present at the burial ceremony on 5th June 1874. Father Dupuis had given forty two years of selfless service to the people of Pondicherry.

Monsieur Faran, the then French Governor, pronounced in his obituary note: ‘I have high regard and esteem for the Pondicherry Mission, we acknowledge the unique qualities of Reverend Father Louis Savinien Dupuis, a man of great virtues, hard work, transparency and love. He zealously laboured for the education and empowerment of Indian women. On behalf of the people of the French Colony, we express our deep condolence. We have lost a great soul.

Poet Savarirayalu composed and sang a condolence hymn on Father Dupuis. On 5th June 1874 Father Dupuis’ mortal remains were laid to rest in the cemetery of the Cathedral of Pondicherry.

In 1989 when the renovation work started in the cemetery of the Cathedral, with due permission from the then Archbishop V.S. Selvanathar, the mortal remains of Father Dupuis were transferred (during the tenure of Reverend Mother Emilia Mary) to Nirmala Novitiate, Pakkamudayanpet, Pondicherry .

On 18 August 2006 Father Dupuis’ bi-centennial birth (1806 – 2006) was celebrated in Pondicherry. In the monument of the bi-centennial Father Dupuis’ bust was installed in the Immaculate Higher Secondary School under the headship of His Grace Most. Rev. Dr. A. Anandarayar, Archbishop of Pondicherry and Cuddalore.