Saint Sulpice, Bishop

The Roots of the Society of Saint Sulpice
Saturday 16 January 2016
by  Ronald Witherup
popularity : 10%

Many people assume that the Society of the Priests of Saint Sulpice was founded by the Saint whose name the Society bears. This is reasonable, given that other communities have such origins. For example, the Dominicans come from Saint Dominic, the Benedictines from Saint Benedict, and the Franciscans from Saint Francis of Assisi. The origins of the Society of Saint are a bit different.

Saint Sulpice, whose feast day is January 17, was a seventh-century military chaplain who became the Archbishop of Bourges in France in A.D. 642. He was called “the Pious” or “the Good” because of his outreach to the poor and his ability to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. His people loved him and considered him a model “Good Shepherd.” The name of Saint Sulpice is found throughout France, with towns, travel agencies, churches, and even a wine bearing his name.

The priestly Society that bears his name, however, sprouts not from the bishop but from the Church of Saint Sulpice, one of the two largest churches in Paris. Constructed originally in 1211 near the Abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Prés, whose tour still dominates the neighborhood of the 6th arrondissement in Paris, the Church of Saint Sulpice became home to Jean-Jacques OLIER, founder of the Society, who was named pastor of this parish in 1642. He made the parish of Saint Sulpice a center for the formation of priests, founding the Seminary of Saint Sulpice that exists today in Issy-les-Moulineaux, a Paris suburb. Olier and his priest colleagues became known as the “gentlemen of Saint Sulpice,” or more succinctly, “the Sulpicians.” This is the title that endures today.

For more on the present-day Church of Saint Sulpice, whose façade dates from the 19th century, one can visit the website here and here.

Although Saint Sulpice was not our founder, the Society of the Priests of Saint Sulpice celebrates his feast day and honors this admirable bishop who is patron of the famous parish, which remains very active and is still staffed today by Sulpician priests, at the request of the Archdiocese of Paris. Happy feast day to the parish and to the Society!