The Holy Family Priest Associates are an international group of Diocesan Priests who live in obedience and availability to the local Ordinary and in communion with their presbyterium.
They freely choose to follow the Charism and the spirituality of the Venerable Pierre Bienvenu Noailles with the desire to live more deeply their priestly commitment in complementarity and solidarity with the other vocations in the Family. They lead lives of simplicity and detachment.
How the Priest Associates evolved
Priest Associates have been part of the Family of Pierre Bienvenu Noailles since its foundation. Their actual position in the Family evolved over a number of years. In 1833 the Founder, together with his brother Fr Amand Noailles, formed a small community of priests. When it became clear that this was not the way forward, Fr Noailles opened up the Association to all priests who wished to be part of the Family without the requirement of living a common life. In 1861, when Fr Noailles died, there were over 900 Priest Associates.
Priest Associates Today
There is a growing number of Priest Associates in countries where there is a Holy Family presence – Sri Lanka, Philippines, India, Pakistan, France, Britain, Ireland, Lesotho. The first international gathering of Priest Associates of the Holy Family took place in February 2004 in Candy, Sri Lanka. It was presided over by the Superior General of the Religious Institute, Sr Margaret Muldoon, and included representatives from Sri Lanka, Philippines, India and South Africa.
St Théophane Vénard – an early Priest Associate
Jean-Théophane Venard was born near Poitiers, France, in 1829. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1852 in the Society of Foreign Missions. Shortly afterwards he was assigned to Tonkin, Vietnam, then a very dangerous region for missionaries. Prior to his departure, it is said that Fr Noailles had enrolled him as a Priest Associate of the Holy Family, remarking that one day Théophane would be a martyr.
On February 2, 1861 at the age of 32, Théophane was martyred for his faith and work as a missionary: it was the eve of the anniversary of the ‘Miraculous Blessing’ in the same year that Fr Noailles died. Jean-Théophane Venard was beatified in 1909 and canonised in 1988, the same year that Pierre Bienvenu Noailles was declared Venerable, the first step on the path to canonisation.
Théophane’s sister entered the Holy Family of Bordeaux, and took as her name in religion, Sr Théophane. Théophané’s brother, Eusebius, was also a Priest Associate of the Holy Family.