Priest, Founder of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament
Memorial : 8 July
Peter Vigne was born on 20 August 1670 in Privas, France, one of five children born to a textile merchant, Peter Vigne, and to Frances Gautier. Two of his sisters died while they were still infants.
True presence of Jesus
Well-instructed in the faith and mature for his age, when he was only 11 years old he was chosen by the parish priest to act as a witness, signing the parish register for baptisms, marriages or deaths.
Towards the end of his teenage years, Peter's life was suddenly transformed by a new awareness of the presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist.
He received the grace to understand deeply that Jesus gave his life completely for love of us in his passion, death on the Cross and Resurrection, and continues to give himself to us in the Eucharist.
From that moment, Jesus Christ became the centre of his life and key to his faith, and he thus strongly felt called to become a priest.
In 1690 he entered the Sulpician Seminary in Viviers, and was ordained a priest on 18 September 1694 in Bourg Saint Andeol by the Bishop of Viviers. He was first sent as a curate to Saint-Agrève, where for six years he exercised his priestly ministry with great care and dedication.
Daily discernment and the passing of time led Fr Vigne to understand that he was called to "something more". His desire to work as a missionary among the poor was thus central to his decision in 1700 to join the Vincentians in Lyons.
Popular missions and the poor
Here he received a solid formation in conducting "popular missions", and with his fellow priests he began visiting towns and villages in the work of evangelization.
When he was 36, Fr Vigne understood that God wanted him to leave the Congregation in order to dedicate himself to helping the poor living in the countryside. He therefore became an "itinerant missionary", applying his own pastoral methods while submitting his ministry to the authorization of his hierarchical superiors.
For more than 30 years the dedicated priest tirelessly travelled the French roads of Vivarais and Dauphiné by foot or on horseback, regardless of the weather conditions. He preached, visited the sick, taught catechism and administered the sacraments.
Fr Vigne taught the faithful how to pray and spoke of the role of Mary, the "Beautiful Tabernacle of God among men".
In 1712 he came to Boucieu-le-Roi, where the terrain of the countryside favoured the erection of a Way of the Cross. With the help of parishioners he constructed a Via Crucis with 39 Stations throughout the village and countryside, teaching the faithful to "follow Jesus".
Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament
Boucieu-le-Roi became his home, and here he gathered a small flock of faithful women to accompany the pilgrims on the Way of the Cross and help them to pray and meditate.
On 30 November 1715, Fr Vigne founded the Congregation of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament. He clothed seven young women in the Religious habit and gave them the cross. They previously had led the pilgrims and for months had felt called to share a life of prayer and charity.
Their task, at the priest's invitation, was to assure continuous adoration of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.
And so it was that on 8 September 1722, the first "Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament" professed their vows.
Fr Vigne was also eager to help young people grow in their faith and Christian values, and thus opened schools and even established a school for training teachers.
Whenever he was in Lyons on business, Fr Vigne sought support and counsel from his former seminary tutors, the priests of Saint Sulpice, and from his confessor and spiritual director. Drawn by the Eucharistic spirituality of the "Priests of the Blessed Sacrament", founded by Mons. d'Authier de Sisgaud, he was accepted as an associate member of this society in 1724.
Giving without counting the cost
While Fr Vigne continued to accompany his young Congregation (who not only taught in the schools he founded but also served the sick in hospitals), he also dedicated himself to apostolic works and to writing books on spirituality.
When he was 70, the effects of exhaustion became evident. While preaching at Rencurel in the Vercors Mountains on 8 July 1740, Fr Vigne became seriously ill and died shortly after.
His remains lie in his beloved Boucieu.