I saw a local play about the life of St.John Vianney (1786–1859). One of the characters noted that in over 1800 years of Catholic history, a parish priest had never become a saint (to which another character quipped that the profession seemed to be a barrier to sainthood). The irony of course was that Father John Vianney would later become a saint, and is in fact the patron saint of parish priests.

Is this statement accurate? Was St. John Vianney the first parish priest to become canonized? If there were parish priests who were martyred, was he the first non-martyr parish priest to become canonized?

1 Answer 1


St. John Vianney was not the first "parish priest" to be raised to the altars.

I am sure that one can find several with time permitting, especially in groups of martyrs.

St. Ivo of Kermartin (1253-1303) was also a parish priest.

Ivo Helory, a legal scholar from Kermartin, France, served as an ecclesiastical judge in the dioceses of Rennes and Treguier, becoming known as an advocate of the poor. Following his ordination, he served as a parish priest for eighteen years. Each day before celebrating Mass, and at other times as well, he would prostrate himself before the altar, tearfully offering fervent prayers. Similarly, he would prepare for his sermons on his knees. In his preaching, Ivo habitually included examples drawn from the lives of the saints. He kept his breviary and his Bible at his side almost constantly. Ivo generously gave his time to his priestly duties of hearing confessions and bringing Viaticum to the dying, carrying the Eucharist in a silver pyx over his heart. On his deathbed, Ivo kept his eyes fixed upon a crucifix placed before a window of his room. Upon hearing a bystander speak of asking for a doctor, Ivo responded that his only doctor was Jesus Christ. He repeatedly made the sign of the cross before breathing his last. Ivo is venerated as a patron saint of lawyers. - St. Ivo of Kermartin

St. Ivo of Kermartin was canonized in June 1347 by Clement VI3 at the urging of Philip I, Duke of Burgundy.

St. Ivo worked amongst the poor of his parish.

Saint Ivo of Kermartin, T.O.S.F. (17 October 1253 – 19 May 1303), also known Yvo or Ives (and in Breton as Erwan, Iwan, Youenn or Eozenn, depending on the region, and known as Yves Hélory (also Helori or Heloury) in French), was a parish priest among the poor of Louannec, the only one of his station to be canonized in the Middle Ages. He is the patron of Brittany, lawyers and abandoned children. His feast day is 19 May. Poetically, he is referred to as "Advocate of the Poor".

Just as St. Ivo worked much with the poor so the Cure d'Ars worked amongst the needy of his day. He established La Providence, a home for orphaned girls.

Vianney had a soft spot for the forgotten as well. La Providence, an orphanage for young girls that John Vianney started in 1824, can be found across the street from the church. At the end of the Napoleonic Era, France’s grave economic woes gripped the country. Countless women and girls roamed the streets selling themselves as prostitutes.

In the true spirit of Saint Vincent de Paul, La Providence was John Vianney’s response to the social injustice of national poverty. The orphanage is a modest, white, two-story French country house where numerous young teenage and orphan girls in need of spiritual direction and shelter learned skills such as housekeeping from Catherine Lassagne, who headed the house.

One of John Vianney’s great pleasures was his noontime catechism to the orphan girls. In fact, once Ars became a hot spot for pilgrims, Father Vianney’s midday chat with the girls became a crowded affair, one that had to be relocated to the church.

Even though these two priests were "parish priests", their spiritual and practical influences extended well beyond the borders of their parishes. The tentacles of grace are always far reaching in times of need.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .