A row of portraits of all of the Superior Generals of the Clerics of St. Viator lines one of the hallways of the Province Center. While Viatorians, staff members and visitors pass the images every day, the influence of the 12th Superior General, Fr. Léonard Audet, CSV, who led the congregation from 1988-2000, may not be evident.
Fr. Audet passed away Jan. 24 at the Centre Champagneur de Joliette in Canada, where he had moved in 2021, in his retirement. Fr. Audet was 91.
During his 68 years as a Viatorian, Fr. Audet was known as a Biblical scholar. He obtained a doctorate in theology from the Université deMontréal, followed by a license in Holy Scripture in 1964, in Rome, and a certificate from the École Biblique de Jérusalem in 1965.
He would go on to teach theology as a member of the faculty at the Université de Montréal, and in 1977, he was appointed Dean of the Theology Department. In 1986, after a year of study in Paris, he returned as a professor in Biblical Studies.
Fr. Mark Francis, CSV, Provincial, served on Fr. Audet’s second General Council, from 1994-2000, and succeeded him as Superior General in 2000. In reflecting on Fr. Audet’s legacy, Fr. Francis described him as a mentor and pastor “with a listening heart,” who could exegete, or interpret, a human situation with insight and clarity.
He cites two important ways in which Fr. Audet made a lasting influence on the Viatorian Community: affirming the importance of associates, and challenging Provinces to become missionaries and expand the congregation into new countries.
“During his time as General he did much to advance and strengthen Viatorian association,” Fr. Francis said. “His profound respect for the lay vocation, coupled with his profound knowledge of the Viatorian charism, allowed him to help the entire international Viatorian Community come to a more nuanced and solid understanding of what it means to have lay members associated with professed religious.”
Fr. Robert M. Egan, CSV, Superior General, served as Provincial during a portion Fr. Audet’s time as General. He remembers Fr. Audet as a strong and gentle pastor who had a deep love for the Congregation.
“His contributions and leadership helped to make the Congregation stronger and more committed to the vision of Fr. Querbes,” Fr. Egan said. “I will always be grateful for his challenge to the Congregation to risk the establishment of new Foundations, in the spirit of Fr. Querbes.”
While serving on his second General Council, Fr. Francis observed firsthand Fr. Audet’s care and concern for each part of the international community, during his pastoral visits. Yet, at the same time, he challenged all the provinces to move out of their comfort zones and establish new foundations.
“His challenge to them illustrated his trust in God’s providence, a characteristic he shared with our founder, Fr. Louis Querbes,” Fr. Francis added. “I remain grateful to Léonard for his example as Superior General — an example I greatly benefited from when I succeeded him.”