On Aug. 21, 1793, during the French Revolution, Louis Querbes was born in Lyon, France. He was baptized in Saint Nizier Parish in the shadow of the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Fourviére. Both were central in his personal, Christian, and priestly formation.
As a boy he participated in the choir and attended the clerical school in Saint Nizier Parish. One day he made a vow of chastity before the statue of Our Lady of Grace. He kept the scrap of paper on which he wrote his vow until the end of his life.
He entered Saint Irenaeus Seminary and was ordained in 1816. He returned to Saint Nizier as a parochial vicar where he gained the respect and love of the parishioners. He quickly became known for the quality of his preaching.
He became administrator of the clerical school at Saint Nizier which cemented the two priorities of his life: education and liturgy.
In 1822, Louis Querbes was named pastor of Vourles, a parish both physically and spiritually in need of renewal due to the revolution.
He embraced the challenge of rebuilding the church and the spiritual lives of the faithful.The lack of education of the children troubled him, inspiring him to search for a solution.
Louis Querbes formed an association of catechists for rural schools: “The Catechists of Saint Viator”.
He chose Viator, a fourth century saint who was a lector and aide of Bishop Just of Lyon, as patron for his catechists.
In 1831, he received diocesan authorization for his society which was made up of parochial clerics and lay catechists.
Seven years later, he presented his society to the Pope but, as counseled by advisors, he dropped the inclusion of lay members. It would not have been approved. He was ahead of his time in wanting to form a community of lay and religious members.
On Sept. 21, 1838 he received pontifical approval for the religious institute of the Parochial Clerics or Catechists of Saint Viator.
The Viatorians opened schools and worked in parishes, first in France and later in Canada and the United States.
Father Louis Querbes died in Vourles Sept. 1, 1859, but his work and his charism continued after his death.
His motto: “Adored and Loved be Jesus” sums up the power of the Gospel that Father Querbes wanted to pass on to his successors.