Augustin Planque was a superior of the Society of African Missions (SMA). Born in Chemy, France, Planque studied in seminaries at Cambrai and was ordained in 1850. He taught philosophy at Arras, where he developed an interest in missions. In 1856 he joined Marion Brésillac, who was then founding the SMA. In 1859 Brésillac and four companions died of yellow fever in Sierra Leone. As the most senior of the two remaining priests in the society, Planque signaled his intention to continue the work, and Propaganda Fide responded by nominating him superior of the society and of its seminary in Lyon. Planque directed the fortunes of the society single-handedly until 1901, when a vicar general was appointed to assist him. In 1867, when the survival of the society was still at stake, Planque was nominated pro-vicar of the society’s mission in Dahomey. He chose to remain in Europe and delegate authority to a mission superior. This arrangement created difficulties that were resolved only when Propaganda Fide nominated a bishop to the mission in 1891. Planque’s great achievement was to put the society on a solid footing; he did this by carefully overseeing the seminary, expanding the society to other European countries, paying constant attention to funding and recruitment, obtaining additional missions in Africa, securing the cooperation of the French government, and providing firm guidance and leadership. At the time of his death there were 266 priests and brothers in the SMA. Planque was also founder of the Congregation of Our Lady of Apostles, formed at Lyon in 1876. This international missionary sisterhood, whose members work principally on the African continent but also in the Middle East and Europe, today comprises some 1,200 members from twenty countries across the northern hemisphere and from several African countries.
Edmund M. Hogan, SMA
Patrick Gantly, Mission to West Africa, 2 vols. (1991); Patrick Gantly and Ellen Thorp, For This Cause (1992); René F. Guilcher, Augustin Planque (1928).
This article is reproduced, with permission, from Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, copyright © 1998, by Gerald H. Anderson, W. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan. All rights reserved.