Youth and providence

Jean-Charles Cornay was born in 1809 in Loudun, the middle child of five. He entered the seminary of the Paris Foreign Missions Society in 1830. Seven years later, at the age of 28, he was tortured to death in Vietnam.

His parents must have had some inkling of the risk their son was taking: they were very reluctant to let him become a missionary.

For Jean-Charles, it was simple: it was God’s call, which must be trusted absolutely. “The Lord is faithful,” he said: “He expects from us a total confidence in his promises.”

Journey into danger

Cornay was sent to the Far East in 1831, in a hurry since he was to replace another missionary. He was meant to go to Sichuan, but his guides never arrived, so he carried out his ministry in Tonkin, Vietnam. Those who saw him reported a happy, composed individual who kept his inner peace in the middle of fearful trials.

While Cornay was in the area, persecution escalated dramatically: the region, which only a few decades before had officially protected missionaries, was seized with suspicion towards Catholics.

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