Société des Missions Africaines – Province de Strasbourg

OBRECHT Gustave né le 4 octobre 1875 à Bishopsheim
dans le diocèse de Strasbourg, France
membre de la SMA le 21 avril 1897
prêtre le 16 juillet 1899
décédé le 1er octobre 1951

1899-1904 missionnaire en Côte de l’Or
1905-1951 missionnaire aux USA 
Oshkosh, 1905-1907
Géorgie, 1907-1924
Savannah, 1924-1951

décédé à Savannah, USA, le 1er octobre 1951
à l’âge de 76 ans

Le père Gustave OBRECHT (1875 - 1951)

A Savannah (U.S.A.), dans l'Etat de Géorgie, le 1er octobre 1951, retour à Dieu du père Gustave Obrecht, à l'âge de 76 ans

Gustave Obrecht naquit à Bishopsheim, dans le diocèse de Strasbourg, en 1875. Il fit ses études à Richelieu et à Lyon. Il fit le serment en 1897 et fut ordonné prêtre en 1899. Deux mois plus tard, le père Obrecht partait pour la préfecture de la Côte-de-l'Or.

Malade, il doit revenir en 1901, mais repart en 1902. En 1905, le père Obrecht est envoyé en Amérique pour quêter, mais il ne tarde pas à être adjoint au père Lissner, chargé de lancer l'œuvre pour les Noirs.

La fondation de cette œuvre revient au père Lissner et au père Obrecht, lequel a beaucoup travaillé au milieu des plus grandes difficultés.

Le père Obrecht a surtout travaillé au milieu des plus grandes difficultés à Savannah, en la paroisse Saint-Benoît.

Father Gustave Obrecht (1875 - 1951)

Gustave Obrecht was born in Bischopsheim, a parish in the diocese of Strasbourg, in Alsace-Lorraine, on October 4, 1875.
He died in St. Benedict’s Rectory, Savannah, Georgia, USA, on October 1, 1951.

Gustave Obrecht wanted to be a missionary from a very young age. He made his second level studies in the Society’s schools at Clermont-Ferrand and at Chamalieres (Puy-de-Dome). He studied philosophy and theology in the Society’s major seminary at Cours Gambetta, Lyon, France. Gustave was received as a member of the Society on April 21, 1897 and was ordained a priest on July 16, 1899, in the seminary chapel at Lyon. Ordained with him on that day was Joseph Dahlent who was also to serve in America.

In October of the same year Gustave was assigned to the Society’s missions in the British Colony of the Gold Coast, West Africa. The prefecture of the Gold Coast (Ghana) had been entrusted to the Society in 1879 after pioneering work by Eugene Murat and Auguste Moreau. Gustave returned from Africa in ill-health in 1901 but, after a period of convalescence, returned to his mission in 1902. He remained attached to the Gold Coast mission until 1905 when he was sent to America to collect funds for the Society. For the next two years he promoted the Society, supporting himself by taking on temporary assignments, mainly in Wisconsin.

At this time the Society was commencing work among African-American communities in the Southern States of America. Pioneering this work was Ignace Lissner, an Alsatian who had been ordained in 1891. The first mission-parish - St. Benedict’s the Moor - was established in the diocese of Savannah-Atlanta in January 1907 and, with the consent of Society authorities in Lyon, Fr. Lissner appointed Gustave as pastor and Joseph Dahlent as assistant. Gustave was to labor in St. Benedicts for thirty-five years (he spent a brief period in the Society’s parish at Macon, Ga., during the early 1920’s). When he came to St. Benedict’s there was neither church nor school, nor parish residence, only an old frame building which had served as a church since 1899. Poverty was only one of the difficulties experienced during these years. There was also opposition from the Klu Klux Klan and the absence of support, even hostility, from many diocesan clergy. Despite these difficulties progress was sustained. By 1916 a fine new school and rectory had been constructed as well as a larger church, built of Savannah gray bricks. Gustave retired from the active ministry in 1945 after suffering a stroke. He remained on in St. Benedict’s rectory and on special occasions the parishioners – many of them his converts, most of them his children by Baptism, tenderly carried him from Rectory to Church and gently placed him in his chair in the Sanctuary. On the occasion of his resignation Fr. Lissner wrote him a moving letter: dated October 19, 1945. ‘For 35 long years you worked devotedly and unselfishly on the Colored Mission of St Benedict the Moor. During that long period you directed the work as pastor. You worked hard and successfully. Trials were many, as the work for the Colored people was not popular. Never was there an abundance of worldly goods, but just enough from one day to another. You practiced the apostolic poverty which has ever been the excellent virtue of the SMA. .. And to show my appreciation of your fine work I impart to you the meritorious title of Pastor Emeritus…’ On July 16, 1949, Gustave celebrated the 50th anniversary of his priesthood by this time the parish, which had begun with 25 members, had grown to a community of some 500. To honour the occasion his parishioners and many friends in Savannah held a fitting Reception at St. Benedict’s Rectory.

Gustave took a keen interest in the fortunes of the Society’s branch in America and was one of those who in the 1930 have urged its erection as a Province. When the Province was eventually conceded in March 1941, Gustave became a founding member.

He is buried in the SMA plot in the Catholic Cemetery of Savannah, Georgia, USA.