Bishop Marie Luc Alphonse Emile Barillon was born on 18 October 1860 in Chartres, France. His childhood was not without troubles because he lost both parents during this period. Fortunately, he was adopted by a school master and his wife in his hometown who loved him like their own son. On 9 May 1872, he received his First Holy Communion.
The young Emile Barillon experienced the desire to offer himself in service as a missionary to faraway lands. Without delay, he headed to the Parish Foreign Missions seminary. On 30 September 1884, he was ordained a Priest. On the same day, he was also informed of his posting as a missionary to Malacca.
Upon arrival in Singapore, he learned the Chinese language. Later on, he learned some Chinese dialects while staying at Penang and Taiping. While serving at the Church of the Assumption in Penang, he was put in charge of the Chinese Christians. During his service, he managed to acquire lands in Malaya for the establishment of churches. In 1892, he was posted back to France, to teach moral theology in the Paris Foreign Missions seminary. He later served as the Director of aspirants in Paris. In 1902, he served as rector of the Bievres Seminary.
On 10 May 1904, he was elected Bishop of Malacca, succeeding Bishop René-Michel-Marie Fée who had passed away earlier in January. He was consecrated for this post on 18 September 1904, at the MEP chapel in Paris. He returned to Singapore on 21 November 1904. Having been away for twelve years, Bishop Barillon visited the various districts under his charge and met the clergy and faithful. He was pleased to see that during his absence, the spread of the Gospel had progressed. However, he also found that there was a lack of financial resources to support the work of the Church. He sought the assistance of the Society of St Francis Xavier, whose members assisted in obtaining funds for establishing chapels and Catholic institutions. He was now also able to give educators and catechists an allowance.
It was during Bishop Barillon’s tenure that the First World War broke out in 1914, and a number of missionaries had to return to France for military service. However, there were not enough local clergy to replace them. At the same time, the Catholic population experienced significant growth between 1904 and 1922. This compelled Bishop Barillon to take action. He set up the St Francis Xavier Minor Seminary in Singapore, which was blessed and opened on 2 February 1925.
The growth in the number of Catholics in Malaya also necessitated the building of more churches. Bishop Barillon blessed the Church of the Sacred Heart in Singapore on 11 September 1910.
In 1920, suffering from poor health due to anaemia, Bishop Barillon asked for a Coadjutor to assist him. Fr Pierre Louis Perrichon was appointed to this post. However, as it turned out he passed away before Bishop Barillon. Finally in 1933, Bishop Barillon resigned. Till the last week of his life, he celebrated Mass in his private oratory.