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Prayer for the Cause of Bishop Bruté

Heavenly Father,
source of all that is holy,
in every age, you raise up
men and women who live lives
of heroic love and service.

You have blessed your Church
through the life of Simon Bruté,
first bishop of Vincennes
and spiritual director
to St. Elizabeth Ann Seton.
Through his prayer, his intellect,
his love, and his pastoral care,
Simon Bruté formed future priests
and guided your Church
in the early days of our country.

If it be your will,
may he be proclaimed a saint.
We ask this through Jesus Christ,
our Lord. —Amen.

(Contributions to defray the expenses in furthering the Cause should be sent to Bishop Bruté Fund, Archdiocese of Indianapolis, P.O. Box 1410, Indianapolis, IN 46206.)

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Death of Bishop Bazin

Perhaps, the short term of Bishop John Stephen Bazin is one of the most overlooked periods in Indiana Catholic History. Then again, if you were a member of the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary of the Woods, maybe not! During his time as bishop, from October of 1847 until April of 1848, the young Diocese began a healing process which helped to keep Saint Mother Theodore Geurin in Indiana as well as many priests who had probably considered going different places.

This was all due to the man who preceeded Bazin, Bishop Celestine de la Hailandiere. This is not to “blame” him for the “troubles”, but it does say that he was certainly in the middle of many of them, mostly due to his strict and legalistic ideas about the role and power of a bishop.

However, it was on this day, April 23, 1848, that Bishop Bazin died after only six months as Bishop of Vincennes. He could certainly be seen as a “bridge”, albeit a short one, from those ‘pioneer’ days to the explosion of growth that came to the Indiana Church in the mid 1800’s with the waves of immigrants.

The “Catholic World”, published by the Paulist Fathers, and Isaac Hecker, had an article in their January 1917 issue, entitled Indiana’s Debt to the Catholic Faith”, by Louis P. Harl wrote:

Bishop de la Hailandiere’s successor, Right Reverend John Stephen Bazin, had been qualified by seventeen years of labor in the diocese of Mobile for his new work. He was consecrated in Vincennes on the twenty-fourth of October, 1847, by Bishop Portier, of Mobile. But his career as a bishop was cut short less than six months later by his sudden death, April 23, 1848. He was buried beside Bishop Brute in the Cathedral of Vincennes.

Bishop Bazin was born in Duerne, in the Archdiocese of Lyons, France, on October 15, 1796. He was ordained a priest at Lyons, July 22, 1822. He came to the United States in 1830 and was appointed vicar general of Mobile. As mentioned above, he was consecrated bishop of Vincennes in the cathedral at Vincennes, October 24, 1847, by Bishop Michael Portier of Mobile, assisted by Bishop Purcell of Cincinnati and Bishop de la Hailandière, his predecessor.

Sacramental Records at Vincennes

April 21st, marks the 268th anniversary of the first official entry in the Sacramental Record at Saint Francis Xavier, Vincennes.

In this day and age, when genealogy is still a very popular pastime, the existence of early Church records makes a genealogist’s pulse increase. Although I am sure that many baptisms, marriages etc. were performed in the early history of Indiana, many priests carried their sacramental records with them, mainly because there was no church to deposit the records into. One example of this would be the Sacramental Record carried by Simon Lalumiere and others. This record, located in the Archdiocesan Archives is from Saint Peter, in Daviess County and Saint Joseph in Terre Haute. The link displays a transcript. Original sacramental records normally carry a particular “form”. The rules have not really changed over the years and yet, even to this day, many priests and parishes take the task lightly and records are not always updated. Then there is the problem with penmanship. Some records are very very difficult to read and, as already stated, Sacramental Records have been shuffled around as parishes and priests have moved around.

Canon Law requires that a “parish” maintain their Sacramental Records:

Can. 535 §1. Each parish is to have parochial registers, that is, those of baptisms, marriages, deaths, and others as prescribed by the conference of bishops or the diocesan bishop. The pastor is to see to it that these registers are accurately inscribed and carefully preserved.

§2. In the baptismal register are also to be noted confirmation and those things which pertain to the canonical status of the Christian faithful by reason of marriage, without prejudice to the prescript of ⇒ can. 1133, of adoption, of the reception of sacred orders, of perpetual profession made in a religious institute, and of change of rite. These notations are always to be noted on a baptismal certificate.

§3. Each parish is to have its own seal. Documents regarding the canonical status of the Christian faithful and all acts which can have juridic importance are to be signed by the pastor or his delegate and sealed with the parochial seal.

§4. In each parish there is to be a storage area, or archive, in which the parochial registers are protected along with letters of bishops and other documents which are to be preserved for reason of necessity or advantage. The pastor is to take care that all of these things, which are to be inspected by the diocesan bishop or his delegate at the time of visitation or at some other opportune time, do not come into the hands of outsiders.

§5. Older parochial registers are also to be carefully protected according to the prescripts of particular law.

Suffice it to say, the Code of Canon Law is not always followed. However, it is always a mark of true ‘stability’, if you will, when a sacramental record ‘stays put’ in one place and taken care of. With that in mind, today we honor the memory of at least three people who helped to make that ‘stability’ happen at St. Francis Xavier in Vincennes. On April 21, 1749 The marriage of Julien Trattier and Josette Marie was witnessed by Fr. Sebastian Louis Meurin S.J.

John Law wrote:

The first entry on the church records here, is dated April 21st, 1749. There is neither title page nor introduction. The first entry is the certificate of marriage between “Julien Trattier, of Montreal, Canada, and Josette Marie, the daughter of a Frenchman and an Indian woman.” The only baptisms recorded during the year, are those of the Indian adults. One of the first deaths was Madam Trattier, aged eighteen years, whose marriage we have above recorded. She was but a short time a bride, having been buried in December, 1750, in the church, under her pew, on the “Gospel side” — so says the record. The resident priest was “Father Sebastian Louis Meurin.” All certificates except those of deaths are signed by “M. de St. Ange, Lieutenant of Marines and Commandant for the King, at Post Vincennes.” Father Meurin left in 1753. His last official act was the burial of “the wife of a Corporal in the garrison, March, 1753.” He was succeeded by “Father Louis Vivier.” His first recorded act is a marriage, May 20th, 1753. On the 24th of the same month he buried “Pierre Leonardy, Lieutenant of the garrison.” His last record is dated August 28th, 1756. The number of baptisms and marriages is small, but increasing. Half of them are of “Red or Indian Slaves,” belonging to the Commandant and to the inhabitants. It was a number of years after the departure of the Jesuits, who had officiated as priests until about the year 1760, that another priest visited Vincennes. During the interregnum, one “Philibert,” Notary Public, administered baptism as a layman, privately, and duly recorded the names of those to whom he administered the rite, on the register.1

In the Illinois Catholic Historical Review2 there is an article about Father Meurin, the Jesuit who made the first entry in the sacramental record. It said:

“In the year one thousand seven hundred and forty nine the 21 day of the month of april ,after having published three bans between julien trottier du rivieres son of julien trottier des rivieres of the parish of Montreal and josette marid daughter of antoine marifi and marie anne chicamicge the parents (“les peres et meres”) living in this parish without their being any impediment, I the undersigned missionary of the company of jesus performing the functions of pastor have received their mutual consent of marriage and have given them the nuptial benediction, with the ceremonies prescribed by Holy Church in the presence of monsieur de St. Ange. Lieutenant of a company of detached marines, Commandant at poste Vincennes, of jean Baptiste Guilbert, Toussaint Guilbert, antoine Bouchard, jean B. Ridet, Louis Gervais witnesses who have signed with me. S. L. Meurin jesuite.

St. Ange Commandant Boucher at poste vincen J. B. Ridday filliatro Louis Gervais
This sheet has been transferred by me the undersigned.
S. L. Meurin Jes.

It went on to say:

This happy family was soon broken up by death. On page 56 of the Records we read:
27 December 1750 died in this parish Josette Marie Wife of julien trottier Desrivieres, trading in this poste, 18 years of age, after having confessed and received the Holy Viaticum and the sacrament of extreme unction. Her body
was buried with the usual ceremonies in the church of the parish under her bench on the gospel side the 28th of said month and year. 8. L. Meurin Jes.

Two months later occurred the death of the infant son, whose birth had most probably occasioned the death of the youthful mother.

“15 February, 1751, died in this parish Julien desriviers son of julien des rivieres & josette marie two months old. Buried with the usual ceremonies in the church of this parish near the body of his mother. S. L. Meurin S. J. ”

[This post originally appeared in April 2016]

  1. Law, John. The Colonial History of Vincennes, under the French, British, and American Governments, from its First Settlement Down to the Territorial Administration of General William Henry Harrison, Being an Address Delivered by Judge John Law, Before the Vincennes Historical and Antiquarian Society, February 22d, 1839, with Additional Notes and Illustrations . Vincennes: Harvey, Mason and Co., 1858 []
  2. Illinois Catholic Historical Review, v.3, n.1 July 1920 []

March Calendar

Time has slipped away and it is almost April. With that in mind, I wanted to post a few items from the calendar that are very important to the history of the Catholic Church in Indiana. This is a lengthy post.

March 22nd is the anniversary of the death of Monsignor John J. Doyle. Msgr. Doyle was born in Indianapolis on March 13, 1898. He attended St. Joseph’s Parish, which was then located on the corner of North Street and College Avenue and is now a local brewery and restaurant. He attended St. Meinrad and was ordained on May 17, 1921 Msgr. Doyle, known to many as the “Mons” spent most of his career as a professor at Marian College in Indianapolis. After his retirement, Monsignor Doyle became the Archivist and Historian of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. He contributed much to the understanding of Indiana Catholic Church History. In 1976 he published “The Catholic Church in Indiana 1686-1814“. In 1978 he published “Genealogical Use of Catholic Records in North America” for the Indiana Historical Society. Msgr. Doyle’s love of history, especially his love of history of the Church in Indiana always showed through.

March 25th is the anniversary of the ordination of Father Anthony Deydier who was ordained on Holy Saturday, March 25th, 1837. This was a special time for the Diocese of Vincennes not only because the first ordination in the new Cathedral of St. Francis Xavier had taken place a few weeks earlier, but also because Anthony Deydier, a man who had been ordained a deacon in 1812, was finally being ordained a priest. Deydier grave site at St. Vincent dePaul, Vincennes Why did Deydier wait so long? No one seems to know for sure, however, there are some possible explanations. Deydier was born in 1788 and he left his native France on June 10th, 1810 on the same boat as Simon Brute’. After his ordination to the diaconate he refused ordination to the priesthood and he taught for four years at Mount St. Mary’s eventually ending up in Albany New York as a private tutor. Apparently his association with Brute at Mount St. Mary’s is what led him eventually to his priestly ordination. After his ordination as a priest he was sent to Evansville where, except for a money collection tour, he remained. Much of his time was taken up ministering to the workers on the Wabash and Erie Canal. Deydier’s life in Evansville was not one of leisure. Saint Mother Theodore Guerin, foundress of the Sisters of Providence, St. Mary of the Woods wrote in her journal “So extreme was his poverty and so complete his destitution, that I shall run the risk of being accused of exaggeration in describing it.” Deydier also combed the southwestern part of the state, seeking out Catholics. He remained in Evansville until 1859, when he retired to the “Highlands” at Vincennes. He died in 1864.

March 25th also marks 281 years since the death of Father Antonius Senat S.J. On this date, which was Palm Sunday in 1736, Fr. Antoninus Senat S.J. was burned at the stake by Indians. He was pastor of St. Francis Xavier, in Vincennes, according to Cauthorn’s “nine epochs in the history of St. Francis Xavier”1

Fr. Senat was pastor at Kaskaskia, which is where many missionaries had come to Vincennes from. However, it is doubtful that he ever actually visited the post at Vincennes. He accompanied the troops, including the “Sieur de Vincennes” who had gone to fight the Chickasaw Indians. One description, taken from Transactions of the Illinois Historical Society says this:

“Tis malediction I bring to you blessed ones, but I must tell it now and quickly. We went to Fort Prudhomme with the Major, and Vincennes joined us with twenty French and 100 Miamis. We waited long for Bienville; he came not; we waited longer for Moncheval, he was not there. Our maize and hog meat ran short; our Indians were clamorous to begin. We marched alone to the attack. We marched a weary twenty leagues and came to the towns of the Chickasaws; they were awaiting us, and we were forced to attack. We pass two lines of fortification. We are successful but we pay the price. At the third line D’Artaguette falls severely wounded. The Miamis betray us; the Illinois and Missouris run like sheep. They who were so eager to fight are cowards when we need them. We try to drag Father Senat and Vincennes away but they will not come and leave their wounded friend. These, with fifteen others are taken by the fiends. I hang around to try and help them. Bienville attacks from the other side and is defeated with great loss. D’Artaguette,’ Vincennes, Senat and the others remain in the hands of the Chickasaws. Then comes a day of feasting and noise and in the afternoon they bring out the French. They tie them by fours to saplings and (lance the death dance, while I watch from a near by tree. They build piles of hickory poles in circles around them and set fire to the poles, and when the fires burn down they rush in toward them in crowds; they stick them with the hot poles; they discharge their guns loaded only with powder into their bodies. Ali, Jesus. I hear their hateful screams and above all the din the song of Senat as he chanted his requiem mass. My ears ring with it. My eyes burn with the sight until I cannot eat or sleep. And then there was silence and they are all dead-all! all!”

The execution took place in Mississippi. In fact, there is a historical Marker located 1-1/2 miles south of Pontotoc, Pontotoc County, Mississippi which says:

PIERRE D’ARTAGUETTE:
“French Commander was defeated in battle with Chickasaw Indians, May 20, 1736. A week later d’Artaguette, Frances Marie Bissat de Vincennes, Father Artaine Senat, Jesuit Missionary, in all 20 Frenchmen captured were burned at the stake by their captors. Father Senat scorning the offer to escape martyrdom remained with his comrades and entoning the Miserere, led them into the destroying flame.”
Erected by the John Foster Society Children of the American Revolution, Columbus, Mississippi 1934 — Bernard Romans Chapter

Msgr. John J. Doyle, former Archivist of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis and author of The Catholic Church in Indiana 1686-1814 has this to say:

The Sieur de Vincennes did not long continue in command of the post that he founded and that came in later years to be called for him. In 1736 he lost his life in a battle with the Chickasaw Indians in what is now the state of Mississippi. Governor Bienville, hoping to crush the Chickasaws and thus gain unimpeded passage on the Mississippi River, planned a concerted attack upon the Indians from the south and- the north. Bienville would lead his troops from New Orleans. He ordered Diron d’Artiguiette, commander at Fort Chartres, to gather the forces of the Illinois district and to meet him. The Illinois contingent was made up of some 140 Frenchmen and 300 Indians. A part of this little army was from the post on the Wabash, led by its young commander. The part played by these men has prompted some to call the expedition Indiana’s first war.
FAILING TO MEET Bienville, who had met with delays, and being nearly out of provisions, d’Artiguiette ordered an attack on a Chickasaw town, in the hope that its store of food would replenish his supplies and that its stockade would affard his men a secure fort to await Bienville’s army. The attack occurred on Palm Sunday, March 25, 1736. It had success at first, but after a while a large force of Chickasaws came forward and overwhelmed the attackers. Fifty or 60 of these were killed and some 20 were carried off wounded. The Chickasaws captured about 20 men and put them to death by burning on the very day of the battle. These included d’Artiguiette himself, who was badly wounded, the officers Pierre St. Ange and Vincennes, and Father Antoine Senat, the Jesuit chaplain.

THERE IS NO REASON to suppose that Father Senat, whom some list among the priests serving at the post on the Wabash, was ever there. It was because of his presence at Kaskaskia, where he was doubtless serving his apprenticeship like d’Outreleau before him, that he went as chaplain on the disastrous expedition that cost him his life. It is likely that his superior thought that this would be good experience for the young man, who had been in the country but a short time. The association of his name with that of Vincennes as a hero on that occasion has led to the mistake that he was the priest at the post on the Wabash. 2

Father Alerding says: “That Father Senat, a Jesuit, was pastor of Vincennes is mere conjecture. Still, it is presumed that he was, for the reason that he accompanied ‘Vincennes’ the commander of the fort…”3

So, today we honor Fr. Senat who died a martyr’s death. He may have never set foot at Vincennes, but his work contributed to the history of the Catholic Church in Indiana.

On March 26, 1878 Silas Chatard, Rector of the North American College in Rome, became the fifth Bishop of Vincennes and also became known as “Francis Silas Chatard”. His full name and title was: Right Rev. Francis Silas Marean Chatard. Marean being his mother’s maiden name.

Chatard was born in Baltimore, Maryland on December 13, 1834. He studied to be and became a medical doctor. He then decided to enter the seminary and he was sent to Rome for studies. He was ordained at Rome on June 14, 1862. He was then named the Vice-rector of the American College, and later the rector upon the transfer of William George McCloskey to become bishop of Louisville in 1868.

Chatard was rector of the American College during the First Vatican Council and many of the American bishops stayed at the college. He was named bishop of Vincennes on March 26, 1878, at which time he took the name Francis Silas. He was consecrated in Rome on May 12, 1878, by Cardinal Alexander Camillus Franchi, assisted by Bishop Santori of Fano, Italy, and Bishop Edward Agnelli, president of the Academia Ecclesiastica at Rome. Enthroned in the cathedral at Vincennes, August 11, 1878. He almost immediately left for Indianapolis where he arrived on August 17, 1878.

Chatard died at Indianapolis on September 7, 1918. His body was interred in the crypt of the cathedral of Sts. Peter and Paul in Indianapolis. On June 8, 1976, Bishop Chatard’s remains were transferred from the cathedral, to the Calvary Chapel Mausoleum, Indianapolis.

Chatard maintained contact with Rome and traveled there often while bishop. He was mentioned prominently as the possible Archbishop of Philadelphia,4 but that promotion never came. Chatard still has family in Baltimore.

Here is the New York Times description of the ceremony of installation in Vincennes:

Installation of Bishop Chatard
THE CEREMONIES AT VINCENNES, IND., YESTERDAY THE DIOCESE AND THE NEW BISHOP.
Special Dispatch to the New.York Times.

VINCENNES, Aug. 11. To-day, Dr. Chatard, the newly-appointed Bishop of Vincennes, was formally installed by Archbishop PurceIl of Cincinnati, at the Cathedral of St. Xavier. The weather was pleasant and the city, was crowded with visitors from all the surrounding cities. At 10 o’clock a procession of priests passed from the cathedral to the episcopal residence and escorted Dr. Chatard and Archbishop Purcell to the cathedral. The edifice was densely crowded and had been from before 9 o’clock, and hundreds of people were gathered on the sidewalks near the entrance to the cathedral. Upon entering the church the Bishop knelt for a short time in prayer, and was received y Rev. Mr. Guegen, of the cathedral, who presented him, with the crozier and other symbols of his new authority. The Bishop then proceeded to the sanctuary and the celebration of solemn high mass took place, with Rev. Dr.. Chatard as celebrant, Rev. Messrs. Bessonies and Guegen assistants; Fathers Klein and Andran, attendants on the Archbishop, and Revs. P. McDermott and Duddenhausen as chaplains. During the services Archbishop Purcell, in a few well-chosen remarks, introduced Dr. Chatard, who delivered a short address to the people and gave them his blessing. In the afternoon at 2 o’clock a large procession, consisting of the Catholic societies of this city and others from abroad, formed, and escorting the Bishop through the principal streets, returned to the cathedral, when Dr. Chatard conducted the solemn pontifical vespers and gave the Papal benediction. The episcopal residence, the cathedral, and the surrounding grounds I were handsomely decorated with flowers, mottoes, evergreens, and by the Papal and American flags. The diocese over which Bishop Chatard is called to officiate comprises over half the State of Indiana, and contains a Catholic population of 90,000, 150 churches, 120 priests, 20 colleges and academies, two orphan asylums, one theological seminary, and 200 parochial schools. Bishop Chatard, 43 years ago, was educated at Mount St. Mary’s College, Emmettsburg, Md. Having graduated, he studied medicine in Baltimore, and afterward, in the year 1857, finding the priesthood his vocation, went to Rome to pursue the requisite studies. On the appointment of Dr. McCloskey to the Bishopric of Louisville, Dr. Chatard was placed in charge of the American College at Rome, from whence he was called to his present position. He is the fifth Bishop appointed over this diocese, the first Bishop having been appointed in 1834.

Published: August 12, 1878
Copyright The New York Times

On March 28, 1898, the Diocese of Vincennes, officially became the Diocese of Indianapolis. For all intents and purposes that move took place about 20 years previously, in 1878, when Bishop Francis Silas Chatard became the fifth bishop of Vincennes. (He was, of course, also the FIRST Bishop of Indianapolis). By apostolic brief dated March 28, 1898, the title of the diocese was changed to that of the Diocese of Indianapolis, with the episcopal see in the city of Indianapolis. Although the bishop’s official residence was changed, the patron of the diocese remained St. Francis Xavier, the title of the Old Cathedral at Vincennes.

Upon his appointment in 1878, Bishop Francis Chatard was directed to fix his residence at Indianapolis. Although the site of the cathedral and the title of the see were continued at Vincennes, Bishop Chatard used St. John the Evangelist Parish in Indianapolis as the cathedral. Even after the see was moved to Indianapolis in 1898, St. John’s continued as the pro-cathedral until the Cathedral of SS. Peter and Paul was completed in 1907. St. John the Evangelist Parish, established in 1837, was the first parish in Indianapolis and Marion County.

You can read more on Saint John’s in a previous post. There are also a number of sites featuring items (particularly the architecture) on St. John’s. Here is the result of a typical Google search

Also on this day in 1933, Joseph Elmer Ritter was ordained auxiliary bishop at the Cathedral of Sts. Peter and Paul in Indianapolis. Ritter was appointd titular bishop of Hippo and auxiliary to the bishop of Indianapolis on February 3, 1933. He was consecrated in the cathedral at Indianapolis on this day by Bishop Chartrand, assisted by Bishop Emmanuel Ledvina of Corpus Christi and Bishop Alphonse J. Smith of Nashville. He had been named vicar general of the Diocese of Indianapolis two days after the announcement of his appointment as auxiliary, on February 5, 1933.

Upon the death of Chartrand in December of that year, he was named Bishop of Indianapolis, March 24, 1934. Ritter had an enormous impact on the this (Arch)diocese, the Archdiocese of Saint Louis as well as the universal Church. It seems that much has been forgotten about him. Watch this site for more information about him in the coming months.

Finally, the month closes out with the following:
On March 30, 1826 the Vincennes Sun reported:

The cornerstone of the Catholic Cathedral, in this place, was laid on Thursday the 30th by the Rev. Mr. Champomier. A numerous concourse of citizens attended to witness the ceremony”

Vincennes was then mission country and there wasn’t much to the building itself. Bishop Bruté, when he arrived in the Fall of 1834, wrote:

“The Cathedral church, a plain brick building 115 feet long and 60 broad, consisting of the four walls and the roof, unplastered and not even white-washed, no sanctuary, not even a place for preserving the sacred vestments.”

Bruté worked on the building, but in those early days there were many more things to concentrate on. The completion of the building was left to Bruté’s successor, Bishop Hailandiére. He collected funds and used his own money to complete the church, adding the tower and a bell. He completed the interior of the building and added the basement chapel, which includes the place where All the Bishops of Vincennes are buried.

The Church has a long history. In the 1930’s, prior to the celebration of the centennial of the Diocese of Indianapolis (of which Vincennes was still a part) a great deal of work was done on the Cathedral and allied buildings. The “HABS” (Historic American Buildings Survey) made an effort to document the repairs and the history of the structure itself. They produced a number of pictures, one of which, shown here, shows the repairs that were being made to the steeple. Take a look at the full image here

In 1970 it was elevated to the status of a basilica. Today it remains an important part of the Diocese of Evansville. The adjoining Bruté Library contains some of the rarest books in America.

An aside… I found an article in a Logansport Newspaper from 1881. In it, the writer talks about his visit to Vincennes, and he mentions the church saying:

“The first church was founded by Francis Xavier and a building erected of logs, “daubed” with clay and prairie hay, and covered with A thatched roof. How our imagination ran back to 1747 to see walking down the aisle of this rude church a happy bride—happy as brides of to-day are—only a year later to be buried beneath this same aisle.”

One would think that the Jesuits would be interested in knowing that Saint Francis Xavier had founded a church in Indiana…

Other Happenings: It should also be pointed out that on this day in 1841 Father Edward Sorin and his companions set sail for the United States aboard the ship “Iowa”. Sorin, of course, founded the University of Notre Dame.

  1. Cauthorn, Henry S. 1892. History of St. Francis Xavier Cathedral. [Indiana]: [publisher not identified]. p.228 []
  2. The Catholic Church in Indiana 1686-1814 by John J. Doyle. 1976, pp. 9, 11 []
  3. Alerding History of the Catholic Church in the Diocese of Vincennes p.54 []
  4. Donahoe’s Magazine, Volume-10, 1883-1884 — http://bit.ly/2nneayg []

The Birth of Simon Gabriel Bruté

Today marks the 238th anniversary of the birth of the Right Rev. Simon Guillaume Gabriel Bruté de Remur, known to us as Servant of God Simon Bruté, the First Bishop of Vincennes, Indiana.

He was born in Rennes, France, March 20, 1779. Bruté lived through the French Revolution and all that it meant to the Church. Michael Pasquier, in his book, “Fathers on the Frontier — French Missionaries and the Roman Catholic Priesthood in the United States, 1789-1870” wrote:

“As I gather up my scattered remembrances,” Simon Guillaume Gabriel Brute de Remur wrote in 1818 from Maryland, “the whole comes back to me very vividly, and I may be said to feel as I did then.” Brute-member of the Order of St. Sulpice and future bishop of the Diocese of Vincennes, Indiana-was referring to his memories and feelings associated with the French Revolution, an event that began in 1789 when he was a ten-year-old boy growing up in Rennes. Almost thirty years later, Brute recalled the “profane and systematic attempts to root out the Christian Religion from the hearts of the people and make them infidels.” The persecution of the French clergy played an important part in Brute’s account of the French Revolution, as well as his attempt to lionize those priests who died or went into exile because of their refusal to abide by the articles contained in the 1790 Civil Constitution of the Clergy. …And he remembered “how sad, how desolate everything seemed without that living presence” of a priest able to administer the sacraments and celebrate mass on a regular basis. In sum, Brute thanked God for an end to the days when insult and derision of the Clergy and the ancient faith of the French nation” threatened to destroy the very fabric of Western civilization.

Bruté saw the Eucharist as central to his priesthood and to the Catholic faith. He wrote:

There comes a kind of resolution to go after the manner of the Apostles in the greatest possible simplicity. For each moment the Lord has in view means of grace for me and for all—the altar, the sacraments, prayer, instruction.1

Of course, the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, the successor to the Diocese of Vincennes began the Cause for the eventual canonization of Bishop Bruté, 12 years ago. As the Archdiocese awaits the arrival of a new Archbishop, there is hope that the cause will continue. I know there are more than a few who could really care less if Bishop Bruté were canonized, (and even more who don’t even know who he was, let alone see him elevated to sainthood). I have made mention of those facts in previous posts and pointed to other “Servants of God” causes where there seems to be more of a “movement” if you will. However, I know for a fact that the people who are going through the laborious task of getting the cause of Bruté beyond the initial stages are working very very hard. Patience is called for, especially when they are dealing with writings scattered far and wide which require, for the most part, translation to English as well as study. As a contrast, take the example of the Venerable Solanus Casey, an American Franciscan who died in 1957. Work on his cause began in the late 1960’s and it was almost 30 years before he was declared “Venerable”. The point being that his life and writings are all contemporary, making them easily accessible. There are people who are still alive who knew him. Bishop Bruté, on the other hand, died almost 170 years ago and the evidence for his life and his holiness is scattered far and wide.

However, I am not here to make a particular argument in favor of Bruté’s holiness, but to point to his overall life as being a life of holiness which can be helf up as a model. This is why there is a “private” prayer to the left of this post asking God to guide us in this endeavor. Regardless of how far Bishop Bruté’s ’cause’ goes, his life can be seen as an example.

As we celebrate his birth today we hearken back to the installation of Cardinal Joseph Tobin as Archbishop of Indianapolis in 2012. Quoting from Bishop Bruté’s first pastoral letter, he said:

unworthy as I am of so great an honor, and of myself unequal of the charge, my only trust is in God; and, therefore, earnestly calling for your prayers, that I may obtain His Divine assistance, I come to be your chief pastor.

Bishop Bruté also said:

With you we shall honor the Saints who reign triumphantly in heaven, call for their protection and that of the Angels to whom, says the Divine Word, our Lord “hath given charge over us, to keep us in all our ways.” …Beloved brethren, “we are the children of the Saints,” as we pass on earth to go and to meet them in heaven.

  1. Bruté to Bishop Chabrat. Coadjutor of the Diocese of Bardstown, August 1, 1834 — From Godecker, Mary Salesia. 1931. Simon Bruté de Rémur, first bishop of Vincennes. St. Meinrad, Ind: St. Meinrad historical essays. p.211 []

John Francis Plunkett (1798-1840)

March brings a lot of Indiana Catholic history. This month marks Bishop Simon Bruté’s American citizenship and this week, we remember one of the earliest Irish clergy who labored in the Diocese of Vincennes, which originally included the entire state of Indiana and the eastern half of Illinois.

John Francis Plunkett was born in Dublin, Ireland. It is unclear how he found his way to the United States, but he was a student at Mount Saint Mary’s in Emmitsburg, Maryland when Bishop Bruté ordained him, and Benjamin Petit, to the diaconate in September 1837. By that time he was apparently done with his studies since his ordination took place in Vincennes, as did his ordination to the priesthood on October 14, 1837.

He was sent, for a time, to Madison to assist Fr. Edgar Shawe, but that apparently did not work, and Bruté recalled him to Vincennes. He was then dispatched to the canals of northeastern Illinois to minister to the Irish workers in particular, but to others as well. It was there that Fr. Plunkett flourished. It was also there that he met his demise on the night of March 14, 1840. While returning from a sick call, Fr. Plunkett was thrown from his horse into a tree and killed. He was originally buried in the crypt of Saint Patrick’s Church in Joliet, but later his body was moved to the Saint Patrick Cemetery.

The following article was taken from the history pages for St. Dennis Church, Lockport Illinois. Unfortunately those web pages have been removed, but we’ve saved it here.1

During the fever days in late summer of 1838 along the Illinois and Michigan Canal, a call for mercy was sent to Bishop Bruté at Vincennes. The sick and dying were multiplying at an alarming rate with no spiritual consolation available. Concurrent with these events, Father O’Meara, the Canal pastor, was sick with fever, possibly having contracted from the same source. “The climatic conditions were not very favorable to the first settlers, the land being covered with swamps and sloughs which were hotbeds for miasms or germs, the cause of sickness, especially of the so-called auge fever, with an after effect for weeks and months. The water was unsanitary, taken from ponds and sloughs covered with yellow scum” [Rev. J. Meyer. The History of St. Peter and Paul Church, Pilot, Illinois. Kankakee, IL. 1920. P.13] Over 700 hundred people were victims of this outbreak. The bishop summoned two young priests to respond to the dilemma. One of the priests was Father John Francis Plunkett.

As cold weather set in, the epidemic subsided. Father Plunkett was assigned to remain along the canal as the resident pastor of Will County. Described as a person of charm and blessed with a joy for life, Father Plunkett was the ideal choice for the Irish canallers in light of Father O’Meara’s efforts along the path. Father Plunkett would also reflect the wishes of the Bishop and the goals of the Diocese of Vincennes.

Born in Dublin, Ireland, in 1798, Father Plunkett answered the call of the nascent American church for missionaries. On the 25th of April 1834, he embarked upon studies at Saint Mary’s College, Emmitsburg, Maryland. He arrived at the seminary with a letter of recommendation from Reverend Michael Hurley, a famous church leader and noted scholar in the eastern United States. (This Father Hurley was not the same priest who would later serve St. Dennis as pastor and become Bishop-elect of Peoria.)

As July of 1837 concluded, Father Plunkett was ready to answer his true calling. He left the seminary arriving in Vincennes in early August. He received minimum orders and subdeacon status on the 16th of August 1837. On the 23rd of September, Father Plunkett became a deacon. He was ordained at the Cathedral of St. Francis Xavier in Vincennes on the 14th of October 1837.

Father Plunkett’s first priestly duties were at missions in the vicinity of Vincennes, Indiana. In November he became an assistant to Father Michael Shawe at Madison, Indiana. By spring of 1838 Father Plunkett was enlisted to travel to Baltimore, Philadelphia and points east in quest for money towards missionary work. He was back to mission work in Vernon, Indiana, during the summer of 1838. By the end of September, along with Father Julien Benoit, he was on his way to the Illinois and Michigan Canal to answer the call of the sick and dying.

As November winter weather set in Father Plunkett was informed that he should establish himself at Joliet. The Joliet location was much more central to his newly established territory than the Haytown mission. Joliet was made the county seat in 1836. In 1838 Joliet was the primary town southwest of Chicago basing its strength on hydropower and as a terminal for agricultural trade. He would have within his domain all the area south of Chicago, east to the Indiana border and as far west as Ottawa, Illinois. Joliet was developing very rapidly due to a large influx of Irish immigrants. All along the Illinois and Michigan Canal this influx affected the spiritual and physical growth of the area. The establishment of the Church in the area provided a smoother transition for the immigrant settlers who needed an anchor.

Father Plunkett was responsible for purchasing the wood frame structure used for services at Haytown in 1838. In his register entries he referred to Haytown as Emmetsburg. According to historian Nancy Thornton, Edward E. Hunter, R.J. Gavin, Lanthrop Johnson and Robert Davidson laid out Emmetsburg near the Will-Cook border on The 2nd of October 1836. The recorded date at Cook County of the plat was on the 5th of January 1837.

During his time along the canal Father Plunkett was called into duty to police disputes between rival Irish factions. These factions were gangs who represented different ends of the Emerald Isle. What had been braggadocio in the ‘old sod’ became bloodletting in America. Their sectional rivalry was transplanted all along the canal from Chicago to LaSalle. Violence and mayhem were the end results when the two groups, the ‘Corkonians’ and the ‘Far-downers’, met. The canal bosses aggravated the situation by preferentially hiring people from their old sections in Eire.

With whip and rosary in hand these hooligans were confronted by the courageous priest and steered to the right path. His integrity in these matters made his word the final word. He became lovingly known as “Supreme Court” Plunkett.

On a more restrained note, Father Plunkett would regularly enter the work camps and gather the laborers to Mass.

His sincere affection for the people and the work was evident in these acts of love. The changing of the bishopric with the passing of Simon Bruté signaled a change at the churches in Chicago and Joliet. Father Hippolyte Du Pontavice took on the position as pastor at Joliet with care for the Illinois Canal Missions on the 3rd of February 1840. Unlike the situation at Chicago, Father Plunkett graciously accepted the turn of events and put all of the affairs of the church in Will County in order for his successor. He went about doing what he always did – tramping along the towpath, touching souls in his care.

Traveling through Troy Township, just west of Joliet, back towards Joliet on a stormy 14th of March 1840, Father Plunkett was riding with two other men in escort. Blinded by the storm he hit a low hanging branch. By the time the rear escort had caught up with him he had passed into the Lord’s hands. Between May 5-7, 1844, the first diocesan Synod for the Diocese of Vincennes assembled and there honored Father Plunkett posthumously with a solemn Mass of Requiem.

  1. The original website was located at http://www.saint-dennis.org/history/sdh7.asp, but this page is no longer active. []