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Prayer for the Cause of Bishop Brute

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.)

March Calendar

March is a very busy month in Indiana Catholic History. With that in mind, there are a number of items that I wanted to post from the calendar that are very important to our collective history.

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.

The 25th is the anniversary of the ordination of Father Anthony (Antoine) 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. No one seems to know for sure why Deydier waited so long for ordination, but certainly his association with Brute at Mount St. Mary’s is what led him eventually to his priestly ordination. 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. 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 and is buried there.

March 25th also marks 282 years since the death of Father Antonius Senat S.J. On that date, which was Palm Sunday in 1736, Fr. Senat was burned at the stake by Indians. He was reported to be pastor of St. Francis Xavier, in Vincennes, according to Cauthorn’s “nine epochs in the history of St. Francis Xavier”1

Fr. Senat had been 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:

“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, mentioned above, in his 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 maintained contact with Rome and traveled there often while bishop. He was mentioned prominently as the possible Archbishop of Philadelphia, but that promotion never came.

From: Donahoe’s Magazine, Volume-10, 1883-1884

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.

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

Installation of Bishop Chatard
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 March 28, 1933, Joseph Elmer Ritter was ordained auxiliary bishop at the Cathedral of Sts. Peter and Paul in Indianapolis. Ritter was appointed 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 Bishop Chartrand in December of that year, he was named Bishop of Indianapolis on 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.

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 Celestine de la 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 building 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…

  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 []

The Birth of Simon Gabriel Bruté

March 20th marks the 239th 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, 13 years ago. With the appointment of Archbishop Charles Thompson, originally a priest of the Archdiocese of Louisville, it is believed 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 179 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 held up as a model. This is why there is a “private” prayer to the right 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 []

Fr. John Plunket (1798-1840)

On this day, March 14, in the year 1840, Father John Plunket, a priest of the Diocese of Vincennes, ordained less than 2 years, died in a tragic accident. His death occurred by all accounts on the 14th, however, the Catholic Telegraph of Cincinnati, published a short obituary which was, in turn, taken from a newspaper called the “Chicago Weekly Democrat” which said he died on March 6th. Regardless of the exact date, it is clear the Fr. Plunket was doing his priestly duties and that cost him his life.

From: The Catholic Telegraph-April 4, 1840

The following article was taken from the history pages for St. Dennis Church, Joliet Illinois, the parish which Fr. Plunket was serving at the time of his death.

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 Plunket.

As cold weather set in, the epidemic subsided. Father Plunket 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 Plunket would also reflect the wishes of the Bishop and the goals of the Diocese of Vincennes.

Born in Dublin, Ireland, in 1798, Father Plunket 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 Plunket was ready to answer his true calling. He left the seminary arriving in Vincennes in early August. He received minor orders and subdeacon status on the 16th of August 1837. On the 23rd of September, Father Plunket 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 Plunket 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 Plunket 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 Plunket 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 Plunket 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” Plunket.

On a more restrained note, Father Plunket 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 Brut? 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 Plunket 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 Plunket posthumously with a solemn Mass of Requiem.


Simon Bruté – An ‘American’ Saint

Immigration is in the news today, but in 1835 it was different. The Naturalization Act of 1802 “directed the clerk of the court to record the entry of all aliens into the United States. The clerk collected information including the applicant’s name, birthplace, age, nation of allegiance, country of emigration, and place of intended settlement, and granted each applicant a certificate that could be exhibited to the court as evidence of time of arrival in the United States. It is unclear how this affected the entry of so many French and German priests entering the United States and in particular, the State of Indiana.

March 7th marks a significant event in the life of one of those immigrants, Servant of God, Simon Bruté. On that day, after 25 years already spent in the United States, Simon Bruté officially became a citizen of the United States of America. Prior to this event there is no evidence that he made any effort to become a citizen. Once he became Bishop of Vincennes in 1834, he needed to acquire land for his new diocese.

Writing in his 2005 dissertation, Fr. Albert Ledoux, said:

“Brute formally embraced United States nationality almost a quarter century after first stepping foot onto a Baltimore pier. He appeared in Vincennes’ Knox County Circuit Court, 7 March 1835 and forevermore renounced ‘all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty whatsoever, but particularly to Louis Philip, King of France.’ Whatever antipathy he may have still felt toward the Orleanist monarch who had deposed the elder branch of his beloved Bourbons, Brute was far more likely motivated by considerations of United States civil law that in many states impeded a non-citizen’s right to hold substantial amounts of property. In fact, within two years, when worrying about the identity of his potential successor as bishop of Vincennes, one of Brute’s chief concerns lay in the fact that none of his principal candidates had been naturalized or had even made the first attempt at doing so.”1

In other words, the whole idea of non-citizen’s rights, or lack of rights, when it came to property was perhaps the primary reason for Bruté’s citizenship.

A search of Land records shows that within two years of his citizenship, Bruté had begun purchasing land in Knox, Daviess and Perry County. Here is one example of the purchase of Indiana lands. These purchases were made in accordance with the 1820 act of Congress allowing for the sale of public lands.

Simon Bruté, truly an American Saint…

  1. Fr. Albert Ledoux, “The Life and Thought of Simon Brute Seminary Professor and Frontier Bishop” (PhD dissertation, Catholic University of America, 2005), 392. []

Petit and Deydier

This weekend we celebrate the lives of two early priests of the Diocese of Vincennes. February 10th marks the 179th anniversary of the death of Fr. Benjamin Petit, the apostle to the Potawatomi, in 1839, and February 11 marks the 154th anniversary of the death of Fr. Antoine (Anthony) Deydier in 1864. I’ve written before about the fact that with the current “rules” on canonization, Frs. Petit and Deydier would certainly qualify. But, as I also wrote previously, it does not matter since, in my mind, they are both saints to be emulated, even if they aren’t officially recognized by the Universal Church.

In 1941, the Indiana Historical Society published the journal of Fr. Petit, “The Trail of Death”. In the last entry we find the last correspondence between Fr. Petit and Bishop Simon Brute. Within a month of writing this letter, Petit would be dead. Within 6 months, Bishop Brute would also be dead.

To the Right Revd. Bishop Brute Vincennes
(Knox Cty.) Indiana.

St. Louis, 18 January, 1839

I received your valued letter dated November 6 last only on December 23 following. The good Lord having delivered me from the fever three days previously, the solemnity of a recall addressed by his Bishop to a priest who wishes to live only with obedience all his life, and the circumstances of Messrs. Vabret’s and de la Hailandière’s departure, left no room for doubt in either Father Hoecken or me that I should depart as soon as possible. January 2, after part of the festivities, was the date settled upon, and I tried to prepare myself for it as well as possible by rest and light exercise. . . . After a horseback ride of a hundred and fifty miles I found it impossible to continue thus on the journey : my weakness was growing worse every day. I was accompanied by an Indian, who is returning to Logansport; he sent his horse back, and mine was then tied behind the stage. After coming rather painfully to Jefferson City, we sojourned there a day. Then an open wagon, ostensibly a stage, carried us through rain and over frightful roads to St. Louis. The good Lord permitted me to make this journey with an open sore on the seat, another on the thigh, and a third on the leg—the remainder of the numerous sores which covered my whole body during my illness at the Osage River. I arrived at St. Louis exhausted and suffering a great deal from all these sores, which had not improved much during the journey. I was received like a brother by the Jesuits, of whom Father Hoecken had given me to understand I could not fail to ask hospitality. I was immediately given over to the medical treatment I urgently needed at the hands of their hospital attendant, who is also a doctor. Already, after three days of rest, I feel an improvement which Providence will, I hope, augment so that I may avail myself shortly of a steamboat, when the Wabash is open, to pay my respects to you and, by my return at your first call, to fulfill that condition of obedience under which you permitted me to make a journey so fruitful in blessings, with the provision that I employ well the favors of my Lord. The Indian who is the bearer of this letter is one of my children ; he has showered tender attentions on me in my misery throughout the journey. Welcomed here like a brother and son, he will doubtless receive the same consideration from Your Fatherhood. The horse he rides is mine ; 76 he should leave it at Vincennes, where he will take my old Tom, if he is still there, to complete his journey. In case Tom is no longer there, you will have the goodness to supply what money he needs to buy another ; I shall reimburse you myself later. I have been visited by Mgrs. Rosati and Loras, who, knowing it was impossible for me to do them homage, did not disdain to call upon your poor priest themselves. Tomorrow M. Nicolet is also coming to see me in order to get information I can give him about the Indians. I really feel shamed by all these visits; I am consulted concerning missions, and I shrink from the subject. I should like so much to be silent when I fear that importance is attached to my answers. I received your last, Monseigneur, at Westport, as I was leaving. I recognized all the tenderness and solicitude of your paternal goodness, which was already so well known to my heart. I close, thinking that I shall be restored in a fortnight, and that, when the Wabash opens, I shall have the long-denied happiness of receiving your benediction. While awaiting that moment, accept, Monseigneur, the assurance of the respectful obedience and submission of your priest and son in Jesus and Mary.

B. Petit
Ptre. Mre.

[P.S.] Mgr. Loras will soon reply to your last letter. Mgr. Rosatï would like you to send the plan of the church at Frederick which you have, or which he thinks you can procure for him. [Addressed:] To the Right Revd. Bishop Brute Vincennes (Knox Cty.) Indiana. Care of Abraham Burnett, my Potawatomi companion and son. B. P.1

Fr. Petit’s funeral Mass was celebrated in Vincennes on February 18, 1839 by Bishop Brute. However, his body had been buried in the Jesuit cemetery in St. Louis. In 1857, Fr. Sorin arranged to have his body brought to Notre Dame and it is now buried under the old Log Chapel on the campus.

At the time of Fr. Petit’s death the Cincinnati “Catholic Telegraph” wrote:

From the Catholic Telegraph

Rev. Mr. Petit
Vincennes, February 18, 1839

This morning, at 9 o’clock, High Mass was celebrated by the Bishop in the Church of St. Francis Xavier, for the repose of the soul of the Rev. B. Petit, late missionary to the Pottowatomies in this Diocese. His death took place on the 10th inst. at the University of St. Louis, on his return from accompanying the Indians to their place of destination. His obsequies were performed by the Fathers of the Society, the Bishops of St. Louis and Dubuque present.

Last night, the Bishop and his clergy recited the office of the dead, and to-day he offered up the divine sacrifice with the usual and affecting ceremonies of a requiem mass, assisted by the priests of the parish and seminary and the Rev. Mr. Shawe of Madison and Berniere of Bertrand (Michigan). At the conclusion the Prelate spoke from St. Paul to Timothy v. “I know whom I have believed and I am certain he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him” (2 Timothy: 1;12) He united in the same tribute of respect and homage for their merits, the three excellent priests, Rev. Messrs Deseilles, Schaeffer, and Petit whom in fifteen months this new Diocess had to surrender to their Lord in the flower of their age. This was particularly so with the last mentioned, who had not completed his twenty-ninth year. The Bishop then gave a short review of the past history of the Church of Vincennes–beginning with its earliest missionaries of the society of Jesus, Father Mermet (1708), Father Meurin, and three others; then he mentioned many other excellent priests, some yet living, M.M. Flaget–Blanc–Rosati–Chabrat, now Bishops; M. Oliver the oldest priest in the United States aged 94; Mr. Badin, etc. etc; and amongst the dead M. Rivet buried, exclaimed the Bishop, under the very altar at which I have officiated, and 40 years ago the friend of Gen. Harrison: he was a most worthy priest, and his name could not be omitted in that affecting review, especially as it was so cherished by the old French Catholics who were present as well as the American, Irish and German.

Applying then the foregoing text more particularly to the young and lamented Mr. Petit, he recounted the sacrifices he sent before him to form his treasure in heaven as Christ recommends. He left in France his excellent family, his friends, his prospects as a lawyer already eminent in his profession–all his worldly hopes, to come to this country and be ready to say with the first Apostles–“Beloved we have left all things and have followed thee” Mark x.28 When sent on his first mission to the poor Indians, all anticipated a long career of usefulness, for that truly devoted and promising missionary–all believed that he would live many years to be an honor and blessing to the church; “but–says the Lord–my thoughts are not your thoughts–as the heavens are exalted above the earth, so are my ways exalted above yur ways, my thoughts above your thoughts.” The Prelate then reminded the clergy and laity, but especially the young seminarians present, the first homes of Vincennes, how necessary it is to watch and place their treasures and with it their hearts in heaven, as a fait fully as it was so resolutely and fervently done by the Rev. Mr. Petit.


Father Robert Gorman, former Archivist of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis wrote the following in his unpublished history of the Catholic Church in Indiana:

The winter of 1838-1839 was the most difficult experienced by Brute. Sustained by sheer will power, he had, besides the cares of episcopal administration, the assistance of only Anthony Parrett and Maurice Berel, two rather recently ordained priests, to provide the necessary ministrations for the cathedral parish and to maintain the seminary and the college. It was because of this condition that he wrote to Benjamin Petit on the Osage River, recalling him to Vincennes. Petit, who had overtaken the Indians at Danville on September 16, 1838, arrived with them at their reservation on the Osage on November 4, 1838. In the course of the march along the trail of death about 150 Indians had deserted or perished. 0n his arrival, Petit himself was suffering from a serious illness caused by fever and exhaustion, which lasted during the two months he stayed at the Osage. Brute’s letter arrived on December 23, 1838 and, having completed arrangements to tranfer his charge to the Jesuit missionary, Christian Hoecken, who hitherto had worked on the Kickapoo mission. Petit, accompanied by an Indian, started on his return on horseback, January 2, 1839. After 150 miles of this mode of travel he found it impossible to go on and got on the stage which carried him to Jefferson City. The route from this point to St. Louis was traversed in an open wagon in the rain and over bad roads. On January 15, 1839 he arrived at the Jesuit College in St. Louis in the last stages of debility, with many running sores on his body, which was completely jaundiced by the fever. Three days later he wrote to Brute informing him of his location and condition. He hoped for recovery but died in less than a month, on February, 10, 1839. On the receipt of the news in Vincennes Brute celebrated a solemn requiem in the cathedral on Monday, February 18, l839 and delivered a touching, eulogy on his favorite missionery who was known as the Seraphic Benjamin Petit. The immense charity and tragic story of Petit were long remembered and left their mark on the diocese. 2

Then we have the other remembrance, the Rev. Antoine (Anthony) Deydier. Father Deydier’s history in America coincides with some of the oldest missionaries in the 19th century. He arrived in Baltimore in 1810. The article in Wikipedia states:

Deydier was born in France on April 30, 1788. He left his native country on June 10, 1810 on the same boat as Simon Bruté, accompanying Benedict Flaget. After his ordination to the diaconate he refused ordination to the priesthood and he taught for four years at Mount St. Mary’s in Emmitsburg, Maryland, (which was where Father Bruté spent most of his early years in America), eventually ending up in Albany New York as a private tutor. According to one source, he had received minor orders in France and when he arrived in the United States, he taught music in New York City.3 Apparently his association with Brute at Mount St. Mary’s is what led him eventually to his priestly ordination. Bruté reportedly asked him to come to Indiana. That call obviously struck a chord in Deydier because it was in the missions that he spent the remainder of his life. Bishop Bruté ordained him on March 25, 1837 in the Cathedral of Saint Francis Xavier in Vincennes, Indiana.

Missionary work in Indiana
After his ordination as a priest he was sent to Evansville, Indiana. He apparently did not find many Catholics. The day after his arrival, on May 4, 1837 he celebrated Mass in a tavern, at the corner of First and Locust.4 He then returned to Vincennes, but was then sent back to Evansville in November 1838, after conducting a collection tour in September of that year. From then on he is reported to have remained in Evansville. However, it was reported that in 1841, while on a similar mission trip, Deydier was appointed temporary administrator of the new French Parish in New York City, St. Vincent DePaul, a French speaking parish, by Archbishop Hughes.5 His pastorate there lasted less than six months and perhaps this was in return for collecting funds for his beloved Assumption parish n Evansville. 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 Theodora 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.”6 He founded the parish of the Assumption in Evansville, Vanderburgh County, Indiana. In the “History of Vanderburgh County” it was written:

It was a noticeable feature of the Catholic priesthood in the pioneer days that wherever they found a community, no matter how small or how widely scattered, wherein they could establish a mission, there the cross was erected and the protecting care of the church spread over the inhabitants. No hardship was accounted too severe and no sacrifice too great to stand in the way of the propagation of a religion which they believed to declare the voice and will of God. The first information of any Catholics residing in the vicinity of Evansville, was communicated in the fall of 1836, to the Right Rev. Gabriel Brute, first bishop of Vincennes, by Rev. Father Buteux, and the companions of his journey, who lodged on their arrival here, at the Mansion House, then kept by Francis Linck, a citizen well remembered to this day and esteemed by all the older inhabitants of the city. Mr. Linck, born in 1774, was a native of Stockheim, in Wurtemburg, and in 1836 was the only Catholic in Evansville, except perhaps the late John Walsh. In March, 1837, Very Rev. Father De la Hailandiere, vicar-general of the Rev. Bishop, accompanied by Rev. Father Shawe, visited Evansville with a view of establishing a mission, and on the 3rd day of May, following, Rev. Father Anthony Deydier was dispatched to take charge of the mission. Father Deydier was born in France, April 30, 1788, and was ordained a priest at the cathedral of Vincennes, March 25, 1837. Very few knew that he had reached the full strength of his manhood when he took upon himself holy orders, and was placed in charge of the mission in this city. While here he lived a blameless and well spent life, unobtrusive in his deportment, but with a kind word for all. After almost a year’s residence at the house of Mr. Linck, in January, 1838, he built a lodge room, 10×15 feet size, at the corner of Fifth and Chestnut streets. Here he made his abode, using his little room as a dwelling and for chapel purposes for about three years. For Sabbath day services larger rooms at the homes of Catholics were occasionally used. He labored heroically among his people, did much missionary work in the country adjacent to Evansville, and in 1838 made a successful trip to the east to raise funds for the erection of a church building. The history of Catholicism in Evansville since that time is the history of a wonderful growth. The worthy priest who stood by the church in its infancy, lived to see it become rich and powerful with a numerous priesthood within the territory where he once labored alone – lived to see a sturdy oak grown from the acorn planted by his hands. When old age and increasing infirmities had impaired his usefulness, he retired from the active ministry and, returning to Vincennes, passed the evening of his life in comparative rest, greatly beloved by all who knew him. His death occurred February 11, 1864. 7

Deydier was obviously a very humble and simple man. Saint Mother Theodore described him thus:

Sister St. Theodore wrote. “So extreme was his poverty and so complete his destitution, that I shall run the risk of being accused of exaggeration in describing it. … The priest is about twenty-eight years of age. His exterior bespoke mildness and he seemed refined; but he was so poorly clothed that one would easily have offered him alms. He had on an old torn coat, shoes in the same condition, trousers all patched up by himself.” Delicately, Sister St. Theodore asked about his housekeeper. The priest replied that he did not have a housekeeper. He told Sister St. Theodore, “My companion and I eat only combread, which is brought to us every day by a baker. We have only a log hut for our church, house and school. At night we spread a mattress on a bench and there, wrapped in our coverings, we take a little rest. When we are away on missionary duties, and one or the other always is, we sleep on hay or straw or sometimes under a tree.” 8

Deydier remained in Evansville until 1859, when he retired to the “Highlands” at Vincennes. He died on February 11, 1864 and was buried in the orphanage cemetery,[6] which is now part of the St. Vincent de Paul Parish.9

Pray for them, and ask for their prayers…

  1. Petit, Benjamin Marie, and Irving McKee. 1941. The trail of death: letters of Benjamin Marie Petit. Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Society. []
  2. Gorman, Fr. Robert (unpublished manuscript) pp.519-520 []
  3. Cauthorn, Henry, St. Francis Xavier Cathedral, Vincennes Indiana, 1892 []
  4. Cauthorn, Henry, St. Francis Xavier Cathedral, Vincennes Indiana, 1892 – p. 166 []
  5. The New York Evening World: Monday, January 23, 1888, p.2 []
  6. Mother Theodore Guerin – Journals and Letters, Sister Mary Theodosia Mug (ed.), St. Mary of the Woods, 1942; pp. 53-54 – cf. Mitchell, Penny Blaker. 1998. Mother Theodore Guerin: a woman for our time : foundress of the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the Woods, Indiana. []
  7. History of Vanderburgh County, Indiana: From the Earliest Times to the Present []
  8. Mitchell, Penny Blaker. 1998. Mother Theodore Guerin: a woman for our time : foundress of the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the Woods, Indiana. Saint Mary-of-the Woods, Ind: Sisters of Providence. pp.38 []
  9. History of the Catholic Church in the Diocese of Vincennes, by Herman Alerding (Indianapolis: Carlon & Hollenbeck, 1883) []