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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.)

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) []

The first winter in Vincennes-Bishop Bruté’s letter to the world

In the winter of 1834, Bishop Simon Bruté had made a few trips to visit his expansive new Diocese of Vincennes. In the short time he had been bishop there was no way he could have visited everywhere, but he felt the need to tell the world–through the Catholic press–that he had arrived and that all was well, albeit rustic, in his new diocese.

Here is Bishop Bruté’s complete letter from December 30, 1834, published in the Cincinnati Catholic Telegraph, dated January 16, 1835. Note the bishop’s optimism and his description of the land that had become his home. Also note his subtle suggestion to the Jesuits that they should establish houses of education in his new diocese.

Vincennes, December 30th, 1834.

Messrs Editors:—My worthy friends, the Editors of the Telegraph, may like to hear some first items of the new diocese of Vincennes and its Bishop, with all Indiana and half Illinois spread before him, and his mature years urging him to be in earnest for fear “the night come, when no man can work.” But “there is one that holdeth his peace, because he knoweth not What to say: and there is another that holdeth his peace, knowing the proper time.” Now, whether it be time, or there be matter enough for writing after a few weeks of installation and first exertions, through this unpropitious season of the year, you are welcome to make whatever use you please of the following. Soon after the departure of the Bishops and their Reverend Friends from Vincennes, when the shepherd and the flock had made their first acquaintance with each other, Reverends Messrs. La Lumiere and Pettit also departed, one for his mission at St. Peters,near Washington—the other, for his College of St. Mary’s in Kentucky. Our Bishop,left, since, alone, has tried to offer French and English instruction to his congregation, at High Mass and Vespers. Spoiled as they must have been, by their many days enjoyment of true English and French eloquence, from the mouth of the excellent friends that had introduced him to his people, he had to rely on the grace to be granted to the pastor in behalf of the souls committed to his care. He has here, many to recall to their pristine piety, the earnest faith and ready zeal of former times. The patriarch of this west, Bishop Flaget, adopted us as his spiritual children, forty-two years ago, still quite near the last days and labors of the good Jesuits among our French population. He himself, had enjoyed his own days of true consolation, during more than three years of residence here, from 1793 to 1796, so did after him, M. M. Rivet, who died in 1804, and M. Olivier who lives still at a very advanced age, at St. Mary’s of the Barrens, in the Diocess of St. Louis, until our “gold was obscured” and less bright and satisfactory times succeeded; as Bishop Flaget. remarked, with great feeling in his discourse, shewing how much now was to be desired, much to be improved. Already, however, better things are coming; the fruits of such a visit have been sensible—Christmas was well attended and after a truly edifying and orderly midnight mass and some communions, others took place at the second mass, at eight 0’clock, with those of nineteen youths, making their first communions, for which they had been prepared during the advent. The Bishop spoke again in French at the midnight mass, in English, at the last high mass which had nearly us full a church as the first. Some baptisms took place after it, one of a sensible man lately converted to the Catholic faith.— Solemn vespers with some instruction, and at the end of the benediction of the blessed sacrament closed the day, during which, much edification seamed to have been received. The full pontifical dignity of our offices could scarcely have been expected to shine forth in all its splendor; either without a sufficient clergy, or in a cathedral of vast extent, lofty structure, noble form, and strongly built walls; but as yet, as naked and bare, as if just left by the architect and his bricklayers, although covered some six or eight years ago. Still the mitre and the crosier used by the Bishop as he entered the sanctuary, and at his last benediction, have instruction for Catholics wherever they are seen, being viewed as the simple emblems of the authority and office of their first pastors,and of their Apostolical Mission, from the fountains from which all the powers of the ministry incessantly flow through the whole church of Christ.

A few points at some distance from the see have been visited by the bishop. Besides the principal congregation of the zealous M. Lalumiere at St. Peter’s near Washington, Davies County to which he twice repaired, he blessed on the 24th of November, the church of another congregation 7 miles farther, on Boy’s creek; and as it was the first that he had dedicated to God in the diocess, he gave it the name of St. Mary’s having expressed from his arrival his desire to promote the devotion of the faithful towards the blessed virgin, confident as he is that much grace is attached to it. Auspice Maria! was at all times a motto of great hope in the church. 12 communions, 4 baptisms and one marriage marked the happy day for the pious catholics of that new settlement. Most of them came from old Maryland and Kentucky to this country, as the names of Spalding, Elder, Montgomery, Myles, Young, Smith, etc. bespeak. If things are not yet in their full array at the cathedral of Vincennes, still less could they he ready for the ceremony at this humble church, the first effort of new Settlers just opening around the lands of Congress, most of the farms at their first stage. I would not betray farther their edifying poverty, the procession of little boys in their blue jackets; the roughly hewn joists and rafters, unplastered walls or ceilings, uncarpeted sanctuary, nor, the worst, on a very bleak day, the windows left to the poor protection of some canvass in place of their panes of glass not yet come from Louisville. Choir and organ being out of question, the “Melody of the heart” did supply their place. May these hardy pioneers of better times, for their true blessing have a progeny as honest, and as piously inclined successors.

The Catholics of La riviere au chat, not visited since Father Petit had heen among them, had mass and instruction from their bishop. That settlement twelve miles from Vincennes, is it colony of French families, for cordial and lively dispositions, true to their origin; there the bishop Flaget was as usual the remembrance of all; “he baptised me” he “married me,” we all loved him was the cry of the more elderly; and so among the younger ones, the later accounts of that excellent missionary, their last visitor. Some baptisms were administered.

Rev. M. Lalumiere had at the same time proceeded to a range of nearly three weeks missionary tour towards Columbus and Shelbyville; visiting the catholic families of those parts, finding some added to their numbers and receiving some into the church or preparing them for it. He found in Shelbyville that they had, a few days before enjoyed the presence and ministry of the Rev.M. Badlin then on his way to Cincinnati and Washington where important affairs have required his attendance, during the Session of Congress. M. Lalumiere had about the same number of communions as last year. More could have been preparing. In places where there is not a resident pastor, the faithful, when the time of a visit announced to them draws near, and also those who have to travel for their affairs to the places where they know that they will find the priest, ought to make it the principal affair to improve their spiritual opportunity for which they had often complained at home, that they could not go to meet the clergyman at a distance. Too many with their lively and unshaken faith, remain unaccountably indifferent to the occasions that through the year might more than once present themselves to realize the best graces of Religion.

From Chicago the Bishop had the pleasing account of the return of the Rev. Mr. St. Cyr, ordained and sent by the Bishop of St. Louis, to that most interesting and rapidly growing town, the southern port of Lake Michigan with which a canal will soon connect the Illinois river. He had been recalled to his own diocess, when Chicago with a part of the state of Illinois were attached to that of Vincennes. Our Bishop obtained his return before he left St. Louis after his consecration. A house built on the lot of the church,during the absence of Mr. St. Cyr, was with kind attention, prepared for him. Soon that most promising point may receive sisters; perhaps have a large college, for in scarcely three years, the town has advanced from a few scattered houses to the astonishing progress of about three thousand souls. Who can tell how much of improvement a few years more may enact for such a place.

South Bend on the river St. Joseph near the Michigan line, has in its vicinity the establishment of the Rev. Mr. Badin, the sisters and the school For the Savages. That venerable missionary, called the proto-priest of Baltimore, as having been the first ordained in the United States by Bishop Carroll, in 1792, a few years after our American Revolution, shows, after 42 years of labors all over our West; in Kentucky, Ohio, Michigan and Indiana, all the activity of the moat zealous young priest. From South Bend, he visits, occasionally, Logansport. and the line of the Canal to Fort Wayne; each time rather a witness to the great good to be done at those important points than actually able to do alone in short visits what would require the habitual presence and utmost devotedness of some indefatigable man or rather of many. Pray, indeed the master of the harvest to send worthy laborers into his vineyard, for great is the harvest, and ready; and tho opportunity of the works for that canal are urging and to be actually improved.

The Miami: having ceded lately much of their lands along that canal and being entitled to have education procured to their youth by the United States, many considerations might induce the Miamis to see it secured to them within this State, some first steps might be taken for enjoying again in this former field of the labors of the Jesuits their happy exertions as missionaries and excellent instructors of youth. The society has, We are told, accepted at the hands of our holy father, the special care of the Savages our red Brethren; may our Indiana grounds, long watered with their sweat and often imbued with their blood, be among the first revisited by them: nay,as Education is the great want of our newly settled countries and the best wishes of all good men as they have been repeatedly shown to our bishops, are ready to be fulfilled for every proper undertaking in its favour, may we not indulge the hope that soon our diocess might see the same society add one more college to those they have so successfully established in the diocess, of those of Ba1timore, Bardstown and St. Louis.

We know that our Bishop had in contemplation to visit early his German flock in the congregation of the Rev. M. Ferneding the churches of which the zeal of that good pastor has procured the erection.– He has been so far prevented, as well as from answering other calls that have been mode for his visiting or sending clergymen to different parts of his so extensive diocess which has not been so happy as to obtain the blessing secured by divine providence to that interesting of the (M’Kenzies) settlement.

I may remark,in general, as I conclude this letter that all seem to welcome the_establishment of this new Catholic diocess, all view the settlement of the bishop among us as thing no less favourable to society than to religion. In every one of the other diocesses this has abundantly proved to be the case. Encouragement to more of immigration; rallying together under circumstances favourable to the welfare and well behaving of the new comers; prospects opened to more of activity for many branches of industry; hopes for more of establishments of Education and the charitable institutions; hopes no less generally acceptable to the good sense and religion of the citizens generally for the coming of more of those who devote their lives to the most elevated purposes that faith and charity can cherish; all these edifying things are properly anticipated, viewed and felt, if it costs an occasional growl to a few of the less favorably disposed, it is truly for a few; these parts had never blue laws, blue habits; they are practically, universally on the liberal side. All honors, all trusts, legislative, municipal and financial lay open to all; our assembly has Catholics amidst its members both in the House of Representatives and the Senate; society numbers them in all its lines of best usefulness and highest respectability, this is no ground for tracts and trash, fair play for religion, peace and prosperity for our country, is the only spirit and motto.



A Glimpse of the Indiana Missions in 1833

Before the erection of the Diocese of Vincennes, when Simon Brute was still a professor at Mount Saint Mary’s in Emmitsburg, Maryland, Indiana was mission territory within the Diocese of Bardstown. Andrew Jackson was President of the United States and an unknown priest, Simon Petit Lalumiere, a native of Vincennes lived and worked in southern Indiana serving the Catholics who had come from Maryland and Kentucky into this new land.

What was it like on the Indiana frontier? Here is an article, taken from the May 18, 1833 issue of the Cincinnati Catholic Telegraph. It was written by Fr. Lalumiere, although he is not actually credited with authorship.

Extract from a letter of an Indiana Missionary to the editors, dated, Washington County (Daviess County) May 4.

I was lately on an extended mission towards your city, and I had the intention of paying you a viait, which I was unable to fulfil. I understood that the cholera was revisiting your city; and moreover, I was told, by a very zealous methodist, on my journey, that you had subterranean. apartments under your church, well secured by iron bars and that they were for no other purpose than to shut up protestants, indicating that the Inquisition must be in full vigor among you! You will conceive from this, that I must have been much alarmed, and even terrified by an apprehension that, coming from the backwoods of Indiana, I might be taken for a heretic, and clapped to the torture. I therefore turned myself about and devoted my attention to the duties of the mission.

The first place I visited was Columbus, in Bartholomew County. Here are four or five catholic families, for whom I siad mass on Sunday, (the first after Easter.) Many of them had not been able to assist at Mass for several years; I addressed them a few words of exhortation; and for the instruction of a considerable number of our separatcd brethren, I gave a short explication of the ceremonies, vestments, &c. used in the celebration of the holy sacrificc. In the evening, I preached to a large assembly in the Court Hcuse, on a moral subject; many seemed to be surprised at knowing we believe in Jesus Christ.

Bartholomew county is certainly a heautiful and sightly country; with a rich soil already thickly settled, there is much good land vacant in the vicinity of Columbus, which is the county seat. The situation of the town is beautiful, on the left fork of the Driftwood, which is a branch of the White river. It makes a genteel appearance, and will doubtless become a place of considerable importance in a few years. If a few more catholic families should settle in the vicinity, it is thought that a church might be easily erected at Columbus, for which a lot is already offered.

I next visited Shelby county, where I found already 10 catholic families, some having come in since my last visit, and others, I was told, were preparing to migrate. There remains little doubt that a clergyman will be stationed here, so soon as Indiana obtains a Bishop. I had the consolation of seeing 25 approach the holy communion. Their zeal for the divine service would have pleased and edified you. Mass was clebrated in a private dwelling; the altar was very neatly and appropriately decorated; the Litany of the Blessed Virgin was sung in Latin before mass, and during its celebration, hymns and appropriate portions of the service were sung. The Catholics of Shelby, until they have a resident priest, will be visited three or four times a year, by one who speaks English and French, so that German emigrants who may understnad the last, would have an occasional opportunity for the practice of their religion.

In Daviess county, where, at St. Peter’s Church, we have the Female School, there is yet much vacant land, and lands already improved, can be had on the most favorable terms. The advantage of the situation between the Forks of White River affords every needful facility for transporting produce to market. St. Peters and the School are situatiod within half a mile of the State road leading from Vincennes to Louisville, and equi-distant from either fork of White River; and equidistant from the church and the West Fork, stands Washington, the county seat, a little town, flourishing, both now and in prospect. A church will probably ere long be erected in it. The distance between the two forks, as the road runs, is 18 miles. The climate is healthful, and the priest very seldom has to attend a sick call. The resident clergyman at St. Peters, is a native of the State, and familiar with both the French and English languages.

The catholic population of Indiana is greater than would readily be supposed, and is constantly and repaidly increasing. In the eastern part of the State, and near the Ohio line, we have a congregation wtihout a priest; on the Wabash there are many; at Logansport there are a considerable number, and I have information of the actual emigration of 10 very respectable families from Pennsylvania, who are anxious for a church and a priest. The field is large and the labourers are indeed few–only two. It is our hope and prayer, that Providence will send labourers, with a bishop, to the harvest, so that b the grace of God and their efficient and zealous cooperation, Religion may flourish in the wilds of Indiana.



This Week in Indiana Catholic History

It is a busy week of Indiana Catholic history events…

Today, January 8th marks the 161st anniversary of the establishment of the Diocese of Fort Wayne (now known as the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend):

By decree of Pope Pius IX, January 8, 1857, the northern half of the state became the Diocese of Fort Wayne, the boundaries being that part of the state north of the south boundaries of Fountain, Montgomery, Boone, Hamilton, Madison, Delaware, Randolph, and Warren counties. The remaining southern half of the state made up the Diocese of Vincennes, embracing 50 counties. It covered an area of 18,479 square miles extending from the north boundaries of Marion and contiguous counties to the Ohio River and from Illinois on the west to Ohio on the east.

Tuesday, January 10th is the 26th anniversary of the death of Archbishop Edward T. O’Meara. Born in Saint Louis and ordained by our own Archbishop Ritter, O’Meara served the Archdiocese of Indianapolis for about 13 years as Archbishop. He would have been 93 years old in 2017.

I’ll repeat the New York Times obituary which ran on January 11, 1992:

INDIANAPOLIS, Jan. 11 – Archbishop Edward T. O’Meara, who headed Catholic relief efforts for war and disaster victims around the world, died Friday at his home here. He was 70 years old.

Archbishop O’Meara, the spiritual leader of the 200,000 Roman Catholics in the Indianapolis Archdiocese, was found last summer to be suffering from pulmonary fibrosis, a lung disease.

The illness led him to resign in September as president and chairman of Catholic Relief Services, an agency in Baltimore that was created to help refugees during World War II and was expanded to a worldwide relief organization. Last year it distributed $230 million in aid to 74 countries.

He was elected to the first board of directors of Catholic Relief Services in the 1970′s and became the agency’s president in 1987. Son of Irish Immigrants

Archbishop O’Meara, who headed a 39-county archdiocese that covers most of the southern half of Indiana, traditionally delivered the invocation before the Indianapolis 500 automobile race.

The son of Irish immigrants, he was born in St. Louis on Aug. 3, 1921, and was ordained there in 1946. He attended Kendrick Seminary in St. Louis and in 1952 earned a doctorate in theology at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome.

He was named auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of St. Louis in 1972 and was installed as the fourth Archbishop of Indianapolis in 1980. He died 12 years to the day after his installation.

In an interview shortly after his installment, Archbishop O’Meara said his affinity for the Catholic Church was rooted in his childhood. “I can never remember a time when I wasn’t drawn to it,” he said. “I liked to be around the priests. I liked what they did. I admired their wholesome life.”

Archbishop O’Meara left no immediate survivors.

It was seven years ago, January 14th that Bishop Christopher Coyne was named as Auxiliary Bishop of Indianapolis. It was historic in that we have not had an Auxiliary since 1933 when Joseph Elmer Ritter was named Auxiliary. Here is the story as it appeared in 2011:

Pope Benedict XVI has appointed Father Christopher J. Coyne, a priest for the Archdiocese of Boston, as auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. The Holy See made the announcement today in Rome.

Bishop-designate Coyne, 52, is a native of Woburn, Mass., a northern suburb of Boston. Father Coyne is currently pastor of St. Margaret Mary Parish in Westwood, Mass. He was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Boston on June 7, 1986.

Indianapolis Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein, O.S.B, will ordain the new auxiliary bishop during a Mass of Episcopal Ordination on March 2 at St. John the Evangelist Church in Indianapolis. Details of the Mass are pending.

As auxiliary bishop, Bishop-designate Coyne will assist Archbishop Buechlein in serving the sacramental, spiritual and pastoral needs of the people of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis…

…Bishop-designate Coyne is the first auxiliary bishop to be appointed for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis since Father Joseph Elmer Ritter was appointed on Feb. 3, 1933. He became Bishop of Indianapolis the next year and was the first Archbishop of Indianapolis. Bishop Ritter was transferred to the Archdiocese of St. Louis in 1946 where he was later elevated to Cardinal.

In December of 2014 Bishop Coyne was named Bishop of Burlington, Vermont. He was installed on January 29, 2015.

Also on January 14th, in 1849, the Right Rev. Jacques M. Maurice Landes d’Aussac de Saint-Palais, known to everyone simply as Bishop Saint-Palais, was consecrated as Bishop of Vincennes in the Cathedral of Saint Francis Xavier in Vincennes.

Born at LaSalvetat, France, on November 15, 1811. St. Palais was ordained a priest at Paris, May 28, 1836. He was Administrator of the diocese after the death of Bishop Bazin and named Bishop of Vincennes, October 3, 1848. He was consecrated by Bishop Pius Miles, OP, of Nashville, assisted by Coadjutor Bishop Martin John Spalding of Louisville and Very Reverend Hippolyte DuPontavice, vicar general of Vincennes. Died at St. Mary-of-the-Woods, June 28, 1877. His body is interred in the Old Cathedral, Vincennes.

Bishop St. Palais was one of the group that Bishop Brute brought from France in 1836. He oversaw the huge growth of the diocese in his time as Bishop and he helped to heal the wounds inflicted during the episcopate of Celestin de la Hailandiere.


Feast of Elizabeth Ann Seton

Today, January 4th, is the Feast of Elizabeth Ann Seton, the first native born American to be canonized a saint. She was canonized in 1975, one year before the Bi-Centennial. Although she never visited Indiana, the history of the Catholic Church in this State has very close ties to her. And, if it is possible to be a saint by “association”, then our very own Servant of God Simon Bruté would be one.color-elizabeth

Elizabeth Ann’s first connection with Indiana comes in the form of a book — not one, but two. She had two bibles, both of which were used to make fairly extensive notes in. The first one is located in the Bruté Library at the Old Cathedral in Vincennes. The other is located at the University of Notre Dame. The Vincennes copy was from Bruté’s own library. He had loaned it to Mother Seton in 1813.

Obviously the other association of Elizabeth Seton to Indiana was in the person of Simon Bruté. He and Elizabeth Ann were kindred spirits. They aided each other in their quest to seek God in all things. Father Joseph Dirvin C.M. in his book, “Mrs. Seton. Foundress of the American Sisters of Charity wrote:

It was this affinity that made their relationshop unique in spiritual history, for they mutually aided each other to God. More in the manner of friends than as director and penitent. In this sense Elizabeth often guided Bruté spiritually as much as he guided her. ..He looked upon Elizabeth as a mother; to her he was a brother or a son. She freely called hi Gabriel or, more often simply ‘G’1

Simon Bruté was Elizabeth Ann’s spiritual director. It was he who guided her on her journey. Although he was not part of her life when she converted to Catholicism, he was the one who helped her as a struggling superior of a small group of Sisters of Charity in Emmitsburg, Maryland. Bruté first met Elizabeth Seton in 1811. Some say that her holiness came as a result of the holiness of Father Bruté. Perhaps it was a two way street. Four months after Elizabeth Seton’s death, Bruté wrote:

I have lost the best of my friends. I feel it, I say it, write it, and more, make it my inexpressible, and inconsolable secret. — No soul has so forcibly excited mine to see what it is to be a priest of my GOD, Pray, my Mother, yes, pray for me, — pray for me whether in Heaven, or still in Purgatory, for a soul who felt so sacredly, and with such light, the holiness of her GOD, had no doubt of Purgatory, had no presumption that it was not for her, feared still itself, yet hoped with infinite peace, and trusted most perfectly her JESUS.

It was Father Bruté who saw to it that the papers of Elizabeth Ann Seton were preserved. You can read about this and other aspects of her life by visiting the Seton Shrine web page.

The Sisters who carry on Elizabeth Ann’s work continue to honor Father Bruté for his contribution to her quest for holiness.

We hope this day, that Elizabeth Ann Seton and the women who followed her continue to pray for the Cause of Bishop Bruté. We urge all who read this to do the same. May this new year, 2018, see some movement in the “Cause” of our very own “Servant of God” Simon Bruté.

Click the link here to see the Sacramental Record entry for Elizabeth Seton, signed by Simon Bruté2

Here is the prayer for Bishop Brute’s canonization:

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.


  1. Taken from “Elizabeth Seton’s Two Bibles” by Ellin M. Kelly, OSV 1977 []
  2. courtesy of Msgr. Fred Easton []