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Prayer for the Cause of Bishop Bruté

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

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

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

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

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The Birth of Simon Gabriel Bruté

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bishop Bruté also said:

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

  1. Bruté to Bishop Chabrat. Coadjutor of the Diocese of Bardstown, August 1, 1834 — From Godecker, Mary Salesia. 1931. Simon Bruté de Rémur, first bishop of Vincennes. St. Meinrad, Ind: St. Meinrad historical essays. p.211 []
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John Francis Plunkett (1798-1840)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1. The original website was located at http://www.saint-dennis.org/history/sdh7.asp, but this page is no longer active. []
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Simon Bruté – An “American” Saint

Immigration is in the news, but it was different in 1835. March 7th marked a significant event in the life of Servant of God, Simon Bruté. On that day after 25 years already spent in the United States, Bruté officially became a citizen of the United States of America. Prior to this event there is no evidence that Bruté made any effort to become a citizen of this country, that is, until he became a bishop and he was required to buy land. I am not familiar with the law concerning the purchase of property, but today, the church’s canon law draws the lines clearly. While diocesan bishops hold parish property “in trust,” for purposes of civil law, canon law holds that a construct called a “juridic person” is the owner of parish property. Bishops exercise supervisory roles over a parish’s property for the sake of the proper administration, but the parish is considered a separate legal entity. Although Canon Law has changed over the years, perhaps, at least in nineteenth century terms, this was the reason why Bruté sought citizenship.

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.

Land Office Record

A search of Land records shows that within two years of his citizenship, Bruté had begun purchasing land in Knox, Daviess and Perry County. Some of the records are available from the Bureau of Land Management or through Ancestry.com. These purchases were made in accordance with the 1820 act of Congress allowing for the sale of public lands. The Bureau of Land Management website allows you to look at a map for the location of the land. For example, there is a record for a purchase of land near Leopold Indiana, in Perry County. That tract is obvious in that Leopold was founded by Fr. August Bessonies. The records on the site show six land purchases in the three counties mentioned above.

One can search for these land records, not only for Bruté, but for other early bishops as well.

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

Many times I feel the need to repeat (with some updates) previous posts. This one is no different since I can never say enough about these two heroes of the faith. This would be Father Anthony Deydier (1788-1864), and Father Benjamin Petit, (1811-1839). “Remembering those who have gone before us” is an attempt to remember those who have faded from our collective memory. Both of these men were recruited by Bishop Bruté. February 10th is the 178th anniversary of the death of Fr. Benjamin Marie Petit. Thursday, February 11th is the 153rd anniversary of the death of Father Deydier.

And so, we remember that 178 years ago, Father Petit died in Saint Louis. The cause of his death was typhoid fever which he contracted along with many, many Pottawatomi Indians who had been forced from their lands in Indiana and forced to march across the middle west to Kansas. But that is the end of the story of a holy and heroic life, albeit a short one!

Benjamin Marie Petit, was born in the city of Rennes, France in 1811. He attended university and law school and after three years as a lawyer, he entered the Seminary of St. Sulpice in 1835. In June of 1836 the young Breton came to the United States with Bishop Brute to serve the Church in the missionary territory of Indiana. He wrote to his mother in April of 1836 and told her that he was going to join Bishop Bruté in Indiana. His family protested, apparently because of his fragile health. However, Petit insisted, and he left France in June aboard the “Francis Depau”, sailing from LeHavre. [Note: click on the image to see the entire list of those who accompanied Brute to Indiana-it reads like a “litany of saints”] They arrived in New York on July 21, 1836. He was then sent on to Vincennes.

By the end of the year he had received Minor Orders and then in September of 1837 he was ordained a Deacon and on October 14, 1837 he was ordained a priest at Vincennes by Bishop Brute.

His wish had always been to serve the Indians and with the death of Father Louis DeSeille, his wish had been granted. Father Petit accompanied the Potawatomi Indians on the Trail of Death. On their website, they write:

After placing the Potawatomi in the spiritual hands of Jesuit Father Christian Hoecken. S. J., at the Sugar Creek Mission in Kansas on November 4, 1838, Father Petit again fell sick with fever and painful open sores. On January 2, 1839, he started by horseback back to Indiana, accompanied by Abram “Nan-wesh-mah” Burnett, a full-blood Potawatomi friend who was the same age. Petit again took ill on the journey. With three open sores draining his strength, he rode east from Jefferson City, Missouri, in an open wagon, the roads rough and the rain frequent. He reached the Jesuit seminary at St. Louis University on Jan. 15. The fathers gave him all the medical attention and care they could, but he grew weaker and weaker. Father John A. Elet, then rector – president of St. Louis University, later wrote that he placed a crucifix to Father Petit’s dying lips and twice he kissed it tenderly. He lay in agony and finally expired 20 minutes before midnight, February 10, 1839, a martyr to his duty and his extraordinary devotion and love for his Potawatomi family. He had lived but 27 years and 10 months.

Father Petit died in the Jesuit seminary building at 9th and Washington streets, and was buried in the old cemetery at 7th Street and St. Charles Avenue. In 1856 the cemetery was moved to make way for downtown St. Louis. At that time, Father Edward Sorin, founder of Notre Dame University, South Bend, Indiana, came and took Father Petit’s body back to Indiana. Father Petit’s remains rest under the Log Chapel at the University of Notre Dame.

“In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. If it should please God to send me death, I accept it in all love and submission to his amiable Providence and I hope that his mercy will have pity on me at the last moment. I commend myself to Mary now and at the hour of my death.” From Father Petit’s will, written August 17, 1837, at Vincennes, Indiana.

Today some of the Potawatomi pray to Father Petit and feel that he is a saint. It is certain that he is regarded by all as a very good man who gave his all for his flock.

Finally, here is a touching excerpt from a letter that Petit wrote to his mother, dated October 15, 1837, just one day after his ordination:

“I am now a priest, and the hand that is writing to you bore Jesus Christ this morning! How can I express to you all that I should like to say, and yet, how can I not wish to say something of what no tongue can express? …When I think that in two days I shall start from here all alone, going nearly three hundred miles to bestow sacraments — graces ratified in heaven — among people whom I do not know at all, but to whom God sends me – I tremble at the thought of my nothingness. …How deeply do I feel myself penetrated by St. Paul’s thought, that God loves to accomplish great things by using that which is nothing…”

You can read more on Fr. Petit as well as other “Indiana Saints” by going to Indiana Saints located on this site.

Read more about Petit and the Potawatomi tragedy by visiting:

Certainly, this man is a Saint…

February 11th marks the anniversary of the death of another Indiana Saint, Father Anthony Deydier. There is not a great deal of information about Father Deydier.

Death notice from the Indianapolis Sentinel, 15 February 1864

Death notice from the Indianapolis Sentinel, 15 February 1864

Deydier is one of the unsung heroes of the earliest days of Catholic Church History in Indiana. What is even more amazing is that he was almost 50 years old before he was ordained. We’ve become accustomed, somewhat, to late vocations, but in the 1830’s ordaining a man who was 50 years old was almost unheard of

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 Hielandiere, 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, 1864.1

There is another web site, called “Ameri Catholic” and they too pay homage to those early missionaries, especially the French. They wrote:

Born in France (perhaps Alsace and Lorraine where this surname is common), in 1788, he entered the Seminary of St. Sulpice, where he follows the likely course of Abbot Simon Bruté de Rémur, later Bishop of Vincennes (Indiana) who taught theology since 1808. In all cases, it is with the abbots Brute Guy Chabrat Derigaud Jacques, Julian Bishop Benedict Flaget Romeuf and, while the new bishop of Bardstown (Kentucky) came to France to recruit priests and seminarians, he sailed from Bordeaux the United States June 10, 1810. Ordained deacon in 1812, he refused the priesthood and taught for four years at Mount St. Mary’s in Emmitsburg (Maryland) where the priest teaches Brute. These past four years, we find him at Albany (New York) as a tutor. But, without doubt, the discussions he had with Father Brute at Mount St. Mary’s, make him reconsider his denial of the priesthood since March 25, 1837, he was ordained priest by Bishop Brute, of Vincennes first ordinary (since 1834), in the Cathedral of St. Francis Xavier in this city. Upon his ordination, this late vocation, is sent in November 1837, in Evansville (Indiana) where he stayed until 1859, except for a tour he performed in September 1838 to raise the money for the diocese, accompanied by a young Ann (Nancy) Brown the novitiate of the Sisters of Charity of Emmitsburg, and an itinerant ministry in Gibson County (Indiana) from 1838 to 1840. In 1838 he began construction of the Assumption Church, the first Catholic Church in Evansville, even to monitor the manufacture of bricks – and it was today, the Feast of the Assumption, the opportunity to report this church is that Father Deydier had built: it was razed in 1872. 2

Like Petit, Deydier too, is an Indiana Saint!! Remember them on February 10th and 11th and ask for their prayers — for yourself and for the Church in Indiana.

  1. History of Vanderburgh County, Indiana: from the earliest times to the present []
  2. Catholic Ameri History and news of Catholicism in the United States By Daniel Hamiche []
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Nicholas Petit S.J.

On this first day of February, we mark 162 years since the death of Nicholas Louis Petit S.J. It probably means very little to most people, but being serious about “Keeping the memory alive of those who have gone before us” for me, also means “keeping track” of them as well.

I’ve written previously about Father Petit S.J. the Jesuit who was born in Haiti, served on the faculty at Saint Mary’s College in Kentucky, as well as at the Cathedral in Vincnennes, and the man who was Bishop Simon Bruté’s first choice to succeed him as Bishop of Vincennes.

The Superior General of the Society of Jesus stubbornly refused to allow Fr. Petit to be considered for Coadjutor of Vincennes. His reasoning had much to do with the shortages of Jesuits.

Gilbert Garraghan wrote:

Bishop Brute of Vincennes made repeated efforts to obtain a Jesuit for his coadjutor, having proposed to Rome in this connection the name of Father Nicholas Petit of St Mary’s College, Kentucky. “I give up,” he wrote to Father Roothaan, [The Jesuit Superior] “my prolonged and useless efforts to obtain a coadjutor from your Society” 1

Garraghan writes further …

Bishop Rosati, of Saint Louis, in seconding Brute’s petition to have Father Petit for his coadjutor, had written as follows to Propaganda…
“Reverend Father Louis [Nicholas] Petit, who is mentioned first, I consider worthiest to be chosen,in preference to the others for the office of coadjutor-bishop of the Bishop of Vincennes; for he excels in piety, learning, eloquence, knowledge of the English and French languages, as also in administrative ability. To all the faithful of that same diocese, to whom he is by no means unknown, having conducted missions among them, he would beyond doubt be highly acceptable. Besides, that he has professed the religious life in the Society of , Jesus, that he is of the utmost utility and even necessity to the Kentucky Mission of the Society of Jesus, in which he is now living, that the rules of the Society do not allow of the promotion of its members to the episcopate, these circumstances, so your Eminence will judge, do not in any manner stand in the way of his election.

Fr. Petit’s grave in the church yard of St. Joseph, Troy, N.Y. A loose translation would be: Nicolaus Petit S.J. Born in Haiti (Hayti) 8 July 1789 – Died 1 February 1855.2

… Is it such a mighty task to keep intact the Society of Jesus that, lest one or other of its members be raised to the episcopal dignity, the American churches must pine away for lack of pastors and grow old in their very youth? Are not the Religious Orders and Societies members of the Universal Church? Ought they not on occasion make a sacrifice of their private advantage for the common good of the Church? In fine, have they anything to fear from the promotion of their priests to American churches, which have nothing to offer to the cupidity of man? Not wealth, not honors, not leisure. Not even Ignatius himself, who as long as he lived was aflame with the most ardent zeal for the salvation of souls, the glory of God and the expansion of the Church, would in the condition of things that besets us today be opposed to his followers not merely lending but even spontaneously offering themselves to meet the needs of our churches. If there were available other priests of the secular clergy fitted for a burden that is formidable even for angelic shoulders, the worthy sons of Ignatius would indeed be left in peace.”3

That appointment was obviously never to be. Fr. Petit went to New York after the Jesuits gave up St. Mary’s in Kentucky, and eventually he ended up in St. Joseph’s Parish in Troy, New York. It was there that he died of February 1, 1855. He was buried in the church yard. That burial place was virtually unknown until now.

You can read the entire exchange with the Jesuit Superior et al, which appeared in Woodstock Letters in 1902.

  1. Garraghan, Gilbert J. 1938. The Jesuits of the middle United States. Vol-2, New York: America Press. p.118 []
  2. The photo of Fr. Petit’s stone – thanks to Deacon Charles Wojton of St. Joseph’s Parish, Troy, New York []
  3. Ibid. Cf. also Sister Mary Salesia Godecker, O.S.B., Simon Bruté de Remur, First Bishop of Vincennes (St. Meinrad, Indiana, 1931), p. 336 et seq. []
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