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Today is the day the guy everyone loved to hate left… On this day in 1847, Celestine de la Hailandiere resigned as the second Bishop of Vincennes. Through the years Hailandiere has been vilified, sometimes appropriately, sometimes not. The further we get from the events of that time (1839-1847) the more we realize that we do not know the whole story.

Yes, it is true the Bishop Hailandiere mistreated many of his priests and especially, the most prominent person in our history, Mother Theodore Guerin. And yet, without dismissing those facts, it is important to remember that Hailandiere, just like his predecessor, Servant of God, Simon Brute came to this country with a lot of baggage, and I don’t mean material things.

Hailandiere was Gallican, that is, in a nutsehll, he saw his episcopal power as something that meant he was in control of things. The difference between him and Brute was that, in my opinion, Brute used his power to gently guide and Hailandiere used his power to control. To paraphrase Fr. Robert Gorman, Hailandiere saw his priests as “Religious subjects”. ((Robert Gorman, The History of the Catholic Church in Indiana. Unpublished manuscript – original located in the Archives of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.))

So, on this day, we should probably give thanks to God for the sacrifices and work of Bishop Hailandiere. At the same time, we can also give thanks to God for guiding our young diocese through those turbulent times and for giving Bishop Hailandiere the grace to make the decision to resign. For, without his resignation, who knows what would have happened to the Catholic Church in Indiana.

Finally, it is very obvious that Celestine de la Hailandiere loved his diocese very much. That is why I believe that even though he left Indiana, his body was returned more than 30 years later to be buried in the crypt of the Cathedral of St. Francis Xavier.


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