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Chatard’s arrival in Vincennes – Just passing through…

On August 11, 1878, Francis Silas Marean Chatard was installed as the fifth Bishop of Vincennes. Within days, he had moved his episcopal residence to Indianapolis, but it would be another 20 years before the name of the diocese and its official location would change. One has to wonder. Obviously Chatard had secured permission to ‘live’ in Indianapolis while retaining the name Bishop of ‘Vincennes’. Certainly the people of Vincennes had to wonder how long the bishop would continue to live in their city. The Diocese of Bardstown, from which Vincennes was formed, now found itself as the Diocese of Louisville. Perhaps it was just a matter of time.

I wonder too, just how long Chatard expected to remain bishop. All during his episcopate there were murmurs of his impending transfer to another diocese, including the rumor of him becoming Archbishop of Philadelphia. We have a Roman trained, Roman bred bishop, who now found himself in the middle of the country, in a suffragan see. His predecessor at the North American College, William McCloskey, was Bishop of Louisville.

All of this, plus the fact that Chatard, who was supposedly a favorite of Pope Pius IX, was named bishop by his successor, Leo XIII. Church politics, or reward?

Here is how the New York Times described the event:

Installation of Bishop Chatard
Special dispatch to the New York Times.
VINCENNES, Aug. 11. Today, Dr. Chatard, the newly-appointed Bishop of Vincennes, was formally installed by Archbishop Purcell 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 wore 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 by 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 Audran, attendants on the Archbishop, and Revs. P. McDermott and Duddenbausen 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, Emmittsburg, 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.

The New York Times
Published: August 12, 1878
Copyright – The New York Times

Henry Cauthorn, in his book St. Francis Xavier Cathedral, Vincennes Indiana wrote of the time when the people of Vincennes were unsure of the future of the diocese in their city.

Soon after his consecration, as Bishop Brute the first Bishop had done, before he had come and taken possession of his diocese, he issued a pastoral letter to the clergy and laity of his flock from the, city of his consecration. This pastoral letter of the Bishop was worthy of his reputation as a classical scholar and Christian minister, and was very favorably noticed and commented upon by the periodical press of this country.

The news of his appointment as Bishop reached Vincennes early on a Sunday morning in early summer. There had been, for some time, a feeling of uneasiness on the part of the members of the cathedral congregation lest the succeeding Bishop would change his place of residence. Therefore, hearing a successor had been appointed, and hoping to ascertain something definite concerning his residence, the morning service in the cathedral was largely attended. But nothing was said that threw any light on the subject. But during the services a bird of jet black plumage noiselessly flew into the church and deliberately perched upon the canopy over the Bishop’s chair. From his lofty station he carefully and serenely surveyed the walls, ceiling, altar, congregation and all his surroundings in the sacred edifice. The bird gave no sign of uneasiness during his stay, but calmly and quietly made his observations, uttered no note, made no noise, and, as if dissatisfied with the result of his inspection, flew out of the church as noiselessly as he had entered and through the same aperture. After church the congregation gathered in groups in front, and gave expression to their sentiments on the subject of the unexpected entrance of his birdship, and with almost entire unanimity expressed the opinion that it was an omen that the newly appointed Bishop would not reside in Vincennes; but would simply come here and be installed in the cathedral, and then leave as quietly and quickly as the bird had come and left the church. I do not myself believe in omens, and attached no consequence to the incident. I had read the famous story of Romulus and Remus and their wonderful bird performance, but never could give it credence. I tried to subdue my rebellious judgment into accepting the story for its romantic features, but never succeeded.

In order to obtain some certain information on the subject, a complimentary dispatch soon after was sent to the Bishop by members of the congregation, in the hope his reply would indicate his intentions in the matter of residence. His reply soon came, but threw no light on the subject. Matters remained in this uncertain condition until the arrival of the Bishop, when all doubt was removed, and it was announced he would reside at Indianapolis. Of course the cathedral congregation was disappointed, and grieved over the loss of the Bishop as a resident of this city. Many censured him in consequence of it. But this was decidedly wrong and wholly uncalled for. This action was right, and should have been commended and approved. Indianapolis is the political centre of the State, and should also be the ecclesiastical center of the diocese in which it is situated. Its facilities for intercommunication with all parts of the diocese demanded the change for the convenience of the Bishop and clergy, as well as all persons in the diocese desiring to see him. Such a step had been contemplated by several of his predecessors, and was in fact delayed too long. While the local pride of the citizens of Vincennes would naturally be wounded in consequence, yet every local or selfish influence, in the minds of the faithful at least, should surrender at discretion to secure the ultimate good of the church.

There is one thing that ought to afford us consolation, and that is, the name of the diocese is not changed, and in my judgment never will be, as the Catholic church loves and venerates ancient things, and rarely changes their order, except for urgent and sufficient reasons. Rome moves slowly is a familiar expression, and the Holy Father, who alone can change the name of a diocese, prides himself too much upon the antiquities that give glory and awaken faith concerning all matters connected, with the church to wantonly change the name of an old diocese to another without being induced to do so by some absolute necessity and for a valid reason. Therefore, it may be safely affirmed that the name Vincennes will always attach to the diocese in which it is situated, and St. Francis Xavier will ever remain the cathedral church of the diocese, and all
its Bishops must come here to be installed within her venerable and sacred walls, and the church where the Bishop may happen to reside and worship will simply be known and designated as the pro-cathedral.

But supposing that the worst should happen, and that the name of the diocese, at some time in the future, be changed, still there is left this consolation that Vincennes must and ever will be holy ground and be remembered and cherished as the cradle of Catholicity in the State of Indiana, and St. Francis Xavier church must ever be acknowledged as the fruitful mother of all the Catholic churches in the State. This glory is beyond the reach of loss or improvement, and will ever remain our glorious heritage as permanent and enduring as the decrees of fate. And as such our venerable church will ever be remembered and visited by all who love to muse alone on ancient mountain brows; Or muse on battlefields where valor fought in other days; or muse on ruins gray
With years, or drink from old and fabulous wells.

The new Bishop on his arrival at Vincennes was received by a large number of the citizens, and welcomed to his diocese with distinguished marks of respect. The Mayor of the city and civil authorities and many citizens in carriages and on foot met him at the railroad station, and in procession escorted him to the episcopal residence. He arrived in Vincennes on Saturday the 10th day of August 1878, and, on the following Sunday, in St. Francis Xavier cathedral, was installed by Archbishop Purcell of Cincinnati, who was also present in 1834, when Bishop Brute was installed as Bishop forty-four years before. 0n that Sunday, the Bishop for the first time solemnized pontifically in St. Francis Xavier’s. Thus it will be observed that all the Bishops of the diocese of Vincennes have been installed, and have entered upon their episcopal duties, and that two of them were also consecrated within the venerable and sacred walls of St. Francis Xavier.

Although the reception Bishop Chatard received at Vincennes from the people at large was hearty and enthusiastic, it could not compare with the reception he afterward received at St. Mary’s on the 15th, and Indianapolis on the 17th of August 1878. But this was not in consequence of any lack of interest on the part of the citizens of Vincennes. They did the very best they could on the occasion. It was plainly on account of their want of facilities and ability to equal his receptions at the latter places. St. Mary’s being the home of the Sisters of Providence they knew how to conduct such exercises in proper taste and style. At the capital of the state, with a large population, and all rejoiced that the Bishop was to reside in that city, the citizens turned out in large numbers to welcome him to his future home. The Governor and state officers, the Mayor and city officers all took part in the reception proceedings; and joined the clergy and societies connected with the Catholic churches in escorting him in procession from the railroad station to his episcopal residence, where appropriate reception addresses were delivered, to which the Bishop responded in a dignified and becoming manner. On the following Sunday, August 18th 1878, the Bishop solemnized pontifical high mass for the first time in St. John’s church at Indianapolis.


Categories: Postings.

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