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Hailandiere Resigns

Today is the day that the guy everyone loved to hate, resigned … On this day in 1847, Celestine de la Hailandiere resigned as the second Bishop of Vincennes. Through the years he has been vilified, sometimes appropriately, sometimes not. It seems to me that the further we get from the events of that time (1839-1847) the more we realize that we do not know the whole story. We seem to have applied 21st century standards on a 19th century person.

Yes, it is true the Bishop Hailandiere mistreated many of his priests and people, and especially, the most prominent person in our Indiana Catholic history, Saint 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 that baggage did not consist of material things.

Hailandiere was a Gallican, and that is, in a nutshell, the reason why he saw his episcopal power as something that put him in control of things. The difference between Hailandiere and Brute version of Gallicanism was that, in my opinion, Brute used his episcopal power to gently guide those around him and Hailandiere used his power to control those around him. 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 Unpublished manuscript – original located in the Archives of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.))

His treatment of Saint Mother Theodore, again, in my opinion, helped to show her true spirit and determination. If she had lived and died without the obstacles that she met, among them the controlling nature of Bishop Hailandiere, then she may have never been recognized for her saintly character.

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. We also give thanks for the sacrifices of those who served under him. Not only Saint Mother Theodore and the Sisters of Providence, but also the priests, like John Corbe and some of the overlooked heroes of the early Church in Indiana. Father Simon Lalumieré, first priest of the diocese and Vicar General. He certainly must have had an opinion on all of this. Father Anthony Deydier, who had come to Indiana as the urging of Bishop Brute. Did he feel like getting back on the boat and returning to France? They too probably suffered under the leadership of Hailandiere. But they most certainly saw another side of the embattled bishop. One that showed his true love of the Church in Indiana. That is why I believe that even though he left Indiana, his wish was that his body be returned, more than 30 years later, to be buried in the crypt of the Cathedral of St. Francis Xavier.

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