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Father Vincent Bacquelin

The early missionaries to Indiana had to deal with many hardships. Cities and towns that are now small in comparison to the big cities, Indianapolis, Fort Wayne, Lafayette etc. were the backbone of the early diocese of Vincennes. We have seen that the early bishops wanted to move their see to a number of different places — Madison, Lafayette etc. River traffic dictated many of those places being considered.

However, Indianapolis was and is the capital city but in the earliest days of the diocese, the Catholic population was very small. That meant that there was no resident priest. In the case of Indianapolis, it was visited by a young Frenchman named Vincent Baquelin who resided in Shelby County.

September 2nd, marks the 170th anniversary of the death of this young priest, a priest of the Diocese of Vincennes. A true “Pioneer” priest in Indiana, he was born on December 1, 1811 at Clermont-Ferrand, France. He was part of the group that came with Bishop Brute from France to Indiana in 1836.

Bacquelin was a seminarian at the time and he was sent to Mount St. Mary’s in Emmitsburg. He was ordained there on April 25, 1837 by Bishop Brute. In August of 1837, Brute sent him to minister to what basically consisted of central and south central Indiana. Based at St. Vincent’s in Shelby County, Bacquelin visited Rush, Shelby, Bartholomew and Marion County. He formed the first community at Indianapolis. He also worked as far as Cambridge City and Richmond.

In addition to all his other duties, Fr. Bacquelin also gave the annual retreat to the Sisters at Saint Mary of the Woods, including (Saint) Mother Theodore. Sister Mary Borromeo Brown describes it in her history1

“The annual retreat was approaching, this year as all during the early years to be preached by one of the good French priests of the diocese, Father Vincent Bacquelin. This pious, devoted and zealous young priest had come to America with Bishop Brut├ęs colony in 1836.

It seemed, however, that many of the early missionaries, especially those who seemed to be so zealous, died before their time. While on a sick call on September 2, 1846 in Rush County, Fr. Bacquelin was thrown from his horse against a tree and was killed instantly. He was buried at St. Vincent’s Shelby County.

The United States Catholic Magazine in 1846 posted the following obituary:

On the 18th September, Rev. Vincent Bacquelin, of the diocess of Vincennes, aged thirty five years.

We learn this afflicting news from a letter from the Rt. Rev. Bishop of Vincennes, who says : “He was a regular, zealous, and pious priest, whose deportment had ever been most edifying. Only six days ago I had left him full of health, and quite rejoiced at the prospect of seeing soon accomplished the desire of his heart, as measures were in progress for commencing the erection of a large and beautiful church at Indianopolis. The congregations which he served are filled with sorrow by his death. The priests of the diocess, who were all his friends, lament him with tears, as does his bishop. The Rev. Mr. Baquelin was a native of the diocess of Clermont, in France, and was educated in the seminary of that diocess, where he acquired much distinction by his proficiency in the various branches of ecclesiastical learning. He came to America wtth the late venerable Bishop Brute, and was ordained priest at Baltimore. He has been nearly ten years laboring in the missions of Indiana, and when thus summoned to give an account of his stewardship, and receive the reward of his sacrifices and labors, he was only in the thirty-fifth year of his age.” The faithful, in their charity and piety, are requested to remember him in their prayers.2

The faithful, in their charity and piety, are requested to remember him in their prayers. No better way to end.

  1. History of the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary of the Woods, New York: Benziger Brothers, 1949 []
  2. The United States Catholic Magazine and Monthly Review. 1846. [Baltimore, Md.]: [J. Murphy]. https://books.google.com/books?id=30A9AAAAYAAJ. []
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