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Ordinations – Felix Matthew Ruff

We all know that in the early days of the Catholic Church in Indiana the clergy were few and far between. When Bishop Bruté arrived in 1834 he had but one priest assigned to the diocese, Simon Petit Lalumiere, who was a native of Vincennes.

Bruté spent a great deal of time and travel to secure more priests for his diocese. After his arrival in Vincennes, he made a visitation of the diocese — at least “part” of it. Father Lalumiere covered the rest. There weren’t that many Catholics, but as Bruté noted, more would be coming.

It was on this day, April 4, 1835, before his recruitment trip to France later that year, that Bruté ordained Felix Matthew Ruff as a Sub-Deacon. Not a great deal is known of Fr. Ruff. He was born in 1811 in Metz, Lorraine, France. This area of northeastern France has a history of German influence. And so, it was, that Fr. Ruff spoke German and it was Bishop Bruté’s desire to have him minister to the many German speaking Catholics in Indiana.

Writing to the Leopoldine Society, Bruté talked about the Catholic community at Fort Wayne and their completion of a new church. He said:

… At Fort Wayne they were finishing one, 6o feet by 30, and the congregation numbered 150 Catholic families. I was happy to send them the Rev. M. Ruff, from Metz, in France, recently ordained, and speaking the three languages, French, English and German. Of the latter there are a good many living there and in the environs. I had ordained Mr. Ruff Sub-deacon and Deacon before my journey to Chicago, and had sent him to the Seminary of St. Louis (St. Mary of the Barrens), to make his retreat, and there he was ordained priest by that excellent prelate, Dr. Rosati.

Joseph White, a Catholic historian who wrote a history of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend entitled Worthy of the Gospel of Christ, briefly mentions Fr. Ruff:

Recently ordained. Felix Matthew Ruff from Metz, France, fluent in French, German, and English. was assigned in August 1835. This young priest did not stay long, however, leaving by mid-October — a situation not unusual for an era when priests recruited for a missionary diocese felt no bonds of loyalty to keep them there.

Fr. Ruff’s whereabouts are unknown after that. In their necrology, Frs. William Stineman and Jack Porter speculate that Fr. Ruff returned to France and that he died and was buried there.


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