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Dedication of St. Francis Xavier Cathedral 1841

On August 8, 1841, the second Bishop of Vincennes, Celestine de la Hailandiere formally consecrated the Cathedral of Saint Francis Xavier. The Vincennes Gazette documented the ceremonies in two articles which appeared on August 14 and August 28, 1841. Here is a transcript of those two articles. The original page is not a very clear copy and a few words and names were difficult to read. The names below are all familiar to the early history of the diocese.

Vincennes Gazette, Volume 11, Number 10, Vincennes, Knox County, 14 August 1841 p.2

Consecration of the Catholic Church of Vincennes

On Saturday last, August 8th, was celebrated the consecration of the Cathedral of Vincennes, accompanied with all the gorgeous ceremonial of the Roman Catholic ritual. The greater part of the clergy of the diocess having previously assisted at a spiritual retreat were present–at 7 o’clock PM the officiating Prelate, Rt. Rev. Celestine de la Hailandiere, diocesan bishop, commenced the office, when the procession formed in the following order. Sub-deacon of office bearing the cross, Rev. A. Bessonies, acolyte and torch bearers. Master of the ceremonies, Rev. M.E. Shawe: the Rev. clergy two and two. Bishop’s attendents, Rev. Chartier, Delaune, Bacquelin, Fischer and O’Rourke. Assistant priest, Rev. A. Martin, V.G., Deacon of office, Rev. J. Benoit. Relic-bearers Rev. Bernier and Parret. Deacons of Bearer, Rev. Lalumiere and Kundek. Bishop’s assistants Rev. M. M. Penn?? and Neyron. After perambulating the church three times, during which appropriate psalms, portions of scripture and prayers were recited, the procession entered the building. As the public were necessarily detained outside during these parts of the ceremonial, discourses were delivered in front of the library explanatory of the ceremonies of the day by Rev. Fathers N. Petit SJ and P. Larkin SJ, conductors of the retreat; after which the doors of the church being thrown open to the public, the concluding ceremonies of the dedication were performed and the Pontifical High Mass sung by the Rt. Rev. Dr. Purcell of Cincinnati, who also preached in this usual style of eloquence, the consecrating sermon.

In the afternoon, Pontifical Vespers were sung by the same distinguished Prelate, and the ceremonies of the day were concluded by the Solemn Benediction — Too much praise cannot be given to the retiring exercises of those engaged in finishing the construction and decoration of the Church, which now presents a temple worthy of the sublime offices to the exercise which it is desired, and a splendid monument of piety of the benefactors — The music, it is presumed, must have attained much as an unusual treat to the attendants of the Mass; lovely part of the religious worship.

During the following day a solemn office was celebrated in commemoration of the late venerable Bishop Brute. To speak of the virtues of the deceased prelate would be superfluous (??). His eulogy is found in the tears which embalm his memory and the sighs of affectionate remembrance wafted o’er his emblematic house.

Vincennes Gazette – Vol 11, No. 11, 28 August 1841, p.2

Further account of the ceremonies recently celebrated in the Catholic cathedral of Vincennes

A very imperfect sketch of the consecration of this elegant structure having a period last week it may not be an interesting to continue some further details of the ceremonies and subsequent to that solemnity.

A general spiritual retreat has been celebrated during the last two weeks, the result of which were in the highest degree gratifying. The effect produced by the admirable discourses delivered in the French, English and German languages by the Reverend Fathers Petit and Larkin and Rev T. Kundek affords evidence of their excellence beyond the power of words to enhance. During each day of the retreat six sermons were delivered by the reverend conductors in the meantime the Reverend Mr. Corbe and Shawe were arduously engaged in preparing the children for their first communion. On Wednesday the 18th they sang the office of the dead celebrated in the burial ground adjoining the church, on which occasion the serious and masculine eloquence of father Petit was deeply and visibly responded to in the hearts of the assembled multitude thronging the space where the ashes of the earliest settlers of the west co-mingled with those of so many succeeding generations. To behold the gush of feeling felt in the recollection of earthly ties and affections broken, that deep, deep grief, chastened by religion and irradiated by hope like the heaven born, are bearing it’s halo of glory through the tears of a summer sky-oh! well may the Catholic believe and feel… feel to the hearts in its most corner that “it is a holy and a troublesome thought to pray for the dead.”

Last Sunday was the day for the general communion and an unprecedented number approached to participate in the sacred rite. The church was crowded to overflowing ““ never has a scene so consoling to the interests of religion been witnessed in the dioceses of Vincennes. The Rt. Rev Bishop officiated, distributing the bread of life to the flock. The whole ceremony was conducted with the most edifying order and solemnity — first the children who were presented for the first time to this most solemn office of religion, approached the rails of the great altar, two and two, after which, the rest of the faithful by fives on each side ascending by the middle aisle and withdrawing to the side aisles at the head of which stand the two lesser altars. It is remarkable that amongst so many hundreds who partook of the sacred banquet, without the slightest disarrangement perceptible. Immediately after the Mass, the holy sacrament of confirmation was conferred on those who had not previously received the sacred rite. At the vespers, or evening office, of the church’s most beautiful and touching ceremony was performed the bishop, attended by his clergy in the splendid vestments of the respective orders entered the sanctuary and formed a semi-circle in front of the high altar facing the congregation. After a short explanatory of the order, the bishop’s deacon of honor Rev M. E. Shawe chanted the gospel, which finished the deacon of office Reverend P. Larkin holding the book of the gospels on high towards the people pronounce the loud “behold the Word of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ”. The congregation were then called upon to renew publicly before the altar of God their profession, faith in the gospel of Christ; upon which, all simultaneously rose in sign of assent. They were then called upon to give the same expression of assent to the different articles of the apostles Creed, the Commandments, etc. The whole concluded with solemn benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. Monday was the day fixed for the solemnity of planting the symbol of redemption in the church yard — a Cross, measuring upwards of 30 feet in length had been prepared for the occasion. At 8 o’clock the pro session began to move, escorted by a guard of honor in the uniform of the “Vincennes Blues”, commanded by M. Michael De Richardville, and accompanied by the “Vinson’s Band”. The great weight of the cross required two companies of 60 men each to support it and so admirably had the pre-concert at their measures, under the command of Messrs. L and J. M. Barrois, that although it was necessary to relieve them frequently during the March, not the slightest disarray occurred, and scarcely any interruption of continuity in its progress. An unfortunate occurrence however disturbed the celebration–The accidental fire at the college — yet even in this untoward event, the pious Catholic sees an especial providence of God. Had it happened at a moment when the citizens had been busy in their ordinary avocations, the simultaneous action which saved the edifice could not probably have been offered. The services of the day were resumed at 1 o’clock, and accompanied with the thunder of artillery, the tolling of the sweet toned-bell of the cathedral, and the beautiful canticles of the church, the cross was borne in procession through a considerable portion of the town and in consequence of the very event which occasioned the morning interruption, afforded an additional subject of pious contemplation from the circumstance of its arrival at its final destination precisely at the hour corresponding with that in which the Savior consummated the great sacrifice. This was a glorious day for the Catholics Vincennes. It is probably the first time this particular ceremony has ever been performed within the limits of the Union. The cordiality with which all of whatsoever profession or denomination, joined in this, and the preceding religious functions, is a gratifying demonstration of the kindly and liberal feeling which generally pervades our community. May it continue to draw still closer those lands which ought to unite the whole great family of American freeman, the proudest blazon whose calculation of honor, it’s civil and religious liberty.


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