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Faithful Departed

The title of this post may be misleading, since we’re not talking about our beloved dead, but rather, those who, in the early days of the Diocese of Vincennes (Indianapolis) found it necessary to leave the diocese because they could no longer tolerate the conditions that they were placed under. In the early days of the Church in Indiana, and in the United States in general, priests were much less tied to a particular diocese. If they chose to, they sometimes moved on to greener pastures — in other words, better conditions and a more appreciative bishop.

In the days of Bishop Brute, the Diocese of Vincennes was on the “receiving” end of things. Priests weren’t leaving, except for those that were “on loan” — Fr. St. Cyr in Chicago and Fr. Ferneding in New Alsace for instance. It was easy to change from one diocese to another and during the episcopate of Bishop Celestine de la Hailandiere many did just that.

Here are a few of those losses…

1) Father (later Bishop) Augustin Martin. He was the chaplain at the Royal College in Rennes when Bishop Hailandiere recruited him and a group of others from Brittany to come to Indiana. The party was to sail in August of 1839. Just before they set out, news was received concerning the death of Bishop Simon Brute. Hailandiere decided to stay in France where he was later consecrated as the second Bishop of Vincennes. Fr. Martin, in the meantime, led his band to Indiana. He served as pastor at Logansport and had close ties to Saint Mother Theodore Geurin. During the upheaval between Bishop Hailandiere and the Sisters of Providence, their chaplain, Father John Corbe was determined to leave Indiana if the Sisters left. Fr. Corbe confided in Father Martin about leaving, but fortunately it never happened for Fr. Corbe and the Sisters. Fr. Martin himself had decided to leave the diocese which he did in March of 1846. After Bishop Hailandiere resigned and Bishop Bazin had been named, Martin contemplated a return to Indiana, but he chose to stay in Louisiana and eventually he was named the first Bishop of Natchitoches. 1 2

2) Michael Shawe. He was one of Bishop Brutés 1836 band that came over from France, although Shawe was an Englishman. He founded the parishes in Madison Indiana and served on the faculty at St. Gabriel Seminary in Vincennes. Like so many others he had run-ins with Bishop Hailandiere. He wrote to Fr. Sorin, who had promised him a spot on the faculty at Notre Dame. Like Fr Sorin, Shawe probably believed that being in South Bend would put him at a healthy distance from the good bishop. He served at Notre Dame and then took up an invitation to come to Detorit where he served as pastor of the Cathedral. He was killed when he was thrown from his carriage in 1853. Shawe is buried in Detroit, in Mount Elliott Cemetery. Unfortunately his body was never brought back to Indiana where his ministry began.

3)John Corbe — Father Corbe never actually left the Diocese of Vincennes, although he came close, as was already mentioned. His destiny was tied to the Sisters of Providence whom he served as chaplain. He kept in close contact with Fr. Martin, who was Vicar General at the time, regarding Bishop Hailandiere’s issues with the Sisters of Providence. You can read about Fr. Corbe in just about any history of the Sisters and Saint Mother Theodora.

4) Julian Delaune — A priest who was, at first, beleived to have come from France with the large contingent in 1836, but in fact he arrived about 1839. According to Father Gorman’s history:

Apparently, also Julian Delaune joined the diocese during Lalumiere’s administration. Born in Paris in 1809, Delaune was a scholarly individual – “A pious, active, zealous, devoted and charitable priest, a man of much energy of character and earnestness of purpose” acording to Fr. Alerding’s History 3 According to one authority he was one of the clerics “who came with Brute to the United States in 1836” (JL 75) and he may have become an intimate personal friend of John Timon, the Visitor of the Lazarists, in the west before coming to Vincennes (Cauthorn 1(8). But it is more probable that he came directly from France about the time that a new Eudist colony arrived. 4 Fr. Delaune served in many places, notably Madison where he asked for and received help from the Sisters of Providence. He also aligned himself with Fr. Sorin (which most certainly did not please Bishop Hailandiere). Delaune left the diocese to become president of St. Mary’s College in the Diocese of Bardstown. Whether he recived permission to do so is unclear. He evnetually went to the Diocese of Buffalo, New York, which was led by Bishop Timon, his close personal friend. Eventually he returned to France where he died in 1849.

5) Stanislaus Buteux — Another Frenchman who came to the United States with Bishop Brute in 1836.

Stanislaus caught the eye of Bishop Simon Gabriel Brute, a Sulpician, who had recently been installed as the first bishop of the new diocese of Vincennes, Indiana. A missionary himself, Bishop Brute recruited Stanislaus for his new diocese. He ordained Father Stanislaus on May 28, 1836, and on the next day, Father Stanislaus offered his first Mass and said goodbye to his family in Paris as he set out with his new bishop for the Vincennes Diocese as a missionary. Buteux was a member of the Eudists, a number of whom accompanied Bishop Brute to Indiana in 1836.

Bishop Brute put young Father Stanislaus in charge of Catholics in Edgar County, IL, and Vigo County, IN. From 1837 to 1839, Father Stanislaus worked untiringly in the mission field as a circuit-riding preacher, ministering mainly to the German and Irish Catholic immigrants in the area around Terre Haute. He celebrated Mass and offered the sacraments in their homes until he was able to organize the people to build churches. In 1839, for example, he built St. Joseph’s brick church in Terre Haute and a frame church at Thralls Station, five miles from Terre Haute. That church was named Ste. Marie des Bois, well known today as St. Mary of the Woods. Father Stanislaus recruited the Sisters of Providence to come from France to teach school there. On October 22, 1840, he personally met six emigrant missionary nuns as they completed a 102-day journey from northern France by merchant ship, rail, steamboat, stagecoach, and wagon. He escorted Sister Theodore Guerin and her five companions by ferry across the Wabash River and then by wagon to a remote 27-acre wooded chapel site. He then helped them establish St. Mary of the Woods College, the nation’s oldest Catholic women’s liberal arts college. Father Stanislaus worked as a day laborer to help the sisters build their first academy, and in July 1841, he blessed the school. As a missionary priest, he well knew that education was the key to any lasting work of evangelization, and he had quickly learned the value of a good Catholic school for that purpose.

Father Buteux served as the sisters’ chaplain for four years, inspiring all of them by his courage, his simplicity of life, and his apostolic zeal. Mother Theodore Guerin, whom Pope John Paul II beatified in 2006, (correction: Pope Benedict XVI Canonized her in 2006) was the first superior of the Sisters of Providence at St. Mary of the Woods College in the Vincennes Diocese of Indiana, the sisters’ first establishment in America. This educational missionary who answered Father Buteux’s call praised him as follows:

“œThis zealous priest lives in a little hut which is only ten feet wide and twelve feet long. The furniture consists of the altar and a miserable pallet at the opposite side of the room; two small tables, one covered with books, the other used as a writing desk; a trunk, and an old chair. In these environments has this Parisian dwelt for four years””he who was brought up in the comfort of the most opulent city of Europe; where, now in the flower of his manhood and with his brilliant education, he might be one of the most prominent in ecclesiastical circles. The Archbishop of Paris made him the most advantageous offers to retain him there; but he refused everything to come and work and suffer for his God, and to gain souls for His heavenly kingdom. This truly apostolic man told me laughing that he had yet to learn where the trials and privations are.” 5

Buteux sought to be excused from the diocese of Bishop Hailandiere refused. He eventually relented and in 1845 he left the Diocese of Vincennes and returned to France. In 1847 he returned to the United States, but this time in the Diocese of Natchez, Mississippi. In 1859 he once again left the U.S. and returned to France. After another couple of years he returned to the U.S. in the Diocese of Boston, It was there that Father Stanislaus Buteux died on June 14, 1875, at the age of 66 years, 11 months. 6

In many of these cases the reason given for the departure of these priests was sickness. That may or may not have been true, but if it was true, that sickness was perhaps brought on by the tyranny of Bishop Hailandiere. I don’t want to condemn Bishop Hailandiere. I have previously mentioned his love for the Church in Indiana, but he should never have been made Bishop of Vincennes. In 1933, Lawrence Gonner wrote in his Master’s Thesis:

“The difficulties between Mother Theodore and Bishop Hailandiere (and the clergy) is one of those unpleasant chapters in American Church history, which if completely revealed might disedify the faithful Who are not aware of the controversies that arose among the clergy in early days. …Many of the clergy likewise found it difficult to cooperate with Bishop Hailandiere. Father Martin, Father Delaune. and others left the diocese; Father Sorin of Notre Dame opened a novitiate for his Brothers in Kentucky. Even Father Corbe contemplated returning to France, and Father Chasse journeyed to Rome in the interest of the Eudist College at Vincennes, whose Superior had been exiled on short notice. The difficulties of Bishop Hailandiere may be attributed to the fact that he strove to dominate rather than to rule. Bishop Alerding says: “He attended to everything personally, and though he had a Vicar-general near him, a Superior of his Seminary, a Superior over the Community at St. Mary’s, a rector for his Cathedral, he hardly allowed them to do anything.” 7

In the final analysis, Father Robert Gorman, former archivist of the Archdiocese wrote:

It is difficult to assess the harm or profit which came to the diocese because of Hailandiere and, because of innumerable factors and circumstances, it is impossible to speculate what its history would have been, if a more tactctful or prudent prelate would have succeeded Brute. The first bishop was aware of Hailandiere’s definciencies but found himself helpless in securing another choice and somethinh of the same kind of fatality seems to have cursed the actions of his successor. From the standpoint of the present day, it is possible to view with a more tolerant mind some of the things that must have seemed harsh to contemporaries. For example, the Notre tame of today would hardly have been a possibility if Sorin had remained at St. Peter’s and, considering the rocky course of other later boys colleges in southern Indiana, the Eudists would probably have failed eventually. Though it was long before the clerics of the diocese could match the brilliance of Shawe, Martin or Delaune, it was normally to be expected that some priests should leave. Much was accomplished during his time in the ‘way of construction and organization of the diocese was far different in 1847 than it was in 1839 but this accomplishment was made at a tremondous cost and the story is not a pretty one. Perhaps the chief regret is that of lost opportunity and, considering his personel deficiencies, it can hardly be gainsaid that it was the good fortune of the diocese that Hailandiere finally relinquished his charge and returned to the limbo of Combourg. 4

  3. Herman J. Alerding — A History of the Catholic Church in the Diocese of Vincennes, p.353″[]
  4. Fr. Robert Gorman – A History of the Catholic Church in Indiana – unpublished[][]
  5. Life of Mother Theodore Guerin, 1904, p 141-142[]
  7. Gonner, Lawrence, “A History of the First Fifty Years of the Sisters of Providence in the United States” (1933). Master’s Theses. Paper 193. — pp.30-31[]

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