Skip to content

The first winter in Vincennes-Bishop Brutés letter to the world

In the winter of 1834, Bishop Simon Brute had made a few trips to visit his expansive new Diocese of Vincennes. In the short time he had been bishop there was no way he could have visited everywhere, but he felt the need to tell the world–through the Catholic press–that he had arrived and that all was well, albeit rustic, in his new diocese.

Here is Bishop Brutés complete letter from December 30, 1834, published in the Cincinnati Catholic Telegraph, dated January 16, 1835. Note the bishop’s optimism and his description of the land that had become his home. Also note his subtle suggestion to the Jesuits that they should establish houses of education in his new diocese.

Vincennes, December 30th, 1834.

Messrs Editors:””My worthy friends, the Editors of the Telegraph, may like to hear some first items of the new diocese of Vincennes and its Bishop, with all Indiana and half Illinois spread before him, and his mature years urging him to be in earnest for fear”the night come, when no man can work.” But”there is one that holdeth his peace, because he knoweth not What to say: and there is another that holdeth his peace, knowing the proper time.” Now, whether it be time, or there be matter enough for writing after a few weeks of installation and first exertions, through this unpropitious season of the year, you are welcome to make whatever use you please of the following. Soon after the departure of the Bishops and their Reverend Friends from Vincennes, when the shepherd and the flock had made their first acquaintance with each other, Reverends Messrs. La Lumiere and Pettit also departed, one for his mission at St. Peters,near Washington””the other, for his College of St. Mary’s in Kentucky. Our Bishop,left, since, alone, has tried to offer French and English instruction to his congregation, at High Mass and Vespers. Spoiled as they must have been, by their many days enjoyment of true English and French eloquence, from the mouth of the excellent friends that had introduced him to his people, he had to rely on the grace to be granted to the pastor in behalf of the souls committed to his care. He has here, many to recall to their pristine piety, the earnest faith and ready zeal of former times. The patriarch of this west, Bishop Flaget, adopted us as his spiritual children, forty-two years ago, still quite near the last days and labors of the good Jesuits among our French population. He himself, had enjoyed his own days of true consolation, during more than three years of residence here, from 1793 to 1796, so did after him, M. M. Rivet, who died in 1804, and M. Olivier who lives still at a very advanced age, at St. Mary’s of the Barrens, in the Diocess of St. Louis, until our”gold was obscured” and less bright and satisfactory times succeeded; as Bishop Flaget. remarked, with great feeling in his discourse, shewing how much now was to be desired, much to be improved. Already, however, better things are coming; the fruits of such a visit have been sensible””Christmas was well attended and after a truly edifying and orderly midnight mass and some communions, others took place at the second mass, at eight 0’clock, with those of nineteen youths, making their first communions, for which they had been prepared during the advent. The Bishop spoke again in French at the midnight mass, in English, at the last high mass which had nearly us full a church as the first. Some baptisms took place after it, one of a sensible man lately converted to the Catholic faith.”” Solemn vespers with some instruction, and at the end of the benediction of the blessed sacrament closed the day, during which, much edification seamed to have been received. The full pontifical dignity of our offices could scarcely have been expected to shine forth in all its splendor; either without a sufficient clergy, or in a cathedral of vast extent, lofty structure, noble form, and strongly built walls; but as yet, as naked and bare, as if just left by the architect and his bricklayers, although covered some six or eight years ago. Still the mitre and the crosier used by the Bishop as he entered the sanctuary, and at his last benediction, have instruction for Catholics wherever they are seen, being viewed as the simple emblems of the authority and office of their first pastors,and of their Apostolical Mission, from the fountains from which all the powers of the ministry incessantly flow through the whole church of Christ.

A few points at some distance from the see have been visited by the bishop. Besides the principal congregation of the zealous M. Lalumiere at St. Peter’s near Washington, Davies County to which he twice repaired, he blessed on the 24th of November, the church of another congregation 7 miles farther, on Boy’s creek; and as it was the first that he had dedicated to God in the diocess, he gave it the name of St. Mary’s having expressed from his arrival his desire to promote the devotion of the faithful towards the blessed virgin, confident as he is that much grace is attached to it. Auspice Maria! was at all times a motto of great hope in the church. 12 communions, 4 baptisms and one marriage marked the happy day for the pious catholics of that new settlement. Most of them came from old Maryland and Kentucky to this country, as the names of Spalding, Elder, Montgomery, Myles, Young, Smith, etc. bespeak. If things are not yet in their full array at the cathedral of Vincennes, still less could they he ready for the ceremony at this humble church, the first effort of new Settlers just opening around the lands of Congress, most of the farms at their first stage. I would not betray farther their edifying poverty, the procession of little boys in their blue jackets; the roughly hewn joists and rafters, unplastered walls or ceilings, uncarpeted sanctuary, nor, the worst, on a very bleak day, the windows left to the poor protection of some canvass in place of their panes of glass not yet come from Louisville. Choir and organ being out of question, the”Melody of the heart” did supply their place. May these hardy pioneers of better times, for their true blessing have a progeny as honest, and as piously inclined successors.

The Catholics of La riviere au chat, not visited since Father Petit had heen among them, had mass and instruction from their bishop. That settlement twelve miles from Vincennes, is it colony of French families, for cordial and lively dispositions, true to their origin; there the bishop Flaget was as usual the remembrance of all;”he baptised me” he”married me,” we all loved him was the cry of the more elderly; and so among the younger ones, the later accounts of that excellent missionary, their last visitor. Some baptisms were administered.

Rev. M. Lalumiere had at the same time proceeded to a range of nearly three weeks missionary tour towards Columbus and Shelbyville; visiting the catholic families of those parts, finding some added to their numbers and receiving some into the church or preparing them for it. He found in Shelbyville that they had, a few days before enjoyed the presence and ministry of the Rev.M. Badlin then on his way to Cincinnati and Washington where important affairs have required his attendance, during the Session of Congress. M. Lalumiere had about the same number of communions as last year. More could have been preparing. In places where there is not a resident pastor, the faithful, when the time of a visit announced to them draws near, and also those who have to travel for their affairs to the places where they know that they will find the priest, ought to make it the principal affair to improve their spiritual opportunity for which they had often complained at home, that they could not go to meet the clergyman at a distance. Too many with their lively and unshaken faith, remain unaccountably indifferent to the occasions that through the year might more than once present themselves to realize the best graces of Religion.

From Chicago the Bishop had the pleasing account of the return of the Rev. Mr. St. Cyr, ordained and sent by the Bishop of St. Louis, to that most interesting and rapidly growing town, the southern port of Lake Michigan with which a canal will soon connect the Illinois river. He had been recalled to his own diocess, when Chicago with a part of the state of Illinois were attached to that of Vincennes. Our Bishop obtained his return before he left St. Louis after his consecration. A house built on the lot of the church,during the absence of Mr. St. Cyr, was with kind attention, prepared for him. Soon that most promising point may receive sisters; perhaps have a large college, for in scarcely three years, the town has advanced from a few scattered houses to the astonishing progress of about three thousand souls. Who can tell how much of improvement a few years more may enact for such a place.

South Bend on the river St. Joseph near the Michigan line, has in its vicinity the establishment of the Rev. Mr. Badin, the sisters and the school For the Savages. That venerable missionary, called the proto-priest of Baltimore, as having been the first ordained in the United States by Bishop Carroll, in 1792, a few years after our American Revolution, shows, after 42 years of labors all over our West; in Kentucky, Ohio, Michigan and Indiana, all the activity of the moat zealous young priest. From South Bend, he visits, occasionally, Logansport. and the line of the Canal to Fort Wayne; each time rather a witness to the great good to be done at those important points than actually able to do alone in short visits what would require the habitual presence and utmost devotedness of some indefatigable man or rather of many. Pray, indeed the master of the harvest to send worthy laborers into his vineyard, for great is the harvest, and ready; and tho opportunity of the works for that canal are urging and to be actually improved.

The Miami: having ceded lately much of their lands along that canal and being entitled to have education procured to their youth by the United States, many considerations might induce the Miamis to see it secured to them within this State, some first steps might be taken for enjoying again in this former field of the labors of the Jesuits their happy exertions as missionaries and excellent instructors of youth. The society has, We are told, accepted at the hands of our holy father, the special care of the Savages our red Brethren; may our Indiana grounds, long watered with their sweat and often imbued with their blood, be among the first revisited by them: nay,as Education is the great want of our newly settled countries and the best wishes of all good men as they have been repeatedly shown to our bishops, are ready to be fulfilled for every proper undertaking in its favour, may we not indulge the hope that soon our diocess might see the same society add one more college to those they have so successfully established in the diocess, of those of Ba1timore, Bardstown and St. Louis.

We know that our Bishop had in contemplation to visit early his German flock in the congregation of the Rev. M. Ferneding the churches of which the zeal of that good pastor has procured the erection.– He has been so far prevented, as well as from answering other calls that have been mode for his visiting or sending clergymen to different parts of his so extensive diocess which has not been so happy as to obtain the blessing secured by divine providence to that interesting of the (M’Kenzies) settlement.

I may remark,in general, as I conclude this letter that all seem to welcome the_establishment of this new Catholic diocess, all view the settlement of the bishop among us as thing no less favourable to society than to religion. In every one of the other diocesses this has abundantly proved to be the case. Encouragement to more of immigration; rallying together under circumstances favourable to the welfare and well behaving of the new comers; prospects opened to more of activity for many branches of industry; hopes for more of establishments of Education and the charitable institutions; hopes no less generally acceptable to the good sense and religion of the citizens generally for the coming of more of those who devote their lives to the most elevated purposes that faith and charity can cherish; all these edifying things are properly anticipated, viewed and felt, if it costs an occasional growl to a few of the less favorably disposed, it is truly for a few; these parts had never blue laws, blue habits; they are practically, universally on the liberal side. All honors, all trusts, legislative, municipal and financial lay open to all; our assembly has Catholics amidst its members both in the House of Representatives and the Senate; society numbers them in all its lines of best usefulness and highest respectability, this is no ground for tracts and trash, fair play for religion, peace and prosperity for our country, is the only spirit and motto.



Categories: Postings.

Tags: , , ,

Comment Feed

No Responses (yet)

Some HTML is OK

or, reply to this post via trackback.