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The Death of Vincent Bacquelin

Once again, I am reposting this, with some additions, originally from 2014. Sunday, September 2, is the anniversary of the death of Vincent Baquelin, but it still bears repeating because of Fr. Vincent’s impact on the history of the Church in Indiana, especially Indianapolis and central Indiana.

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 saw in the last post that the early bishops nearly moved 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 Bacquelin who resided in Shelby County. Here is an article from the Indianapolis Journal in 1889, in which Fr. August Bessonies speaks of Fr. Bacquelin’s desire to minister to the people of Indianapolis.

September 2nd, marks the 172nd 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.


Catholic Telegraph-September 10, 1846

  1. History of the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary of the Woods, New York: Benziger Brothers, 1949 []
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