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Simon Petit Lalumiere – First Priest of Bishop Brute

Today, September 18th marks the anniversary of the birth of Simon Petit Lalumiere, the “First Priest of Bishop Brute”. That is, the first priest who was truly assigned, if you will, to the newly created Diocese of Vincennes.

During the Centennial of he Diocese, in 1934, Saint Meinrad Historical Essays published an article by Joseph Casey, entitled “The First Priest of Bishop Brute” Here is a excerpt of that article:

Perhaps it was consciously that successors of Simon Brute happily used on their part of the canvas the strong colors with which the first Bishop had begun the picture; for, though details may have been lost for years, the Episcopal office insured the living of a strong tradition. But it was unconsciously that successors of Simon Lalumiere as happily took their coloring from the first priest, for his life work, long ago forgotten and lost had not the office and dignity to command that his memory live. In their proper spheres one was the equal of the other; both were masters of their art, the first Bishop and his first Priest.

Simon Petit Lalumiere was born at Vincennes on September 18, 1804, of immigrant stock. The first of the Petit family, Nicholas, had come to America in 1660. The first indication of residence in Vincennes is the marriage of Simon’s parents in 1784. Simon was the fifth of six children. He made his studies at St. Joseph’s Seminary, Bardstown Kentucky. He was ordained a Deacon on November 23, 1828 and a Priest on January 3, 1830. Both ceremonies took place at the Old Cathedral in Bardstown and were presided over by Bishop Flaget.

Lalumiere waited in Bardstown until June of 1830. He then went to Daviess County where a group of Kentuckians had settled near the forks of the White River. This was known as Black Oak Ridge near what is now known as Washington Indiana. Simon also ministered to the Catholic community in Shelby County and numerous other places in the state. He worked with Father Nichols Petit S.J. who operated out of St. Mary’s College, Kentucky.

In 1834 when the Diocese of Vincennes became a reality, Lalumiere, along with Fr. Ferneding at New Alsace were the only priests assigned to the new diocese. In 1842 he was appointed the pastor at Terre Haute where he remained until his death in 1857. He was buried in the church of St. Joseph in Terre Haute, but the exact spot is not known. It is said that the original marker bore the words:”I sleep, but my heart watcheth” ((Casey, Joseph P. First Priest of Bishop Brute, St. Meinrad Historical Essays, Vol. 3, No. 2, May 1934, 118-121))

Simon Lalumiere

Bishop Brute appointed Simon Vicar General in 1835. After Brute’s death in 1839 Lalumiere continued to work with the same zeal as before. He remained Vicar General until the new Bishop, Celestine Hailandiere, could return from France. Lalumiere purchased land for future churches and worked hard to expand the ministry that he and others were engaged in.

When Lalumieré made his visits around the state, he wrote a column for the Cincinnati Telegraph and signed the articles “A Missionary” Here is a link to showing Lalumieré’s article from the May 18, 1833 issue of the paper. ((Cincinnati Catholic Telegraph: May 18, 1833)) He talks of his visits to Bartholomew and Shelby counties and his hope for additional priests and a bishop. Keep in mind that this was about one year before the establishment of the diocese and about 18 months before the arrival of Bishop Brute.

Here is how Fr. Gorman wrote of this in his history: ((Unpublished manuscript of Fr. Robert Gorman: History of the Catholic Church in Indiana, Archives, Archdiocese of Indianapolis))

Father Lalumiere was the son of Anthony (Antoine) Petit, born in 1804, the year of Father Rivet’s death. According to Cauthorn, his parents were not of the old Vincennes stock but were immigrants from France, and his father adopted the soubriquet Lalumiere which became the family name. lie was baptized by Donatien Olivier,November 11, 1804 about two months after his birth. Nothing is known concerning his early years but he must have been influenced by the good priests who served in Vincennes possibly by Jeanjean and certainly by Champomier. he studied under Bishop David in St. Thomas Seminary, Bardstown and. was ordained in 1830. He was sent immediately to Black Oak Ridge. An indefatigable and self-effacing missionary, he performed invaluable services for the Church in Indiana, cooperated faithfully with his co-laborers and set an excellent standard for the clergy. Due to his birth and training he was especially equipped to be the apostle to the native American Catholics. There were well over a hundred Catholic families located between the forks of the White River at this time. The new pastor immediately undertook the work of erecting the church at Black Oak Ridge but this was only his headquarters. Mt. Pleasant was a station which he must have attended with some regularity and he soon found the incipient organization of a parish in the group located at Boggs Creek. Probably not long after his arrival in Daviess County he said mass in the home of Nathaniel Spalding which became the center of the·new mission.! Flaget also gave him the more distant charge of Shelby County which he visited in the spring and fall. His first trip to these emigrants from Scott County was made either late in 1830 or early in 1831 when he found only four or five Catholic families. But these were anxious for a church and a Protestant gentleman offered a lot of five acres suitably located. On these journies he followed the East Fork of the White River through Rockford and Colunbus. Ultimately he extended them to Richmond and even to Fort Wayne. An account of such a tour, made undoubtedly by Lalumiere during the Easter season of 1833 was printed in the Catholic Telegraph of Cincinnati May 18, 1833. The minsionary found four or five Catholic families in Columbus, some of whom had not heard mass for years. He gave a short exposition of the doctrines of the Church to a large assembly in the court house and found, according to the correspondentts report, that many seemed to be surprised at knowing that Catholics believed in Jesus Christ. In Shelby County he found ten Catholic fami1ies, some of whom had just arrived during 1833. About twenty five persons approached the sacraments and, although services were held in a private home the Litany of Loretto was sung before mass and hymns during the services.

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