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Francis Chatard Ordained

On June 14, 1862, in the midst of the U.S. Civil War, which was raging in the United States, Francis Silas Marean Chatard was ordained a priest in Rome. The painting, shown here, hangs in the North American College in Rome where he was vice-rector and later rector.

Born in Baltimore on December 13, 1834, just 8 months after the establishment of the Diocese of Vincennes, Chatard was baptized Silas Francis Marean. The”Marean” being his mother’s maiden name. The Chatard family were well known in Baltimore and there are still members of his family living there.

Here is an update to our 2011 post featuring the article from Wikipedia

He was born Silas Francis Marean Chatard in Baltimore, Maryland, on December 13, 1834, to Ferdinand E. Chatard and Eliza Marean. Both his father, Ferdinand, and his paternal grandfather, Pierre, an emigrant from Santo Domingo, West Indies, were physicians in Baltimore. His paternal grandmother, Eliza Anna Chatard, was a financial supporter of the Oblate Sisters of Providence.

Raised in a prominent family, he attended Mount Saint Mary’s College in Emmitsburg (now Mount Saint Mary’s University), and the Maryland University School of Medicine, receiving a doctorate in medicine. He served his residency at the Baltimore Alms House.

Soon afterward, he felt the call to priesthood and in 1857 began studying at the Pontificio Collegio Urbano de Propaganda Fide in Rome. He was ordained on June 14, 1862, and received a Doctor of Divinity degree the next year. Following his ordination, he served as Vice-Rector of the Pontifical North American College in Rome. In 1868, he became Rector of the college. During his time as Rector, the First Vatican Council was held, and was able to meet many American Bishops who stayed at the college while in Rome. Chatard was apparently a favorite of Pope Pius IX.

On March 26, 1878, he was named Bishop of the Diocese of Vincennes, in Indiana. At his consecration in Rome on June 14, 1878, he switched his first and middle name, taking the name of Francis Silas. He was installed in the cathedral at Vincennes on August 11, 1878, and he went almost immediately to Indianapolis, arriving there on August 17, 1878. His predecessor, Bishop St. Palais had recognized that Indianapolis had become a major city, but deferred the decision to move the seat of the diocese to his successor.

Said to be “the most scholarly clergyman in America”,[4] in 1883, Chatard was rumored as the new Archbishop of Philadelphia,[4] That appointment never took place for reasons unknown. Chatard did have some impact on the American Church, however. He aligned himself with the more conservative wing of the Church, led by Michael Corrigan of New York and others. The more progressive wing was led by the likes of Cardinal Gibbons and Archbishop Ireland.

While bishop, he oversaw the movement of the Episcopal see of the diocese of Vincennes to Indianapolis in 1898. He established his see at Saint John the Evangelist Church, which served as the proto-cathedral for the diocese in Indianapolis from 1878 to 1906, when Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral was built. Following the move, he was named as the first bishop of the newly renamed Diocese of Indianapolis.

In January 1899, he suffered a stroke, from which he never fully recovered. By the time of his death on September 7, 1918, at the age of 83, he had enormously changed the face of the Catholic Church in Indiana. During his tenure the Catholic population of the diocese increased from 80,000 to 130,000.

His body was interred in the crypt of the Cathedral of Sts. Peter and Paul in Indianapolis. On June 8, 1976, Bishop Chatard’s remains were transferred from the cathedral to the Calvary Cemetery, Chapel Mausoleum, Indianapolis.

The diocese of Indianapolis was split in 1944. The old see city of Vincennes became part of the new diocese of Evansville with Indianapolis being raised to the status of Archdiocese.

In the 1960s, establishment of Bishop Chatard High School began. The high school is located in Indianapolis, Indiana.


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