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125th Anniversary of the death of Bishop Hailandiere

Tuesday, May 1st, marks the 125th anniversary of the death of Celestine de La Hailaindiere, the second bishop of Vincennes and a man who has had much negative press in the past year.

RIGHT REV. CELESTINE RENE LAWRENCE GUYNEMER DE LA HAILANDIERE, the second Bishop of Vincennes, was born at Combourg, in Brittany, May 2, 1798, and was baptized the same day, this being the time of the revolution, by a priest who was concealed in the house. He studied law, to fit himself for the magistracy. At the age of twenty-four, attending a mission given by the Fathers of the Faith, he resolved to renounce the world and the flattering prospects held out to him. He entered the Seminary at Rennes, and was ordained at Paris, on May 28, 1825. When Bishop Brute requested the Bishop of Rennes, to give him the name of a priest worthy to be his Vicar General and Coadjutor, the Abbe de la Halandiere was selected. He came to America, in 1836, but two years later was again sent to Europe in the interest of the diocese. While there busily engaged, information reached him at Paris, that Bishop Brute had died, and that he himself had been appointed Bishop Brut├ęs Coadjutor. He was consecrated Bishop at Paris, by Bishop Forbin Janson, on August 18, 1839, and made every exertion to obtain needed aid for his diocese. He sent over vestments and sacred vessels for the churches, the Eudists to found a college, Fathers and Brothers of the Holy Cross, Sisters of Providence. After returning to his diocese, one of his first acts was to hold a retreat for his clergy, which was followed by a diocesan Synod, in 1844. Bishop Hailandiere was a man of restless activity, and his energy made him unpopular with many. Aware of this, he visited Rome, in 1845, to resign his see, but Pope Gregory XVI induced him to return to his diocese, and resume his labors. He did so, but the old troubles continued and new ones were added, so that in 1847 the Holy Father accepted his resignation. He returned to his native country and died on an estate belonging to the family, at Triandin, on May 1, 1882. It was his desire that his remains be buried beneath the sanctuary of the Cathedral at Vincennes. His wish was complied with. [1]

Reading between the lines here… the writer is saying that being a man of “restless activity” means that Hailandiere was into just about every aspect of diocesan life. This bordered on meddling. He was unsuited to govern the diocese because, as one author put it, of his ““…harsh and rigid nature.”. [2] Hailandiere read this as attempts to subvert his authority. He thought people (clergy and religious) were turning away from him and undermining his authority.

Yet, it was during his term as Bishop of Vincennes that Hailandiere himself brought the future Saint Theodora, (Mother Theodore) and the Sisters of Providence to Saint Mary of the Woods, near Terre Haute Indiana. and the Congregation of the Holy Cross and Fr. Edwin Sorin, the founder of Notre Dame University. Both of these people had run-ins with the bishop. All three were very strong willed. Sorin himself was considered a despot. [3] Hailandiere also had the forsight, in 1845, to request that the See of Vincennes be moved at some point, either to the thriving river town of Madison Indiana, or the capital city of Indianapolis, which is where the diocese did, in fact, move in 1898.

Thanks, perhaps, to the Holy Spirit, Hailandiere eventually resigned. Sorin went to South Bend and Mother Theodore hung on in Terre Haute. After his resignation, he returned to his ancestral home in France. It was there that he died on May 1, 1882. His remains were brought back to Vincennes and were buried in the crypt of the Cathedral of Saint Francis Xavier.

With all the negative press that Hailandiere has received lately, it is interesting to note what Sister Mary Borromeo Brown, author of the first history of the Sisters of Providence, wrote. She said “In the annals of God, it may well be recorded that the seven years of sorrow, the years of Bishop de la Hailandiere’s relations with the Community, were the means of its greatest blessings, the refining and perfecting of Mother Theodore’s sanctity…” [4] God’s ways are not our ways and perhaps this was Hailandiere’s true vocation.


[1] The Diocese of Fort Wayne, 1857–September 22–1907, A Book of Historical Reference, 1669-1907. By the Rt. Rev. H. J. Alerding. Fort Wayne: The Archer Printing Co. 1907.
[2] The Holy See and the Nascent Church in the Middle Western United States 1826-1850. By Robert Trisco. Rome: Geregorian Universtiy Press, 1962
[3] See a review of the book “Edward Sorin” by Marvin O’Connell at America Magazine’s Book Review – This link is no longer available.
[4] The History of the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-Of-The-Woods. By Sister Mary Borromeo Brown. New York: Benziger Brothers, 1949 (p. 482)

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