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Fr. John Michael Missi – 1833-1889

The “motto” of this site is “Keeping the memory alive of those who have gone before us…”. With that in mind, I want to pass on a short biography of one Indiana Catholic priest who I am sure, most people would not remember. Obviously there is no one alive who would have known him, but one has to wonder if even those in the parish that he served for so long would know his name. He wasn’t a major figure in the history of the Diocese of Vincennes. Rather, he appears to have been a simple parish priest who served the People of God in southeastern Indiana.

There are a lot of stories like this one. Stories of priests and individuals who struggled, particularly during the 19th century when the Church in Indiana was growing up.

The story below was taken from the Jennings County INGenWeb ((© 2008 – 2018 | All Rights Reserved, Jennings County INGenWeb & contributors

John Michael Missi was born March 13, 1833, in Waldmohr, Diocese of Speyer, Germany, and emigrated to this country with his parents in 1836, who settled near New Albany, Floyd county. He entered the Diocesan college at Vincennes, Ind., in 1853, and was ordained a priest on December 8, 1859, by Bishop De St. Palais, and had he lived till next Sunday would have served his church in that capacity for 30 years. On Christmas day, 1859, he took charge of St. Ann’s church, this county, and also had charge of the church in this city. In the meantime the congregation here had grown to such an extent as to demand a resident priest and he was transferred for St. Ann’s to this city, and on January 6, 1868, he became the first, and up to the time of his death, the only resident priest of North Vernon. His faithful services won him recognition from the higher dignitaries of the church and he was promoted to the office of Dean, which honor was conferred upon him by Bishop Chatard in November, 1886. The district over which he had control as Dean is known as the Madison district, and is composed of the counties of Jefferson, Jennings, Jackson, Bartholomew, Ripley and Switzerland.

Father Missi is Dead

The last chapter in a good and Christian life is closed.
The saddest notes it ever tolled were rang out by the bell in St. Mary’s Catholic church Tuesday in announcing the death of the Very Reverend John Michael Missi, who yielded his spirit to its Maker at 8:30 that morning, December 3, 1889:

Father Missi’s fast approaching end was so well known that when the bell began ringing a universal sorrow spread over the community, and a few minutes later the sad words, “Father Missi is dead,” were passed from lip to lip, confirming what was so sorrowfully dreaded.

Father Missi had resided here so long and was so well known and highly respected that the news of his death brought a tremor to every heart and a “God rest his soul” from every lip. He was everybody’s friend, and in return he had the friendship of all; he was beloved best by those who knew him best. No man ever went to his grave who more fully enjoyed the esteem and respect of the community in which he resided than Father Missi. Known by almost every man, woman and child in the county, he will be sadly missed, and his memory will be cherished for years to come. But who can picture the sorrow of that little flock over which he has watched so faithfully and tenderly for thirty years? It is an affliction too deep for words to portray. Their tears-tears of true friendship and love-will water his grave, and their heartfelt prayers will follow his spirit to the other shore. In his death they have lost a “father” indeed, for he not only looked after their spiritual but also their worldly interests. Next to their God and their country he taught them to love, honesty, and while thus instructing them his sermons were mingled with lessons on economy. These, together with the good advice given all who asked it, not only made his church prosperous but its members also.

Always quick with sympathy and with succor, his hand was open to soothe distress, to aid the feeble, and to answer every call of friendship. The mere name, or the very semblance of affliction, touched him as deeply as actual suffering. None ever appealed to him in vain, and if he had a weakness it was on the generous side of frail humanity.

The pleasing presence, the graceful manners, the hearty welcome, the confiding friendship, and the warm nature of the late father are now gathered like beautiful flowers around his coffin. We who are left to mourn over his loss will long cherish their perfume in our memories. In the very prime of life with a grand future opening out before him, he was snatched away.

We all know of his shining characteristics, but only few know of the moral heroism which bore him through the long struggle that ended in death. For seven months before the dread summons came he may be said to have counted every pulsation of his of his fleeting life. He studied the scientific tests that revealed the inevitable doom with the calmness of a philosopher in search of knowledge as day by day the passage shortened and the gloomy goal loomed up a stern reality. But heart desease, that fell destroyer, fastened upon him and he yielded without a murmer.

He was noble; he was gifted; he was generous.
Requiscat in pace.

The funeral services will take place to-morrow (Thursday) at 9 a.m.


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