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The Catholic World

Here is an article that appeared in Volume-104, October 1916 of “The Catholic World”.

The Catholic World was a periodical founded by Paulist Father Isaac Thomas Hecker in April 1865. It was published by the Paulist Fathers for over a century. Hecker “wanted to create an intellectual journal for a growing Catholic population, and insisted that it be a first-class publication in format, quality, and style, equal if not superior to any secular magazine in the country.”

In this edition, there is an article entitled “Indiana’s Debt to the Catholic Faith”, writen by Louis P. Harl. It is a rather lengthy (11 pages) article, but is well worth reading, even 108 years later. There is a link to the article at tne end of this post, but I wanted to highlight a few parts.

The first part of the article refers to many of the states of the Union celebrated their centennials. Indiana’s centennial, of course, took place in 1916. Harl writes:

But not least among the good effects of the centennial celebrations was the fact that they educated the people to the important part played by Catholics and Catholicism in the State’s history. With the possible exception of Maryland, California, New York and Florida, there is no State in the Union that
has a more brilliant history of Catholic men and achievements than Indiana.

Later on, he describes how the Native Americans, and in particular, the Potawatomi who had been converted to the Faith by earlier missionaries, asked for a priest to teach them in the ways of the Faith. Bishop Flaget of Bardstown sent them Fr. Stehen Badin, the first priest ordained in the United States.

Father Badin reached northern Indiana in 1829 and established the mission of Ste. Marie du Lac where Notre Dame University now stands, purchasing from the Government the section of land that later
came into the possession of Father Sorin, founder of the University. His health becoming exhausted-by his strenuous labors, Father Badin was forced to return to Kentucky after a few years, and was succeeded by Father Louis Deseilles, whose brief but fruitful career came to an end a few years later, when he expired at the altar of the mission of Ste. Marie du Lac, surrounded by only a few and his Indian children.

Father Deseilles’ successor was Father Benjamin Mary Petit, the last of the Indian missionaries in Indiana. Father Petit’s life, as recorded in his writings and letters, is typical of all the holy men who had gone before him, and as his character is one of the most beautiful of them all it will not perhaps be
amiss to attempt to sketch briefly the man and his work.

Petit was a young lawyer of Rennes, France, in 1835, when at the age of twentyfour he felt himself called to the religious life. At that time Bishop Brute, first bishop of the newly-created diocese of Vincennes,
Indiana, was in Rennes seeking aid for his new see. Petit decided to return with him to the new world.

Two years after his arrival in Indiana he was ordained by Bishop Brute, and immediately afterwards started for his first pastorate, which was, as he had requested, the Indiana mission of St. Mary’s,
in the northern part of the State. In a letter, eloquent with love, which he wrote to his mother on the day of his ordination he says:

” I am now a priest My hand is now consecrated to God…”

You can read the entire article here, in The Catholic World – October 1916


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