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Diocese; suffragan of Cincinnati, established as the Diocese of Vincennes in 1834, but by brief dated 28 March, and promulgated 30 April, 1898, the pope changed the see to Indianapolis. It comprises the southern half of the State of Indiana, south of Fountain, Montgomery, Boone, Hamilton, Madison, Delaware, Randolph, and Warren counties, an area of 18,479 square miles. In 1834 the diocese extended over Indiana and eastern Illinois and was detached from the then Diocese of Bardstown. The Catholic history of Vincennes runs back to the establishment there of a fort by some French traders in 1702 and it takes its name from one of these intrepid Canadian explorers. In the settlement that grew up about it, as through all the Illinois, Kaskaskia, and Indiana country, Catholic families settled and rude churches were built for the Jesuit and Recollect missionaries who from time to time visited or were stationed among them. Pere Sebastian Meurin, a Jesuit, settled there in 1764 to care for the desolate chapels and disorganized congregations. The British having taken possession of this territory in 1763, it formed part of the diocese of the Bishop of Quebec, who lived at Kaskaskia, and occasionally visited Vincennes, which had no priest. In 1769 he sent there Pierre Gibault, "the patriot priest of the West," who spent two months reviving religion among the Catholics of the district, about seven hundred in all. This was the same Father Gibault who, when Col. George Rogers Clark captured Vincennes in 1779 for the cause of the revolting colonies, was chiefly instrumental in persuading the settlers of this part of the West to throw their fortunes against the English and immediately accept the new government of the colonies.

The Catholic population of the diocese was poor and ignorant, scattered widely, without priests except a few who belonged to other dioceses. To rule over them Rev. Simon William Gabriel Bruté de Rémur was consecrated as the first bishop on 28 October, 1834. "No priests, not one except those from other dioceses. Having come alone, I reside alone in a most depressing situation," he wrote after having made a tour of his charge. He went to Europe to seek help, in July, 1835, and returned to Vincennes in August, 1836, bringing back nineteen priests and seminarians and enough money to start a seminary, an orphan asylum and a school, to finish a humble cathedral in Vincennes and to aid several small churches elsewhere. This whole western section awakened to new religious life under his zealous inspiration, but the hardships of the missionary field broke down his strength and he died 26 June, 1839.

Celestine Rene Laurent Guynemer de la Hailandiere, his vicar-general, succeeded him as second bishop. Born 2 May, 1798, at Friandin, near Cambourg, France, he was ordained priest 28 May, 1825, and volunteered for the American missions in 1836. He had returned to France and was begging for aid in France when he was named titular of Axierne and coadjutor to Bishop Brute, who died, however, before the new bishop was consecrated in Paris, 18 August 1839. In 1841 he estimated the number of Catholics in the diocese at about 25,000, attended by 33 priests. The same year he introduced the Congregation of the Holy Cross (the present important foundation at Notre Dame) into the diocese, also the Eudists to take charge of a college and the Sisters of Providence. He subsequently became discontented with the lack of harmony between himself and his clergy and resigned the see 16 July, 1847, but took no titular appointment. He died in his native town to which he had retired, 1 May, 1882.

Jean Etienne Bazin, Vicar-General of Mobile, was appointed third bishop and consecrated 24 Oct., 1847. He was born at Duerne, near Lyons, France, 15 Oct., 1796, and ordained priest 22 July, 1822. He left France to minister in Mobile in October, 1830. He manifested great zeal on taking charge of his diocese; but he died 23 April, 1848.

Jacques Maurice de St. Palais, vicar-general of the diocese, was consecrated fourth bishop, 14 January, 1849. Born 15 November, 1811, at La Salvetat, France, he was ordained priest 28 May, 1836, and emigrated to Indiana, where he took up the work of a missionary. After his consecration he made an official visitation of his diocese, where he found about 30,000 Catholics with 35 priests, among whom he at once infused a hearty spirit of activity. He introduced a foundation of Benedictine monks from the Swiss Abbey of Einsiedeln in 1849, and began an orphan asylum. Under his direction the diocese increased steadily, the number of priests rose to 104, churches to 145 and the Catholic population to about 80,000, with schools, hospitals and other institutions. He died 28 June, 1877.

Francis Silas Chatard, then rector of the North American College, Rome, was appointed the fifth bishop and consecrated in Rome, 12 May, 1878. He was born in Baltimore, Maryland, 13 December, 1834, and studied at Mount St. Mary's college, Emmitsburg. He then took up the study of medicine and received the degree of doctor at the University of Maryland, but soon decided to enter Holy orders, became a student at the Propaganda College, Rome, and was ordained priest there in June, 1862, winning the doctor's degree the following year. In 1868 he succeeded Rt. Rev. William G. McCloskey as rector of the American College, having for several years previously been associated with its administration.

In 1900 Bishop Chatard asked for an auxiliary and Rev. Denis O'Donoghue, rector of St. Patrick's Church, Indianapolis, was consecrated 25 April, 1900, titular Bishop of Pomario and auxiliary to Bishop Chatard. Bishop O'Donoghue was born 30 Nov., 1848, in Davies County, Indiana, and received his early education at St. Meinrad's College, and at St. Thomas' Seminary, Bardstown, Kentucky. He studied theology at the Sulpician Seminary, Montreal, where he was ordained priest 6 Sept., 1874. He served as chancellor of the diocese for twenty-one years.

The religious communities now established in the diocese include: Men, 172 — Benedictines, Franciscans (St. Louis and Cincinnati provinces and Minor Conventuals), Brothers of the Sacred Heart. Women, 1762 — Sisters of St. Benedict, Sisters of Charity, Poor Clares, Sisters of St. Francis, Sisters of the Good Shepherd, Sisters of St. Joseph, Little Sisters of the Poor, Sisters of Providence, Ursuline Sisters, and Servants of Mary.

Statistics (1909)

Bishops, 2; mitred abbot, 1; priests, 222 (religious, 62); churches with resident priests, 138; missions, 50; stations, 10; chapels, 30; seminary for seculars, 1, with 60 students; for religious, 1, with 35 students; colleges and academies for boys, 2, with 200 pupils; for girls, 10, with 583 pupils; parish schools, 108, with 15,097 pupils; orphan asylums, 2, inmates, 158; industrial and reform schools, 2, inmates, 221; total young people under Catholic care, 16,354; hospitals, 5; homes for aged poor, 3, inmates, 237; Catholic population, 118,420, in a total of 1,284,493.


ALERDING, Hist. of Cath. Ch. in the Diocese of Vincennes (Indianapolis, 1883); BAYLEY, Memories of the Right Rev. Simon Wm. Brute (New York, 1860-1873); LYONS, Silver Jubilee of University of Notre Dame (Chicago, 1869); SHEA, Hist. of Cath. Ch. in U.S. (New York, 1890), III, IV; CLARKE, Lives of Deceased Bishops of U.S. (New York, 1872); Catholic Directory (Milwaukee, 1909); Catholic Telegraph (Cincinnati), contemporary files.

About this page

APA citation. Meehan, T. (1910). Indianapolis. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.

MLA citation. Meehan, Thomas. "Indianapolis." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 7. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910. <>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by John Fobian. In memory of Robert John Fobian.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. June 1, 1910. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.

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