Please help support the mission of New Advent and get the full contents of this website as an instant download. Includes the Catholic Encyclopedia, Church Fathers, Summa, Bible and more all for only $19.99...
The Sulpicians came to the United States at the very rise of the American Hierarchy. When the French Revolution was threatening to involve them in the impending ruin of the Church the superior-general, Father Emery, looking for a place of refuge abroad, was meditating an establishment at Gallipolis, a French settlement on the Ohio; but the papal nuncio at Paris, Cardinal Dugnani, made the happier suggestion of Baltimore, which had just been erected into the first American see. An interview in London between Bishop Carroll, who had come to England (1790) for episcopal consecration, and Father Nagot resulted in the bishop gladly accepting the offer of Father Emery to found a theological seminary at Baltimore. On 10 July, 1791, four Sulpicians landed at Baltimore: Francis Charles Nagot, Superior, Anthony Gamier, Michael Levadoux, and John Tessier. They purchased the One Mile Tavern on the edge of the city, dedicated the house to the Blessed Virgin, and in October opened classes with five students whom they had brought from France. This was the beginning of St. Mary's, the first American seminary, which still stands on the same spot. The number of Sulpicians was augmented the following year by the arrival of Flaget, David, Chicoisneau, Ambrose Maréchal, Richard, and Ciquard, and in 1795 by the accession of Dubourg, nearly all of whom were destined to become important figures in the history of the American Church. These ten or eleven new workers were a large accession to the small body of American priests, then only about thirty-five, who were endeavouring to serve a diocese extending from the Atlantic to the Mississippi Valley. The Church was in its infancy; there was no organized community of priests (since the suppression of the Jesuits), no teaching sisterhood, no Catholic schools. An academy for boys was about to open at Georgetown. Non-Catholic education in Maryland was almost as backward as the Catholic. In these conditions Bishop Carroll's greatest need and most difficult task, as he had long recognized, was to recruit a sufficiently numerous and fit clergy, if possible native, which he could hope for only from a seminary. Naturally, he welcomed the coming of the Sulpicians as "a great and auspicious event" for his diocese.
But the time was not ripe for a seminary as there were no students prepared to enter it. Georgetown Academy, founded chiefly to develop priestly vocations, instead of being an aid to the seminary drew on St. Mary's few students to recruit its teaching staff. The natural remedy of opening a preparatory seminary at Baltimore was forbidden (see below). The almost hopeless condition may be judged from the fact that during each of the first three years there were only five students and in the next year, 1794, only two, nearly all of whom were from Europe; from 1795 to 1797 there were none at all. So with little or no opportunity of cultivating their own field, the Sulpicians offered themselves to the bishop for any work at hand. Flaget, David, Ambrose Maréchal, and Dubourg taught at the Georgetown Academy; Dubourg, an enterprising and energetic man, being made president (1796-99), greatly increased its numbers and prestige. Ciquard worked among the Indians of Maine; Levadoux, Dilhet, and Richard among the French and the Indians of Illinois and Michigan. Richard, still well remembered at Detroit, which some years ago placed his statue on the city hall, deserves special mention. He restored religion, established Catholic schools, founded a young ladies' academy and a preparatory seminary for young clerics set up the first printing press in the West, published the first newspaper in Michigan and the first Catholic paper in the United States; was a founder, vice-president, and professor of the University of Michigan and the only Catholic priest ever elected to Congress. Gallitzin, a pioneer priest in Western Pennsylvania, converted six thousand non-Catholics. The Sulpicians at Baltimore ministered in the churches of the city and the missions of the country. They were considered as clergy of the cathedral and are credited with having introduced into the United States some of the dignity and splendour of old-world Catholic worship.
After a trial of ten or eleven years the seminary at Baltimore had no prospects of success; an academy which Dubourg had opened for foreign boys was not allowed to receive Americans (see below); the Sulpicians there had no means of support. Meanwhile, the Revolution in France had passed, religion was restored by Napoleon, and the seminaries were being reopened. In these circumstances of 1802 only one course seemed possible to the superior-general in Paris: to recall his subjects to France gradually. Bishop Carroll, who had the highest esteem for the Sulpicians and regarded them as the hope of his diocese, was very deeply afflicted by this resolution, and in many letters begged Father Emery not to carry it out. "If it be necessary for me", he wrote, "to bear the terrible trial of seeing the greater number of them depart, I implore you to leave here at least a germ which may produce fruit in the season decreed by the Lord." Nevertheless, Gamier (who afterwards became superior-general), Ambrose Maréchal, and Levadoux departed for France in 1803, though with the greatest reluctance; Nagot was detained from going by ill-health. The seminary seemed doomed. It was saved by Pius VII, whom Father Emery, moved by the bishop's appeals, consulted at Paris in 1804. "My son," said the pope, "let it stand, let that seminary stand. It will bear fruit in its own time." Father Emery accepted these words as the voice of God, and the Sulpicians remained. But progress was slow; St. Mary's College, Baltimore, and Mt. St. Mary's, Emmitsburg, both founded by the Sulpicians (see below), furnished few students to the seminary. Still, Bishop Carroll had the consolation of seeing thirty priests ordained from there before his death in 1815.
Under the second superior, Father Tessier (1810-29), the seminary became solidly established, although the number of ordinations averaged only two or three a year. His chief support up to 1817 was Father Ambrose Maréchal, whose abilities raised him in that year to the Archbishopric of Baltimore. In 1822 St. Mary's Seminary was endowed by Pius VII with all the privileges of a Catholic university. The third superior, Father Louis Regis Deluol (1829-49), a man of exceptional ability and character, exerted a strong influence not only on the seminary and college over which he presided, but on the general affairs of the Church in America. St. Charles' College was founded during his administration. St. Mary's College was suppressed under his successor, Father Francis L'Homme (1849-60). The Irish immigration, the spread of Catholicism, and the foundation of St. Charles' College, contributed to render the seminary as fruitful in vocation in the one decade of Father L'Homme's administration as it had been in the preceding sixty years. Two directors at St. Mary's, Fathers Alphonse Flammant (1856-64) and Francis Paulinus Dissez (1857-1907), deserve mention here as saintly men who deeply influenced Cardinal Gibbons, the first Archbishop Keane of Dubuque, and other leaders of the American Church. A half-century of teaching at St. Mary's made Father Dissez one of the best known and most venerated priests of America.
St. Mary's prospered and grew under the fourth superior, Father Joseph Paul Dubreul (1860-78), and still more under his successor, Father Alphonse Magnien (1878-1902), who saw an enrolment of over three hundred students. Father Dubreul built the central portion of the present seminary in 1878: the building was completed by Father Magnien. All that remains from the old days is the sisters house, in which Mother Seton began her work as a Sister of Charity, and the seminary chapel, built in 1806, which long served as a parish church and was regarded in those days as a gem of architecture. Both Dubreul and Magnien were marked types of the true ecclesiastic, and moulded the character of hundreds of priests now living. Probably no priest in our day was better known or better loved by priests than the good and genial "Abbé" Magnien. He was the close friend and trusted adviser of Cardinal Gibbons, who said of him some time after his death: "I had been so much accustomed to consult the venerable Abbé on important questions, and to lean upon him in every emergency, that . . . I feel as if I had lost my right arm. He was indeed dimidium animœ meœ." The present superior, Father Edward Randall Dyer, D.D., was appointed in Aug., 1902, after Father Magnien's health had failed. St. Mary's Seminary has given over thirty bishops and eighteen hundred priests to the Church of America, of whom more than fourteen hundred are still living. The largest of our American seminaries, and national in its scope, it draws its students from every quarter of the country. It has always taken a leading part in the seminary conferences of the Catholic Educational Association. It was the scene of the Third Plenary Council and of many notable ecclesiastical gatherings. Its archives and library are rich in materials of early American Church History.
The impossibility of getting students for the seminary led the fathers to teach Latin to a few boys in 1793-94, in the hope of recruiting vocations; but this was discontinued through fear of injuring the Georgetown Academy. Father Dubourg resigned the presidency of Georgetown in 1799 in order to found a college at Havana. Unsuccessful in the attempt, he returned to Baltimore in Aug., 1799, with three young Spaniards; these, with a few French boys, he lodged and instructed at the seminary. In the following year a building was erected for them alongside the seminary, and the institution was named St. Mary's College. In deference to the wishes of the bishop, no American boys were admitted, but many students came from Cuba, San Domingo, Jamaica, and Porto Rico, besides French boys from the United States. In 1803 the doors were opened to American students, without distinction of creed; and in 1805 the college was raised to the rank of a university by an act of the legislature. The students numbered then, or in the following year, 106, which was considered a remarkable success; for the history of all higher education in Maryland up to that time had been, almost without exception, a record of failures. It drew students from the whole country, but chiefly from Maryland and the neighbouring states, north and south. Many were non-Catholics. Some continued to come from the West Indies and from Central America. The college had vicissitudes chiefly financial, but it maintained a high standard and enjoyed a high reputation, for it was conducted by able men who brought the culture of France to a country where education was still in a very crude condition. Its student roll rose at times to two hundred or over. Among its eleven presidents are numbered Archbishops Dubourg and Eccleston, and Bishops David, Bruté, and Chance; and the names of many bishops and notable priests and citizens are found on the list of its professors and students.
Despite its half-century of useful and distinguished work, it did not adequately fulfil the main purpose of its foundation; a college, frequented by sons of rich parents, and containing many non-Catholics, was found unfavourable to the fostering, and even to the preservation, of priestly vocations. Accordingly it was resolved in 1848, on the occasion of the official visit of Father Faillon from Paris, to suppress St. Mary's College and start an ecclesiastical college. In the autumn of that year, St. Charles' College was opened (see below); and in 1852 St. Mary's College by order of the superior-general, Father de Courson, was closed at the height of its prosperity. By an understanding with the Jesuits, Loyola College supplied its place.
The necessity of a strictly clerical school had forced itself upon the mind of Father Nagot in the first years of St. Mary's College. In 1806 this saintly old man of over seventy gathered about a dozen boys around him at Pigeon Hill, Adams Co., Pennsylvania, in a Catholic region that had long been ministered to by the Jesuits. After two years of instruction, they were transferred to the care of the Rev. John Dubois, pastor of Emmitsburg, Maryland, who himself was already instructing a few boys. In 1808 Father Dubois, who had become a Sulpician, acquired land and built Mount St. Mary's College, in the name of the Society of St. Sulpice. He did heroic work, single-handed, as teacher and as pastor. In 1812 he was joined by Father Bruté. Together they were the main factors in creating a flourishing college where the spirit of Catholic piety reigned and was very fruitful in vocations. Mount St. Mary's, founded to supply vocations to St. Mary's Seminary, became a rival by force of circumstances, for it could obtain teachers only by retaining the graduates of the college who taught the younger boys at the same time they pursued their clerical studies. It also became a rival of St. Mary's College when it began to admit boys who did not aspire to the priesthood, and even non-Catholics. For these, and also for financial reasons, the Society of St. Sulpice in 1826 made an amicable separation from Mount St. Mary's, which has continued the noble spirit of Bruté and Dubois and done invaluable services to the Church of America.
Persisting in the effort to establish a purely clerical college, according to the spirit of their vocation and the mind of the Church, the Sulpicians, in 1831, laid the cornerstone of St. Charles' College, near Ellicott City, Maryland. The ground, together with a small sum of money, had been donated by Charles Carroll of Carrollton, who survived to witness the cornerstone laying. Lack of funds long delayed the completion of the college. It was opened in 1848 with four students by the Rev. Oliver Jenkins, who became its first president. In ten or twelve years the students numbered over a hundred. Here, at last, was a strictly clerical college, firmly established, giving a solid classical education and maintaining the purest traditions of clerical discipline and spirit. St. Charles' became well known throughout the country, no section of which has not been well represented among its student body. The enrolment for years has been about two hundred. It has trained over fourteen hundred priests for the American Church and pointed the way to the clerical colleges now becoming numerous and most helpful. Father Jenkins remained president till 1869, though he had been temporarily replaced by the Revs. G. Raymond (1849-51) and S. Ferté, D.D. (1851-52). His successors have been Father Ferté (1869-76), Revs. P. P. Denis (1876-86), F. M. L. Dumont (1886-94), Charles B. Rex (1894-97), Charles B. Schrantz (1897-1906), and F. X. McKenny. To the older generations of students the best remembered of the professors is Father J. B. Menu, who for forty years (1849-88) "hammered Latin and Greek into the most stubborn heads". The best known to the outside world is Father John B. Tabb, a true poet, whose exquisite lyrics have won him a secure place in English literature. The spacious building, with its beautiful chapel, its libraries, and valuable documents, was destroyed by fire on 16 March, 1911. Classes were resumed in a few weeks in temporary quarters at Cloud Gap, near Baltimore. On that spot the fathers have now begun (1912) the construction of a new and greater St. Charles.
Opened in 1884 and entrusted by the Most Rev. John J. Williams, Archbishop of Boston, to the care of the Sulpicians, whose pupil he had been at Montreal and Paris. Its presidents have been the Very Revs. John Hogan (1884-89, 1894-1901), Charles B. Rex (1889-94), Daniel E. Maher (1901-06), and Francis P. Havey (1906-11). In June, 1911, at the request of the Most Rev. William H. O'Connell, Archbishop of Boston, the Sulpicians withdrew from the seminary.
Archbishop Hughes, who had been their pupil at Mount St. Mary's, had desired the Sulpicians, in 1862, to assume charge of the seminary about to be opened at Troy, New York. This wish was carried out only in 1896, under Archbishop Corrigan, when St. Joseph's Seminary was transferred to Dunwoodie, Yonkers, New York. The first rector was the Very Rev. E. R. Dyer, 1896-1902. Called to the presidency of St. Mary's Seminary, Baltimore, he was succeeded by the Very Rev. James F. Driscoll. In January, 1906. Father Driscoll and four of his associates withdrew from the Society of St-Sulpice, and were accepted by Archbishop Farley into his diocese, continuing their work in the seminary, which thus passed from the charge of the Sulpicians.
The Sulpicians, whose houses had hitherto been located in the Atlantic states, accepted a call to the Far West in 1898. Most of the students for the San Francisco archdiocese had for many years been sent to St. Mary's Seminary, Baltimore. A long-cherished desire of Archbishop Riordan was realized when St. Patrick's Seminary was opened 20 Sept., 1898, under the care of the Sulpicians. The institution was to comprise a preparatory seminary or college and a seminary proper, of philosophy and theology. It began with only three classes of the college department, the succeeding classes in the college and seminary being added according as the students were prepared. Very Rev. A. J. B. Vuibert was the first president of the college department, and had under him, at the beginning, seven professors, four of whom were Sulpicians, and twenty-eight students. He was succeeded in 1911 by Rev. John J. Doran, S.S. The theological department was opened in 1904, when Very Rev. Henry A. Ayrinhac, S.S., D.D., became president of the seminary. The magnificent structure was greatly damaged in the earthquake of 1906, but was soon restored, thanks to the characteristic energy of Archbishop Riordan. There are at present over one hundred students in this flourishing and hopeful young seminary.
Leo XIII, in granting a constitution to the Catholic University of America, laid upon the Sulpicians the duty of caring for the discipline and spiritual direction of the ecclesiastical students and of assisting them in the choice and pursuit of their studies. Divinity College was opened in October, 1889, under Very Rev. John B. Hogan, who remained president till 1894. His successors have been Very Revs. F. M. L. Dumont (1894-1911), and John F. Fenlon.
The aspirants to the Society of St-Sulpice pursue their studies in the seminary, undistinguished from the other students; until recently, the American aspirants generally were sent to Rome or Paris for post-graduate studies after ordination and to the Solitude at Issy, near Paris, for their novitiate. In Oct., 1901, the American scholasticate of the Sulpicians, known as St. Austin's College, was opened near the Catholic University, Washington. The students, who are received only after having completed their seminary studies, follow courses at the university in philosophy, theology, science, or letters, to prepare themselves for work in college or seminary. It has been presided over by Very Revs. James F. Driscoll (1901-02), Daniel P. Duffy (1902-04), John F. Fenlon (1904-11), and Francis P. Havey. In 1911 the first American novitiate of the Sulpicians, known as the Solitude, was begun in this house under Father Havey as director.
The government of the Sulpician houses in the United States was, until recent years, dependent directly upon the superior-general in Paris. In 1903 the President of St. Mary's Seminary, Father Dyer, was appointed vicar-general of the Superior of St-Sulpice, an office resembling that of provincial in a religious order. He governs ordinary Sulpician affairs in the United States with the advice and assistance of his council. In the early days of the American hierarchy several Sulpicians were among its members: Ambrose Maréchal (1817-28), and Eccleston (1834-51), Archbishops of Baltimore; Flaget, first Bishop of Bardstown (1810-50), with David (1819-41), and Chabrat (1834-47), as coadjutors; Dubourg, Bishop of New Orleans (1815-26), died Archbishop of Besançon in 1833; Dubois of New York (1826-42); Bruté, first Bishop of Vincennes (1834-39), who, with Flaget and David, is well remembered for great sanctity of life; Chance, first Bishop of Natchez (1841-52); Vérot, Bishop of Savannah (1859-70); afterwards first Bishop of St. Augustine (1870-76), of which he had been vicar Apostolic in 1858; and O'Farrell, Bishop of Trenton (1881-94). More than twenty American archbishops, past and present, and more than sixty bishops have received their clerical formation, at least in part, in Sulpician houses at home or abroad. All the rectors of the Catholic University have been their pupils. Father David, sent by Father Emery with Bishop Flaget to establish a seminary, founded St. Thomas's Seminary at Bardstown, and taught its students almost singlehanded for many years. The diocese had only three priests when he arrived in 1810; he trained up forty-seven, mostly natives, of whom the most illustrious is Martin J. Spalding. To this little-known seminary is attributed the greatest part in the preservation and spread of Catholicism in Kentucky.
Six seminaries in all, Baltimore, Bardstown, Brighton, Emmitsburg, Dunwoodie, and Menlo Park were founded or directed by Sulpicians, and their traditions and spirit have been carried into many new institutions by their alumni. Largely through their efforts, the Propagation of the Faith was established in this country and for a long time developed. The Sisters of Charity at Emmitsburg were established by their direction and co-operation, and united, through Father Deluol, to the foundation of St. Vincent de Paul at Paris. Father Joubert founded the coloured sisterhood of the Oblates at Baltimore, and Father David the Sisters of Nazareth, in Kentucky. Bishop Dubourg introduced the Vincentians into the United States, also the Religious of the Sacred Heart. He was the founder of St. Louis Latin Academy which developed, under the Jesuits, into the St. Louis University. On Flaget's invitation the Good Shepherd Sisters came to this country. In the early days the Sulpicians ministered to the coloured Catholics of Baltimore, and since the foundation of St. Joseph's Seminary for work among the negroes, its students have made their seminary studies at St. Mary's. The secretarial work of the Negro and Indian Commission has always been carried on in connexion with St. Mary's Seminary. The fathers of the seminary have acted as secretaries or theologians in the synods and in the provincial and plenary council of Baltimore. The literary productions of the Sulpicians have, almost without exception, grown directly out of their work as educators; they have written books on Latin grammar, history ancient and modern, English literature, liturgy, rubrics, dogmatic and moral theology, Holy Scripture, devotion, etc. They have translated many standard French works into English, and English into French. Their best-known writers are Father Hogan, whose "Clerical Studies" is the classic of its subject, and Father Adolphe Tanquerey, whose text-bocks on dogmatic and moral theology are used in numerous seminaries throughout the world.
SHEA, History of the Catholic Church in the United States (New York, 1888); O'GORMAN, A History of the Roman Catholic Church in the United States (New York, 1895); St. Mary's Seminary (Memorial Volume of the Centenary, Baltimore, 1891); Catalogues of St. Mary's Seminary, St. Joseph's Seminary of New York, St. Patrick's Seminary of San Francisco, and St. Charles's College. History of Education in Maryland, published by the United States Bureau of Education (Washington, 1894), vii, ix; The Catholic Church in the United States, I, published by the Catholic Editing Company (New York, 1908); Bulletin trimestriel des ancient élèves de St. Sulpice, containing a series of articles by ANDRÉ on the Sulpicians history in the United States (Paris, 1908-); MCSWEENEY, The Story of the Mountain, I (Mount St. Mary's, Emmitsburg, 1911), i-xii; SPALDING, Life of Bishop Flaget (Louisville, 1852); HOWLETT, St. Thomas, Seminary, near Bardstown (St. Louis, 1906); SHEA, History of Georgetown College (Washington, 1911); MOREAU, Les prêtres français emigrés (Paris, 1856); FINOTTI, Bibliographia Catholica Americana (New York, 1872); Catholic Educational Review, I (Washington, 1911), 347-48.
APA citation. (1912). Sulpicians in the United States. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/14329d.htm
MLA citation. "Sulpicians in the United States." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 14. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912. <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/14329d.htm>.
Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Douglas J. Potter. Dedicated to the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. July 1, 1912. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.
Contact information. The editor of New Advent is Kevin Knight. My email address is webmaster at newadvent.org. Regrettably, I can't reply to every letter, but I greatly appreciate your feedback — especially notifications about typographical errors and inappropriate ads.