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Home > Catholic Encyclopedia > V > Theodore J. Van den Broek

Theodore J. Van den Broek

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Priest and missionary, b. at Amsterdam, Holland, 5 Nov., 1783; d. at Little Chute, Wisconsin, 5 Nov., 1851. He made his studies in Holland, was ordained in Germany in 1809, and was received into the Dominican Order in 1817. In 1819 he as appointed to Alkmaar, where he published "Sermons for all Sundays and Holidays". On 15 Aug., 1832, with seven other missionaries, he arrived in Baltimore, and thence went to Cincinnati. The missionaries were sent to different places, and Father Van den Broek eventually went to the convent of St. Rose in Kentucky. After a short stay at St. Rose he was removed to Somerset, Ohio. Hearing of the sad condition of the Indians in Michigan (now Wisconsin), he obtained permission from Bishop Purcell of Cincinnati to go to them, and arrived at Green Bay, 4 July, 1834. He found there only ten Catholic families, but laboured zealously among the whites and Indians. He completed the church and priest's house begun by Father Mazzuchelli, and devoted himself to the Indians during an epidemic of cholera, aided by two self-sacrificing religious, Sisters Clara and Theresa Bourdalou. In 1836, at the request of the Indians of Little Chute, he took up his residence with them. He taught his Indian neophytes the alphabet, and they could soon read Bishop Baraga's prayer-books and catechisms. The following year he built a log church thirty by twenty-two feet and in 1839 he built an addition thereto of twenty feet. As the mission at Green Bay was for some time without a resident priest, Father Van den Broek frequently said Mass on Sundays at each place, walking the intervening distance of twenty- two miles even in the severest weather. He made arduous and dangerous journeys of two hundred miles, to minister to his Menominee and Winnebago Indians.

He had no income outside of his own resources; he built his first church himself, with the aid of his Indians. He was both priest and physician to the Indians at Buttes des Morts, Fort Winnebago, Fond du Lac, Prairie du Chien, Lake Poygan, Calumet, and even the Indian village on the Milwaukee River. He civilized the Indians, worked with them, showed them the use of tools, how to cultivate the land, and with their help he built a church seventy feet long, which he dedicated to St. John Nepomueene. Between 1836 and 1844 he converted and baptized over eight hundred Indians. In 1847 having obtained a priest to temporarily replace him, he sailed for Holland, arriving at Amsterdam, 13 August, 1847. In 1848 he returned with three shiploads of Dutch immigrants, whose descendants now form the population of north-eastern Wisconsin, and are distinguished by their zealous faith, industry, thrift, and good order. The influence of their missionary work has extended into Minnesota, Iowa, Michigan, Nebraska, South Dakota, Noth Dakota, Oregon, and other states.

About this page

APA citation. Wigman, J. (1912). Theodore J. Van den Broek. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.

MLA citation. Wigman, John. "Theodore J. Van den Broek." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 15. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912. <>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Michael T. Barrett. Dedicated to the memory of Peggy Reilly.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. October 1, 1912. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.

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