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Augustine Van De Vyve
Sixth Bishop of Richmond, Virginia; b. at Haesdonck, East Flanders, Belgium, 1 Dec., 1844; d. at Richmond, 16 Oct., 1911. His parents were John Ferdinand Van de Vyver and Sophia (De Schepper). He was educated in the city of St. Nicholas, Belgium, and at the American College, Louvain (1867-70). Ordained priest, 24 July, 1870, he served successively as assistant at St. Peter's Cathedral, Richmond, pastor of Harper's Ferry (1875-81), pastor of the cathedral, and vicar-general of the Diocese of Richmond (1881-89). Assigned with him at the cathedral for a time was the Rev. Dennis J. O'Connell, D.D., who was destined to be his successor in the See of Richmond. Father Van De Vyver's appointment by Rome to succeed Bishop Keane as Bishop of Richmond, 16 July, 1889, was furthered by a petition of the priests of the diocese. He was consecrated, 20 October, 1889, having as consecrating prelates his two predecessors, His Eminence James Cardinal Gibbons and Bishop J.J. Keane (afterwards archbishop), then rector of the Catholic University, Washington. During Bishop Van De Vyver's administration Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Fortune Ryan of New York donated the Sacred Heart Cathedral, the former the building, the latter the furnishings, at a cost of nearly a half million dollars. His Eminence, Cardinal (then Apostolic Delegate and Archbishop) Diomede Falconio, laid the corner stone of the new cathedral, 4 June, 1903, and consecrated the same, 29 November, 1906. In a quasi-synod held by the bishop, 12 November, 1907, new laws were enacted to meet the needs of the diocese. Guided by a spirit of deep humility, Bishop Van De Vyver made several ineffectual attempts to resign his see. The first, in 1903, and the second, in 1905, were frustrated by the Church authorities, priest and people being ignorant of his intention. The bishop's third and almost successful attempt to resign (1908) came to the knowledge of the people, who held a great mass meeting of protest, their cause being materially aided by the public Press. The efforts of clergy and laity caused the final withdrawal of his resignation.
In 1910 Bishop Van De Vyver acted as spiritual director of a pilgrimage to Rome. He had already made two "ad limina" visits to the Eternal City, one shortly after consecration, the other in 1905. Among the later works which he inaugurated may be mentioned the erection of the McGill Catholic Union and the Knights of Columbus home. At his suggestion Mrs. and Mrs. Thomas F. Ryan gave to the diocese large sums for charitable, educational, and other purposes of a religious nature. Mrs. Ryan has donated churches, schools, and convents in various parts of the state. After a farewell visit to his relatives in Belgium, followed by two weeks of illness on his return, and having calmly prepared himself by the reception of the last sacraments, Bishop Van De Vyver passed to his eternal reward. He was buried, 20 October, on the 22nd anniversary of his consecration. By his own request, the burial was in Mount Calvary Cemetery, Richmond, which he as vicar-general had purchased. With the exception of Bishop McGill, he was the only Bishop of Richmond who died as bishop there, the others having been transferred to other sees. He was revered as a kind father and sympathetic friend, having a wide acquaintance amongst people of all ranks and denominations. His private life was simple, humble, and democratic. During his regime, Catholicism made marked progress within the diocese. (See RICHMOND, DIOCESE OF; VIRGINIA.)
MAGRI, The Catholic Church in the City and Diocese of Richmond (Richmond, 1896); The Catholic Church in the United States of America (new York, 1909); SHEA, Our Faith and its Defenders (New York, 1894); The Catholic Directory (Milwaukee and New York, 1871-1911); Diocesan documents and newspaper files (Richmond, 1870-1911).
F. Joseph Magri.