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Diocese of Detroit
Diocese established 8 March, 1838, comprises the counties of the lower peninsula of the State of Michigan, U.S.A., south of the Counties of Ottawa, Kent, Montcalm, Gratiot, and Saginaw, and east of the Counties of Saginaw and Bay; an area of 18,558 miles. Suffragan of Cincinnati.
To the martyr Father Isaac Jogues and his fellow Jesuit Father Charles Raynbaut, belongs the honour of planting the Cross in Michigan when, in 1642, they began their mission to the Chippeways of the Sault Ste. Marie. Father René Menard, also a Jesuit, followed them in 1660, and was martyred the next year by a band of prowling savages. His death did not deter others of his brethren in the Society of Jesus from hastening to this field of labour, and we find Father Claude Allouez, at Chegoimegon, 1 October, 1665, preaching to the Ottawas and Hurons, and with him these other missionaries: Fathers Claude Dablon, Louis André, Gabriel Druilletes, and the famous Jacques Marquette. The last, in 1671, began at Michilimackinaw, his mission of St. Ignatius, where the first chapel for white men in Michigan was established. France took formal possession of the West in 1671, but England entering the field to dispute for the mastery, political intrigue followed, to the disaster of the old missions among the Indians. Fort St. Joseph, established at Detroit in 1688, developed into the post established there in 1700 by La Mothe Cadillac, who brought with him a number of Canadian families. This mission was served by the Recollects and under the pastorate of the Rev. Nicholas Benedict Constantin de l'Halle, on 26 July, 1701, the church of St. Anne was dedicated. This is the mother-church of the Northwest, and the parish records are preserved in an unbroken series in the archives of the St. Anne's Church of the present, the building being the sixth of the name in the line of succession. The first entry in this registry is that of the baptism of a child of Cadillac, the founder of the colony. It is asserted that no other parish in the United States can present a similar record. This church was burned by discontented Indians in 1704, and again during an Indian outbreak in 1712. Father de l'Halle was killed by the Indians in 1706.
Other pastors during this period were the Recollect Fathers Bonaventure, Dominic de la Marche, Cherubin Denieau, Hyacinth Pelifresne, and Simplicius Bouquet (1752-82) and the Sulpitian Fathers Calvarin, Mercier, and Thaumur de la Somce. Detroit remained under English domination until 1796, when with the change of political control the spiritual jurisdiction passed to Bishop Carroll of Baltimore, and the Bishop of Quebec recalled his priests from the Michigan territory. Among those ministering at Detroit during the English occupation were Father Thomas Portier, who died in 1781, and Father John Francis Hubert, who was made Coadjutor Bishop of Quebec in June, 1785.
At the dawn of the nineteenth century Detroit, still a military post, had a population of about 2000, mainly French Catholics. St. Anne's parish then comprised the whole of the present State of Michigan and most of Wisconsin. In 1796 Bishop Carroll sent the Sulpitian Father Michael Levadoux to take charge at Detroit. In June of the same year Fathers Gabriel Richard and Dilhet were appointed to assist him, the latter taking up his residence at Raisin River. Father Levadoux was recalled to Baltimore in 1801. Father Richard succeeded him and became not only pastor of St. Anne's, but one of the leading figures in the development of the West. This remarkable priest was born at Saintes, France, 15 October, 1767. His father was a government employee, and his mother Geneviève Bossuet, a scion of the same family as the great Bishop of Meaux. He was ordained as a Sulpitian at Paris, in October, 1791. The Revolution drove him from his native land, and with Fathers Maréchal, Ciquard, and Matigonon, he arrived in Baltimore, 24 June, 1792. It was intended that they should be teachers at St. Mary's Seminary, but they were assigned to missionary work instead, as the seminary was not then ready for them. Father Richard was sent to Prairie du Rocher and Kaskaskia, Illinois, where he spent six years of hardship and privation, but fruitful in the results of his zealous ministrations. When he arrived at Detroit in June, 1798, he found religious conditions far from ideal, the town having been for years an Indian trading centre. He began at once to exert a salutary influence for the reformation of existing abuses and devoted himself also to promoting the welfare of the numerous Indian missions in the surrounding country. In the summer of 1801 he had Bishop Denaut of Quebec visit Detroit on the invitation of Bishop Carroll and confirm 521 persons of ages ranging from thirteen to eighty years. His manuscript list of their names and ages is still kept in St. Anne's archives. In 1804 he started a Young Ladies' Academy and a seminary to foster vocations for the priesthood for young men, but a fire which destroyed the town 11 June, 1805, swept these away as well as the church and priests' residence. So active were his resourceful methods that within three years another church was provided, the Catholic schools of Detroit were again in operation, and tuition given in six primary schools and two academies for girls. He was one of the founders of the University of Michigan, which began with the act of the legislature passed 26 August, 1817, establishing "the Catholepistemiad or University of Michigan" of which he was vice president and professor for six of the thirteen departments of which its curriculum was made up. In 1807 the governor and other officials requested him to lecture to them and thus afforded him the opportunity to be the first priest in the United States to deliver a series of religious lectures to non-Catholics. He spoke to them on the general principles of religion and morality at noon every Sunday in the Council House. Explaining this action to Bishop Carroll, he wrote: "As there was no English minister here of any denomination, I thought it might be of some utility to take possession of the ground." The following year he went to Baltimore and brought back type and a printing press which he set up in Detroit. From this, on 31 August, 1809, he issued the "Michigan Essay or Impartial Observer", the first paper published in Michigan and the first Catholic paper in the United States. It had several columns printed in French and the rest in English and had only one advertisement - that of St. Anne's school. Between 1809 and 1812 he printed on this press seven books of a religious and educational character, one, "The Epistles and Gospels for all the Sundays and Feast-days of the Year", being the first publication in the Northwest of a part of the Holy Scriptures.
The war of 1812 with England demoralized conditions in Detroit, which fell into the hands of the British. Father Richard was arrested and kept a prisoner in Canada during the contest. On being released he returned to his parish and was at once busy helping everybody to repair the ravages of the war. In 1823 he was elected a Delegate to Congress from Michigan Territory, the only instance in which a priest has held a seat in the House of Representatives. He had five opponents at the polls, but many non-Catholics voted for him, which outweighed the bitter opposition of a number of members of his parish led by one of the trustees who had long been at enmity with him. He gave his salary for the improvement of the church. Just before he left for Washington he was put in prison by one of his parishioners who had obtained a divorce in a civil court and remarried. Father Richard declared him excommunicated, and the man sued for damages to his reputation and business and got a judgment of $1,116. This Father Richard refused to pay, and he was imprisoned until three of his friends gave a bond for him. The judgment was eventually reversed. In Congress he worked assiduously for the interests of Michigan, but the only notable speech he made was that advocating the bill for the opening of a post-road from Detroit to Chicago. He sought re-election at the end of his term, but was defeated, mainly through the exertions of his trustee opponents. When Bishop Fenwick was consecrated first Bishop of Cincinnati in 1822 Michigan passed from Bardstown to that jurisdiction. Father Richard prepared for him a statement of the condition of the Territory, in which he then estimated there were about 6000 Catholics with five churches and two priests - himself and his assistant. An epidemic of cholera broke out in Detroit in the summer of 1832, and the venerable missionary, while unstintingly devoting himself to the help of the suffering, fell a victim to the disease, of which he died, 13 September, 1832. Preparations had been under way even then to raise Detroit to a bishopric, of which, had he lived, he would probably have received the mitre.
(1) John Frederic Reze (the name is also given as Reese in the German ecclesiastical records), who had been a zealous missionary throughout the territory, was appointed the first bishop 25 February, 1833, and was consecrated at Cincinnati 6 October of the same year. He was born 6 February, 1791, at Viennenberg, Hanover, and enjoys the distinction of being the first German-born bishop of the American hierarchy. Drafted into military service in his youth, he served under Blücher as a dragoon at the battle of Waterloo. He was ordained in Rome, in 1822, and emigrated to the American missions in 1825, affiliating himself with Bishop Fenwick in Ohio. In 1827 he was sent to Europe to secure Gemnan priests and financial aid for the struggling missions and returned in a year, after success in both efforts. Through his exertions the famous Leopoldine Association that gave so much substantial help to the Church in the United States was founded in Austria in 1829. When he look charge of the Diocese of Detroit there were eight churches and the Ottawa Indian mission within its limits. Under his auspices the Poor Glares opened a convent in Detroit and a school at Green Bay (1833). Holy Trinity church was built at Detroit, and parishes established at Monroe, Grand River, and Bertrand. A hospital was opened in Detroit in 1834 during an outbreak of cholera, where also St. Philip's College, an orphan asylum, Trinity Academy, and a house of the Ladies of Providence were established, with several parochial schools. The bishop, however, was attacked with softening of the brain and expressed in a letter to the Provincial Council of Baltimore, in 1837, a wish to resign or transfer the administration to a coadjutor. He was suspended from all episcopal jurisdiction and went to Rome, where he remained until the disorders in the city by the revolutionists in 1848, and then retired to his native Diocese of Hildesheim, Germany, where he died at the mother-house of the Sisters Of Charity, 30 December, 1871, and was buried in the cathedral of that place.
(2) Peter Paul Lefebre, another active and successful missionary of the Diocese of Cincinnati, was named as the coadjutor and administrator of Detroit, and consecrated titular Bishop of Zella, at Philadelphia, 21 November, 1841. He was born 30 April, 1804, at Roulers, near Ghent, Belgium, and, emigrating to the United States in 1828, was ordained priest at St. Louis, 17 July, 1831. He was in Europe when he was appointed bishop, but returned at once for his consecration. He was a careful and conservative prelate, forecasting the future in his selection of church sites, and devoting himself actively to the expansion of the facilities for the practice of the Faith in his diocese and the spread of sound Catholic education. The Redemptorists and the Religious of the Sacred Heart were established in Detroit, and for the parochial schools the Christian Brothers, the Sisters of Notre Dame, the Sisters of Charity, and the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary were brought into the diocese. In 1844 the creation of the new See of Milwaukee relieved the Bishop of Detroit of the care of that section and enabled him to devote more attention to his Indian missions, which were developed splendidly. In 1857 the separation of the Diocese of Sault-Ste-Marie was made at Bishop Lefebre's suggestion. With Bishop Spalding he was mainly instrumental in founding, in 1857, the American College at Louvain. He died, 4 March, 1869.
(3) Casper H. Borgess was appointed his successor and consecrated titular Bishop of Calyson and coadjutor and administrator of Detroit, 24 April, 1870. On the death of Bishop Reze, 30 December, 1871, he assumed the title of Detroit. He resigned 16 April, 1888, and died 3 May, 1890.
(4) John Samual Foley was named the fourth bishop and consecrated at Baltimore, 4 November, 1888. He was born in that city 5 November, 1833, and ordained priest in Rome 20 December, 1856. His brother was Bishop Thomas Foley, administrator of Chicago (1870-79). The early settlers of Detroit had been French; these were followed, at different intervals, by Belgians, Germans, Poles, Slavs, and Italians. Bishop Foley established a special seminary for the Poles and secured the ministrations of religious of that nationality. A schism among them of several years' duration, and of disastrous results, was healed through his forbearance. In 1907 the priests and laity of the diocese, in honour of the golden jubilee of his priesthood, presented Bishop Foley with St. Francis's Home for Orphan Boys, built at a cost of $250,000.
The Congregation of the Sisters Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary was founded at Monroe, Michigan, 28 Nov., 1845, by the Rev. Louis Gillet, C. SS. R. Three young ladies, two from Baltimore and one from Detroit, formed the new community, whose rule was taken from that of St. Alphonsus, and whose secondary object was the education of youth. In 1859 some of the sisters went to Pennsylvania; there are now three distinct mother-houses, one in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, one in the Diocese of Scranton, and the original at Monroe, in the Diocese of Detroit. Besides these the sisters have schools in the Dioceses of Harrisburg, Altoona, Boise, Grand Rapids, Cleveland, Seattle, and Oregon.
The following religious orders and congregations have foundations in the diocese. - Communities of men: Fathers of St. Basil, Capuchins, Fathers of the Holy Ghost, Fathers of the Precious Blood, Redemptorists, Jesuits, Franciscans, Brothers of the Christian Schools, Xaverian Brothers. Communities of women: Sisters of Charity (Mt. St. Joseph, Ohio), Sisters of Charity (Emmitsburg, Md.), Sisters of Christian Charity, Sisters of St. Dominic (New York City), Sisters of St. Dominic (Racine, Wis.), School Sisters of St. Francis, Felician Sisters, Sisters of the Good Shepherd, Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary, Sisters Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Sisters of St. Joseph, Religious of the Sacred Heart, Little Sisters of the Poor, School Sisters of Notre Dame, Polish Sisters of St. Joseph, Sisters of St. Dominic of the Perpetual Adoration.
1 bishop, 237 priests (193 secular and 44 regular), 146 churches with resident priests, 66 missions with churches, 20 stations, 23 chapels, 1 theological seminary for the secular clergy with 320 students, 40 Polish students, 1 theological seminary for religious; 3 colleges and academies for boys, students 600; 7 academies for girls, students 870; 70 parishes and missions with schools, pupils 23,086; 3 orphan asylums, inmates 600; 1 House of the Good Shepherd, inmates in preservation class 125. Total number of children under Catholic care, 23,811; 4 hospitals; 1 home for aged poor, inmates 250; 1 home for feeble-minded; 1 infant asylum, 1 home for working boys. Estimated Catholic population 256,500 (Catholic families 50,041).
Shea, History of Cath. Missions among the Indian Tribes of U.S. New York, 1855); Idem, Life and Times of Most Rev. John Carroll (New York, 1888); Idem, History of Cath. Ch. in U.S. (New York, 1904); Campbell, Pioneer Priests of North America (New York, 1908); U.S. Cath. Hist. Soc., Hist. Records and Studies (New York, November, 1907), V, Pt. I; Reuss, Biog. Cycl. of the Catholic Hierarchy of U.S. (Milwaukee, 1889); Clarke, Lives of Deceased Bishops (New York, 1872); Catholic Directory (1908); Cooley, Michigan: a History of Governments (Boston, 1885); Mclaughlin, History of Education in Michigan (Washington, 1891).
THOMAS F. MEEHAN