Roman Catholic Diocese of Vincennes, Indiana

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The Diocese of Vincennes (in Latin, Vincennapolis) was created on May 6, 1834 by Pope Gregory XVI. It then encompassed Indiana as well as the eastern third of Illinois.

Residential Bishops of Vincennes[edit]

  1. Simon Bruté de Rémur (1834–1839)
  2. Célestine Guynemer de la Hailandière (1839–1847)
  3. Jean Bazin (1847–1848)
  4. Jacques-Maurice De Saint Palais (1848–1877)
  5. Francis Silas Chatard (1878–1918)


The earliest records of the Catholic Church in Vincennes, Indiana date to 1749, but French Jesuit missionaries had been in the area as early as the 1730s.[1]:7. In these early years, the Church in Indiana was under the authority of the Diocese of Quebec, Canada. In its early years, the faith community experienced suffering during the American Revolution, hostility from Native Americans, and epidemics that swept through the frontier, as well as a profound lack of money and priests to minister to the people.

In 1789, Pope Pius VI created the first Catholic diocese in the United States, the Diocese of Baltimore. Indiana came under the authority of Bishop John Carroll of Baltimore, and in 1791 he sent Fr. Benedict Joseph Flaget to succeed Fr. Pierre Gibault at the fledgling parish of St. Francis Xavier in Vincennes.[1]:9 In 1808 Pope Pius VII divided the United States and its territories into five dioceses, and the Northwest Territories came under the authority of the then-Diocese of Bardstown with Benedict Flaget as its bishop.

In 1832, Bishop Flaget, along with Bishop Joseph Rosati of St. Louis, Missouri, petitioned the Holy See to name Fr./Dr. Simon Bruté de Rémur as the first Bishop of Vincennes. The Diocese was created by Papal Decree on May 6, 1834 and Fr. Bruté was elevated to Bishop on October 28. At the time of his installation, there were only 3 priests in his diocese which covered all of Indiana and the eastern third of Illinois.[1]:12-15 Bishop Bruté made a point to visit each Catholic family in his diocese, regardless of the distance from his rectory. His devotion to his diocese contributed to his demise, as he caught a cold while going to a provincial council in Baltimore, which weakened his immune system and he continued to minister despite this.[1]:17

Despite the consecration of a cathedral, Bishop de Hailandière experienced many problems with the size of the diocese, leading to his resignation in 1847.[1]:21 His successor, John Stephen Bazin, was the first bishop ordained in Indiana and quickly delegated authority to two vicars general. He died shortly thereafter, having served just six months.[1]:25 His successor, Maurice de Saint-Palais, had to contend with unresolved monetary issues from Hailandière's episcopacy and a cholera epidemic, while expanding the educational and ministerial opportunities. Under his watch Mother Theodore Guerin started an orphanage in Vincennes, monks from Einsiedeln, Switzerland came to found an abbey and seminary in southern Indiana, St. Ann's opened as a school for Negroes.[1]:27-30

Bishop de Saint-Palais also had to contend with the call for soldiers in the American Civil War. Several priests from the Diocese of Vincennes served as chaplains, and one Fr. Ernest Audran was drafted as a soldier in 1864.[1]:32 De St. Palais did not preach with regard to the Emancipation Proclamation, thinking that doing so would venture too much into politics. He recognized that Indianapolis was quickly growing and was the eighth-largest city in the United States as of 1870 but he relegated the decision to move the seat of the diocese there to his successor.[1]:35

The Diocese of Vincennes was renamed the Diocese of Indianapolis on March 28, 1898. Bishop Francis Silas Chatard, who had been living in Indianapolis since his appointment as Bishop of Vincennes in 1878, became the first bishop of the diocese to bear the title of Bishop of Indianapolis.

Change from residential to titular see[edit]

In the course of the 19th century the Diocese of Vincennes, even before its change of name, lost territory to newly founded dioceses both in eastern Illinois and in Indiana itself, where the Diocese of Fort Wayne was formed On January 8, 1857. Finally, on October 21, 1944, the city of Vincennes, which had been the seat of the Diocese of Vincennes, became part of the newly created Roman Catholic Diocese of Evansville, thus ending its connection with what on the same date became the Metropolitan Archdiocese of Indianapolis.[2]

The first titular bishop of what had thus become the titular see of Vincennes was appointed in 1995, in the person of Bishop Gerald Eugene Wilkerson.[3]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Kennedy, Sr. Francis Assisi (2009). Like a Mustard Seed Growing. France: Editions du Signe. ISBN 978-2-7468-1911-5. 
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