Francis Xavier Leray

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The Most Reverend

Francis Xavier Leray
Archbishop of New Orleans
Archbishop Francis Xavier Leray.jpg
See New Orleans
Installed December 28, 1883
Term ended September 23, 1887
Predecessor Napoléon-Joseph Perché
Successor Francis Janssens
Other posts Bishop of Natchitoches (1877-1879)
Coadjutor Archbishop of New Orleans (1879-1883)
Ordination March 19, 1852
Consecration April 22, 1877
Personal details
Born (1825-04-20)April 20, 1825
Châteaugiron, Ille-et-Vilaine, France
Died September 23, 1887(1887-09-23) (aged 62)
Châteaugiron, Ille-et-Vilaine, France

Francis Xavier Leray (April 20, 1825 – September 23, 1887) was a French-born prelate of the Roman Catholic Church who served as Bishop of Natchitoches (1877–1879) and Archbishop of New Orleans (1883–1887).


Leray was born in Châteaugiron, Ille-et-Vilaine, to René and Marie (née Roncin) Leray.[1] He studied at the College of Rennes from 1833 until 1844,[2] when he accepted an appeal for missionaries in Louisiana, United States.[3] Following his arrival, he taught for several months at Spring Hill College in Mobile, Alabama, before entering St. Mary's Seminary in Baltimore, Maryland, where he completed his theological studies.[3] In 1852 he accompanied Bishop John J. Chanche to Natchez, Mississippi, where Leray was ordained to priesthood on March 19 of that year.[4]

He then served as pastor of Jackson, and ministered to the sick and dying during the yellow fever epidemics of 1853 and 1855.[5] Leray himself was stricken by the fever and only by great care did he recover.[2] In 1857 he was named pastor of Vicksburg, where he built the first Catholic church and in 1860 introduced the Sisters of Mercy to establish a school.[3] During the Civil War (1861-1865), he served as a chaplain to the Confederate Army of Tennessee.[1] On several occasions he was taken prisoner by Union forces but was released as soon as he was identified as a priest.[3] After the war he returned to Vicksburg, which was visited by cholera in 1867.[5] He was also vicar general of Diocese of Natchez from 1871 to 1877.[1]

On November 27, 1876, Leray was appointed the second Bishop of Natchitoches, Louisiana, by Pope Pius IX.[4] He received his episcopal consecration on April 22, 1877 from Cardinal Geoffroy Brossais Saint-Marc, with Bishop Célestine Guynemer de la Hailandière and Charles Nouvel de La Flèche serving as co-consecrators, at Rennes Cathedral.[4] Leray remained in Natchitoches for only two years, being named Coadjutor Archbishop of New Orleans and Titular Archbishop of Ionopolis on October 23, 1879.[4] He was also charged with the administration of the financial affairs of the Archdiocese, which was left nearly $600,000 in debt from the war;[6] he managed to reduce this debt by at least half.[3]

Upon the death of Archbishop Napoléon-Joseph Perché, Leray succeeded him as the third Archbishop of New Orleans on December 28, 1883.[4] He received the pallium, a vestment worn by metropolitan bishops, from Cardinal James Gibbons in January 1884.[2] Leray attended the Third Plenary Council of Baltimore in November 1884, and continued his efforts to relieve New Orleans of its immense debt for the rest of his tenure.[2] An advocate of Catholic education, he increased the number of parochial schools from 36 to 70 during his administration as well.[2] In the hope of strengthening his failing health, he returned in 1887 to his native Châteaugiron, where he died shortly afterwards at age 62.[3]


  1. ^ a b c "LERAY, Francis Xavier". Louisiana Historical Association. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Clarke, Richard Henry. "Most Rev. Francis Xavier Leray, D.D.". Lives of the Deceased Bishops of the Catholic Church in the United States. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f "New Orleans". Catholic Encyclopedia. 
  4. ^ a b c d e "Archbishop Francis Xavier Leray". 
  5. ^ a b Wilson, James Grant and John Fiske. "LERAY, Francis Xavier". Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography. 
  6. ^ "A History of the Archdiocese of New Orleans: Reconstruction and its Aftermath (1865-1888)". Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New Orleans. 

Episcopal succession[edit]

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Augustus Marie Martin
Bishop of Natchitoches
Succeeded by
Anthony Durier
Preceded by
Napoléon-Joseph Perché
Archbishop of New Orleans
Succeeded by
Francis Janssens