Napoléon-Joseph Perché

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The Most Reverend
Napoléon-Joseph Perché
Archbishop of New Orleans
Church Roman Catholic Church
See Archdiocese of New Orleans
In office 25 May 1870—27 December 1883
Predecessor Jean-Marie Odin, C.M.
Successor Francis Xavier Leray
Orders
Ordination 19 September 1829
by Charles Montault des Isles
Consecration 1 May 1870
by Sylvester Horton Rosecrans
Personal details
Born (1805-01-10)January 10, 1805
Angers, Maine-et-Loire, France
Died December 27, 1883(1883-12-27) (aged 78)
New Orleans, Louisiana,
United States

The Most Rev. Napoléon-Joseph Perché (1805-1883) served as the third Archbishop of New Orleans from 1870 to 1883. The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New Orleans is the second-oldest diocese in the present-day United States.

Biography[edit]

Born 10 January 1805, Perché was a native of Angers, in the Department of Maine-et-Loire in France. He was ordained a priest at Beaupreau on 19 September 1829, after which he served in the local diocese until 1837, when he departed for the United States.[1]

Arriving in his new home, Perché served the Diocese of Bardstown (now Louisville) until 1842. He then moved to New Orleans, where he served as the chaplain to the Ursuline Convent of that city. He immediately founded the first diocesan newspaper, Le Propagateur Catholique, published in French.

In 1870 Perché was chosen by the Holy See as Coadjutor Archbishop of the Archdiocese of New Orleans, being named titular bishop of Abdera, for which position he was consecrated on 1 May of that same year. He succeeded Archbishop Jean-Marie Odin, C.M., as Archbishop of New Orleans only twenty-four days later.

Perché had to contend with the uncertain and financially troubled situation of the post-Civil War years. He forged ahead with an extensive program of expansion of the parishes and schools of the Archdiocese. Four new parishes were established within the city and another 23 in the surrounding towns. Additionally, he was a strong advocate of Catholic education, who viewed public school education as both inadequate and ungodly. Catholic schools, particularly in rural areas, were often more stable, better supported, and better attended than the public schools. By 1888, more than 11,000 students were being educated in schools of the Archdiocese.[2]

To support this expansion, Perché recruited several religious congregations of teaching Brothers and Religious Sisters from France. He also authorized the founding of a native congregation in 1871, the Sisters of the Immaculate Conception, established in Labadieville by the Rev. Cyprien Venissat. He additionally established three monasteries of enclosed religious orders in the Archdiocese.[2]

The archdiocesan paper founded by Perché had been temporarily suspended by federal authorities during the Civil War. Although it was resumed, it did not address the Archdiocese's growing population of English-speakers. In 1868, a new archdiocesan newspaper was launched, The Morning Star. This publication became the main one for the Archdiocese for more than sixty years. The Reverend Abram Joseph Ryan, the priest-poet of the Confederacy, was its editor from 1871 to 1875.[2]

Perché borrowed heavily to finance parish and school expansion, as well as his own personal charity to all the poor who knocked at his door. As a result, by the mid-1870s the Archdiocese had amassed a huge debt. In 1879 the Holy See appointed Bishop Francis Xavier Leray of Natchitoches as Coadjutor Archbishop and Apostolic Administrator of the Archdiocese, giving him full control over it. Upon his arrival in New Orleans, Leray found an archdiocesan debt of $590,925 (nearly one billion dollars as of 2012),[3] a debt which would restrict its development for the next quarter century.[2]

Perché died in New Orleans on 27 December 1883.[4] His remains were buried beneath the sanctuary of the Cathedral-Basilica of St. Louis in New Orleans.[5]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Catholic Hierarchy
  2. ^ a b c d A History of the Archdiocese of New Orleans: Reconstruction and its Aftermath 1865-1888
  3. ^ MeasuringWorth.com
  4. ^ The Catholic Encyclopedia; A History of the Archdiocese of New Orleans; Notre Dame Archives; Catholic Hierarchy.
  5. ^ Cathedral-Basilica of St. Louis: Bishops

Episcopal succession[edit]

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Jean-Marie Odin, C.M.
Archbishop of New Orleans
1870—1883
Succeeded by
Francis Xavier Leray