Simon Bruté

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Simon William Gabriel Bruté de Rémur
Simon William Gabriel Brute from Who-When-What Book, 1900
Born (1779-03-20)March 20, 1779
Rennes, France
Died June 26, 1839(1839-06-26) (aged 60)
Vincennes, Indiana
Education Seminary of Saint Sulpice in Paris
Parent(s) Simon-Guillaume-Gabriel Bruté de Remur (father)
Ordained 1808
Writings Brief Notes
Offices held
Bishop of the Diocese of Vincennes, Indiana

Simon William Gabriel Bruté de Rémur (March 20, 1779 – June 26, 1839) was a French missionary in the United States and the first bishop of the Diocese of Vincennes, Indiana. President John Quincy Adams called Bruté “the most learned man of his day in America.” [1][2]

Early life and education in France[edit]

Bruté was born on March 20, 1779, at Rennes, France. His father Simon-Guillaume-Gabriel Bruté de Remur served as Superintendent of the Royal Domains in Brittany.[3] During the French Revolution, young Bruté helped his mother operate a print shop, learning to composite type and set pages. Despite his mother's efforts to shield him from the Reign of Terror and other horrors, the aristocratic youth still witnessed many disturbing scenes, including the trials and executions of priests and nobles.

Bruté began studying medicine in 1796 and graduated in 1803, though he never practiced medicine. Instead, after graduation, he entered the reopened seminary of Saint Sulpice in Paris in November 1803. Ordained a priest in 1808, Fr. Bruté refused the post of chaplain to Napoleon I, but instead joined the Society of Saint-Sulpice, and taught theology in the diocesan seminary at Rennes from 1808 through 1810.

Due to his long interest in missions, Fr. Bruté met Benedict Joseph Flaget, who had left Saint Sulpice when it was closed during the French Revolution and then served as a missionary in the United States. Flaget had returned to the motherhouse after attempting to refuse appointment as bishop of the new diocese of Bardstown, Kentucky.

Missionary and American bishop[edit]

In August 1810, Bruté sailed for Baltimore along with Bishop Flaget of Bardstown, Anthony Deydier and others. After teaching philosophy (and learning English) for two years at St. Mary's College, Baltimore, Bruté spent some time on the Eastern Shore. He was then sent to Mount St. Mary's College, in Emmitsburg, Maryland, where he remained until his appointment as Bishop of Vincennes in 1834, leaving only for three years, 1815–1818, to administer St. Mary's College and Seminary in Baltimore. In Emmitsburg, he acted both as teacher and as pastor, as well as spiritual director to the future saint Elizabeth Ann Seton. In 1834, despite his humble protest to remain at his 'Mountain' home, Bruté accepted the position of Bishop of Vincennes and crossed the Appalachian mountains to serve in the newly created diocese, which encompassed all of modern-day Indiana plus eastern Illinois.

French missionaries sent from Quebec had served Native Americans and fur traders throughout the region and particularly at Vincennes (founded 1732), including assisting George Rogers Clark during the American Revolution. Afterwards, the area came under the jurisdiction of the diocese of Baltimore until the creation of the diocese of Bardstown. Missionaries such as Bruté and the more experienced Fr. Stephen Badin traveled by horse, foot, flatboat and canoe between widely scattered settlements. The neighboring Indians, called Bruté chief of the black robes and man of the true prayer.

However, American colonists had begun streaming over the Appalachian Mountains, joined by emigrants (including Catholic emigrants from France and Germany). Vincennes had been founded where the historic Buffalo Trace crossed the Wabash River and its subsidiary, but thousands emigrated from the East as well as south to settle central Indiana. This caused conflict with the Native Americans, who had lost the Northwest Indian War and the War of 1812. The sheer numbers of emigrants, many Catholic, helped qualify Indiana for admission as a separate state, with Vincennes as its first capital, although it soon moved north, ultimately to Indianapolis on the National Road. The state line at the Wabash River little affected missionaries such as Bruté and Badin. Bardstown, however, was across the falls of the Ohio River, and Kentucky, unlike Ohio, Indiana and Illinois, was a slave state, and slavery had become a major spiritual as well as economic issue in the new nation.

Simon William Gabriel Brute from History of the Diocese of Vincennes, 1883

Rome split the diocese of Bardstown and created the Diocese of Vincennes, Indiana in 1834, the year after the Treaty of Tippecanoe caused many Potawatomi to relocate across the Mississippi River, although others remained, particularly the assimilated metis. Bruté became the new diocese's first bishop and was consecrated in the same year. On March 7, 1835 Bruté became a U.S. citizen, partly because of the requirements for land ownership.[4]

The new bishop soon traveled to France seeking money, with which he built St. Francis Xavier Cathedral, a library, seminary and parochial schools. In addition to his episcopal duties and pastoral work, Bruté taught theology in his seminary and also in one of his academies. In 1836 Bruté returned from a trip to France with several clerical recruits, among them Benjamin Petit, who became a missionary to the Potawatomi. Bruté also recruiting old acquaintances such as Anthony Deydier who arrived on the same boat as Bruté in 1810.

By the time bishop Bruté died, the number of clergymen had grown tremendously. Bruté knew, however, that much work remained to be done. For a number of years before his death he had sought a coadjutor bishop, including Nicholas Petit S.J.[5] but the Superior of the Society of Jesus refused to allow Petit to be named. No no one had been named before his death.

Death and legacy[edit]

Bruté died in Vincennes, Indiana on June 26, 1839. His great influence on the entire church, his success in planning, financing, and carrying out necessary ecclesiastical reforms, and the constructive and executive ability he displayed in his diocese, made him one of the foremost Catholic emigrants to the United States. He wrote Brief Notes on his experiences in France in 1793, in which he described state persecution of Catholic priests.

The name of the Latin School of Indianapolis, now closed, was changed to Bishop Bruté Latin School in his honor. The Archdiocese of Indianapolis runs a College Seminary named after Bishop Bruté;[6] students attend classes at the nearby Marian University.

In 2005, one of Bruté's successors, Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein (of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis – transferred from Vincennes in 1898), began the process for the eventual canonization of Bishop Bruté, who is now known as "Servant of God".[7]

Archbishop Buechlein's successor, Archbishop Joseph William Tobin, who was installed in December 2012, has continued Bruté's cause. Thousands of documents must be gone through before the 'cause' can be presented to Rome. Archbishop Tobin quoted from Bruté's first pastoral letter in his own installation homily by saying " unworthy as I am of so great an honor, and of myself unequal of the charge, my only trust is in God; and, therefore, earnestly calling for your prayers, that I may obtain His Divine assistance, I come to be your chief pastor." [8]


  1. ^ History of Old Vincennes and Knox County, Indiana, Volume 1 p. 412 By George E. Greene
  2. ^ The Old Vincennes Cathedral and Its Environs p. 12 by Curtis Grover Shake
  3. ^ [1][dead link]
  4. ^ Albert Henri Ledoux, "The Life and Thought of Simon Brute: Seminary Professor and Frontier Bishop" (Ph.D. diss., Catholic University of America, 2005), p. 392
  5. ^ C. M. Widman, 'Father Nicholas Petit, S.J., and the Coadjutorship of Vincennes, ' Woodstock Letters, XXXI (1902), 43.
  6. ^ "Bishop Simon Brute College Seminary". Retrieved 26 November 2017. 
  7. ^ "Servant of God Simon Bruté". Retrieved 26 November 2017. 
  8. ^ "Installation Mass Homily". Retrieved 26 November 2017. 


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