ARCHDIOCESE OF NEW ORLEANS (NOVÆ AURELIÆ).
Erected 25 April, 1793, as the Diocese of Saint Louis of New Orleans; raised to its present rank and title 19 July, 1850. Its original territory comprised the ancient Louisiana purchase and East and West Florida, being bounded on the north by the Canadian line, on the west by the Rocky Mountains and the Rio Perdito, on the east by the Diocese of Baltimore, and on the south by the Diocese of Linares and the Archdiocese of Durango. The present boundaries include the State of Louisiana, between the twenty-ninth and thirty-first degree of north latitude, an area of 23,208 square miles. The entire territory of Louisiana has undergone a series of changes which divides its history into four distinct periods.
The discoverers and pioneers, De Soto, Iberville, La Salle, Bienville, were accompanied by missionaries in their expeditions through the Louisiana Purchase, and in the toilsome beginnings of the first feeble settlements, which were simply military posts, the Cross blazed the way. From the beginning of its history, Louisiana had been placed under the Bishop of Quebec; in 1696 the priests of the seminary of Quebec petitioned the second Bishop of Quebec for authority to establish missions in the west, investing the superior sent out by the seminary with the powers of vicar-general. The field for which they obtained this authority (1 May, 1698), was on both banks of the Mississippi and its tributaries. They proposed to plant their first mission among the Tamarois, but when this became known, the Jesuits claimed that tribe as one already under their care; they received the new missionaries with personal cordiality, but felt keenly the official action of Bishop St-Vallier, in what they regarded as an intrusion. Fathers Jolliet de Montigny, Antoine Davion, and François Busion de Saint-Cosme were the missionaries sent to found the new missions in the Mississippi Valley. In 1699 Iberville, who had sailed from France, with his two brothers Bienville and Sauvolle, and Father Du Ru, S.J., coming up the estuary of the Mississippi, found Father Montigny among the Tensus Indians. Iberville left Sauvolle in command of the little fort at Biloxi, the first permanent settlement in Louisiana. Father Bordenave was its first chaplain, thus beginning a long line of zealous parish priests in Louisiana.
In 1703, Bishop St-Vallier proposed to erect Mobile into a parish, and to annex it in perpetuity to the seminary ; the seminary agreed, and the Parish of Mobile was erected 20 July, 1703; and united to the Seminary of Foreign Missions of Paris and Quebec. Father Roulleaux de la Vente, of the Diocese of Bayeaux, was appointed parish priest and Father Huve his assistant. The Biloxi settlement being difficulty of access from the sea, Bienville thought it unsuitable for the headquarters of the province. In 1718, taking with him fifty men, he selected Tchoutchouma, the present site of New Orleans, about 110 miles from the mouth of the Mississippi, where there was a deserted Indian village. Bienville directed his men to clear the grounds and erect buildings. The city was laid out according to the plans of the Chevalier Le Blond de La Tour, chief engineer of the colony, the plans including a parish church, which Bienville decided to dedicate under the invocation of St. Louis. The old St. Louis cathedral stands today on the site of this first parish church, and the presbytery in Cathedral Alley is the site of the first modest clergy house. Bienville called the city New Orleans after the Duc d'Orléans, and the whole territory Louisiana, or New France.
In August, 1717, the Duc d'Orléans, as Regent of France, issued letters patent establishing a joint-stock company to be called "The Company of the West", to which Louisiana was transferred. The company was obliged to build churches at its own expense wherever it should establish settlements; also to maintain the necessary number of duly approved priests to preach, perform Divine service and administer the sacraments under the authority of the Bishop of Quebec. Bienville experienced much opposition from the Company of the West in his attempt to remove the colony from Biloxi. In 1721 Fr. Francis-Xavier de Charlevoix, S.J., one of the first historians of Louisiana, made a tour of New France from the Lakes to the Mississippi, visiting New Orleans, which he describes as "a little village of about one hundred cabins dotted here and there, a large wooden warehouse in which I said Mass, a chapel in course of construction and two storehouses". But under Bienville's direction the city soon took shape, and, with the consent of the company, the colony was moved to this site in 1723. Father Charlevoix reported on the great spiritual destitution of the province occasioned by the missions being scattered so far apart and the scarcity of priests, and this compelled the council of the company to make efforts to improve conditions. Accordingly, the company applied to the Bishop of Quebec, and on 16 May, 1722, Louisiana was divided into three ecclesiastical sections. The district north of the Ohio was entrusted to the Society of Jesus and the Priests of the Foreign Missions of Paris and Quebec; that between the Mississippi and the Rio Perdito, to the Discalced Carmelite Fathers with headquarters at Mobile. The Carmelites were recalled, not long after, and their district was given to to Capuchins.
A different arrangement was made for the Indian and new French settlements on the lower Mississippi. Because of the remoteness of this district from Quebec, Father Louis-François Duplessis de Mornay, a Capuchin of Meudon, was consecrated, at Bishop St-Vallier's request, coadjutor Bishop of Quebec, 22 April, 1714. Bishop St-Vallier appointed him vicar-general for Louisiana, but he never came to America, although he eventually succeeded to the See of Quebec. When the Company of the West applied to him for priests for the lower Mississippi Valley he offered the more populous field of colonists to the Capuchin Fathers of the province of Champaigne, who, however, did not take any immediate steps, and it was not until 1720 that any of the order came to Louisiana. Father Jean-Matthieu de Saint-Anne is the first whose name is recorded. He signs himself in 1720 in the register of the parish of New Orleans. The last entry of the secular clergy in Mobile is that of Rev. Alexander Huve, 13 January, 1721. The Capuchins came directly from France and consequently found application to the Bishop of Quebec long and tedious; Father Matthieu therefore applied to Rome for special power for fifteen missions under his charge, representing that the great distance from the Bishop of Quebec made it practically impossible for him to apply to the Bishop. A brief was really issued (Michael a Tugio, "Bullarium Ord. FF. Minor. S.P. Francisci Capucinorum", Fol. 1740-52; BLI., pp. 322, 323), and Father Matthieu seems to have assumed that it exempted him from episcopal jurisdiction, for, on 14 March, 1723, he signs the register "Père Matthieu, Vicaire Apostolique et Curé de la Mobile ".
In 1722 Bishop Mornay entrusted the spiritual jurisdiction of the Indians to the Jesuits, who were to establish missions in all parts of Louisiana with residence at New Orleans, but were not to exercise any ecclesiastical function there without the consent of the Capuchins, though they were to minister to the French in the Illinois District, with the Priests of the Foreign Missions, where the superior of each body was a vicar-general, just as the Capuchin superior was at New Orleans. In the spring of 1723 Father Raphael du Luxembourg arrived to assume his duties as superior of the Capuchin Mission in Louisiana. It was a difficult task that the Capuchins had assumed. Their congregations were scattered over a large area; there was much poverty, suffering, and ignorance of religion. Father Raphael, in the cathedral archives, says that when he landed in New Orleans he could hardly secure a room for himself and his brethren to occupy pending the rebuilding of the presbytery, much less one to convert into a chapel ; for the population seemed indifferent to all that savoured of religion. There were less than thirty persons at Mass on Sundays ; yet, undismayed, the missionaries set to work and saw their zeal rewarded with a greater reverence for religion and more faithful attendance at church. In 1725 New Orleans had become an important settlement, the Capuchins having a flock of six hundred families. Mobile had declined to sixty families, the Apache Indians (Catholic) numbered sixty families. There were six at Balize, two hundred at St. Charles or Les Allemandes, one hundred at Point Coupée, six at Natchez, fifty at Natchitoches and the other missions which are not named in the "Bullarium Capucinorum" (Vol. VIII, p. 330).
The founder of the Jesuit Mission in New Orleans was Father Nicolas-Ignatius de Beaubois, who was appointed vicar-general for his district. He visited New Orleans and returned to France to obtain Fathers of the Society for his mission. Being also commissioned by Bienville to obtain sisters of some order to assume charge of a hospital and school, he applied to the Ursulines of Rouen, who accepted the call. The royal patent authorizing the Ursulines to found a convent in Louisiana was issued 18 September, 1726. Mother Mary Trancepain of St. Augustine, with seven professed nuns from Rouen, Le Havre, Vannes, Ploermel, Hennebon, and Elboeuf, a novice, Madeline Hauchard, and two seculars, met at the infirmary at Hennebon on 12 January, 1727, and, accompanied by Fathers Tartarin and Doutreleau, set sail for Louisiana. They reached New Orleans on 6 August to open the first convent for women within the present limits of the United States of America. As the convent was not ready for their reception, the governor gave up his own residence to them. The history of the Ursulines from their departure from Rouen through a period of thirty years in Louisiana, is told by Sister Madeline Hauchard in a diary still preserved in the Ursuline convent in New Orleans, and which forms, with Father Charlevoix's history, the principal record of those early days. On 7 August, 1727, the Ursulines began in Louisiana the work which has since continued without interruption. They opened a hospital for the care of the sick and a school for poor children, also an academy which is now the oldest educational institution for women in the United States. The convent in which the Ursulines then took up their abode still stands, the oldest conventual structure in the United States and the oldest building within the limits of the Louisiana Purchase. In 1824 the Ursulines removed to the lower portion of the city, and the old convent became first the episcopal residence and then the diocesan chancery.
Meanwhile Father Mathurin le Petit, S.J., established a mission among the Chocktaws; Father Du Poisson among the Arkansas ; Father Doutreleau, on the Wabash; Fathers Tartarin and Le Boulenger, at Kaskaskia ; Father Guymonneau among the Metchogameas; Father Souel, among the Yazoos ; Father Baudouin , among the Chickasaws. The Natchez Indians, provoked by the tyranny and rapacity of Chopart, the French commandant, in 1729 nearly destroyed all these missions. Father Du Poisson and Father Souel were killed by the Indians. As an instance of the faith implanted in the Iroquois about this time there was received into the Ursuline order at New Orleans, Mary Turpin, daughter of a Canadian Father and an Illinois mother. She died a professed nun in 1761, at the age of fifty-two, with the distinction of being the first American-born nun in this country. From the beginning of the colony at Biloxi the immigration of women had been small. Bienville made constant appeals to the mother country to send honest wives and mothers. From time to time ships freighted with girls would arrive; they came over in charge of the Grey Nuns of Canada and a priest, and were sent by the king to be married to the colonists. The Bishop of Quebec was also charged with the duty of sending out young women who were known to be good and virtuous. As a proof of her respectability, each girl was furnished by the bishop with a curiously wrought casket; they are known in Louisiana history as "casket girls". Each band of girls, on arriving at New Orleans, was confided to the care of the Ursulines until they were married to colonists able to provide for their support. Many of the best families of the state are proud to trace their descent from "casket girls".
The city was growing and developing; a better class of immigrant was pouring in, and Father Charlevoix, on his visit in 1728, wrote to the Duchesse de Lesdiguières: "My hopes, I think, are well founded that this wild and desert place, which the reeds and trees still cover, will be one day, and that not far distant, a city of opulence, and the metropolis of a rich colony." His words were prophetic; New Orleans was fast developing, and early chronicles say that it suggested the splendours of Paris. There was a governor with a military staff, bringing to the city the manners and splendour of the Court of Versailles, and the manners and usages of the mother country stamped on Louisiana life characteristics in marked contrast to the life of any other colony. The Jesuit Fathers of New Orleans had no parochial residence, but directed the Ursulines, and had charge of their private chapel and a plantation where, in 1751, they introduced into Louisiana the culture of the sugar-cane, the orange, and the fig. The Capuchins established missions wherever they could. Bishop St-Vallier had been succeeded by Bishop de Mournay, who never went to Quebec, but resigned the see, after five years. His successor, Henri-Marie Du Breuil de Pontbriand, appointed Father de Beaubois, S.J., his vicar-general in Louisiana. The Capuchin Fathers refused to recognize Father de Beaubois's authority, claiming, under an agreement of the Company of the West with the coadjutor bishop, de Mornay, that the superior of the Capuchins was, in perpetuity, vicar-general of the province, and that the bishop could appoint no other. Succeeding bishops of Quebec declared, however, that they could not, as bishops, admit that the assent of a coadjutor and vicar-general to an agreement with a trading company had forever deprived every bishop of Quebec to act as freely in Louisiana as in any other part of his diocese. This incident gave rise to some friction between the two orders which has been spoken of derisively by Louisiana historians, notably by Gayarré, as "The War of the Capuchins and the Jesuits ". The archives of the diocese, as also the records of the Capuchins in Louisiana, show that it was simply a question of jurisdiction, which gave rise to a discussion so petty as to be unworthy of notice. Historians exaggerate this beyond all importance, while failing to chronicle the shameful spoilation of the Jesuits by the French Government, which suddenly settled the question forever.
In 1761 the Parliaments of several provinces of France had condemned the Jesuits, and measures were taken against them in the kingdom. They were expelled from Paris, and the Superior Council of Louisiana, following the example, on 9 July, 1763, just ten years before the order was suppressed by Clement XIV, passed an act suppressing the Jesuits throughout the province, declaring them dangerous to royal authority, to the rights of the bishops, and to the public safety. The Jesuits were charged with neglecting their mission, with having developed their plantation, and with having usurped the office of vicar-general. To the first charge the record of their labours was sufficient refutation; to the second, it was assuredly to the credit of the Jesuits that they made their plantation so productive as to maintain their missionaries; to the third the actions of the bishops of Quebec in appointing the vicar-general and that of the Superior council itself in sustaining him was the answer. Nevertheless, the unjust decree was carried out, the Jesuits' property was confiscated, and they were forbidden to use the name of their Society or to wear their habit. Their property was sold for $180,000. All their chapels were levelled to the ground, leaving exposed even the vaults where the dead were interred. The Jesuits were ordered to give up their missions, to return to New Orleans and to leave on the first vessel sailing for France. The Capuchins forgetting their differences interfered on behalf of the Jesuits ; and finally their petitions unavailing went to the river bank to receive the returning Jesuits, offered them a home alongside their own, and in every way showed their disapproval of the Council's action. The Jesuits deeply grateful left the Capuchins all the books they had been able to save from the spoilation.
Father Boudoin, S.J., the benefactor of the colony, who had introduced the culture of sugar-cane and oranges from San Domingo, and figs from Provence, a man to whom the people owed much and to whom Louisiana today owes so much of its prosperity, alone remained. He was now seventy-two years old and had spent thirty-five in the colony. He was broken in health and too ill to leave his room. They dragged him through the streets when prominent citizens intervened and one wealthy planter, âtienne de Boré, who had first succeeded in the granulation of sugar, defied the authorities and took Father Boudoin to his home and sheltered him until his death in 1766. The most monstrous part of the order of expulsion was that, not only were the chapels of the Jesuits in lower Louisiana -- many of which were the only places where Catholics, whites and Indians, and negroes, could worship God -- levelled to the ground, but the Council carried out the decree even in the Illinois district which had been ceded to the King of England and which was no longer subject to France or Louisiana. They ordered even the vestments and plate to be delivered to the king's attorney. Thus was a vast territory left destitute of priests and altars, and the growth of the Church retarded for many years. Of the ten Capuchins left to administer this immense territory, five were retained in New Orleans; the remainder were scattered over various missions. It is interesting to note that the only native Louisiana priest at this time, and the first to enter the holy priesthood, Rev. Bernard Viel, born in New Orleans 1 October, 1736, was among the Jesuits expelled from the colony. He died in France, 1821. The inhabitants of New Orleans then numbered four thousand.
In 1763 Louisiana was ceded to Spain, and Antonia Ulloa was sent over to take possession. The colonists were bitterly opposed to the cession, and finally rose in arms against the governor, giving him three days in which to leave the town. (See LOUISIANA.) The Spanish Government resolved to punish the parties which had so insulted its representative, Don Ulloa, and sent Alexander O'Reilly to assume the office of governor. Lafrénière, President of the Council, who chiefly instigated the passing of the decree against the Jesuits from the colony, and the rebellion against the Government, was tried by court martial and with six of his partners in his scheme, was shot in the Palace d'Armes. O'Reilly reorganized the province after the Spanish model. The oath taken by the officials shows that the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception was then officially recognized in the Spanish dominions. "I __________ appointed __________ swear before God. . . to maintain . . . the mystery of the Immaculate Conception of Our Lady, the Virgin Mary."
The change of government affected ecclesiastical jurisdiction. The Province of Louisiana passed under the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Santiago de Cuba, the Right Rev. James José de Echeverría, and Spanish Capuchins began to fill the places of their French brethren. Contradictory reports reached the new bishop about conditions in Louisiana and he sent Father Cirilo de Barcelona with four Spanish Capuchins to New Orleans. These priests were Fathers Francisco, Angel de Revillagades, Louis de Quitanilla, and Aleman. They reached New Orleans, 19 July, 1773. The genial ways of the French brethren seemed scandalous to the stern Spanish disciplinarian, and he informed the Bishop of Cuba concerning what he considered "lax methods of conduct and administration". Governor Unzaga, however, interfered on behalf of the French Capuchins, and wrote to the bishop censuring the Spanish friars. This offended the bishop and both referred the matter to the Spanish Court. The Government expressed no opinion, but advised the prelate and governor to compromise, and so preserve harmony between the civil and ecclesiastical authorities . Some Louisiana historians, Charles Gayarré among others, speak of the depravity of the clergy of that period. These charges are not borne out by contemporary testimony; the archives of the cathedral witness that the clergy performed their work faithfully. These charges as a rule sprang from monastic prejudices or secular antipathies. One of the first acts of Father Cirilo as pastor of the St. Louis Cathedral was to have the catechism printed in both French and Spanish.
The Bishop of Santiago de Cuba resolved to remedy the deplorable conditions in Louisiana, where confirmation had never been administered. In view of his inability to visit this distant portion of his diocese, he asked for the appointment of an auxiliary bishop, who would take up his abode in New Orleans, and thence visit the missions on the Mississippi as well as those in Mobile, Pensacola, and St. Augustine. The Holy See appointed Father Cirilo de Barcelona titular bishop of Tricali and auxiliary of Santiago. He was consecrated in Cuba in 1781 and proceeded to New Orleans where for the first time the people enjoyed the presence of a bishop. A saintly man, he infused new life into the province. The whole of Louisiana and the Floridas were under his jurisdiction. According to official records of the Church in Louisiana in 1785, the church of St. Louis, New Orleans, has a parish priest, four assistants; and there was a resident priest at each of the following points: Terre aux Boeufs, St. Charles, St. John the Baptist, St. James, Ascension, St. Gabriel's at Iberville, Point Coupee, Attakapas, Opelousas, Natchitoches, Natchez, St. Louis, St. Genevieve, and at Bernard or Manchac (now Galveston ). On 25 November, 1785, Bishop Cirilo appointed as parish priest of New Orleans Rev. Antonio Ildefonso Morenory Arze de Sedella, one of the six Capuchins who had come to the colony in 1779. Father Antonio (popularly known as "Père Antoine") was destined to exert a remarkable influence in the colony. Few priests have been more assailed by historians, but a careful comparison of the ancient records of the cathedral with the traditions that cluster about his memory show that he did not deserve on the one hand the indignities which Gayarré and Shea heap upon him, nor yet the excessive honours with which tradition had crowned him. From the cathedral archives it has been proven that he was simply an earnest priest striving to do what he thought his duty amid many difficulties.
In 1787 a number of unfortunate Acadians came at the expense of the King of France and settled near Plaquemines, Terre aux Boeufs, Bayou Lafourche, Attakapas, and Opelousas, adding to the already thrifty colony. They brought with them the precious register of St. Charles aux Mines in Acadia extending from 1689 to 1749 only six years before their cruel deportation. They were deposited for safe keeping with the priest of St. Gabriel at Iberville and are now in the diocesan archives. St. Augustine being returned to Spain by the treaty of peace of 1783, the King of Spain made efforts to provide for the future of Catholicism in that ancient province. As many English people had settled there and in West Florida, notably at Baton Rouge and Natchez, Charles III applied to the Irish College for priests to attend to the English-speaking population. Accordingly Rev. Michael O'Reilly and Reverend Thomas Hasset were sent to Florida. Catholic worship was restored, the city at once resuming its own old aspect. Rev. William Savage, a clergyman of great repute, Rev. Michael Lamport, Rev. Gregory White, Rev. Constantine Makenna, Father Joseph Denis, and a Franciscan with six fathers of his order, were sent to labour in Louisiana. They were distributed through the Natchez and Baton Rouge districts, and were the first Irish priests to come to Louisiana, the pioneers of a long and noble line to whom this archdiocese owes much. In 1787 the Holy See divided the Diocese of Santiago de Cuba, erected the bishopric of St. Christopher of Havana, Louisiana, and the Floridas, with the Right Rev. Joseph de Trespalacios of Porto Rico as bishop, and the Right Rev. Cirilo de Barcelona as auxiliary, with the special direction of Louisiana and the two Floridas. Louisiana thus formed a part of the Diocese of Havana .
Near Fort Natchez the site for a church was purchased on April 11, 1788. The earliest incumbent of whom any record was kept was Father Francis Lennan. Most of the people of Natchez were English Protestants or Americans, who had sided with England. They enjoyed absolute religious freedom, no attempt to proselytize was ever made. On Good Friday, 21 March, 1788, New Orleans was swept by a conflagration in which nine hundred buildings, including the parish church, with the adjoining convent of the Capuchins, the house of Bishop Cirilo and the Spanish School were reduced to ashes. From the ruins of the old irregularly built French City rose the stately Spanish City, old New Orleans, practically unchanged as it exists today. Foremost among the public-spirited men of that time was Don Andreas Almonaster y Roxas, of a noble Andalusian family and royal standard bearer for the colony. He had made a great fortune in New Orleans, and at a cost of $50,000 he built and gave to the city the St. Louis Cathedral. He rebuilt the house for the use of the clergy and the charity hospital at a cost of $114,000. He also rebuilt the town hall and the Cabildo, the buildings on either side of the cathedral, the hospital, the boys' school, a chapel for the Ursulines, and founded the Leper Hospital.
Meanwhile rapid assimilation had gone on in Louisiana. Americans began to make their homes in New Orleans and in 1791 the insurrection of San Domingo drove there many hundreds of wealthy noble refugees. The archives of the New Orleans Diocese show that the King of Spain petitioned Pius VI on 20 May, 1790, to erect Louisiana and the Floridas into a separate see, and on April 9, 1793, a decree for the dismemberment of the Diocese of Havana, Louisiana, and the Provinces of East and West Florida was issued. It provided for the erection of the See of St. Louis of New Orleans, which was to include all the Louisiana Province and the Provinces of East and West Florida. The Bishops of Mexico, Agalopi, Michoacan and Caracas were to contribute, pro rata , a fund for the support of the Bishop of New Orleans, until such time as the see would be self-sustaining. The decree left the choice of a bishop for a new see to the King of Spain, and he on 25 April, 1793, wrote to Bishop Cirilo relieving him of his office of auxiliary, and directing him to return immediately to Catalonia with a salary of one thousand dollars a year, which the Bishop of Havana was to contribute. Bishop Cirilo returned to Havana and seems to have resided with the Hospital Friars, while endeavouring to obtain his salary, so that he might return to Europe. It is not known where Bishop Cirilo died in poverty and humiliation.
The Right Rev. Luis Peñalver y Cárdenas was appointed first bishop of the new See of St. Louis of New Orleans. He was a native of Havana, born 3 April, 1719, and had been educated by the Jesuits of his native city, receiving his degree in the university in 1771. He was a priest of irreproachable character, and a skillful director of souls. He was consecrated in the Cathedral of Havana in 1793. The St. Louis parish church, now raised to the dignity of a cathedral, was dedicated 23 December, 1794. A letter from the king, 14 August, 1794, decreed that its donor, Don Almonaster, was authorized to occupy the most prominent seat in the church, second only to that of the viceregal patron, the intendant of the province, and to receive the kiss of peace during the Mass. Don Almonaster died in 1798 and was buried under the altar of the Sacred Heart.
Bishop Peñalver arrived in New Orleans, 17 July, 1795. In a report to the king and the Holy See he bewailed the indifference he found as to the practice of religious duties. He condemned the laxity of morals among the men, and the universal practice of concubinage among the slaves. The invasion of many persons not of the faith, and the toleration of the Government in admitting all classes of adventurers for purposes of trade, had brought about disrespect for religion. He deplored the establishment of trading posts and of a lodge of French Freemasons, which counted among its members city officials, officers of the garrison, merchants and foreigners. He believed the people clung to their French traditions. He said that the King of Spain possessed "their bodies but not their souls ". He declared that "even the Ursuline nuns, from whom good results were obtained in the education of girls, were so decidedly French in their inclination that they refused to admit Spanish women who wished to become members of their order, and many were in tears because they were obliged to read spiritual exercises in Spanish books". It was a gloomy picture he presented, but he set faithfully to work, and on 21 December, 1795, called a synod, the first and only one held in the diocese of colonial New Orleans. He also issued a letter of instruction to the clergy deploring the fact that many of his flock were more than five hundred leagues away, and how impossible it was to repair at one and the same time to all. He enjoined the pastors to walk in the footsteps of Jesus Christ, and in all things to fulfill their duties. This letter of instruction bearing his signature is preserved in the archives of the diocese, and, with the call for the synod, forms the only documents signed by the first Bishop of New Orleans.
Bishop Peñalver everywhere showed himself active in the cause of educational progress and was a generous benefactor of the poor. He was promoted to the See of Guatemala, 20 July, 1801. Before his departure he appointed, as vicars-general, Rev. Thomas Canon Hasset and Rev. Patrick Walsh, who became officially recognized as "Governors of the Diocese".
Territorially from this ancient see have been erected the Archbishoprics of St. Louis, Cincinnati, St. Paul, Dubuque, and Chicago, and the bishoprics of Alexandria, Mobile, Natchez, Galveston, San Antonio , Little Rock, St. Augustine, Kansas City, St. Joseph, Davenport, Cheyenne, Dallas, Winona, Duluth, Concordia, Omaha, Sioux Falls , Oklahoma, St. Cloud, Bismark, and Cleveland.
Right Rev. Francis Porro y Peinade, a Franciscan of the Convent of the Holy Apostles, Rome, was appointed to succeed Bishop Peñalver. But he never took possession of the see. Some old chronicles in Louisiana say that he was never consecrated ; others that he was, and died on the eve of leaving Rome. Bishop Portier (Spalding's "Life of Bishop Flaget "), says that he was translated to the See of Terrazona. The See of New Orleans remained vacant many years after the departure of bishop Peñalver.
In 1798 the Duc d'Orléans (afterwards King Luis-Philippe of France ) with his two brothers, the Duc de Montpensier and the Count de Beaujolais, visited New Orleans. They were received with honour, and when Louis-Philippe became King of France he remembered many of those who had entertained him when in exile, and was generous to the Church in the old French province.
By the Treaty of San Ildefonse, the Spanish King on 1 October, 1800, engaged to retrocede Louisiana to the French Republic six months after certain conditions and stipulations had been executed on the part of France, and the Holy See deferred the appointment of a bishop.
On 30 April, 1803, without waiting for the actual transfer of the province, Napoleon Bonaparte by the Treaty of Paris sold Louisiana to the United States. De Laussat, the French Commissioner, had reached New Orleans on 26 March, 1803, to take possession of the province in the name of France. Spain was preparing to evacuate and general confusion prevailed. Very Rev. Thomas Hasset, the administrator of the diocese, was directed to address each priest and ascertain whether they preferred to return with the Spanish forces or to remain in Louisiana ; also to obtain from each parish an inventory of the plate, vestments, and other articles in the church which had been given by the Spanish Government. Then came the news of the cession of the province to the United States. On 20 April, 1803, De Laussat formally surrendered the colony to the United States commissioners. The people felt it keenly, and the cathedral archives show the difficulties to be surmounted. Father Hasset, as administrator, issued a letter to the clergy on 10 June, 1803, announcing the new domination, and notifying all of the permission to return to Spain if they desired. Several priests signified their desire to follow the Spanish standard. The question of withdrawal was also discussed by the Ursuline nuns. Thirteen out of the twenty-one choir nuns were in favour of returning to Spain or going to Havana. De Laussat went to the convent and assured them that they could remain unmolested. Notwithstanding this Mother Saint Monica and eleven others, with nearly all the lay sisters applied to the Marquis de Casa Calvo to convey them to Havana. Six choir nuns and two lay sisters remained to begin again the work in Louisiana. They elected Mother St. Xavier Fargeon as superioress, and resumed all the exercises of community life, maintaining their academy, day school, orphan asylum, hospital and instructions for coloured people in catechism. Father Hasset wrote to Bishop Carroll, 23 December, 1803, that the retrocession of the province to the United States of America impelled him to present to his consideration the present ecclesiastical state of Louisiana, not doubting that it would soon fall under his jurisdiction. The ceded province consisted of twenty-one parishes some of which were vacant. "The churches were", to use his own words, "all descent temples and comfortably supplied with ornaments and everything necessary for divine services. . . . Of twenty-six ecclesiastics in the province only four had agreed to continue their respective stations under the French Government; and whether any more would remain under that of the United States only God knew." Father Hasset said that for his own part he felt could not with propriety, relinquish his post, and consequently awaited superior orders to take his departure. He said that the Rev. Patrick Walsh, vicar-general and auxiliary governor of the diocese, had declared that he would not abandon his post providing he could hold it with propriety. Father Hasset died in April 1804. Father Antonio Sedella had returned to New Orleans in 1791, and resumed his duties as parish priest of the St. Louis Cathedral to which he had been appointed by Bishop Cirilo. After the cession a dispute arose between him and Father Walsh, and the latter, 27 March, 1805, established the Ursuline convent as the only place in the parish for the administration of the sacraments and the celebration of the Divine Office. On 21 March, 1804, the Ursulines addressed a letter to Thomas Jefferson, President of the United States, in which they solicited the passage of an Act of Congress guaranteeing their property and rights. The president replied reassuring the Ursulines. "The principles of the Constitution of the United States " he wrote, "are a sure guaranty to you that it will be preserved to you sacred and inviolate, and that your institution will be permitted to govern itself according to its own voluntary rules without interference from the civil authority. Whatever diversity of shades may appear in the religious opinions of our fellow citizens, the charitable objects of your Institution cannot be of indifference to any; and its furtherance of the wholesome purpose by training up its young members in the way they should go cannot fail to insure the patronage of the government it is under. Be assured that it will meet with all the protection my office can give it. "
Father Walsh, administrator of the diocese, died on 22 August, 1806, and was buried in the Ursuline chapel. The Archiepiscopal See of Santo Domingo, the metropolitan of the province, to which the Diocese of Louisiana and the Floridas belonged, was vacant, and not one of the bishops of the Spanish province would interfere in the New Orleans Diocese, though the Bishop of Havana extended his authority once more over the Florida portion of the diocese. As the death of Father Walsh left the diocese without anyone to govern it, Bishop Carroll, who had meanwhile informed himself of the condition of affairs, resolved to act under the decree of 1 Sept., 1805, and assume administration. Father Antoine had been accused of intriguing openly against the Government; but beyond accusations made to Bishop Carroll there is nothing to substantiate them. He was much loved in New Orleans and some of his friends desired to obtain the influence of the French Government to have him appointed to the Bishopric of Louisiana. However, there is in the archives of the New Orleans cathedral a letter
Catholic Online Catholic Encyclopedia Digital version Compiled and Copyright © Catholic Online