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Diocese erected in 1850 as suffragan of Bordeaux, includes the Island of Réunion in the Indian Ocean about 350 miles cast of Madagascar. This island is 1000 sq. miles in area, and was discovered by the Portuguese, 8 February, 1513; it was originally called Sancta Appollonia, and later changed to Mascareigne from the name of their leader Mascarenhas. In 1638 a Frenchman named Gaubert hoisted the French flag there, and in 1642 Pronis, representing the Compagnie de Lorient, took possession of it in the name of the King of France. In 1646 twelve Madagascar colonists who had revolted were transported there, and in 1649 Flacourt, Pronis's successor, changed the name from Mascareigne to Island of Bourbon; from 1654 to 1658 an attempt was made by Antoine Thaureau, seven Frenchmen, and six negroes to colonize the west coast; in 1665 Regnault, who had been appointed governor of the island by the King, arrived with three ships bringing 20 labourers, a merchant, and 200 sick People, the first colonists of the island. The first apostles of Réunion were P. Louis de Matos, a Portugese, who on his return journey from Brazil built the chapel of Our Lady of the Angels (1667), and P. Jourdié, a Lazarist father, who remained on the island from 1667 to 1670. In 1674 P. Bernardin, a Capuchin, arrived from India ; he drew up laws for hunting, planted cotton, taught the young girls to sew and spin, and was governor of the island from 1686 to 1689. In 1689 he went to France to lay the needs of the island before Louis XIV. In 1703 Cardinal Maillard de Toumon, on his way to India, called at Réunion and administered confirmation.
In 1711 Clement XI entrusted the island to Lazarist missionaries, who began work there in 1714. In 1848 the island took the name of Réunion, slavery was abolished, and two years later the see was established. The first bishop was Julien Desprez (1850-57), afterwards Archbishop of Toulouse and cardinal. In March, 1851, he set out in the corvette "Cassini". The captain in charge, François de Plas, the ensign Jaussier, and the lieutenant Alexis Clerc, afterwards became Jesuits ; Clerc died a victim of the Paris Commune. Gauléjac, a midshipman on the same vessel, in after life became a Carthusian. The Réunion priests are trained in Paris at the Seminary of the Fathers of the Holy Ghost and Sacred Heart of Mary which serves as diocesan seminary. In 1905 (at the breach of the Concordat ) the island contained one parish served by the Holy Ghost Fathers; the Sisters of St. Joseph of Cluny, a nursing and teaching order, had 28 establishments there, and the Daughters of Mary, also a nursing and teaching order, conducted 10 establishments; the population was 173,000; there were 54 parishes and 74 priests.
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