Jean-Marie Odin, CM
Lazarist missionary, first Bishop of Galveston and second Archbishop of New Orleans, b. 25 Feb., 1801, at Hauteville, Ambierle, France; d. there 25 May, 1870.
The seventh of ten children, he worked on his father's farm. Because his piety and love for the poor were seen as evidence of priestly vocation, he was sent when nine years of age to study Latin under his uncle, curé of Nosilly, whose died soon after. After two years at home, he studied the classics at Roanne and Verriere and was a brilliant student of philosophy at L'Argentiere and Alix.
He was prompt to answer Bishop Dubourg's appeal for volunteers for the Louisiana mission. He arrived in New Orleans in June, 1822 and was sent to the seminary of the Lazarists, The Barrens, 80 miles from St. Louis, Mo., to complete his theological studies. There he joined the Lazarists.
He was ordained priest 4 May, 1824, and to parish duties were added those of teaching. In vacation he preached to the Indians on the Arkansas River, for whose conversion he was most eager. In 1825 he was at times in charge of the seminary, college, and parish. He also gave missions to non-Catholics and to the Indians, until, his health failing, it was decided to send him abroad, where he could also gather recruits and funds for the missions.
Accompanying Bishop Joseph Rosati C.M. to the second Council of Baltimore as theologian, he was commissioned by the council to bring its decrees to Rome for approval.
Two years were spent abroad in the interest of "his poor America". Pastoral work, chiefly at Cape Girardeau, where he opened a school (1838), and missions occupied the next five years. Sent to Texas in 1840 as vice-prefect by his provincial visitor, Father John Timon C.M., whom the Holy See had made prefect Apostolic of the new republic, he worked among Catholics, many of whom had fallen away amid the disorders accompanying the change of government, and among non-Catholics and the Comanche Indians.
He was nominated to the coadjutorship of Detroit but declined.
In 1824, Bishop Joseph Rosati, C.M., the auxiliary bishop of the diocese and later first bishop of St. Louis, asked Fr. John Mary Odin, C.M. and Deacon John Timon, C.M. to preach a mission to the people of Little Rock in the Arkansas territory.
As they traveled to Little Rock, the missioners stopped in New Madrid, Missouri, and gave a mission in that town. The people of New Madrid had minimal contact with clergy and both Catholics and non-Catholics sought out the ministry of these two Vincentians. Many had not had access to the sacraments for over 40 years. The parish church, destroyed by a flood, was symbolic of the disarray the missioners found among the residents. Two years later, Fr. Odin returned to New Madrid with Fr. Leo De Neckere to offer an extended mission to the people of this area. The success of these missions was measured in the number of communions and confessions. After several months of work, the missioners left a renewed Christian community. Odin and Timon returned to New Madrid several times in the following years to provide this community with the consolation of the sacraments.
A year later he was named titular Bishop of Claudiopolis and Vicar Apostolic of Texas. He was consecrated 6 March, 1842. With Father Timon's help, he had succeeded in having the Republic recognize the Church's right to the possessions that were hers under the Mexican government. In 1845 he went to Europe and secured many recruits for his mission. In 1847 Texas was made a diocese and Bishop Odin's see was fixed at Galveston.
On the death of Archbishop Blanc of New Orleans, he was promoted to that see 15 February, 1861. Neither his age nor infirmities kept him from a vigilant care of his flock.
War had wrought havoc during his time in Texas, the civil war scourged his archdiocese now. His influence was extraordinary among the Catholic soldiers. Pius IX wrote to him in the South, as to Archbishop Hughes in the North, to use their influence for peace. His Apostolic labours were interrupted only by journeys to Europe in the interest of his archdiocese.
Vatican Council and Death
Despite greatly impaired health he went to the Vatican Council. At Rome he grew so ill that he was granted leave to return to Heauteville where he died.
Odin became a bishop in 1842 and governed the Texas mission until he transferred to New Orleans as archbishop in 1861.
New Orleans Archbishop Jean-Marie Odin, who publicly supported the Confederacy, said Claude Paschal Maistre had "excited" persons of color "to insurrection against their masters," and the archbishop sought an opportunity to discharge him. When a diocesan priest revealed that Maistre had fled his native France because of a crime involving the misappropriation of funds, the archbishop had his pretext. Maistre refused to submit, however, and formed a schismatic parish.