March 6 is the anniversary of Jean-Marie Odin, CM being consecrated a bishop in 1842. Who was this French missionary to the early United States? I couldn’t introduce his story any better than the author Dr. Patrick Foley, a professor from Texas who wrote a fascinating biography of him in 2013. From the preface:
In the narrative of the growth of the Roman Catholic religion in the United States many personages who played unique roles through their inspiration in building the faith among the people have emerged as heroes or heroines. Nowhere is this more true than in Texas and Louisiana. In these two lands that matured from the colonial era to become states of the United States, no name stands out more honored and respected than that of the French-born Vincentian missionary priest, bishop, and archbishop, Jean-Marie Odin. Born in Hauteville in the western reaches of the ancient Archdiocese of Lyon, France, just at the turn of the nineteenth century, when that nation was experiencing the post-revolutionary, early Napoleonic eras that had devastated the land’s centuries-old Catholic heritage, Odin as a young man entered the seminary system of the archdiocese. Eventually matriculating to the grand seminary of St. Irenaeus located in the city of Lyon, he ventured from there in 1822 to the US mission field to commence his life’s work as a Catholic missionary. Having absorbed the spirit of the Sulpicians at the grand seminary, upon his arrival on the American continent he joined the Congregation of the Mission while at their seminary of St. Mary’s the Barrens in Perryville, Missouri. Thus, it would be the formation of Saint Vincent de Paul that was to guide him for the remainder of his life. After almost a half century of missioning in areas that grew as parts of the United States, Jean-Marie Odin returned to France and died in the same farmhouse in Hauteville where he was born more than seventy years earlier, in 1870. His story must now be told.
1800 born February 25, the 7th of 10 children 1822 accepted an appeal from Bishop Louis Dubourg to join the missions in Louisiana 1822 November 8: entered the Congregation of the Mission did missionary work in New Madrid and among the Native Americans along the Arkansas River served as a professor and later president of St. Mary’s Seminary 1833 accompanied Bishop Joseph Rosati to the Second Provincial Council of Baltimore as theologian 1838 briefly served as pastor of Cape Girardeau, where he opened a school 1840 labored among Catholics, many of whom had fallen away amid the disorders accompanying the Texas Revolution, as well as non-Catholics and Native Americans 1841 appointed the first Vicar Apostolic of Texas (a term basically equivalent to a bishop, used when a diocese has not yet been formed) 1847 named the first Bishop of the newly erected Diocese of Galveston, which encompassed the entire state of Texas 1854 secured the services of the Sisters of the Incarnate Word, Brothers of Mary, and Oblates of Mary, to whom he gave charge of St. Mary’s University at Galveston (which he established) made arduous visitations into the more remote parts of Texas 1861 appointed the second Archbishop of New Orleans supported the Confederate cause during the Civil War, worked to alleviate the suffering caused by the war, and spoke out continually of the need for peace following the war, he made serious efforts to secure adequate ministration and education to freed slaves was forced to close the diocesan seminary in 1867 due to lack of funds resulting from the war 1863 saved his debt-laden archdiocese from bankruptcy nearly doubled the number of his clergy and churches by appealing for priests from Europe 1869 attended the First Vatican Council in Rome 1870 became ill and returned to his native Hauteville, France, where he died on May 25 at age 70