Fathers on the Frontier: French Missionaries and the Roman Catholic Priesthood in the United States, 1789-1870

By Michael Pasquier | Go to book overview

3
Missionary Revival and
Transnational Catholicism

A French priest named Gilbert Raymond fulfilled a lifelong dream to become a missionnaire étrangère when he arrived at New Orleans with his younger brother François in 1854. At the time, there were approximately sixty-seven churches and chapels established along with more than seventy priests stationed throughout the Archdiocese of New Orleans, a metropolitan province that included the states of Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Alabama.1 Raymond had been corresponding with Archbishop Antoine Blanc from his residence at the Sulpician Seminary of Angers for more than three years about joining the corps of diocesan priests in Louisiana.2 He was anxious to begin indulging in his vision of life as a missionary in the American wilderness, though he was forced to postpone such wishes for several months while Blanc returned from a trip to Rome. In the meantime, Raymond accepted a temporary position at an orphan asylum in New Orleans, the home of an inordinately large number of children following the previous year’s yellow fever epidemic that killed approximately eleven thousand inhabitants of a city known for its sanitation problems.3 Blanc finally stationed the Raymond brothers in the rural church parish of Opelousas, Louisiana, and it was there that Gilbert would later defend François against allegations of rape and himself against charges of insubordination.

Before actually experiencing life as a missionary in the United States, a life that obviously brought him some grief and hardship, Gilbert Raymond resembled many other young seminarians

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