Archive for the ‘Tecumseh’ Tag

Feast of Gabriel Richard (October 15)   Leave a comment

Above:  Detroit in 1800

Image in the Public Domain

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GABRIEL JACQUES RICHARD (OCTOBER 15, 1767-SEPTEMBER 13, 1832)

French-American Roman Catholic Missionary Priest in Michigan

Father Gabriel Richard comes to this, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via Bishop Benedict Joseph Flaget (1763-1850), under whom he served.

Gabriel Jacques Richard was French.  He, born in La Ville de Saintes on October 15, 1767, matriculated at the theological seminary in Angers in 1784.  Ordained to the priesthood on October 15, 1790, our saint sailed for the United States of America in 1792.  He arrived in Baltimore, Maryland, and began to teach mathematics at St. Mary’s Seminary, Baltimore.

John Carroll (1735-1815), the Bishop of Baltimore (1789-1807) then the Archbishop of Baltimore (1807-1815), appointed Richard to perform missionary work in Michigan in 1798.  The 31-year-old priest arrived in Detroit on June 16, 1798 (the Feast of Corpus Christi), to begin serving at St. Anne’s Church as assistant priest.   He served as the parish’s pastor from 1802 to 1832.

Detroit was a small town in 1798; the population was about 1,200.  About half of that population was French-born.  Forests and a lack of good roads cut Detroit off from the rest of the world, by land.  The streets were muddy, there were no schools, and the main business was trading liquor for furs from Native Americans.

Richard set about improving the community.  He started schools that taught the “three R’s,” as well as dressmaking, sewing, and weaving.  He helped to organize relief efforts after the great fire of 1805.  Our saint appointed a town crier, who announced the news from the steps of St. Anne’s Church every Sunday.  The priest also posted news for the literate people every week.  Richard founded and published The Michigan Essay, the first newspaper in Michigan, in 1809.  The town crier had a greater audience than the newspaper.  Our saint also published many books, including The Child’s Spelling Book.

Richard accumulated a private library of 240 volumes.  Topics ranged from theology to science, and included navigation, surveying, teaching methods for the deaf and the mute, and mathematics.

About half of the population consisted of Protestants, who had no pastor of their own.  In 1807, Richard accepted their invitation to fill this vacancy.  He served as their pastor (while also serving at St. Anne’s Church) until 1816, when Presbyterian John Monteith (1788-1868) arrived.  Monteith went on to serve as the pastor of the First Protestant Society of Detroit (founded in 1818) then of the First Presbyterian Church, one of its successors.  Richard and Monteith, friends, worked together to improve education in Detroit.  They were two of the founders of the Catholepistemiad (1817-1832), forerunner of the University of Michigan.

Richard, under the authority of Bishop Flaget after the latter’s consecration, functioned as a missionary to local indigenous people.  He won their respect.  During the War of 1812, our saint was a prisoner of war of the British.  The priest, who ministered to indigenous allies of the British Empire, had sworn allegiance to the Constitution of the United States of America.  Chief Tecumseh (c. 1768-1813) helped to secure Richard’s release.  The chief promised not to fight for the British unless they freed the priest.

Richard served a term (1823-1825) as the non-voting delegate of the Territory of Michigan (modern-day Michigan, Wisconsin, and part of Minnesota) in the United States Congress.  Our saint, despite having no vote, helped to get the funds for the Detroit-Chicago road.

Richard nearly became the first Bishop of Detroit.  He had excommunicated a parishioner.  The excommunication had damaged the man’s business, so he sued our saint.  The court sided with the businessman and fined the priest $1,117 (between $31,000 and $35,000 in 2021 currency).  The priest could not pay the fine.  Our saint was, therefore, an involuntary guest in the sheriff’s home until some parishioners arranged for Richard’s release.  Our saint, chosen to be the first Bishop of Detroit before news of the legal matter reached Rome, remained a priest.  The first Bishop of Detroit assumed office in 1833, after Richard had died.

Cholera swept through Detroit in 1832.  Our saint ministered to victims until he contracted the disease.  He, aged 64 years, died on September 13, 1832.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 29, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT CATHERINE OF SIENA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MYSTIC AND RELIGIOUS

THE FEAST OF SAINTS BOSA OF YORK, JOHN OF BEVERLEY, WILFRID THE YOUNGER, AND ACCA OF HEXHAM, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS

THE FEAST OF JAMES EDWARD WALSH, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY BISHOP AND POLITICAL PRISONER IN CHINA

THE FEAST OF SIMON B. PARKER, UNITED METHODIST BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF TIMOTHY REES, WELSH ANGLICAN HYMN WRITER AND BISHOP OF LLANDAFF

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Heavenly Father, shepherd of your people,

we thank you for your servant Father Gabriel Richard,

who was faithful in the care and nurture of your flock;

and we pray that, following his example and the teaching of his holy life,

we may by your grace grow into the full stature of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Ezekiel 34:11-16 or Acts 20:17-35

Psalm 84

1 Peter 5:1-4 or Ephesians 3:14-21

John 21:15-17 or Matthew 24:42-47

–Adapted from the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 38

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