September 2, 2005

Seeking the Face of the Lord

Let us help promote the cause for canonization
of Bishop Bruté

This week, I conclude my summer presentation on the life of our first bishop, Simon Gabriel Bruté.

My admiration for Bishop Bruté can be traced to my early years as a seminarian. One time with some seminarian friends, I visited the Old Cathedral in Vincennes. I was intrigued by our early roots and the courage and zeal of our first bishop. He was able to do so much with so few human and financial resources, and he did so much in such a brief time. He was bishop of Vincennes only five years before he died. Later, I became more aware of his personal holiness. I had also done some study of the first pastors of St. Joseph Parish in my home town of Jasper, Ind. They led me back to our first bishop. Never did I dream I would be in a position to promote the cause for his canonization.

After visiting his tomb in Vincennes in August 2003, I asked Msgr. Fred Easton, our vicar judicial, to serve as my liaison in moving forward the possible cause for canonization of Bishop Bruté. Msgr. Easton is an expert in canon law and is familiar with the canonical process involved. He has been actively involved in the cause of Blessed Mother Theodore Guérin. He sent a copy of Benedictine Sister Salesia Godecker’s extensive biography of our first bishop to Dr. Andrea Ambrosi, who served as the postulator for Mother Theodore’s cause in Rome. Having read the biography, Dr. Ambrosi is of the opinion that Bishop Bruté’s life is a possible case for canonization.

After a subsequent meeting with Dr. Ambrosi, I decided to consult the bishops of Indiana, some lay advisers and priests about the wisdom of pursuing the cause. Having received an affirmative response from all parties, I have named Dr. Ambrosi as postulator to guide us through the initial procedures of pursuing Bishop Bruté’s possible canonization. I chose him because of his involvement in the cause of Blessed Mother Theodore and his familiarity with the Church in its early years in Indiana. Father Paul Etienne, pastor of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish in New Albany, who has a deep appreciation for our first bishop, has been named vice postulator.

At my request, Msgr. Easton has put together the required historical commission, which will pursue the collection and investigation of papers and relevant materials pertaining to the life and ministry of Bishop Bruté.

The formal canonical opening session of the investigation will take place on Sept. 12 in the presence of the postulator and vice postulator. It is the first required step in the investigation.

The fact that Bishop Bruté was esteemed as a holy person was strikingly affirmed by the renowned James Cardinal Gibbons during a visit to Vincennes on Dec. 4, 1891. He said, “Worthy citizens of Vincennes, you need not go on pilgrimage to visit the tombs of the saints. There is one reposing here in your midst, namely, the saintly Founder of this diocese, Right Reverend Simon Bruté.”

The apostolic zeal, humility, simplicity, determination, courage and confidence in God’s will make Bishop Bruté a splendid model for all Catholics of our day. He is a relevant model for all who are involved in furthering the ministry of the Church. He was arguably the most influential theologian of the Church in the United States in his day. His commitment to faithful prayer and his deep love for the Holy Eucharist highlighted his generous ministry to his people. His way of life provides an outstanding model not only for our priests and seminarians, but also for those preparing to become deacons and lay ministers. Indeed, the holiness of Bishop Bruté is a wonderful example and inspiration for all lay people and religious women and men.

I am pleased that the official cause of Bishop Bruté will be inaugurated this month. From now on, we will count on his intercession and God’s will for further developments. When I prayed at the tomb of Bishop Bruté two years ago, I put the outcome of all this in his hands. I suspect as well that St. Elizabeth Ann Seton will be interceding for her former spiritual director and confessor. I do not expect that his process will be fulfilled during my tenure as archbishop of Indianapolis, but I feel I am doing my duty by launching the investigative process.

I placed our college seminary house of formation at Marian College in Indian­apolis under the patronage of Bishop Bruté because of his holiness and his love for priestly formation. I encourage all of us to promote public knowledge about our holy first bishop and to spread the word about his cause for canonization.

Bishop Bruté is a worthy intercessor for healing and our own holiness. Learning about his life also tells us and our children much about the founding of the Church in Indiana. †


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