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Two brothers, ecclesiastics, active in North America during the 19th century

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Blanchet, FRANCOIS NORBERT, missionary and first Archbishop of Oregon City, U.S.A., son of Pierre Blanchet, a Canadian farmer, b. September 30, 1795, near Saint-Pierre, Riviere du Sud, Province of Quebec; d. June 18, 1883, at Portland, Oregon. After three years in the village school he went in 1810, with his brother Augustin Magloire, later the first Bishop of Nesqually, to the Seminary of Quebec, where he was ordained priest July 18, 1819. He was stationed at the cathedral for a year and was then sent to Richibucto, New Brunswick, as pastor of the Micmac Indians and Acadian settlers, among whom he spent seven years of missionary apprenticeship, enduring poverty, isolation, and innumerable hardships. In 1827 he was recalled to Montreal and appointed pastor of St. Joseph de Soulanges, a parish of 2,000 souls. During the cholera epidemic of 1832 Father Blanchet attended the stricken so fearlessly that the Protestants of the place presented him with a testimonial. In 1837 he was appointed vicar-general by Archbishop Signay for the Oregon mission, a vast region never before visited by a priest, and he set out on May 3, 1838, accompanied by the Rev, Modesto Demers with the annual express of the Hudson’s Bay Company. The journey from Lachine to Fort Vancouver a distance of about 5,000 miles, was made in canoes, by portages, in barges, on horseback, and in light boats. It took them nine days to cross the Rocky Mountains, on the summit of which, at three o’clock in the morning of October 16 Father Blanchet celebrated Mass. They arrived at Fort Vancouver on November 24. The territory assigned to the two priests embraced about 375,000 square miles. It extended from California to Alaska and from the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific Ocean.

For four years they labored alone, going from settlement to settlement, facing every peril of a wild country, recalling the scattered faithful to the practice of religion and instructing the aborigines. Then two other priests from Canada, the Revs. A. Langlois and Z. Bolduc, came to their assistance. In 1844 they were reinforced by the great missionary, Father De Smet, with four other Jesuit priests, three lay brothers, and six Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur. The immense territory of the Oregon mission was made an Apostolic vicariate December 1, 1843; Father Blanchet was named its first vicar Apostolic and titular Bishop of Philadelphia. The letters from Rome arrived in August, 1844. To receive episcopal consecration he started for Canada December 5, boarded a steamer on the Columbia River, touched at Honolulu, doubled Cape Horn, landed at Dover, England, went by rail to Liverpool, took a vessel to Boston and thence proceeded by rail to Montreal, a journey of 22,000 miles. He was consecrated by Bishop Bourget in the Cathedral of Montreal July 25, 1845. Later he returned to Europe, visiting Rome, France, Belgium, Germany, and Austria in the interests of his diocese. He gathered together six secular priests, four Jesuit priests, three lay brothers, and seven Sisters of Notre Dame. They sailed from Brest February 22, 1847, and reached the Columbia River on August 12. The bishop was translated to the See of Draza by letters of May 4, 1844, to avoid the confusion of his former title with that of Philadelphia, U.S.A. The Vicariate was erected into a province July 24, 1846. Bishop Blanchet was made Archbishop of Oregon City, his brother Magloire became Bishop of Walla Walla, and Father Demers Bishop of Vancouver’s Island.

The archbishop was indefatigable. He summoned his first provincial council in 1848; attended the First Plenary Council of Baltimore in 1852; went in 1855 to South America and collected for two years in Chile, Peru, and Bolivia; returned to Canada in 1859 and took back to Oregon 31 priests, sisters, and servants. He attended the Second Plenary Council of Baltimore in 1866; celebrated, July 19, 1869, the golden jubilee of his ordination, and in the following October set out for Rome to assist at the Vatican Council, where he voted for the definition of the dogma of Papal Infallibility. He was still in the city September 26, 1870, when the temporal power of the papacy was overthrown, When Bishop Seghers was made his coadjutor in 1879 he retired to the hospital of the Sisters of Providence at Portland. He wrote the story of the Oregon mission (Historical sketches of Catholicity in Oregon) in a series of papers published in the “Catholic Sentinel” of that city. In 1880 he resigned and was appointed titular Archbishop of Amida. He consecrated three bishops—Demers, D’Herbomez, and Seghers. He found on the Pacific coast a wilderness, spiritual as well as material; he left, after forty-six years of heroic work, a well-provided ecclesiastical province. His name will be forever illustrious in the history of the Church in America as the first archbishop of the Northwest and the Apostle of Oregon.

BLANCHET, AUGUSTIN MAGLOIRE, brother of preceding, first Bishop of Walla Walla-Nesqually, State of Washington, U.S.A., b. August 22, 1797, on his father’s farm near the village of Saint-Pierre, Riviere du Sud, Canada; d. February 25, 1887, at Fort Vancouver, Washington. After attending the village school for three years, he was sent to Quebec, with his brother Francois Deft, to study for the priesthood. He was ordained June 3, 1821. After a twelve-month as assistant pastor at St. Gervais, he was sent as missionary to the Isles de la Madeleine and later to Cape Breton Island. He gave four years of ministry to the Gulf provinces. Then he was recalled to the vicariate Apostolic of Montreal and was successively pastor of four parishes, in one of which he was the successor of his elder brother. In 1846 while a canon of the Montreal cathedral, he was appointed Bishop of the new Diocese of Walla Walla in what is now the State of Washington. He was consecrated September 27, 1846. In the following spring he set out overland for his distant see with one priest, Rev. J. A. B. Brouillet, and two students. At Pittsburgh he declared his intention to become a citizen of the United States. At St. Louis the party was increased by Father Richard, two deacons and Brother Blanchet, all members of the Order of Mary Immaculate. Fort Walla Walla was reached on September 5, 1847 The Bishop located at The Dalles and thence multiplied his apostolic labors through-out the vast territory under his care. He endured the many hardships of a pioneer country and braved all the perils of a region infested with wild beasts and still more savage men. He was full of zeal. He established missions; he built churches; he founded academies and colleges; he started schools for the Indians; he begged for priests in Canada and abroad; he obtained sisters to open hospitals and other institutions.

In 1850 the See of Walla Walla was suppressed and that of Nesqually was erected in its stead, with headquarters at Fort Vancouver. The bishop built there a cathedral of logs, and a house for himself out of the same material. In 1852 he attended the First Plenary Council of Baltimore, but, on account of infirmities, he was unable to go to Rome for the Vatican Council. In 1879, after thirty-two years of arduous service in Washington, he resigned his see and was named titular Bishop of Ibora. Worn out with labors, he spent his last eight years in prayer and suffering. His peaceful death was a fitting close for his life of sacrifice. He is revered as the Apostle of Washington.


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