Bishop deGoësbriand’s apostolic heart
Two years after his arrival as founding bishop of the Diocese of Burlington, Bishop Louis deGoësbriand headed back to Europe on a recruitment mission to secure more priests for Vermont. He needed priests that spoke French and priests that spoke English.
On May 15, 1855, while he was staying in Paris, Bishop deGoësbriand wrote to the rector of All Hallows College in Dublin, Ireland. All Hallows was a seminary devoted to forming priests as missionaries for English-speaking countries like the United States. It was founded in 1840 by Father John Hand who was concerned about Irish immigrants leaving Ireland and their having adequate access to English-speaking priests in foreign lands.
Bishop deGoësbriand wrote the following:
Very Rev. Dear Sir:
I am just arriving [in France] from Rome where I spent four weeks. I thank God for giving me that grace for I envy those who live there. Whilst at Rome, I had the great honor of attending Pius IX at the low Mass which according to custom he said in his private chapel on Holy Thursday. Another memorable souvenir of Rome is that of the great audience of the 12th of April when I fell with the Pope, the Archbishop of Dublin and a great many others. [Note: the floor actually collapsed. Fortunately everybody survived]. I should love Rome, though these events should not have taken place but you see I am now bound to think of the Eternal City. …
On my way to Paris, I stopped at Lyons in great part to recommend my diocese to the Propagation of the Faith. …
Before I started for Rome, I had every reason to believe that I had secured a sufficient number of missionaries for my new Mission of Vermont, but as I arrived I found that the most have backed out. … I then wish Rev. MM Lynch and O’Reilly to finish their theological course in peace. Tell them if you please that I was praying hard for them over the tombs of the Apostles in Rome, that I have asked and obtained for them an especial benediction from the Holy Father. God grant we may all have the spirit of the first Apostles! Let me know what they will want. Have they succeeded in obtaining more laborers for Vermont?
Yours very truly,
Bp. of Burlington
Bishop deGoësbriand’s heart burned with the fervor of the apostles. His priestly life for 13 years had been that of a missionary. One notices the disappointment in his tone that the once-willing seminarians had changed their minds about coming to Vermont as missionaries. Undaunted however, the bishop continued recruiting priests from Ireland, France and Canada to build up his presbyterate.
Disappointment is normal for an apostle who burns with love for the Gospel when others don’t share that same zeal, but God always blesses those who trust in Him. Over the succeeding decades, God would bless Bishop deGoësbriand’s apostolic heart with a fruitful ministry in ways he could never have foreseen.
—Father Lance Harlow is pastor of Corpus Christi Parish based in St. Johnsbury.
—Originally published in the Summer 2023 issue of Vermont Catholic magazine.