Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Jesuits of Nebraska

Chimney Rock, Nebraska
When Archbishop John Carroll of Baltimore was appointed as administrator, his authority ceasing in 1815. From that time the bishop of New Orleans ruled until 1827, when it came under the jurisdiction of St. Louis. In 1850, Rome established the "Vicariate Apostolic of the Territory East of the Rocky Mountains." This vicariate included all territory west of the Missouri river to the Rocky mountains, and from the southern boundary of Kansas to the British possessions. Rt. Rev. John B. Miege, S. J., was appointed vicar apostolic.
In 1857 Kansas was cut off, and the remaining part was erected into the Vicariate of Nebraska. This vicariate was gradually trimmed down until 1885, when, comprising Nebraska and Wyoming, the Diocese of Omaha was erected. Two years later, in 1887, took place the establishment of the present Diocese of Lincoln. Its history is no less interesting. If Coronado's Expedition entered the present state of Nebraska, it must have been somewhere within the limits of the Lincoln diocese. However, the first authentic records we have of Catholic priests ministering within the present borders of Nebraska, and of the Lincoln diocese, are those of the Jesuit Indian missionaries. Many of the early traders and trappers who dwelt in these regions had been baptized as Catholics, but, being far removed from churches and priests, they retained only the name and some traditions.
The Jesuit Fathers, Peter John De Smet and Christian Hoecken, visited and baptized among the Indians living along the Missouri river. Father De Smet, in a letter dated December 16, 1839, writes, "A few days ago I also baptized two young Omahaw's, from 18 to 20 vears old. One of them was the son of Aurora and Nelson as missions.  Opetanga (the great dog) Chief of his tribe, and nephew to the famous Blackbird."' In 1840 Father De Smet accompanied Captain Drips and the American Fur Co.'s caravan up the Little Blue river, through the present Jefferson, Thayer, Nuckolls, Clay, Adams, and Kearney counties, to the Platte river, thence along the south shore to where Julesburg, Col., now is, crossed the river there, and proceeded through Wyoming to Oregon. He saw Chimney Rock on May 31, 1840. He returned in the fall along the Missouri river from Ft. Benton. He passed through Nebraska again in 1841, with Fathers Point, Mengarini, and three lay brothers. On these journeys Father De Smet met several tribes of Indians, but it is not known, at present, whether he baptized any of them.
Link (here) to the book entitled History of Nebraska

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