Southwestern Indiana's Catholic Community Newspaper

That Night I Met Our History In Vincennes

Tim Lilley

This issue of The Message includes a special section that serves as a tribute to Archbishop-elect Charles C. Thompson as he prepares for installation, on July 28, as the seventh Archbishop of Indianapolis. In it, you will find a variety of photos, columns, homilies and stories that have appeared in The Message over the past 6 years. We hope you will enjoy the memories.


From here, one memory is particularly moving. It occurred in Vincennes on a cold December night a few years ago. The archbishop-elect was leading Advent Evening Prayer at the Minor Basilica of St. Francis Xavier, which is known pretty much everywhere as “the old cathedral.”


We did not drive together from Evansville, and Archbishop-elect Thompson arrived before I did. When I walked into the sanctuary, he greeted me and learned, quickly, that I was making my first visit to St. Francis Xavier. “You’ve never been here before?! Let’s go downstairs … you have to see this,” he said with a wide smile.


We didn’t stay down there long because he had to get ready for the prayer service, but we returned at its conclusion because he invited those in attendance to join him down there to pray for the cause of canonization of Servant of God Bishop Simon Bruté de Rémur before his tomb, which is located next to the tomb of the three holy men who immediately succeeded him – Bishop Célestine de la Hailandière, Bishop Jean Bazin and Bishop Jacques Maurice de St. Palais.


As someone new to the area, I was amazed to learn that the first four bishops of Indiana are buried under the minor basilica. I was humbled to be able to join the then-Bishop Thompson and many of those who attended the prayer service to pray for Bishop Bruté and his possible canonization.


None of that defines the moving memory I mentioned earlier. No; Archbishop-elect Thompson provided that himself as he related the stories of our first four bishops and helped me to see the literal foundation of Catholicism in Indiana and the middle of America.


In those few minutes I learned not only about the history of our diocese, but also about the man who was serving us as the fifth bishop of Evansville. He clearly enjoyed history, and he clearly enjoyed sharing it with someone new. I remember feeling grateful that he had been the one to introduce me to the first four bishops of Indiana. 


Fast forward to July 28; he will begin literally walking in their footsteps as the seventh Archbishop of Indianapolis. The Vatican moved the seat of what had been the Diocese of Vincennes to Indianapolis in 1898. The archbishop-elect, as a result, becomes the first shepherd to serve as the metropolitan archbishop of our state who has also served as the bishop of the diocese whose 12 counties include Vincennes.


Servant of God Bishop Simon Bruté de Rémur, pray for him and for us.