A bronze sculpture of Pierre-Jean de Smet (1801-1873), Belgian Jesuit and missionary to the Indians. The sculpture is at the front entrance to De Smet Jesuit High School, in the suburban Saint Louis County town of Creve Coeur, Missouri.
From a history of the Missouri Province of the Society of Jesus:
Seven novices, two brothers and two priests walked from Maryland to the Ohio River and then set off in two humble rafts tied together. Keelboats, skiffs and barges crowded the river but did not cow the eleven Jesuits who bought a book called The Riverman's Guide and trusted they could learn enough to make their way where less adventuresome (or less prayerful) travelers would have declined to go.De Smet, one of the founders of the Missouri Province, exhibited the exemplary courage typical of the Jesuits of that era. He was a missionary to the American West, was called the best friend the Indians ever had, and would often act as an intermediary between the natives and the United States government. He travelled frequently between Europe and the Americas in support of his mission.
The faith of the pioneer Belgian Jesuits was justified when they arrived safe, tired and footsore after walking across Illinois from the Ohio River to the banks of the Mississippi. Before long they turned a log cabin on a primitive farm north of the village of St. Louis into an adequate but spare home for their new community.
According to Jesuit historian Fr. William Barnaby Faherty, despite Fr. De Smet's holiness of life, it is unlikely that he will ever be canonized, for he was known as an administrator and an “empire builder”, rather than a man of quiet contemplation. However, he was greatly encouraged by the prayers of Saint Rose Philippine Duchesne, whom De Smet considered the “protector” of his missions.
Some of Father De Smet's writings are available online:
- Western Missions and Missionaries: A Series of Letters
- Oregon missions and travels over the Rocky mountains in 1845-46
- Life, letters and travels of Father Pierre-Jean de Smet, S.J., 1801-1873
- De Smet's Letters and sketches, 1841-1842
- Travels in the far West: 1836-1841, Volume 1
- Voyages aux montagnes rocheuses chez les tribus indiennes du vaste territoire de l'Orégon dépendant des Etats-Unis d'Amérique
- Notice sur le territoire et sur la mission de l'Orégon
- Voyages dans l'Amérique Septentrionale, Orégon
- Lettres choisies du révérend père Pierre-Jean de Smet de la Compagnie de Jésus, missionnaire aux États-Unis d'Amérique