Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Sculpture of De Smet

Sculpture of Pierre-Jean De Smet, at De Smet High School, in Creve Coeur, Missouri, USA

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.

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.
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.

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:

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