Badin, Stephen Theodore

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Missionary; b. Orléans, France, July 17, 1768; d. Cincinnati, Ohio, April 19, 1853. In 1792, because of the revolution, he left the Sulpician seminary in France for America and became one of the first students at St. Mary's Seminary, Baltimore, Md. He was ordained by Bishop John Carroll on May 25, 1793, the first priest ordained in the United States.

From 1793 to 1811 Badin was Carroll's vicar-general in the Old West. Generally alone, and never with more than six priests to aid him, he served the scattered Catholics of Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Tennessee. He was chiefly responsible for the designation of the see at Bardstown, Ky., and the selection of Benedict J. Flaget as its first bishop.

Because of difficulties with Flaget over church property, Badin returned to France in 1819 and remained there, acting as agent for various American bishops until 1826. On his return to the United States, he joined the Cincinnati diocese and was sent by Bishop Edward D. Fenwick to the Pottawatomie Indian mission in Indiana. He founded the first orphan asylum in that state near South Bend and bought the land on which the University of Notre Dame now stands. After the Indian mission closed, he served the Irish laborers building the Wabash canal and purchased tracts for Catholic churches along this route. From 1835 on, he traveled over the Ohio Valley, assisting the bishops and pastors of the area.

Badin possessed a keen wit and a sharp sense of humor. Although tolerant with Protestants, he was very strict with his own flock. His writings included several Latin poems, religious tracts, and two books on Catholic doctrine. Martin J. Spalding's sketches on the missions of early Kentucky were largely based on Badin's notes and reminiscences.

After 60 years of missionary labors on frontier lands, Badin died in his 85th year and was buried in the cathedral crypt in Cincinnati. In 1904 his remains were transferred to Notre Dame University and are in the Badin chapel there. At this university Badin Hall is named after him; there is a monument to him at the motherhouse of the Sisters of Loretto in Kentucky, the location of his headquarters in that state. His work earned him the right to be called "the Apostle of Kentucky."

Bibliography: j. h. schauinger, Stephen T. Badin (Milwaukee 1956). m. j. spalding, Sketches of the Early Catholic Missions of Kentucky, 17871827 (Louisville 1844). b. j. webb, The Centenary of Catholicity in Kentucky (Louisville, 1884).

[j. h. schauinger]