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Brondel, John Baptist


First bishop of Helena (Mont.) Diocese; b. Bruges, Belgium, Feb. 23, 1842; d. Helena, Nov. 3, 1904. He was taught by the Xaverian Brothers and attended the Episcopal Institute of St. Louis, Brussels, for ten years. Deciding to prepare for the missions, he entered the American College in Louvain, Belgium. After his ordination on Dec. 17, 1864, at Mechlin, Belgium, he joined Bp. Augustin M. A. Blanchet in the Diocese of Nesqually (now Seattle Archdiocese), Washington Territory, in November of 1866, and was appointed pastor at Steilacoom (Steilicom) on Puget Sound. From this base he organized parishes in Olympia and Tacoma, and did missionary work in Walla Walla until he was appointed bishop of Vancouver Island (now Victoria) on Dec. 14, 1879.

On April 7, 1883, he was named administrator of the vicariate apostolic of Montana and established his residence at Helena, the territorial capital. When the Diocese of Helena was created on March 7, 1884, Brondel became its first bishop. Besides transforming his territory from missionary to diocesan status, he promoted the building of schools, hospitals, and asylums; increased the number of churches from seven to 56; and added the Sisters of the Good Shepherd to the communities already staffing diocesan institutions. Development outside the city kept pace with that within: 49 churches, four hospitals, five academies, and seven parochial schools were established throughout the diocese during his episcopate. On behalf of the native Americans he made fund-raising tours in the East and founded a mission among the Cheyenne. At his request the eastern two-thirds of Montana was separated from the Helena jurisdiction in 1904 to form the Diocese of Great Falls.

Bibliography: l. b. palladino, Indian and White in the Northwest (2d ed. rev. Lancaster, Pa. 1922). Dictionary of American Biography (New York 192836) 3:6768.

[w. j. greytak]

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