Bruté de Rémur, Simon William Gabriel
BRUTÉ DE RÉMUR, SIMON WILLIAM GABRIEL
First bishop of Vincennes, Ind. (now Archdiocese of indianapolis); b. Rennes, Brittany, France, March 20, 1779; d. Vincennes, June 26, 1839. He was the son of Simon Bruté de Rémur, overseer of the royal domains in Brittany, and Jeanne Renée Le Saulnier de Vauhelle Vatar. Left fatherless as a child, Bruté attended local schools and then trained for the printing works inherited by his mother. During the French Revolution, young Bruté, according to his own diary, made frequent visits to imprisoned priests and nobles, smuggling messages and even the Blessed Sacrament to them. From 1796 intermittently to 1803 he studied medicine in Paris, graduating first in his class of more than 1,000. Instead of practicing, however, he entered the Sulpician seminary in Paris, and upon ordination on June 11, 1808, joined the Society of Saint-Sulpice. In 1810, while teaching theology in the Rennes seminary, he met Bishop-elect Benedict J. Flaget of Kentucky, who was seeking recruits for the American missions; that June they sailed for the United States together.
For the first two years, Bruté taught philosophy at St. Mary's Seminary, Baltimore, Md., devoting the summer of 1812 to missionary work in Maryland's Talbot and Queen Anne Counties. That September he was transferred to Mt. St. Mary's College, Emmitsburg, Md., where for another two years he taught and served as pastor to the Catholics of the countryside. Here, too, he met Mother Seton, whose spiritual director he was until her death in 1820. In 1815 he was appointed president of St. Mary's College in Baltimore, but he returned to Emmitsburg in 1818 and remained there until 1834. He was then named bishop of the new See of Vincennes and consecrated by Bishop Flaget in St. Louis on Oct. 28, 1834.
The new diocese was a frontier mission field embracing all of Indiana and a large part of eastern Illinois, with two priests, an unplastered building for a cathedral, and a widely scattered flock of about 25,000. One of Bruté's prime needs was a seminary. He visited France in 1835, gathering funds from the Propagation of the Faith, and recruiting 20 priests and seminarians. His five-year episcopate was one of unrelieved hardship: constant journeying through his diocese, preaching, teaching, composing expositions of the faith, writing to his priests when he could not visit them, and administering the Sacraments. He attended the Third Provincial Council of Baltimore, but he never fully recovered from the effects of the hard, wintry trip from Indiana. Although he published nothing, his memoranda, diaries, and letters are of historical significance, the more so since they involve prominent persons in France and America, among them H. F. R. de Lammenais, whom he tried unsuccessfully to reconcile with the Church.
Bibliography: j. w. ruane, The Beginnings of the Society of St. Sulpice in the United States, 1791–1829 (Studies in American Church History 22; Washington 1935). l. f. ruskowski, French Émigré Priests in the United States, 1791–1815 (Studies in American Church History 32; Washington 1940). m. s. godecker, Simon Bruté de Rémur. j. h. schauinger, Cathedrals in the Wilderness.
[j. j. tierney]