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Meurin, Sébastien Louis


Jesuit; b. Charleville, France, Dec. 26, 1707; d. Prairie du Roeher, Ill., Feb. 23, 1777. He was destined to be the last Jesuit missionary in the "Illinois Country." He entered the novitiate of the Champagne province of the Society of Jesus, at Nancy, France, 1729. He came to Canada in 1741 and was sent in 1746 to the Illinois mission. After serving as pastor of Ft. Vincennes (Vincennes, Ind.) he moved (1752) to French settlements near the Mississippi River (present Cahokia, Prairie du Rocher, and Kaskaskia, Ill.). Toward the end of the French and Indian War, a new governor, Philippe DAbbadie, arrived at New Orleans with orders to expel the Jesuits. The priests were taken to New Orleans and sent to France, but the superior council of Louisiana took the responsibility of returning Meurin to his ministry among the Illinois native tribes. When the territory east of the Mississippi became English in 1763, he settled at St. Genevieve, crossing the river to serve the Christians of Illinois. He first established ecclesiastical jurisdiction through the Rev. Robert Harding, superior of the Maryland Jesuits, but in 1768 he offered obedience to Bp. Oliver Briand of Quebec, Canada. Briand named him vicar-general and sent the Rev. Pierre Gibault to help him. The Spanish commandant of Sainte Genevieve, considering this relationship with a bishop in English territory disloyal, exiled Meurin, who had to go to Illinois, where he settled at Prairie du Roeher; he lived the rest of his life under English rule. In 1764, during Meurin's only absence from the Illinois mission, Pierre Laclede and Auguste Chouteau founded the present city of St. Louis, Mo. From its beginning, Meurin cared for the settlers there, blessing the first log cabin church in the village on June 24, 1770. In 1775, after the suppression of the Society of Jesus (1773), he was adopted by the bishop of Quebec. He was buried at Prairie du Rocher, but his remains were transferred in 1847 to the Jesuit novitiate at Florissant, Mo.

Bibliography: c. h. metzger, "Sebastien Louis Meurin," Ill. Catholic Historical Review, 3 (192021) 241259, 378388; 4 (19211922) 4356.

[r. n. hamilton]

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