Odin, John Mary
ODIN, JOHN MARY
U.S. missionary bishop; b. Ambierle, France, Feb. 25, 1801; d. there, May 25, 1870. He was the seventh of ten children born of Jean and Claudine (Seyrol) Odin. After some preliminary schooling with a priest uncle in Nosilly, he pursued studies at the colleges of L'Argentière and Alix. While in the Seminary of Saint-Sulpice in Lyons, he heard of the need for priests in Louisiana from a missionary bishop, Louis William dubourg. At 22, as a subdeacon, he came to the Mississippi Valley, entered the seminary at the Barrens near St. Louis, Mo., and joined the Congregation of the Mission. Having completed his novitiate, he was ordained by Bishop Dubourg on May 4, 1823. The young priest engaged in missionary work in Missouri, Arkansas, and Texas. He also served as professor and president of the Barrens seminary, pastor at Cape Girardeau, and theologian at the Second Provincial Council of Baltimore. At 40, he was appointed vice prefect to Very Rev. John timon, CM, in Texas. Odin won the esteem of the Texans; during the first session of the fifth congress of the Texas Republic, the legislature requested him to act as chaplain of the senate. On April 16, 1841, he received a brief appointing him titular bishop of Claudiopolis and coadjutor-administrator of the American Northwest with see in Detroit. On the advice of Timon, he declined and returned the bulls to Rome. By briefs dated July 16, 1841, Gregory XVI raised Texas from prefecture to vicariate apostolic, confirmed Odin in the See of Claudiopolis, and named him vicar apostolic in Texas. Bishop Antoine Blanc consecrated him in St. Louis Cathedral, New Orleans. Following the Baltimore Council of 1846, the former Republic of Texas became a diocese with Galveston as the see city. Odin, the first bishop, consecrated St. Mary's Cathedral there on Nov. 26, 1848. In 1852 he reported that his diocese had 25 priests serving 30 churches and twice as many mission stations. Nine years later, before leaving for New Orleans, he showed on his inventory 46 churches and 46 priests, including the Oblates of Mary Immaculate whom he had brought to the diocese.
The Mexican War was fought while Odin was ordinary in Texas; the Civil War was raging when he arrived as archbishop in New Orleans (see new orleans, archdiocese of). Despite war and Reconstruction, he managed to continue the work of his predecessor, Archbishop Blanc, and to expand it by inviting six communities of men and women to the archdiocese. He was particularly successful in recruiting clerics while he was on a trip to Europe during the height of the Civil War and, despite the blockade of New Orleans, personally escorted nearly 50 priests and seminarians who had volunteered to labor in Louisiana and Texas. Odin had chartered for their transportation a passenger ship, the Ste. Genevieve, which was nicknamed "the floating seminary," and which landed at New Orleans on Good Friday, April 3,1863. Although considerate of his priests in both Texas and Louisiana, he was regarded as a strict disciplinarian. He held synods in the two dioceses over which he presided. From the content of these synodal regulations and from the tenor of his pastoral letters, it is evident that he countenanced no abuses of ecclesiastical discipline and dealt promptly with infractions. During the Civil War, Odin was the Holy Father's contact in the South, as Abp. John Hughes was intermediary in the North. Odin's problems following the war were aggravated by the attitude of priests and people toward African Americans, who, as slaves, had been admitted to churches and the Sacraments but who, once freed, were made to feel less than welcome at services. The archbishop promptly appealed to various religious communities to assign men and women religious for special ministration to blacks and for the education of their children, but antipathy was so intense that none heeded his request until 1867 when St. Joseph's School in Convent, La., was opened under the auspices of the Religious of the Sacred Heart. Another aftermath of the war was the closing of the diocesan seminary in Faubourg Bouligny because of lack of funds.
Odin accepted the invitation of Pius IX to attend the 18th centenary of the martyrdom of St. Peter in 1867 and in 1869–70 Vatican Council I. Prior to the latter event, the archbishop had asked for a coadjutor and on May 1, 1870, Napoleon Joseph Perché, his vicar-general, was consecrated in St. Louis Cathedral. Less than a month later, having left Rome because of the precarious condition of his health, Odin died.
Bibliography: j. d. g. shea, A History of the Catholic Church within the Limits of the United States, 4 v. (New York 1886–92) v.4. m. a. fitzmorris, Four Decades of Catholicism in Texas, 1820–1860 (Washington 1926).
[h. c. bezou]