Ravoux, Augustin

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Missionary; b. Langeac, Auvergne, France, Jan. 11, 1815; d. St. Paul, Minn., Jan. 17, 1906. After three years in the minor seminary at Le Puy, France, he entered the major seminary there, receiving the subdiaconate on May 20, 1837. He then transferred to the diocese of Dubuque, Iowa, and completed his studies at Mount St. Mary's, Emmitsburg, Maryland, and at Dubuque. He was ordained on Jan. 5, 1840, and he subsequently ministered to frontiersmen at Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, for a year and a half. In 1841 he began his missionary labors among the Sioux in the Minnesota River valley. As the first priest to serve the area in almost 100 years, he mastered three native dialects and published in 1843 a catechism and hymnal titled Wakantanka Ti Ki Chanku, or The Path to the House of God. The indigenous peoples had great respect for him; all but five of the 38 Native Americans condemned to be hanged for leading an uprising in 1862 chose him to prepare them for death. He was the only priest in Minnesota from 1844 to 1851, when the first bishop of St. Paul, Joseph Cretin, arrived. In those years Catholics in the St. Paul area required most of his time, but he visited Sioux villages occasionally, and twice he ministered to isolated Catholics as far west as the Missouri River in South Dakota. In 1850 the diocese of St. Paul was created, chiefly through his efforts, and the land that he had acquired became the basis of its material prosperity. He was vicar-general of the diocese from 1857 to 1859. He declined, in 1868, the appointment as first vicar apostolic of the vicariate of Montana. He was made a domestic prelate on March 1, 1887. He lived in retirement at the cathedral rectory in St. Paul, where he wrote Reminiscences, Memoirs, and Lectures (1890; French ed.1892), Labors of Mgr. A. Ravoux at Mendota, St. Paul, and Other Localities (1897), Catholic Life in St. Paul (1899), and Tempus tacendi et tempus loquendi (1901).

Bibliography: j. m. reardon, The Catholic Church in the Diocese of St. Paul (St. Paul, MN 1952).

[p. h. ahern]