Verot, Jean Pierre Augustin Marcellin
VEROT, JEAN PIERRE AUGUSTIN MARCELLIN
Third bishop of Savannah, Georgia, first bishop of St. Augustine, Florida; b. LePuy, France, May 23, 1805; d. St. Augustine, June 10, 1876. After ordination on Sept. 20, 1828, Verot joined the Society of the Priests of St. Sulpice at Paris. In 1830 he was sent to the U.S., where he taught mathematics and science at St. Mary's College, Baltimore, Maryland. From 1852 to 1858 he did pastoral work at Ellicott's Mills, Clarksville, Sykesville, and Doughoregan Manor, all in Maryland.
Verot was consecrated titular bishop of Danaba and vicar apostolic of Florida on April 25, 1858. As a new bishop, he participated in the Ninth Provincial Council of Baltimore (1858) before setting out for his vicariate. On arrival he found only three priests, two churches, and seven mission chapels. A year later the Sisters of Mercy arrived from Hartford, Connecticut, and six priests, four Christian Brothers, and additional nuns came from Europe to the vicariate. On July 16, 1861, Verot became the third bishop of Savannah, but he continued to administer the vicariate apostolic of Florida.
The Civil War brought widespread destruction of churches and institutions in Verot's diocese and vicariate, from Chattanooga, Tennessee, to the Florida Keys. To obtain needed money and priests, he preached in the North and sent written appeals to Europe. A Southern sympathizer during the war, Verot's celebrated sermon of 1861, "A Tract for the Times: Slavery and Abolitionism," condemned the slave trade and suggested a code of rights and duties for slaves and masters, but sustained the property rights of slave owners. Nevertheless, he supplied priests to, and personally worked among, Union soldiers imprisoned at Andersonville, Georgia. In a pastoral letter of Aug. 1, 1866, he rejoiced over the extinction of slavery, invited African-Americans to share the benefits of Catholic education, and inaugurated a campaign
to remove prejudice against African-Americans. In the same year, he brought Sisters of St. Joseph from Le Puy, France, to work among the African-Americans of Florida and Georgia.
In addition to his numerous pastoral letters, Verot wrote articles in the Pacificator, edited by Leopold T. Blome and Patrick Walsh at Augusta, Georgia; a catechism of Christian doctrine, published in 1864; and frequent letters to the Lyons Society for the Propagation of the Faith, including the official letter for the Second Plenary Council of Baltimore in 1866. At Vatican Council I, he took an active part in the discussions, becoming known as l'enfant terrible of the gathering. He opposed the definition of papal infallibility, asked for a condemnation of the theory that people of color have no souls, and sought corrections in the Breviary. With 54 others, he absented himself from the final public vote on papal infallibility rather than vote non placet. However, he accepted the decision of the council without hesitation. In March 1870, Verot became the first bishop of St. Augustine, Florida, relinquishing his Savannah jurisdiction. He continued his efforts for African-Americans, the Seminole, and the progress of the Church until his death following a stroke.
Bibliography: l. bertrand, Bibliothèque sulpicienne, 3 v. (Paris 1900) v.2. c. g. herbermann, The Sulpicians in the United States (New York 1916). m. v. gannon, Rebel Bishop: The Life and Era of Augustin Verot (Milwaukee 1964).
[v. de p. mcmurry]