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Vilarrasa, Francis Sadoc


Founder of the Dominican Order in California; b. La Pobla de Lillet, Spain, Aug. 9, 1814; d. Benicia, Calif., March 17, 1888. After profession at the monastery of St. Catherine, Barcelona, Spain, Sept. 25, 1830, Vilarrasa studied there until the building was burned down by antireligious rioters in July 1835. He then transferred to the La Quercia priory near Viterbo, then in the Papal States. There he was ordained, probably on May 17, 1837, and remained as assistant to the novice master for two years. At Santa Maria sopra Minerva, Rome, he took his lectorate in sacred theology in 1841. After his return to La Quercia, he volunteered for the missions and was assigned to the U.S. In January 1845 he arrived at St. Joseph's Priory near Somerset, Ohio, where he was chosen prior before the year's end. In 1849, as definitor of the province of St. Joseph, he accompanied Joseph S. alemany, then U.S. provincial, to Europe on Dominican business. At Rome Alemany was named bishop of Monterey, Calif., and shortly afterward, Vilarrasa was appointed commissary general of the Dominicans in California, with the authority of a provincial superior.

Vilarrasa and his bishop arrived in San Francisco on Dec. 6, 1850, accompanied by Sister Mary of the Cross Goemare, OP, who opened the state's first convent and girls' school in Monterey. On Feb. 4, 1852, in Monterey, Vilarrasa formally erected the first Dominican foundation in California and gave the Dominican habit to six young men from Catalonia, Spain. The community was transferred to Benicia, then the state capital, on March 31, 1854. During these early years Vilarrasa served as local superior, parish priest, novice master, and professor of all ecclesiastical disciplines. Under his administration the foundation came to include a priory in San Francisco, eight mission stations, and a community of more than 40 members. From this nucleus grew Holy Name province, created in 1912 with headquarters in San Francisco.

Bibliography: p. m. starrs, "The California Chronicle of Francis Sadoc Vilarrasa, O.P. 18501884," Catholic Historical Re-view 37 (1952) 415436. v. f. o'daniel, The Dominican Province of St. Joseph (New York 1942).

[p. m. starrs]

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