Father Isidore A. Quémerais

Servant of God

Martyr to His Charity caring for Victims of the Yellow Fever Epidemic

Born in Pleine-Fougères, Brittany, France, on Sept. 9, 1847

Ordained in Natchitoches, LA, in January 1871

Ministered in the Parishes of Rapides – Avoyelles – Caddo  

Died in Shreveport on September 15, 1873



Isidore was born to Pierre and Ann Quémerais on September 9, 1847 in the small farming village of Pleine-Fougères in Brittany, France, where he was also baptized.  The son of a ploughman, the parents of Isidore, recognizing their son’s intellect, piety and desire to be a priest, allowed him to leave home at age 16 to study at the Seminary of Saint-Meen in the Diocese of Rennes, founded in the third century. From there, in 1870, he was recruited from the seminary to leave his homeland, rich in Catholicism, to travel with Bishop Auguste Marie Martin, the first bishop of the Diocese of Natchitoches to Louisiana, to join other Breton priests in a newly erected diocese in the vast unknown frontier wilderness of northern Louisiana where Catholics were but a small minority. With fervent missionary zeal and filial devotion to his bishop, young Isidore was ordained at age 23. After several assignments, the bishop assigned him to be the assisting priest of Fr. Jean Pierre, pastor of Holy Trinity Church in Shreveport in early 1873.

Later that same summer, after convalescing from an illness, Fr. Quémerais re-entered the city to minister to its people in the face of great danger of a Yellow Fever epidemic. He and his pastor, Fr. Pierre, were part of the first group of volunteers as the city organized its compassionate response for those stricken by the virus. Choosing to minister within the quarantine, Fr. Quémerais did so with the expectation that he would contract the illness and die the horrific Yellow Fever death. Despite his own compromised health, due to tuberculosis earlier in life, the young priest, faithful to Holy Mass and the Divine Office, anointed the dying Catholics and assisted at the bedsides of countless sick and dying, assuring them of eternal life and instilling in them the hope of the resurrection. Having just turned 26 years of age, Fr. Quémerais worked to the point of total exhaustion until he was mortally ill himself.  He was the first priest to die on Sept. 15, 1873.

A major testimony to his character and piety comes from Bishop Auguste Martin, who wrote of him:

“Mr. Quémerais was one of the young Bretons who followed me to Louisiana on my return from the Vatican Council. The piety, the gentleness, the unselfish dedication of this young priest, his filial affection for his bishop and the ease with which he mastered the difficulties of the English language permitted me to place great hope in him for the future. This was a flower; the angels gathered him for heaven. After only two years of practicing the charity that emulates, he died on September 15.”

He is buried at St. Joseph Cemetery at the foot of the large Calvary monument in memory of all five Servants of God.


Almighty and merciful God, You filled the heart of your priest, Servant of God Isidore Quémerais, with the passion of a selfless missionary, with piety, gentleness and unselfish dedication.  He zealously labored but two-and-half years in Your vineyard, and, inspired and sustained by charity, made the free and willing offering of his life for the salvation of his fellow man, regardless of creed, ethnicity or status, during a virulent epidemic, consoling the sick and dying with hope of eternal life.

Bestow upon me the grace to ardently love my neighbor and fully trust in Your providential love, as did this martyr to his charity.  If it be Your will, O God, glorify our beloved Servant of God by granting the favor I now request (mention your request), so that, we pray, all may know of his heroic virtue and holiness and may imitate his love for You and Your Church. Through Christ our Lord. Amen. (Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be)

In 2023, the city of Shreveport will mark the 150th anniversary of the third-worst epidemic of Yellow Fever in United States history. The human toll was staggering: over one-quarter of the population died from the illness within a matter of weeks. The human suffering wrought in 1873 remains unparalleled to this day. Yet amid this tragedy emerged heroic virtue, exemplified in the lives of five priests who voluntarily and freely offered their life for others and persevered with this determination unto death.

Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. (Jn 15:13)

Devotion to Fr. Quemerais

Evidence of an immediate and continuous commemoration and devotion to Fr. Quémerais is substantiated by many examples found in the historical record and in popular devotional patterns and practices:

  1. Newspaper reports from more than 50 sources following his death, beginning immediately (September 15, 1873).
  2. A memorial letter from Bishop Auguste Marie Martin to the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith (Paris, France), November 1873, as referenced above, which indicates that within two months of his death, there was already a popular devotion to Fr. Quémerais.
  3. The report of the New Orleans Morning Star and Catholic Messenger, detailing the death of Fr. Fr. Quémerais and his sacrifice to the people of Shreveport in the Yellow Fever epidemic, December 21, 1873. The report refers to him as “a devoted servant to the Faith remembered by all.”
  4. The report of the Shreveport Times, announcing the ceremony and procession for the exhumation and removal of Fr. Fr. Quémerais’ body from the City Cemetery in Shreveport to Holy Trinity Church, February 2, 1876. The ceremony was clearly expected to attract many of the city’s citizens to attend.
  5. The report of the New Orleans Republican, detailing the ceremony for the exhumation and moving of Fr. Quémerais’ body from the City Cemetery in Shreveport to Holy Trinity Church, Shreveport, February 10, 1876, reporting that Shreveporters “processed with great reverence.”
  6. An article honoring Fr. Fr. Quémerais (and the other Shreveport priests) published by The Scholastic, the official publication of the University of Notre Dame, November 29, 1873. The article refers to him as “a victim of his devotedness to his charity.”
  7. The diary of Fr. Joseph Gentille, Pastor of Holy Trinity Church, detailing the ceremony and well-attended procession for the exhumation and moving of Fr. Quémerais’ body from Holy Trinity to St. Joseph’s Cemetery, March 1884. This ceremony was reported to be as well attended as the first reinterment of 1876. The ongoing care of his burial site has been a practice of piety for many of the local devoted faithful.
  8. The report of the Shreveport Times detailing the ceremony and procession for the above exhumation and removing of Fr. Quémerais’ body, including the dedication of the Calvary Mound in honor of his sacrifice, March 23, 1884.
  9. The report of the Shreveport Times detailing the 25th anniversary memorial Mass for Fr. Quémerais and other priests, held at Holy Trinity Church, December 6, 1898. Twenty-five years later, the memory of his sacrifice was marked by the faithful Catholics of the city.
  10. The installation of commemorative stained glass windows in 1946 at Holy Trinity Church in Shreveport honoring the memory of Fr. Isidore Quémerais speaks directly to a cult of local devotion that had been nurtured for 70 years.
  11. Painting of Fr. Quémerais’ likeness in the ceiling fresco of Holy Trinity Church in Shreveport, completed at approximately the same time as the above.
  12. The commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Yellow Fever epidemic as chronicled in the Shreveport Times, October 22, 1973. In this news article, Fr Quemerais and the other priests are extolled for their virtue and sacrifice for the city, evidence of an ongoing awareness for him in the historical identity of the city.
  13. The commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Yellow Fever epidemic and the death of Fr. Quémerais and other priests, observed in a memorial Mass, Holy Trinity Church, October 1973. One hundred years after the epidemic, the faithful of Shreveport marked the anniversary of Fr. Quemerais’ death in great numbers.
  14. Shape of Shreveport Television Documentary Series, “Yellow Jack Comes to Shreveport,” chronicling the death and sacrifice of Fr. Quémerais and other priests during the 1873 Yellow Fever epidemic, January 2015. This included the acknowledgement of patterns of devotion for Fr. Quemerais and the other priests that continue to be obvious in the city.
  15. Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities, Radio Documentary, Oakland Cemetery. This documentary covered the 1873 Yellow Fever epidemic, including details of the death and sacrifice of Fr. Quémerais and other priests, 2015. This specifically remembers the original burial site of Fr. Quémerais and notes the reverence given the removal of his remains on two occasions.
  16. Use of Fr. Quémerais’ image on a Vocations poster for the Diocese of Shreveport as an example of exemplary service and sacrifice, 2017. Many seminarians have cited Fr. Quémerais’ example as having profound personal influence.
  17. Prayer cards printed by the Cathedral of St. John Berchmans in Shreveport, Louisiana to commemorate the 145th anniversary of the death of Fr. Quémerais and other priests, 2018.
  18. Diocese of Shreveport research delegation to Brittany, France, Archdiocese of Rennes, reception by clergy there and their interest in following a historical investigation for the purpose of opening a cause, February 2019.
  19. Podcast mini-series for national audience, No Greater Love: Shreveport 1873, chronicling the life of Fr. Quémerais and other priests of the 1873 Yellow Fever epidemic. This was accompanied by a graphic novel in serial production and a book-length manuscript.
  20. There has been great interest and support expressed in solidarity and unanimity from the Diocese of Shreveport, as well as from the bishops of Louisiana, Archbishop Gregory Aymond, and the Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, himself a native of the same region of France.
  21. Local patterns of devotion to Fr. Isidore Quémerais evident in the community today include his ongoing inspiration for seminarians, circulation of prayer cards in his name and prayers for his intercession, pilgrimages to his graveside and its perpetual care with evidence of devotion obvious in flowers and items left in remembrance, and pilgrimages to Holy Trinity Church and his effigy in stained glass.