Father Jean Marie Biler

Servant of God

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

Born in Plourivo, Brittany, France, on Nov. 18, 1839

Ordained in St. Brieuc, France, on Dec. 17, 1864

Ministered in Caddo Parish 

Died in Shreveport on September 26, 1873



Fr. Jean-Marie Biler was the third priest to succumb to Yellow Fever in Shreveport. A native of Plourivo, Brittany, France, he born on November 18, 1839 to Joseph and Anne Biler.  He was baptized in the village church two days later. He attended the Seminary at St. Brieuc, and was ordained a priest on December 17, 1864. Jean Marie Biler was ordained for the Diocese of St. Brieuc, founded in the fifth century. Just four years a priest, he joyfully followed Bishop Martin to Louisiana in January of 1871. Fr. Biler, a relative of Mother Mary Hyacinth, superior of the Convent and Novitiate of the Daughters of the Cross in Fairfield with its Academy for girls, became the chaplain of the Daughters. Though initially displeased at being in Louisiana and with his difficulty in learning English, he ultimately committed himself fully to the priestly call and responded selflessly to the needs of his adopted community soon to be plunged into crisis.

Fr. Biler answered the call of Fr. Pierre to attend the sick and dying in Shreveport, from his residence three miles away at the Fairfield convent.  Fr. Biler, prepared to lay down his life for his friends and the people of Shreveport, quickly answered the call of the virus-ridden Fr. Pierre, Shreveport’s pastor, and entered the quarantine to attend the sick and dying. Fr. Biler provided the final sacraments to both Fr. Quémerais and Fr. Pierre and blessed their graves.

He offered Mass in Shreveport and at the convent and, though the lone priest, gave himself fully to more than 900 sick and dying persons, not simply caring for their bodily needs but more so their spiritual needs robbing death of its terrors as he led souls with confidence to eternal life. His charitable, selfless response led to his contracting the same deadly illness.

During the peak of the crisis, foreseeing his own demise and the need of the people, Fr. Biler sent a plea for more assistance to Fr. Gergaud in Monroe and Fr. LeVézouët, in Natchitoches. Fr. LeVézouët administered the final sacraments to Fr. Biler who, on his deathbed, cried out in English, French, and Breton:

I am going to Heaven!
Je vais au Ciel!
Chan d’or Baradoz!

He died on September 26, 1873, at the age of 33.


Of Fr. Biler, Bishop Martin wrote to the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith:

“This excellent priest, 35 years old, from the Diocese of St. Brieuc, had been in our mission only two-and-half years. He had given up everything in Brittany, through the entreaties of Rev. Mother Le Conniat, his relative, to dedicate himself to this establishment to which it was impossible for me to provide a priest. At the first news of the illness of his confreres, he went to them, appointed himself their guardian, assisted them in their final moments and blessed their tombs. Left alone at the height of the plague, he called upon the charity of Messrs. Gergaud and Le Vezouet. The first arrived only a few days later to see him fall in his turn, and to provide him with the consolations which he had given to the others at the expense of his own precious life.”

He is buried with the Daughters of the Cross at the mausoleum at Forest Park Cemetery in Shreveport.

Prayer for Beatification 

Almighty and merciful God, You filled the heart of your priest, Servant of God Jean Marie Biler, with abandonment to Your holy will.  Inspired and sustained by charity, he entered a disease-ridden quarantine knowing it would bring about his premature death, in order to keep the sacraments and Christ-like care available to the people, consoling his fellow man, regardless of creed, ethnicity or status, during a time virulent epidemic, offering them hope of eternal life.

Bestow upon me the grace to selflessly 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)