Father Jean Pierre

Servant of God

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

Born in Lanloup, Brittany, France, Sept. 29, 1831

Ordained in Natchitoches, LA, on Sept. 22, 1855

Ministered in the Parishes of DeSoto – Caddo – Bossier – Webster – Claiborne 

Died in Shreveport on September 16, 1873


Village life centered around the small parish church where, as a youth, Jean Pierre served at the altar in a parish with a deep devotion to St. Giles and St. Blaise, who were among the Fourteen Holy Helpers of plague victims and who nurtured the heroic virtues that Fr. Pierre would come to exemplify in his priestly ministry.

He left the rich Catholic culture of his homeland to serve as a missionary priest in a wilderness populated by a diverse mix of Protestants, Jewish immigrants, Creoles, and a rich native culture. Fr. Pierre was known as someone who would befriend and extend Christ’s love to all.

As a young priest who covered the vast frontier of Northwest Louisiana on horseback and on foot, Fr. Pierre sowed the seeds of the faith, watching them take healthy root everywhere he went.  He founded the mission in Bayou Pierre (today Carmel) and was then assigned to establish a church dedicated to the Holy Trinity in Shreveport, a rapidly growing town in the region. His work as a tutor to children of all faiths earned the funds to build the first church.

Known for his generosity, kindness and keen intellect, Fr. Pierre cared for orphans and the poor, and was available to all people with a gentle demeanor and charity noted by all who knew him and who later memorialized him.

Heedless of the gruesome death he would face, this pastor refused to abandon his flock and remained in the virus-ridden city, organizing efforts to care for the sick and dying. He followed very closely the footsteps and teachings of the Lord Jesus, freely offering his life for others and persevering with this determination unto death.

He is buried at St. Joseph Cemetery at the foot of the large Calvary monument in memory of all five Martyrs to their charity.

Prayer for Beatification

Almighty and merciful God, You filled the heart of your priest, Servant of God Jean Pierre, with piety, generosity, zeal for the salvation of all souls and a capacity to see the face of Christ in his neighbor, especially in the sick, the orphaned and the poor.  Inspired and sustained by charity, this tireless shepherd did not desert his flock, but made the free and willing offering of his life for the salvation of his fellow man, regardless of creed, ethnicity or status, during virulent epidemic, affording 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)


Devotion to Fr. Pierre

Evidence of an immediate and continuous commemoration and devotion to Fr. Pierre 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 16, 1873).
  2. A tribute from the Daily Shreveport Times of September 18, 1873, which calls him “a pious priest,” found “at the bedside of Jew and Gentile.”
  3. 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. Pierre.
  4. The report of the New Orleans Morning Star and Catholic Messenger, detailing the death of Fr. Pierre 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.”
  5. An article honoring Fr. Pierre (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.”
  6. 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. Pierre’s body from Holy Trinity to St. Joseph’s Cemetery, March 1884. The ongoing care of his burial site has been a practice of piety for many of the local devoted faithful.
  7. The report of the Shreveport Times detailing the ceremony and procession for the above exhumation and removing of Fr. Pierre’s body, including the dedication of the Calvary Mound in honor of his sacrifice, March 23, 1884.
  8. The subsequent decision of the City of Shreveport to name a street in his honor (Pierre Avenue).
  9. The report of the Shreveport Times detailing the 25th anniversary memorial Mass for Fr. Pierre 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. Jean Pierre speaks directly to a cult of local devotion that had been nurtured for 70 years.
  11. Painting of Fr. Pierre’s 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. Pierre 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. Pierre 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. Pierre’s death in great numbers.
  14. Shape of Shreveport Television Documentary Series, “Yellow Jack Comes to Shreveport,” chronicling the death and sacrifice of Fr. Pierre and other priests during the 1873 Yellow Fever epidemic, January 2015. This included the acknowledgement of patterns of devotion for Fr. Pierre 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. Pierre and other priests, 2015, noting the devotion to him that continues to this day.
  16. Use of Fr. Pierre’s image on a Vocations poster for the Diocese of Shreveport as an example of exemplary service and sacrifice, 2017. Many seminarians have cited Fr. Pierre’s 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. Pierre and other priests, 2018.
  18. Diocese of Shreveport research delegation to Brittany, France, Diocese of St. Brieuc, reception by clergy there and their interest in following a historical investigation for the purpose of opening a cause, February 2019.
  19. Reception honoring Fr. Pierre in his hometown of Lanloup, France, during the above referenced delegation, February 2019.
  20. Podcast mini-series for national audience, No Greater Love: Shreveport 1873, chronicling the life of Fr. Pierre and other priests of the 1873 Yellow Fever epidemic. This project also includes a graphic novel in serial production and a book-length manuscript.
  21. 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.
  22. Local patterns of devotion to Fr. Jean Pierre evident in the community today include his ongoing inspiration for seminarians, pilgrimages to his graveside and its perpetual care with evidence of devotion obvious in flowers and items left in remembrance, pilgrimages to Holy Trinity Church and his effigy in stained glass, circulation of prayer card images of him and prayers for his intercession, as well as the current community initiative of Carmel, Louisiana, to permanently mark the site of his first parish in Louisiana, Church of the Holy Apostles.