Père Jean Pierre
SERVITEUR DE DIEU
Martyr de la charité
Mort à Shreveport le 16 septembre 1873
en prenant soin des victimes de l’épidémie de fièvre jaune.
Né à Lanloup en Bretagne (France) le 29 septembre 1831.
Ordonné à Natchitoches en Louisiane le 22 septembre 1855.
Prêtre dans les paroisses de DeSoto, Caddo, Bossier, Webster and Claiborne.
Mort à Shreveport le 16 Septembre 1873
La vie du village s’organisait autour de la petite église paroissiale à l’époque où Jean Pierre, encore jeune, servait la messe dans une paroisse qui avait une grande dévotion pour Saint Gilles et Saint Blaise. Ces deux saints qui appartiennent aux quatorze saints guérisseurs des victimes de la peste ont suscité les vertus héroïques que le P. Pierre manifesta dans son ministère de prêtre.
Il quitta son pays natal très catholique pour servir comme prêtre missionnaire dans un pays inhospitalier peuplé d’un mélange d’immigrants protestants et juifs, de créoles, et cela au sein de nombreuses traditions locales. Le P. Pierre était connu pour être amical envers tous et il leur partageait l’amour du Christ. Jeune prêtre, le P. Pierre parcourait à cheval ou à pied la grande étendue de la Louisiane du nord-ouest à peine colonisée et répandait la semence de la foi en veillant à ce qu’elle prenne solidement racine partout où il allait. Il a fondé la mission Bayou Pierre (aujourd’hui le Carmel). Il fut désigné ensuite pour construire une église dédiée à la Sainte Trinité à Shreveport, ville en pleine croissance dans cette région. Son travail de précepteur auprès d’enfants de toutes confessions lui a permis de récolter les fonds nécessaires à l’édification de la première église.
Connu pour sa générosité, sa gentillesse et ses vives qualités intellectuelles, le P. Pierre s’est occupé des orphelins et des pauvres. Il se rendait disponible à tous, avec gentillesse et charité, qualités remarquées de tous ceux qui le connaissaient et qui plus tard ont honoré sa mémoire.
Sans se préoccuper de la mort horrible à laquelle il s’exposait, ce pasteur a refusé d’abandonner ses ouailles et est resté dans la ville contaminée par le virus pour s’efforcer d’organiser des soins aux malades et aux mourants. Il a marché dans les pas du Seigneur Jésus et a suivi son enseignement en offrant librement sa vie pour son prochain et en persévérant avec cette même détermination jusqu’à la mort.
Il est enterré au cimetière Saint-Joseph au pied d’un grand calvaire élevé à la mémoire des Cinq Serviteurs de Dieu.
Prière pour la béatification du Serviteur de Dieu Jean Pierre
Dieu tout puissant et miséricordieux, tu as rempli le cœur de ton prêtre Jean Pierre de piété, de générosité et de zèle pour le salut de toutes les âmes. Tu lui as donné la grâce de voir le visage du Christ en chacun, spécialement les malades, les orphelins et les pauvres. Inspiré et animé par la charité, ce pasteur infatigable n’a pas abandonné ses ouailles. Il fit l’offrande libre et déterminée de sa vie pour le salut de son prochain sans distinction de croyance, de race, ou de condition, au cours d’une épidémie virulente en lui apportant l’espérance de la vie éternelle.
Accorde-moi la grâce d’aimer mon prochain d’un amour ardent et de faire pleinement confiance à ta divine providence comme le fit ce martyr de la charité. Si telle est ta volonté, Seigneur, glorifie notre bien-aimé Serviteur de Dieu P. Jean en m’accordant la grâce que je te demande aujourd’hui (préciser votre intention) de telle sorte qu’à notre prière, tous puissent connaître ses vertus héroïques et sa sainteté et puissent imiter son amour pour toi et ton Église. Par Jésus-Christ Notre-Seigneur. Amen. (Notre Père – Je vous salue Marie – Gloire à Dieu).
Official bio sent to the Congregation
for the Causes of the Saints at the Vatican
Fr. Jean Pierre was the first pastor of Holy Trinity in Shreveport, and was the second of five priests to perish in the 1873 Yellow Fever epidemic. Fr. Pierre was born to Guillaume and Claudine Pierre on September 29, 1831 in Lanloup, Brittany, France, where he was baptized at the local parish church of Lanloup, and studied at the Seminary of St. Brieuc. Bishop Martin recruited him to come to Louisiana in October 1854, and he was ordained a priest in Natchitoches, Louisiana on September 22, 1855. His first assignment was to build a parish church for the community of Bayou Pierre (today Carmel, Louisiana), and he supervised the construction of the Church of the Holy Apostles of St. Peter and St. Paul in 1856, which no longer exists, but has recently been marked by the State of Louisiana as a significant historic site. It was Fr. Pierre’s wish to establish a church in Shreveport, the largest town in the region, and Bishop Martin permitted this. Soon after the completion of Holy Apostles, Fr. Pierre moved to Shreveport.
The Shreveport community extolled Fr. Pierre for his generosity, kindness and intellect; indeed, there are many accounts that attest to his work as a tutor for children of other faith traditions to raise money for the construction of a new church he would name in honor of the Holy Trinity. There are also many accounts of his care for the orphans and the poor, but it is the ultimate sacrifice of his earthly life during the 1873 Yellow Fever epidemic that is the best documented aspect of his selflessness toward others, personal sanctity and his devotion to God.
He contracted Yellow Fever just two days before the death of Fr. Quémerais, and was therefore unable to provide the final Sacraments to his young associate pastor. In his stead was a third priest from Fairfield who responded to the crisis, Fr. Jean-Marie Biler, chaplain at the convent who gave Extreme Unction to both dying Shreveport priests. Fr. Jean Pierre succumbed to the disease on September 16.
From Bishop Martin, who lamented:
“The death of one of the most saintly priests that I have known in my long career; Mr. Pierre, founder of the missions of Bayou Pierre, Minden and Shreveport … His excellent reputation has reached past the limits of my humble diocese and to keep such a treasure, it was necessary, more than once, to defend him against the truly justified esteem of several of my venerable colleagues, who saw in him a worthy candidate for the episcopate.”
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.
« Il n’y a pas de plus grand amour que de donner sa vie pour ses amis » (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:
- Newspaper reports from more than 50 sources following his death, beginning immediately (September 16, 1873).
- 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.”
- 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.
- 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.”
- 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.”
- 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.
- 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.
- The subsequent decision of the City of Shreveport to name a street in his honor (Pierre Avenue).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Reception honoring Fr. Pierre in his hometown of Lanloup, France, during the above referenced delegation, February 2019.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.