1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Cheverus, Jean Louis Anne Magdeleine Lefebvre de

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1911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 6
Cheverus, Jean Louis Anne Magdeleine Lefebvre de
21143421911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 6 — Cheverus, Jean Louis Anne Magdeleine Lefebvre de

CHEVERUS, JEAN LOUIS ANNE MAGDELEINE LEFEBVRE DE (1768–1836), French ecclesiastic, was born on the 28th of January 1768, in Mayenne, France, where his father was general civil judge and lieutenant of police. He studied at the college of Mayenne, received the tonsure when twelve, became prior of Torbechet while still little more than a child, thence derived sufficient income for his education, entered the College of Louis le Grand in 1781, and after completing his theological studies at the Seminary of St Magloire, was ordained deacon in October 1790, and priest by special dispensation on the 18th of December. He was immediately made canon of the cathedral of Le Mans and began to act as vicar to his uncle in Mayenne, who died in 1792. Owing to the progress of the Revolution he emigrated in 1792 to England, and thence in 1796 to America, settling in Boston, Mass. His interest had been aroused by François Antoine Matignon, a former professor at Orleans, now in charge under Bishop John Carroll of all the Catholic churches and missions in New England. Cheverus, although at first appointed to an Indian mission in Maine, remained in Boston for nearly a year, and returned thither after several months in the Penobscot and Passamaquoddy missions and visits to scattered Catholic families along the way. During the epidemic of yellow fever in 1798 he won great praise and respect for his courage and charity; and his preaching was listened to by many Protestants—indeed the subscriptions for the Church of the Holy Cross which he founded in 1803 were largely from non-Catholics. In 1808 the papal brief was issued making Boston a bishopric, suffragan to Baltimore, and Cheverus its bishop. He was consecrated on All Saints’ day in 1810, at St Peter’s, Baltimore, by Archbishop Carroll. On the death of the latter his assistant bishop, Neale, urged the appointment of Cheverus as assistant to himself; Cheverus refused and warmly asserted his desire to remain in Boston; but, much broken by the death of Matignon in 1818 and with impaired health, he soon found it necessary to leave the seat of his bishopric. In 1823, Louis XVIII. having insisted on his return to France, Cheverus became bishop of Montauban, where his tolerance captivated the Protestant clergy and laymen of the city. He was made archbishop of Bordeaux in 1826; and on the 1st of February 1836, in accordance with the wish of Louis Philippe, he was made a cardinal. He died in Bordeaux on the 19th of July 1836. To Cheverus, more than to any other, is due the position that Boston now holds in the Roman Catholic Church of America, as well as the general growth of that church in New England. His character was essentially lovable: the Jews of Bordeaux and Protestants everywhere delighted to honour him.

See the rather extravagant biography by J. Huen-Dubourg, Vie du cardinal de Cheverus (Bordeaux, 1838; English version by E. Stewart, Boston, 1839).