And nowww, back onto this topic:
Rebel Bishop: The life and era of Augustin Verot.
by Michael V. Gannon (Foreword by John Tracy Ellis).
Imprimatur July 28, 1964: ✠ Joseph P. Hurley, Archbishop, Bishop of St. Augustine (Fla.).
© 1964 Bruce Publishing Co. · Milwaukee, 267 pp.
Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 64-23895.
Augustin Vérot was born in Le Puy, situated on the left bank of the Loire (River), France, on May 23, 1805[⚔]. Having been theologically educated as a member of the Society of St.Sulpice, he was ordained to the priesthood on Sept. 20, 1828. He was assigned to the Sulpician College of St. Mary's in Baltimore (est. 1781), so he sailed "to America" on Aug. 1, 1830, believing in a plan that then would have him teaching there for only 7 years. Instead, 23 years later, he was still a college instructor at a Sulpician school in Maryland, altho' he was by then quite well respected even outside its walls. But changes in the college and his Sulpician superiors gave him strong urges for personal change; he was frustrated that he had not accomplished anything great for God and His Church.
Fr. Verot was pleased to arrange a transfer from teaching to pastoral work. So as a 1st-time pastor at age 48, he would be practically starting over, at the Church of St. Paul in Ellicott Mills (Md.). Arriving in 1853, he had no clue that pastoral work would prove to be his true calling. The assignment included Doughoregan Manor, of the family of Charles Carroll of Carrollton[★]. And the manor's black slaves, whose confidence Verot won. It was the last full year that the Missouri Compromis (1820) would be in effect; the Kansas-Nebraska Act (1854), which would cancel that compromise, was not quite 1 year in the future.
Baltimore, the capital and principal harbor of the only state originally founded as a colony for Roman Catholics, held the special honor of being the primatial see of the U.S.A. Its archbishop, then Francis Patrick Kenrick, was certainly aware of Fr. Verot, who had served as 1 of the archbishop's 3 theological assistants at the 1st Plenary Council (of the U.S.A.), held in Baltimore in 1852. So it seems not to have mattered that he had left teaching to become the "short, stout, and unpolished" shepherd of a rural parish. Geography didn't provide a refuge from primatial attention, because it was only 10 mi. west of Baltimore. Little did Verot know that in 1857, Abp. Kenrick had submitted his name for the vacant see of Savannah (Ga.), perhaps because the Vatican chose someone else. So he was stunned to receive an official letter from Baltimore in early 1858, notifying him that the Vatican had chosen him to be the Vicar Apostolic of Florida, a new office which carried an episcopal dignity. After his protests failed, he was consecrated titular bishop in Baltimore's cathedral on Apr. 25, 1858, several months short of 30 years after his ordination. He arrived by ship at the vicariate's see, St. Augustine, on June 1, where despite the evening hour, he got "a very warm and cordial reception" (as he wrote to Abp. Kenrick). Alas, "the country is very poor, & the people are not like the North, fond of giving to the church, even out of their poverty." (also to Kenrick, a few months later). The most recent years of nominal rule of the Florida Peninsula by the Diocese of Savannah (1850--1857) had provided him with 3 diocesan priests and 3 missionary priests, to minister to 2 of the 3 parishes in the state, at St. Augustine and Jacksonville (but not Pensacola[@]), and 7 mission chapels, all in north Florida except for Key West[@@], plus a significant congregation in Tampa lacking a chapel.
His new rank qualified him as a voting delegate to the 9th Provincial Council of Baltimore in May 1858, where in its refusal to adopt a position on slavery, the assempled bishops continued officially not to take sides on secular political issues, a policy established by the 1st bishop of the U.S.A.[★]. That didn't mean that the bishops, lesser clergy, and laity hadn't formed opinions. Nor did it prevent the Catholic press in the U.S.A. from publicly expressing nearly a consensus that abolitionism was a tool of Protestant ministers to support or provoke northern-nativist attacks against Catholics[×]. Roman Catholics were a small U.S. minority in the year of the historic Presidential election of 1860, barely more than 3 million, altho' loosely a 1000% increase from 1830[#]. For perspective, they were outnumbered in the U.S. population by black slaves.
On July 22, 1861, in a solemn consistory at the Vatican, Pope Pius IX assigned Bp. Verot to be ordinary of the Diocese of Savannah, whose boundaries were the same as the State of Georgia. But he would be retained as vicar apostolic of Florida[@]. Transatlantic communication had been accelerated by the newfangled steamships, but it would take most of a month for news of the promotion, then the official letter from the Vatican, to reach the primatial see. Verot was then visiting on vicariate business. The promotion would equip the newly promoted ordinary with no more than a dozen priests total to administer the sacraments and preach the faith to Catholics in 2 states of the Confederacy. So Verot would spend more of his efforts as an additional scarce priest than as an ordinary. It would position him, in roughly 3 years (1864), to assign a few priests to minister to tens-of-thousands of gravely ill or dying Union prisoners at "Andersonville Prison", then travel there himself for the same duties; then to become the highest-ranking Catholic clergyman to share the destruction & suffering of the notorious "General Sherman Going Thro', ummm, the Diocese of Savannah"™ (Nov.--Dec. 1864). He ministered in its wake, then learning its destination, rushed back to be in his see before Sherman completed his devastating "March to the Sea". On the latter day (Dec. 21, 1864), Verot said Mass while the air was filled with the sound of cannon-fire and the "yells and hurrahs" of Yankees.
On Mar. 11, 1870, while Bp. Verot of Savannah was in Rome taking an active part in the 1st Vatican Council, Pope Pius IX elevated St. Augustine from a mere vicariate into a diocese, and assigned Verot there. Augustin Vérot thus became the 1st "Bishop of St. Augustine". A native Italian was assigned to replace him in Savannah.
Sigh. I don't claim that this is a balanced summary of the priestly life of Bp. Verot, but it's past time to post what I've written. Perhaps it will suffice to satisfy readers intrigued by this topic.
Note ⚔: It might be interesting to correlate Verot's career with the actions of Emperor Napoleon (I), or events in the War of Yankee Aggression, but this has already become plenty long enough without that.
Note @@: Fernandina (Nassau Co., N. end of Amelia I.), Mandarin (far-S. Duval Co., E. bank of St. Johns R.), Mayport (Duval Co., S. bank of St. Johns Entrance), Middleburg (Clay Co., inland), Palatka (Putnam Co., W. bank of St. Johns R.), and Tallahassee.
Note ★: Charles Carroll of Carrollton was the only Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence. Meanwhile, his brother (or cousin?) John was the 1st Bishop of Baltimore (1790--1815), therefore the 1st prelate in the U.S.A.
Note ×: The majority of Protestant clergy were in favor of the antiCatholic aspects of nativism, for which Gannon cites The Protestant Crusade, 1800--1860, by Ray Allen Billington. The nativists were notorious for riots in which Catholic properties were severely damaged. The classic examples were the burning of the Ursuline convent in Charlestown (Mass.) in 1834, and the riots in Philadelphia in 1844.
Note #: The "loosely a 1000% increase" was primarily from immigration, which was then mostly German and Irish. It's my impression that the influx of Italians was postbellum.
Note @: Pensacola and all Florida land west of the Apalachicola River remained under the Diocese of Mobile (Ala.), in whose nominal care the entire peninsula had once been (1829--1850).