Father Florimond Bonduel

I recently enjoyed reading a book called Florimond J. Bonduel: Missionary to Wisconsin Territory by Malcolm Rosholt and Britten Gehl. Bonduel's birthyear is uncertain, either 1799 or 1800. He died in 1861. Living at almost exactly the same time as Father Mazzuchelli (1806 - 1864) and Bishop Baraga (1797 - 1868), Bonduel was a fellow "pioneer priest and missionary". Several times he arrived at churches shortly after the departure of Mazzuchelli. He met Baraga at least once.

This was a time when there was much need for Catholic priests in Wisconsin. There was a thinly spread out population of new immigrants and still a good number of natives to be converted and nurtured in their new faith. It was also a time of struggle and conflict between Catholics and Protestants, both churches competing in many ways for the souls of the natives. Amidst that background the book says, "A few months after Bonduel arrived in Green Bay [1838], there were three other Catholic missionaries working in Wisconsin Territory, namely, Van den Broek at Little Chute, Patrick O'Kelly at Milwaukee and Frederic Baraga at La Pointe on Madeline Island." Many people did not have easy access to sacraments. Weddings and baptisms often had to wait long periods of time until a priest could attend to the matter.

While he was much loved by many and flags flew at half mast in Green Bay for three days after his death, no canonization process is underway for him as it is for his two contemporaries. The book describes him as "all too human himself, something of a hot-head, a man of strong feelings, and sometimes given to pettiness." On the flip side he was also a man of "unbounded enthusiasm and willingness to help others, to encourage the troubled spirit, and to promote the welfare of both whites and Indians in his lifelong ambition to ameliorate the human condition." He worked tirelessly for the natives, advocating for his beloved Menomoni tribe all the way to the president of the United States.

He was likely the first priest to say Mass in Milwaukee and was the first priest to be ordained in the Diocese of Detroit.


All quotes above are from Florimond J. Bonduel: Missionary to Wisconsin Territory. The whole book is available free online.


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