Parish History - Pierre de Smet

A second significant figure identified with White Marsh was Father Pierre de Smet. He was to become one of the pioneer Jesuit priests of America for heroic missionary work among the Native Americans in the Rocky Mountain region and especially with the fiercely independent Sioux.

At White Marsh, around 1819, de Smet was a Jesuit novice and as such faced long years of prayer and study. How can the influence of White Marsh on Father de Smet be assessed, in retrospect, during the period of priestly formation there? His reflections on each morning or evening walk at White Marsh may well have been his inspiration to missionary heroism.

Father de Smet went to Missouri with other Jesuits around 1823 to care for the Indians living along the Missouri and its tributaries, and later established missions among the Flatfeet, Kalispels and Cour D'Alenes in the Columbia region.

He was sent as the official emissary of the United States to the Sioux Indians in 1868 to present peace terms. He was the only commissioner who dared to go into the Indian camp. Despite the intransigence of the Sioux, Father De Smet was respected. Sitting Bull, we read, slept by his bedroll to protect him from harm.

Father de Smet was to be also associated with Mother Rose Philippine Duchesne. This remarkable lady, who was beatified in May 1940 was to be the first woman missionary among the American Indians, especially the Potawatomis. Her work in founding schools for Indian children has no equal.

Father de Smet also was to be a friend to Brigham Young in advising him about the possibilities of the Utah region.

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