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Historic Cheverus letters on display at Pastoral Center


Detail of one of Bishop Cheverus' letters on display at the Pastoral Center. Pilot photo/Gregory L. Tracy

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Visitors to the Pastoral Center are encouraged to view a selection of historical letters from Archbishop Cheverus now on display outside the Archdiocesan Archives adjacent to Bethany Chapel.

Then-Father Jean Louise Anne Madeleine Lefebvre de Cheverus was only 28 years of age when he arrived in Boston on Oct. 3, 1796. The following summer, while travelling to remote parts of Massachusetts (now Maine) to minister to Native Americans, he met with several families who had settled in the area. One of these families, the Hanly family, consisted of two brothers, Roger and Patrick, as well as their wives and children.

For years following this initial meeting, Bishop Cheverus corresponded with the Hanly Family, and his letters reveal a deep interest in both their personal lives and spiritual well-being. The letters are painstakingly detailed, providing instructions for worship on a daily basis, and alternative instructions for holy days and seasons. A selection of these letters are now on display.

Today, these letters can be seen as reminding us of our current mission of evangelization and discipleship. Just as Bishop Cheverus continued to attend to the family's spiritual needs after his missionary trip, we are reminded to be persistent in our own work and remember that there are always God's children in need.

Bishop Cheverus, along with Father Francis A. Matignon, would eventually be recognized as two of the most influential figures in early New England Catholic history. Together, they would oversee the construction of the Church of the Holy Cross, a precursor to the present Cathedral of the Holy Cross, in 1803, and help establish the Boston Catholic community in a historically anti-Catholic area. When Pope Pius VII created the Diocese of Boston in 1808, he selected Bishop Cheverus to be the first bishop of Boston. He returned to his native France in 1824 and died in 1836 as the Archbishop of Bordeaux.

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