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PARISOT, PIERRE FOURRIER

PARISOT, PIERRE FOURRIER (1827–1903). Pierre Parisot, Catholic missionary, writer, and teacher, was born in Lorraine, France, on May 20, 1827. He entered the diocesan seminary about 1839, took the habit of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate in 1850, and was ordained a priest in Marseilles by Bishop De Mazenod, founder of the Oblates, on February 15, 1852. A month later he was assigned, along with six other Oblates, to missionary work in Texas. The priests set sail from Le Havre aboard a New Orleans-bound ship carrying thirty-five missionaries recruited by Bishop Jean M. Odin on a tour of his native France.

The Oblates arrived in Galveston on May 20, 1852, took quarters at the episcopal residence, and studied English and Spanish intensely. Within a month Parisot was able to preach in English in the cathedral. For the next two years, he managed to combine fast-paced missionary activity with the planning and founding of a seminary-college in Galveston-the first of its kind in Texas. In six tours he traveled all of East Texas and part of West Louisiana, preaching and baptizing, as well as raising money and recruiting boarding students for the projected college. Construction of the building started in 1853 and was completed by the end of 1854. In January 1855 St. Mary's College, under the management of the Oblates, opened its doors to sixty lay students and a few seminarians. Parisot was prefect of studies and professor of Greek, Latin, and mathematics. In 1856, through his efforts, the college became a university, with the first charter of its kind granted by the Texas legislature. But the seminary, the other division, failed to produce the expected results. In 1857 De Mazenod, unhappy about the Oblates' teaching secular disciplines instead of doing pastoral work, handed over the college to Odin. The Oblates were assigned to Brownsville, a community served by their congregation off and on since 1849.

Parisot stayed for a while in Galveston to help Bishop Odin during the transition. He also served for six months as pastor of St. Mary's Church in San Antonio before finally joining his confreres in Brownsville in 1858. For the next thirty-six years Brownsville was Parisot's missionary headquarters. Working incessantly through yellow fever epidemics, border conflicts, conflicts in Mexico, and Civil War obstacles, he covered on horseback a vast mission ground on both sides of the Rio Grande. He was instrumental in the construction of the Church of the Immaculate Conception, later Immaculate Conception Cathedral, in 1859–66; the founding of St. Joseph's College (a high school for boys) in 1865; and the establishment of Brownsville as see of a vicariate apostolic in 1874. Parisot was twice considered for the episcopacy but declined the honor.

In 1894 he was sent to San Antonio, then to Buffalo, and finally back to Brownsville. In 1895 he was stricken with paralysis, from the effects of which he had partly recovered eighteen months later, enough to serve for the next eight years as a chaplain of several religious institutions, first in San Antonio and then in Castroville. During this period the veteran missionary turned some of his energy to writing; in 1897 he coauthored a Catholic history of the San Antonio area, and in 1899 he published a volume of personal reminiscences, entitled Reminiscences of a Texas Missionary. As a writer Parisot was a colorful religious folklorist; his books, as well as his voluminous correspondence, display such a gift for storytelling that the reader finds easy to forgive his occasional light regard for objective reporting. In the spring of 1903, ill and feeble, Parisot traveled to San Antonio to attend, as guest of honor, the blessing by a papal delegate of a cornerstone of St. Anthony's Seminary, an Oblate institution for the training of future Texas missionaries. He died in Castroville on July 12, 1903.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Catholic Archives of Texas, Files, Austin. Bernard Doyon, The Cavalry of Christ on the Rio Grande, 1849–1883 (Milwaukee: Bruce, 1956). Pierre F. Parisot and C. J. Smith, History of the Catholic Church in the Diocese of San Antonio (San Antonio: Carrico and Bowen, 1897).

Aníbal A. González

Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Aníbal A. González, "PARISOT, PIERRE FOURRIER," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fpa72), accessed September 16, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.