Most Reverend Bishop Augustine Verot, D.D.
First Bishop of St. Augustine
The older residents of this city will readily recognize in the cut below the features of the Most Reverend Augustine Verot, first Bishop of Saint Augustine.
He was born at Le Puy, France, in the month of May, 1804, and at the age of 16 years went to Paris where he studied philosophy and theology at the Seminaire de St. Sulpice, and was ordained a priest by Archbishop Quenlen of Paris, on September 20, 1828. After his ordination he came to this country and taught philosophy and theology with the higher branches of mathematics and natural sciences in St. Mary's college, Ellicott's Mills, after which time he was made pastor of the Catholic church there; remaining in that capacity for six years displaying a great amount of energy and zeal in parochial duties. His manuscripts on theology, philosophy and holy scripture would fill several large volumes.
When Savannah was erected into a diocese in 1850, Florida remained attached to it until 1857 when Pope Pius IX constituted Florida east of Apalachicola river into a vicariate apostolic. To direct the new vicariate, the Pope selected Rev. Augustine Verot who was consecrated Bishop in the Cathedral of Baltimore on the 25th day of April, 1858, by Archbishop Kendrick. Bishop Verot arrived at St. Augustine on June 1, of the same year, accompanied by Father Madeore and received by the people with great joy. He was installed by Bishop Barry of Savannah.
When the vicariate was established, Rev. E. Aubriel and Rev. S. Sheridan were at St. Augustine; and Father Hamilton at Jacksonville where there was a small chapel. There were a number of small chapels at the stations of Black Creek, Fernandina and St. Johns Beach, and one in the course of erection at Palatka. There were no schools, convents or institutions of any kind. Bishop Verot entered on his difficult pastorate with extraordinary zeal and activity; he visited Europe in 1859, returning with six priests, four brothers of Christian schools and Religious Sisters. A church was soon erected at Mandarin and a priest stationed there, the church at Tallahassee repaired and the one at Mayport, which had been destroyed by a severe storm rebuilt. At Tampa and Fernandina churches were built, the Cathedral of St. Augustine repaired and the Ancient Shrine of Nuestra Senora de la Leche restored, missions established at various points throughout the state, schools and academies were opened and societies organized. In 1861 Bishop Verot was translated to the See of Savannah and in 1870 appointed first Bishop of St. Augustine.
Bishop Verot was amongst the first to publish the material resources and capabilities of Florida to the world, and to invite immigration and introduce those industries that have since made our State prosperous. He found the Church in Florida in truly deplorable condition, insignificant in membership, without resources and involved in the common suffering resulting from the Civil War. Yet by his great learning, his ardent zeal and charity he brought it in a comparatively short time to a remarkably flourishing condition. Bishop Verot passed away on June 10, 1876, at St. Augustine after an illness brought on by excessively fatiguing visitations of his diocese. His memory is yet held at benediction.
At the death of Bishop Verot the diocese of St. Augustine numbered ten priests who officiated in twenty churches or chapels and attended seventy mission stations. There were six convents with school attached. Several schools were also founded for colored children. The Catholic population amounted 7,000 or 8,000. The remains of this saintly Bishop rest in Tolemato Cemetery on Cordova Street.
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