The First Bishop of the Diocese of Lafayette, Monsignor Jules B. Jeanmard was born on August 15, 1879, in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana, a small rural community near the see city of Lafayette and was ordained to the Priesthood at the age of 23, for the Archdiocese of New Orleans, Louisiana, on June 10, 1903, where he served as Chancellor and Administrator of the Archdiocese.
At the early age of 38, Jeanmard was appointed as the First Bishop of the Diocese of Lafayette, receiving his Episcopal Consecration on December 8, 1918.
Under Bishop Jeanmard's zeal and constructive planning, the Spiritual Life of the Diocese was energized. Lay involvement in programs of Catholic Action was stressed through religious instruction, spiritual conferences and retreats. Sodality, scouting and retreat movements encouraged the faith of youth of the Diocese and promoted vocations to the Priesthood and Religious Life.
In the young and growing Diocese, institutions were needed to support and encourage various areas of Catholic life. Among those Bishop Jeanmard established were St. Mary's Children's Home and Immaculata Minor Seminary in Lafayette, Retreat Houses for men and women, and Student Centers at state-supported Colleges.
Recognizing the value of modern communication techniques, he encouraged Diocesan sponsorship of television programs, religious programs on Radio in French and English, and a local Diocesan Newspaper, The Southwest Louisiana Register.
Bishop Jeanmard issued Pastoral Letters defending the rights of labor to organize, and reminding voters and civil officials of their respective responsibilities.
In 1934, Bishop Jeanmard welcomed to the Diocese the first black Priests ordained by the Divine Word Missionaries. They were Fathers Anthony Bourges, Maurice Rousseve, Francis Wade, and Vincent Smith.
Bishop Jeanmard also established a number of separate Church Parishes for black Catholics for he believed this offered a better experience of active involvement with the Church. With financial assistance from Mother Katharine Drexel, Founder of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, the Diocese helped establish a number of Rural Schools for blacks.
Bishop Jeanmard received national attention in 1954 for excommunicating two women who had attacked a CCD teacher accused of integrating her Catechism Class. He also issued a Pastoral Letter emphasizing the right of all Catholics to Religious Instruction. Diocesan institutions and events were open to people of all races.
In his 38 years as Ordinary, Bishop Jeanmard set a pattern of making the Church available to the people by establishing Church Parishes and Schools and encouraging lay involvement in Church Affairs.
He retired from the Pastoral Government of his See on March 13, 1956, receiving in return the Titular See of Bareta. Bishop Jeanmard died at the age of 77, on February 23, 1957.
JULES BENJAMIN JEANMARD D. D.
FIRST BISHOP OF LAFAYETTE
Born August 15, 1879
Ordained Priest June 10, 1903
Consecrated December 8, 1918
Resigned March 13, 1956
Titular Bishop of Bareta
Died February 23, 1957