Frederic Baraga

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Bishop Frederic Baraga 1797–1868
Friedrich Baraga lithograph by Josef Kriehuber , 1854
Coat of arms of Frederic Baraga with the motto Unum est necessarium - "One is necessary" ( Lk 10.42  EU )

Frederic Baraga , VDS (born June 29, 1797 in Malavas / Kleindorf, Margraviate Krain , Austrian Empire , † January 19, 1868 in Marquette (Michigan) , USA ) was an American of Slovene descent and a Roman Catholic missionary and bishop .


Origin and early years

Frederic Baraga was born as Irenej Friderik Baraga in the manor house of Mala Vas (former municipality of Kleindorf No. 16) near Dobrnič in Carniola , which today belongs to the Slovenian municipality of Trebnje .

He grew up during the Napoleonic Wars , during which the area of ​​present-day Slovenia formed part of the Illyrian provinces of the French Empire for a few years before it became a crown land of the Austrian Empire again after 1815 . The school language therefore changed several times during his childhood between French and German , although his mother tongue was Carniolan / Slovenian . In addition, Latin and Ancient Greek were compulsory languages ​​in high schools. Thus, by the age of 16, Baraga was multilingual which became very useful in later life.


Baraga initially enrolled at the Juridicum of the University of Vienna before entering the Vienna seminary . On September 21, 1823, he received the St. Nicholas Cathedral in Ljubljana the priesthood . As a young priest he was a staunch opponent of Jansenism and at that time wrote a spiritual book in Slovene with the title Dušna paša (Food for the Soul).

In 1830 he volunteered to serve Bishop Edward D. Fenwick of Cincinnati as a priest for the growing ward and vast mission area. A year later, Baraga was sent to the Ottawa Indian Mission in Arbre Croche (now Cross Village, Michigan) to complete his studies in the Ottawa language he began in Cincinnati.

As a result, in 1832 he published the first book ever written in the Ottawa language; "Otawa Anamie-Misinaigan" was the title of the catechism and prayer book. After a short stay at a mission station in today's Grand Rapids , he moved in 1835 to the north in order for the Ojibway -Indianern (Chippewa) in La Pointe ( Wisconsin ), a former Jesuit mission on Lake Superior to act.

In 1843 he founded a mission in L'Anse, Michigan. At that time he was nicknamed "Snowshoe Priest" because he had to cover hundreds of miles on snowshoes every year in the harsh winters . He also helped protect the Indians from resettlement and published a dictionary and grammar of the Ojibway language. Although these are of significant historical value, they are not considered the basic works of this language today.


On July 29, 1853 Baraga was by Pope Pius IX. Appointed Titular Bishop of Amyzon and Vicar Apostolic of Upper Michigan. The episcopal ordination donated to him on November 1, 1853 Archbishop John Baptist Purcell of Saint Peter in Chains Cathedral of Cincinnati ( Ohio ).

From January 1857, Baraga was the first bishop of the Catholic diocese of Sault Sainte Marie (Michigan) , which emerged from the Apostolic Vicariate of Upper Michigan , from 1865 is called the diocese of Sault Sainte Marie-Marquette and is now called the diocese of Marquette .

From July 27, 1852, he began to keep diaries (primarily in German, with English, French, Slovenian, Chippewa-, Latin and Italian epithets) describing his missionary trips and his relationship with his sister Amalia. Back then, the area experienced a population explosion as thousands of workers poured into the copper and iron ore mines near Houghton , Ontonagon, Michigan and Marquette . It became a challenge for his few priests to be there for the needs of immigrant miners and indigenous people. On the other hand, this also meant the regional boom and the intensification of traffic connections on Lake Superior.

Nevertheless, in winter, snowshoes were the only means of transport that he still used at the age of 60. As the last major challenge, Baraga had to master the ethnic diversity of his diocese, where the older French settlers and the new German and Irish miners lived alongside the autochthons. Difficulties arose due to the language barriers: While Bishop Baraga himself was fluent in eight languages, he could hardly find priests with the same skills.

Bishop Baraga traveled to Europe twice to raise funds for his diocese. Emperor Franz Joseph I gave him a jeweled cross and a bishop's ring, which the bishop sold.

He also wrote numerous letters to the Congregatio de Propaganda Fide , in which he reported on his missionary work. At that time, these letters were widely published and prompted a. the St. Johannes Nepomuk Neumann and P. Franz Xaver Pierz to move to the United States. Baraga became famous all over Europe for his work. In the last ten years of his life, his health deteriorated more and more, he became deaf and suffered a number of strokes.

He died in Marquette on January 19, 1868. He was buried in the crypt of the Cathedral of Saint Peter there.


Bishop Baraga is buried in St. Peter's Cathedral by Marquette

On May 10, 2012, Pope Benedict XVI. Frederic Baraga as Venerable Servant of God , a decisive step towards beatification . The place Baraga , the Baraga Township , the Baraga County and the Baraga State Park (all in Michigan) bear his name. A statue of Baragas in L'Anse (Michigan) was designed by Jack E. Anderson . A Catholic school in Iron Mountain was named after him at Bishop Baraga Catholic School .

A memorial cross, which Baraga himself erected as a thank you for reaching the shore during a storm on Lake Superior in 1846, stands today in Schroeder, Minnesota at the mouth of the Cross River. The wooden cross was replaced by one made of granite that has stood the test of time.

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Baraga in the Wisconsin History
  2. ^ Fr. Baraga's 1853 Ojibwe Dictionary ,
  3. ^ Marquette Monthly ( Memento from March 15, 2012 in the Internet Archive )
  4. ^ Entry on Frederic Baraga on


Web links

Commons : Frederic Baraga  - Collection of images, videos and audio files
predecessor Office successor
--- Bishop of Sault Sainte Marie-Marquette
Ignatius Mrak
--- Bishop of Sault Sainte Marie
--- Vicar Apostolic of Obermichigan