University of Notre Dame

The Story of Notre Dame
Brother Aidan's Extracts


Born at Clermont, Sarthe, France, July 27, 1820; entered Postulate September 5, 1840; received habit March 22, 1841, professed August 25, 1841; died at Notre Dame, November 12, 1896.

A drawing recently in a Chicago paper of the arrival of Notre Dame was dictated by Brother Francis Xavier, who was present, to Francis Xavier Ackermann. GOLDEN JUBILEE BY HOWARD

See note on how he and Fr. Sorin explored their new abode: "We made haste to inspect the various sites on the lake, all of which had been so highly praised. Yes,like little children, in spite of the cold, we went from one extremity to another, perfectly enchanted with the marvelous beauties of our new abode. CIRCULAR LETTER OF FR. SORIN, 1842

Francis was the carpenter and undertaker, how sweet and sincere a character and how kindly a religious! Rev. Walter Elliott, C.S.P., 1906

Brother Francis Xavier is the only onenow living who accompanied Father Sorin in his first walk around the lakes. 1890

Brother Francis Xavier, 29, an excellent Brother like by everyone. A master-carpenter; Sacristan. In charge of cellar for Mass wine. Sorin's Memo

" . . . Soon after his arrival, 14 of the Indians came to see Father Sorin and to receive of him the Sacrament of Baptism. They stayed overnight with him in his log cabin, which also served the purpose of a church. A curtain divided the house of God from that of man. It contained but one bed, which the owner, with true French politeness, offered to his guests. After he was supposed to be asleep, they spent the remaining part of the night, seated around the blazing log fire, in talking and singing; the next morning they awoke him by singing at his bed-side. After Mass, an Indian princess as a token of gratitude, gave him the seven rings that she had worn on her fingers. Father Sorin afterward presented them to the famous shrine of Our Lady of Chartres, where they are still preserved.

"Signor Gregori in his painting has given us this scene . . . It is a wintry November morning forty two years ago (written in 1883). The freshly-fallend snow broken only by the Indians' footprints, lies softly on the ground. That transparent haze which makes our winter landscapes so charming has not yet cleared away. The blue sky is partly covered by fleecy clouds. The November sun, shining through them, casts soft shadows on the snow. St. Mary's Lake, not yet frozen, lies placidly in the background. And beyond it, the snow- covered woods are seen through the distant haze. Many of the shrubs and trees are struggling to retain their wonted vendure. Leaves have been lately fallen from the two large trees on the left.

"All seems peace and quiet. Once one could almost imagine that he heard the footsteps of the seven Brothers who have just left the little log church at the right, and are coming up the path toward their Superior. Brother Francis Xavier is a short distance from his companions . . . .

"Father Sorin stands on the rising ground in the center of a group of eight Indians, three of whom are women . . . While he stands in an easy position, with his right hand extended toward a valiant Indian chief, who is dropping into it one of princess' rings . . . The chief is dressed in his ornamented robes, in his leggings and moccasions. In common with the other men, his head is decked with gaily colored feathers.

" . . . within a few feet from her brave warrior stands the princess, a comely maiden, who is taking off her remaining rings. The rest of the picturesque group are looking on with curiosity and admiration . . . " SCHOLASTIC, 16:345

Brother Francis Xavier tells of the manner of journey from St. Peter's and arrival at South Bend: "We came through from Vincennes on an old stage coach, which the Bishop who sent us here picked up somewhere. It was too small a conveyance to hold us all and our baggage, so we took turns at walking. When we arrived in South Bend we stopped for several days at the home of the first Alexis Coquillard as there were no accomodations for our party at the mission. We did not ford the river, ferry it, or go over it in row boats, but crossed it on the old bridge north of the brickyard. Alexis Coquillard might have gone with us, but he was a small boy then.

"There was nothing at Notre Dame but the old log house seen in the drawing. Additions were soon made to it for the accomodation of our party and in a short time the brick house now standing beside the lake was built by Benjamin Coquillard. The picture made under my direction will be found in the Golden Jubilee Book." SOUTH BEND TIMES, June 22, 1895, p.1, c.2

It was resolved that Brother Francis Xavier should be assistant and Master of Novices. LOCAL COUNCIL, February 25, 1850

Brother Francis Xavier shall start for the Mother House on June 3 to be sent from there to Rome, a member of our new establishment made in thta city at the request of Pope Pius IX. LOCAL COUNCIL, May 24, 1850(Revoked)

Brother Theodolus will preside over the Brothers at the college, and Brother Mary (Francis Xavier) over the house of the Novitiate. LOCAL COUNCIL, Aug. 27, 1847

Brother Mary (Francis Xavier) will have the framed of the Way of the Cross for Bertrand ready for the Compassion of the Blessed Virgin's Day (Seven Dolors) April 3, 1847

"In this year, 1847, the little log chapel built for the Indians by Father Badin on the Niles Road, some distance from Bertrand was -- joined to the north end of the Sisters house to make a chapel for them..the first altar the Sisters had in their chapel at Notre Dame was moved to this log chapel. It was a wooden altar carved by Brother Francis Xavier, then known as Brother Marie." Sr. M. Eleanore, "ON THE KING'S HIGHWAY", p.150

Brother Mary was allowed to change his name into that of Francis Xaverius. LOCAL COUNCIL, August 21, 1848

Brother Mary (Francis Xavier) shall show to the Catholics the different lots where to deposit their dead. MINOR CHAPTER, March 27, 1848

Resolved the Brother Francis Xavier would take the place of Brother Augustus as Director of apprentices. January 15, 1852

"Miss Elizabeth Booth died this morning at three o'clock, the lady that Fr. Voors baptized. Mr. Patrick O'Brien wished you to send down a coffin 6' long, as soon as convenient, and the hearse tomorrow morning and wishes to have Mass said at 10 o'clock in Bertrand if convenient." Wm. J.Adderly

(To Rev. Fr. Superior -- coffin and hearse cost $10)

"Brother Francis Xavier buried in Cedar Grove Cemetery, Notre Dame, Chippa, an Indian reputed to be nearly 150 years old. He was one of the few aboriginals remaining in the part of the country, and formerly belonged to the tribe of Miamis, who lived in the neighborhood of Ft. Wayne." SCHOLASTIC, 26, p. 412, March 14, 1891

It was resolved that Brother Francis Xavier should make a steeple for the church of St. Joseph, South Bend. Local Council, 1851

That Brother Francis Xavier will get some lumber to finish the tannery. Local Council, 1852

"Altar made by Brother Francis Xavier on which Sorin used to say Mass in the log church now in east Chapel of new extension of church." SCHOLASTIC, 19, p. 293, 1894

" . . . who has made the coffisn for all who have died at Noter Dame and most likely will do the same kind office for many more before he drives the last nail into his own." Prof. Lyons, (J.A.) Silver Jubilee of Notre Dame, p.11, 1869

"We were in the shop opposite the Post Office, and were surprised to see the great variety of engravings, photographs, and objects of art and virtue kept on hand by Brother Francis Xavier. SCHOLASTIC, 1872

"Francis Xavier, the undertaker, was granted permission to buy a new hearse only on condition that he would guarantee to raise enough money in his line of business to pay for it." Local Council, January 10, 1873

"Brother Francis Xavier has the thanks of the Sorins for favors received." SCHOLASTIC, 395, 1881

"Brother Francis Xavier had charge of this cemetery, and when, some years later his favorite evergreens gave it a sightly appearance, he called it Cedar Grover Cemetery." Bishop Alerding: The Diocese of Ft. Wayne

"The usual suffrages and prayers of the members of the Congregation are requested for the repose of the soul of Brother Francis Xavier who died at Notre Dame, November 21, 1896, fortified by the Holy Sacraments. The deceased was born in Clermont, France, July 27, 1820, entered the Congregation Sept., 15, 1840, received the habit, March 22, 1841, and was professed August 22, 1841. Brother Francis Xavier was first called Brother Marie, whichwas afterwards changed to Brother Francis Xavier. Brother Francis was a model religious, regular at all the exercises, industrious to the very last, devoted to the Community, and led a life of great self-denial. He was a cabinet maker by trade. From the very earliest history of his life in America, in 1841, he was employed as an undertaker, and he was frequently called up at mid-night, and had to go eight or even twelve miles to attend the dead. Hundreds of times he was exposed in rains, snow-storms; perched on an uncovered hearse, slowly making his way to the Church and cemetery. The most remarkable fact in his history is that he came with Very Rev. R. Sorin in company with five other Brothers in 1841. He survived every one of that devoted band who founded Notre Dame. It would be hard to find in history a more devoted band of missionaries than the band of which Brother Francis Xavier was the last survivor." Fr. Corby: CIRCULAR LETTER, November 13, 1896

"Another link between the present and the past of our alma mater has been broken; the last of the sliken strings that bound the Notre Dame of 1842 to the Noter Dame of 1896 has been snapped in twain. Brother Francis Xavier is dead! and with him passes away the last survivor of that little band of heroes who changed the bleak forest into a bright fairy-land, and reared on stones cemented with their blood the domes and turrets of our noble college home.

"They were hard and painful, the days when Notre Dame was founded. That winter when they broke their way through the fallen trees and the drifted snow is set down in history as one of the coldest since 1607. Even the Indians accustomed as they were to the rigors of winter, were almost exterminated. Many of them were frozen to death. It was impossible to carry needful provisions with them, and the pain of hunger was added to the pain of cold. South Bend was hardly a small village, and when a pound of coffee was wanted a messenger was dispatched -- ah; the irony of the word! all the long journey to Detroit.

"The work of the Religoius at Notre Dame in those hard, early days was a continuous crucifixion. Health they had and eager appetites, but the merest comforts - even the merest necessities sometimes -- were absent. But Providence fitted the back to the burden. The foudners of Notre Dame were stalwart and rugged as Norsemen. Like giants they exulted in their strength, and the continuous struggle with primeval nature inspired and strenghthened them. Trials they knew, wrestling within and without; and sometimes it seemed that the favor of Heaven itself was withdrawn from them, and the labor of months and years destroyed. But they toiled on undiscouraged and undismayed, and at last they howed their way to the light.

"Brother Francis Xavier was one of those brave pioneers. The days of his stewardship were longer than those of his earthly companions, but not till the hour of his death did he relax his tremendous energy and zeal. He was the local undertaker from the very beginning -- he buried all who have died at Notre Dame. Many times a week he was aroused from his sleep at night, often to ride far into the country in the rain and the cold, but a word of complaint was never on his lips. "As cheerful as an undertaker", is not, we believe, a proverb; but it would son become one if all the craft has as much sunshine in their hearts as he. His life was full of labor, done in a spirit of duty and with no eyeto earthly reward; and in the consciousness tha the was doing God's work he found his solace and recompense.

"From his fellow religious he won a peculiar veneration, and from the poor, whom his administrations assited, a very special love.

"Since Father Sorin died, Brother Francis has been the Patriarch of Notre Dame; but no stranger who saw the silent, unobstrusive Brother as he moved actively about his work, would have guessed it. He wore his honors gracefully, and to the end he remained the prayerful,laborious, amiable, humble religious that he was in youth. Such men never die. They live again in eveyr life their example has helped to sanctify.

"The days of the founding will seem ancient now that Brother Francis has passed away, but the memory of his good, long life, and the fragrance of his Christian virtues will never depart from those who knew him." SCHOLASTIC, Vol. 30, p.155, 1896

" . . . Known as Francis Xavier, who has been connected with the University of Notre Dame for thirty years, dropped dead on the steps of his office this morning at seven o'clock. He had just eaten a hearty breakfast and was on his way from the dining room when stricken with apolexy. Brother Francis Xavier was 59 years old and for several years has been undertaker at the University. (Bartholomew Crowley)." SOUTH BEND TRIBUNE, December 30, 1903

" . . . .of his companions but one, Brother Francis Xavier, now survives. A write in the Silver Jubilee book, published in 1869, describes this Brother as one 'who has made coffins for all who have died at Notre Dame and most likely will do the same kind office for many more yetbefore he drives the last nail in his own'."

"The words were prophetic. The writer was laid in his grave by the good Brother in November 1874, while Brother Francis Xavier is still hale, vigorous and kind as when these lines were written." A.J. STACE IN THE SCHOLASTIC, September 8, 1888

‹— Brother Aidan's Extracts —›