Bishop Auguste Martin, 1st Bishop of Natchitoches
Martin was born in Saint-Malo, Brittany. As a seminarian, he was employed at the Grand Almonry of France in Paris under Cardinal Gustave Maximilien Juste de Croÿ-Solre. He was ordained to the priesthood in September, 1825. He served as pastor in Bleurais and Vern before being assigned as chaplain of the Royal College of Rennes where he served until 1839, when he accepted an invitation from Bishop Célestine Guynemer de la Hailandière to join the Diocese of Vincennes in Indiana.
After arriving in the United States, Martin served as pastor of St. Vincent’s Church in Logansport and the Vincennes Cathedral (1839–1843) and as vicar general of the diocese (1843–1846), in addition to engaging in the missions of Indiana. During this time he became a confidant of Saint Mother Theodore Guerin, who founded the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods in the diocese in 1840. The two corresponded often, exchanging letters back and forth.
Although it has been reported that Fr. Martin left the Diocese of Vincennes due to failing health, it was in fact due to the problems created by the Bishop of Vincennes, Celestine Guynemer de la Hailandiere. Fr. Martin had been recruited by Hailandiere but because of Hailandiere’s insistence on total control, many priests left the diocese. He then went to Louisiana, where he was appointed to St. Martin’s Church at Attakapas. In 1847 he became pastor of St. Joseph’s in Baton Rouge, St. John’s at the Plains, and St. Magdalen’s in Manchac, and was transferred to St. Francis of Assisi Church in Natchitoches in 1849. He was made vicar forane of north Louisiana under Archbishop Blanc in 1850.
On July 29, 1853, Martin was appointed the first Bishop of the newly erected Diocese of Natchitoches by Pope Pius IX. He received his episcopal consecration on the following November 30 from Archbishop Antoine Blanc, with Bishops Michael Portier and James Oliver Van de Velde, S.J., serving as co-consecrators, at the St. Louis Cathedral. During his 22-year-long tenure, he recruited priests and religious from Europe for the diocese, established a seminary to train native clergy, founded numerous missions, and erected a cathedral. He guided the diocese during the Civil War (1861–1865), and attended the Second Plenary Council of Baltimore (1866) and First Vatican Council (1869–1870).
Martin later died in Natchitoches, aged 72.