Francis Xavier Leray
Chaplain, Deceased Person
1825 – 1887
Who was Francis Xavier Leray?
Leray was born in Châteaugiron, Ille-et-Vilaine, to René and Marie Leray. He studied at the College of Rennes from 1833 until 1844, when he accepted an appeal for missionaries in Louisiana, United States. Following his arrival, he taught for several months at Spring Hill College in Mobile, Alabama, before entering St. Mary's Seminary in Baltimore, Maryland, where he completed his theological studies. In 1852 he accompanied Bishop John J. Chanche to Natchez, Mississippi, where Leray was ordained to priesthood on March 19 of that year.
He then served as pastor of Jackson, and ministered to the sick and dying during the yellow fever epidemics of 1853 and 1855. Leray himself was stricken by the fever and only by great care did he recover. In 1857 he was named pastor of Vicksburg, where he built the first Catholic church and in 1860 introduced the Sisters of Mercy to establish a school. During the Civil War, he served as a chaplain to the Confederate Army of Tennessee. On several occasions he was taken prisoner by Union forces but was released as soon as he was identified as a priest. After the war he returned to Vicksburg, which was visited by cholera in 1867. He was also vicar general of Diocese of Natchez from 1871 to 1877.
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