(Dec. 12, 1834-Sept. 7, 1918). The son of Ferdinand and Eliza Chatard, Silas Francis Chatard was born and educated in Baltimore, Maryland. Following the path taken by his paternal grandfather and father, Chatard became a doctor. He served his residency at the Baltimore Alms House.

Feeling himself called to another vocation, in 1857 he entered the Urban College of Propaganda Fide in Rome, was ordained a priest in 1862, and stayed in Rome to work at the North American College. On May 12, 1878, Pope Leo XIII appointed Chatard as bishop of the diocese of Vincennes, making him the first U.S.-born bishop in Indiana. At this time, he changed his name to Francis Silas Marean Chatard, carrying out a customary practice in the Catholic church that signifies a new call in life. Marean was his mother’s maiden name. Chatard established his residence in Indianapolis in August of that year, although the see of the diocese was not officially transferred or the name changed to Diocese of Indianapolis until March 1898.

Chatard began an extensive reorganization of the diocese and built Ss. Peter And Paul Cathedral. His efforts increased the number of parishes and missions and enlarged the ranks of the clergy and religious. He founded St. Vincent Hospital in 1881. Demonstrating great concern for education, Chatard established a diocesan school board, mandated the building of a grade school in each parish, and made attendance at Catholic schools mandatory for all Catholic children.

The bishop’s stewardship of the new diocese increased the number of Catholics from about 80,000 to about 130,000 at the time of his death. Bishop Chatard suffered a stroke in January 1899, from which he never fully recovered.

Chatard High School, established in 1961, is named for him.

Revised September 2023

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