Fr. Gabriel Richard founded the University of Michigan and died while serving the sick in an epidemic.
The Archdiocese of Detroit recently launched the cause for canonization of Fr. Gabriel Richard, a French missionary priest who played a pivotal role in the early days of Michigan’s existence.Richard was born in La Ville de Saintes, France, on October 15, 1767, and after being ordained a priest, ventured to the New World in 1798.
According to The Detroit News, “Richard is attributed to creating Detroit’s motto ‘We hope for better things; it will rise from the ashes’ following Detroit’s Great Fire of 1805. The motto is still used on the city’s seal.”
He also helped found the University of Michigan in 1817 and was one of its first professors.
Richard spent much time among the Native Americans and traveled throughout the region, ministering to the various needs of Catholic settlers. He even went so far as running for political office and was elected to Congress.
According to the American Ecclesiastical Review, Richard’s campaign was motivated by his concern for the people of the area.