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Fr. Gabriel Richard’s Journey to Detroit | Unleashed

April 23, 2021

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It’s here! The premiere episode of ‘Unleashed’ — our new series telling stories of joyful missionary disciples and their work to unleash the Gospel in southeast Michigan — is out now. This first episode features John Lodwig, who serves as Docent at the Basilica of Ste. Anne de Detroit, the burial place of Fr. Gabriel Richard. He tells the adventure-filled history of Fr. Richard’s life from escaping the French Revolution to journeying across the Atlantic, and making his way to Detroit. Did you know that as Pastor of Ste. Anne in the 19th century, Fr. Richard served Catholics in the region from Toledo to Minnesota? Watch now!


By 1790, the French Revolution was beginning to attempt to control and reform the Roman Catholic church in France. The Revolutionary Council demanded that priests swear allegiance to the revolutionary government, which of course, most of the priests refused to do and Gabriel Richard refused to do. So their days in France became numbered.

Father Richard was born in France in 1767. He joined the Sulpicians in 1789. By 1791, when Gabriel Richard was ordained in secret, the French Revolution got very anti-clerical and it became apparent that he was going to have to flee France for his life. When the Gendarmes were on their way to arrest him because he has not yet sworn allegiance to the revolution, he had to climb out a second story window and jump to the street. While he was doing this a neighbor who is in favor of the revolution, and apparently anti-clerical, threw a teapot at him and struck him in the face, leaving a scar across his face, which he bore for the remainder of his life.

After remaining in hiding for seven months, he hooked up with some ditch diggers and he worked his way across France to the coast where he joined with other Sulpicians who were taking ship to come to the United States. They boarded the Queen of Hearts, a brigantine, and made the two month journey across the Atlantic Ocean for the United States of America, landing in Baltimore, Maryland.

In 1796, the British government released all of the forts in the Northwest territory from the British to the United States. So now it became necessary for the archdiocese in Baltimore to man the St. Anne parish.

Finally in 1798, Father Richard came to Detroit. At the time, the parish stretched from Toledo to Duluth, Minnesota, many hundreds of square miles. Father Richard took his flock very seriously, and he made many, many journeys up into the upper peninsula. We know that he was in the state of Wisconsin. Father Richard worked there tirelessly for several years.

This video was posted in Detroit.