2020 Road Trip Photos #16: Xavier’s Church for Gifted Soldiers

Christ cross runway.

This statue of Christ on a cross with its own runway is actually part of a cemetery.

One of our biggest regrets about our annual road trips is we always fail to make time for church services on Sunday. Occasionally we’ll happen near a church that’s built up enough exterior decor that it counts as a tourist attraction, but we’re never in a position to attend services. We’ve visited such houses of worships in New Orleans, Colorado Springs, and New York City, among others.

So it went in Vincennes as our walk took us slightly adjacent to George Rogers Clark National Historical Park, where we found holy grounds whose history predates Clark’s arrival in the area, not to mention the American Revolution itself. It was a Tuesday and we aren’t Catholic, but we appreciated a chance to spend a few minutes with our minds pointed more toward God.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

Every year since 1999 my wife Anne and I have taken a trip to a different part of the United States and visited attractions, wonders, and events we didn’t have back home in Indianapolis. From 1999 to 2003 we did so as best friends; from 2004 to the present, as husband and wife. Then came 2020 A.D.

Even in an ordinary average year, sometimes you really need to get away from it all. In a year like this, escape is more important than ever if you can find yourself one — no matter how short it lasts, no matter how limited your boundaries are. Anne and I had two choices: either skip our tradition for 2020 and resign ourselves to a week-long staycation that looks and feels exactly like our typical weekend quarantines; or see how much we could accomplish within my prescribed limitations. We decided to expand on that and check out points of interest in multiple Indiana towns in assorted directions. We’d visited many towns over the years, but not all of them yet.

In addition to our usual personal rules, we had two simple additions in light of All This: don’t get killed, and don’t get others killed…

Basilica of St. Francis Xavier!

Our first visual hint that we were somewhere uncommon. Basilicas tend to be frowned upon by the average HOA covenant.

We had no idea anything of significance stood next door to Clark’s park until we arrived on site and hurriedly searched for the Visitor Center and its bathrooms, in either order. Standing between us and our goal was the Basilica of St. Francis Xavier and Old Cathedral Catholic Church. St. Francis Xavier Parish dates its earliest beginnings back to 1734 when it was just a cabin and a handful of French believers. The present-day church building has stood since 1826 and presides over the oldest Catholic parish in Indiana. In case of visitors to Vincennes, they keep a few eye-catching items of note outside.

Old Cathedral Catholic Church!

Nearly 200 years old and still holding Mass. Their official website confirms pandemic procedures are presently in effect, including live-streaming services via their Facebook page.

church window statues.

Three statues in the facade depict St. Joan of Arc, their namesake St. Francis Xavier, and St. Patrick.

Pierre Gibault!

Out front is a statue of Pierre Gibault, Vicar-General of the Illinois Country (per its inscription) who helped convinced the locals to take Clark’s side in the fight against the British.

Old Cathedral French & Indian Cemetery!

On the same grounds is the Old Cathedral French & Indian Cemetery, comprising 4000 mostly unmarked graves for 18th-century Vincennes residents, many of whom fought for the new America. Fort Sackville’s surrender was negotiated hereabouts.

Cathedral Grave!

The few markers honoring the dead include the arrangement in our lead photo, and this one for Joseph Bowman, Colonel Clark’s second-in-command.

Jesus gravestone closeup.

The lead photo’s centerpiece is the tombstone of Reverend Jean Francois Rivet, a missionary from Martinique who, according to said tombstone, would become “Indiana’s first public school teacher.”

Mary Shelter.

Mary gets her own shelter off to the side.

To be continued!

* * * * *

[Link enclosed here to handy checklist for other chapters and for our complete road trip history to date. Follow us on Facebook or via email sign-up for new-entry alerts, or over on Twitter if you want to track my faint signs of life between entries. Thanks for reading!]

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