An Outpost and a University


The land Fr. Sorin took possession of was a missionary outpost with a history dating back to the late 17th century. French explorers and missionaries were the first Europeans to set foot in northern Indiana, and in 1686, Fr. Claude Allouez, S.J. founded a mission outpost on the south shore of St. Mary's Lake to minister to the native tribes and traders in the area. This outpost was a fixture with remarkable longevity, until the British expelled Catholic missionaries from the area in 1763 after the French and Indian War. Nearly 70 years later, Fr. Stephen Badin - the first priest ordained in the United States - re-established the mission at the request of Leopold Pokagon, a local chief of the Potawatomi. A decade later, in 1842, Sorin arrived.

Fr. Sorin's task was part college founder and president, and part priest for a wide swath of geography - from the present-day cities of Kalamazoo, Michigan in the north to Plymouth, Indiana in the south. Even while the work of education began, the work of ministry did not cease.