Mathurin Francis Grignon was born in Brittany, France November 29, 1822, of very respectable parents known for their comfortable and social position as well as for their strong faith. In his youth, desirous of giving himself to the service of the Almighty God in the priesthood, he entered the little Seminary of St. Meen of the Diocese of Rennes, and after four years there he passed to the grand Seminary of Rennes, there completing his four years Theology. During these student years of his Bishop John Joseph Chanche visited Brittany.
Father Grignon became acquainted with him and learned from the zealous Bishop the great need of priests in the newly formed Diocese of Natchez. He humbly asked the Bishop to be allowed to devote himself to the work of the missions in Mississippi, and Bishop Chanche readily and gladly accepted his kind offer. From this time young Grignon looked forward to the day when he would take up his work in that distant mission.
On June 2, 1840, he was ordained to the priesthood at Rennes by Bishop Saint Marc, who later became Cardinal. Remaining in is native land a few months after his ordination, he set sail for his future home in America, arriving in Natchez on December 28, 1849.
In the fall of 1850 when Bishop Chanche opened up St. Mary’s Collegiate Institute, Father Grignon was named on the faculty of this school, and in this position he served during the two years that the school flourished. After its closing in 1852 Father Grignon was named by the Bishop as Pastor of the Cathedral.
The early days of Father Grignon as Pastor of the Cathedral were days of toil, of sacrifice, and of responsibility. Priests in the diocese of Natchez were very few. Bishop Chanche was absent from his See in his frequent and extended visitations of his Diocese; so much of the work, not only of the parish, but even of a diocesan nature fell upon Father Grignon.
The Cathedral was heavily in debt and its creditors were pressing for payment. Father Grignon, however , was singularly blessed to take up this work and to carry it on. Gifted with a strong constitution , great faith and a buoyant disposition, he zealously entered upon his labors, and, despite his youth, accepted the great responsibilities that fell upon him.
The death of Bishop Chanche came as a great blow to Father Grignon. After Bishop Chanche’s death, Father Grignon was assigned by the Archbishop of New Orleans the duty of ministering the affairs of the Diocese until the appointment and arrival of a new Bishop.
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Under the administration of Bishop Van de Velde, Father Grignon continued his zealous labors, and when Bishop Van de Velde, after his short administration, lay upon his deathbed, Father Grignon was privileged to stand beside him and to administer to him the last sacraments. Again the duty of administration of the Diocese devolved upon Father Grignon.
The brightest page in the history of Father Grignon begins with the accession to the See of Natchez of Right Reverend William H. Elder. In 1857 Father Grignon was made Vicar General by Bishop Elder.
Father Grignon and Bishop Elder walked concurrently together for a quarter of a century, through the tumultuous years of the Civil War, until a higher duty separated them, the appointment of Bishop Elder as Archbishop of Cincinnati.
Father Grignon continued on as the pastor of St. Mary Cathedral under the newly appointed Bishop Francis August Janssens as the fourth bishop of Natchez.
Father Grignon was at Bishop Janssens side during the building of the present sacristy, the beautification of the sanctuary, and the installation of a new organ in the church. He assisted Bishop Janssens in the consecration of the cathedral on September 19, 1886.
Not long after the dedication of the Cathedral Father Grignon became ill. After a long and tedious illness of about six months he breathed his soul forth into the hands of his Maker. On Sunday Morning April 17, 1887, the long and useful life of Father Grignon was brought to an end when his eyes were closed in death.
Under the shadow of the cross he had planted; in the ground he had blessed long years ago, his flock tenderly laid his body, and around the open grave all knelt and prayed that his beautiful soul might speedily find rest and relief in the company of the blessed.
Mathurin Francis Grignon served St. Mary Cathedral for over thirty-seven years, longer than any clergymen to date.
Taken from: St. Mary’s Parish, Natchez Bishop Janssens’ Administration 1880-1888 Sequel To "Cradle Days Of St. Mary's At Natchez"
–By Most Rev R.O. Gerow, Bishop of Natchez
Presented by Rev. David O'Connor for All Souls Day Procession, November 4, 2012.