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Bishop Frederick Baraga: (1797-1868) Slovenian Priest and Missionary

Bishop Baraga was born south of Lublana (Slovenia) in 1797.  He was influenced mainly by his mother, who instilled in him a strong devotion to God and love for the poor.  He studied law at the University of Vienna, and mastered the languages of English, French, German, Italian, and Spanish.  (Carantha)

On July 12, 1817, Baraga met Father Clement Hofbauer, the grand master in spirituality in Vienna also known as the Redemptorist.  Father Hofbauer inspired the young Baraga to become a priest and in 1821, he entered the seminary at Lublana.  Two years later, he was ordained. His most famous work is his first published book, Dusna Pasha (Pasture of the Soul) “This Slovenian prayer book was a very sensation. In 1830, it was published first in 2000 copies, which were soon out of print.” (Carantha)

Bishop Baraga is most noted for his missionary work with Indians of the United States, particularly, the Great Lakes region.  He was the first priest to join the Diocese of Cincinnati, defending the Indians while preaching Christian principles.   He mastered the languages of the Ottawa and Otchipwe, thus writing several literary works including, Jesus Obimadisiwin Oma Aking (The life of Jesus, Paris 1837) and Katolik Emaniad o Nanagata Vendamo Masinaigan (The mediation of the Catholic Christian about the eternal truth, Detroit 1850).   (Carantha)

He was named the “Snowshoe Priest” by the local Indians due to his long treks overland in winter months to help the churches and natives on the Keweenaw Peninsula. (Michigan Tech University, Houghton, MI Conference, May 2002)

On September 22, 1935, the bust of Bishop Baraga was unveiled by the Slovenes and dedicated by Archbishop Dr. Gregory Rozman of Ljubljana, Slovenia. (Lederer, Clara. Their Paths Are Peace: The Story of Cleveland’s Cultural Gardens, p. 76)

A statue and shrine of Baraga currently stands in L’Anse, Baraga County, Michigan.  (Plut-Pregelj, Leopoldina and Carole Rogel, A Historical Dictionary of Slovenia. p.25-6.)


Bust of Baraga The Cleveland Memory Project

Bust of Baraga and Cankar Memorial The Cleveland Memory Project

Photographs of the Garden

Further Reading:

Slovenian History, Articles by Dr. Jožko Šavli

“Superior State-of-the-Lake”: The Michigan Tech University Conference, Houghton, MI May 2002

New Advent, The Catholic Encyclopedia, Baraga’s Contribution to the Chippewa Indians

Cleveland State University, Special Collections Library

The Slovenian National Home, Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

History of the Slovenes in Cleveland, Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

The Slovenian American National Council, Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

Plut-Pregelj, Leopoldina and Carole Rogel, A Historical Dictionary of Slovenia. Lanham, MD: The Scarecrow Press, Inc., p.25-6, 1996.