Born in 1615, Fr. Gabriel de la Ribourde was, in many ways, essential to the evangelization of the New World. As a member of the Order of Friars Minor Recollect, he served as novice master for many New World missionaries, including Fr. Louis Hennepin. Coming to New France in 1670, Fr. Ribourde was a part of La Salle’s expedition that brought him to our section of the Illinois Valley in 1678, and was later stationed as chaplain at Trois-Rivières, from where he assisted many missionary journeys and greatly impressed the Iroquois.
On September 18, 1680, while his canoe was being repaired somewhere between Seneca and Marseilles, Fr. Ribourde was killed by members of the Kickapoo tribe as he prayed his breviary.
The first martyr of Illinois, Bishop Schlarman of the Diocese of Peoria erected a memorial to Fr. Ribourde on the grounds of St. Patrick’s in Seneca in 1932, a spot still marked by a cross today. Bishop Schlarman also placed a stained glass window commemorating the missionary martyr in the Chapel of St. Thomas Moore in St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception Cathedral in Peoria. This window graces the cover of the bulletin and is the source of the icon for the Ribourde Catholic Community.
The Ribourde Catholic Community is made up of four parishes in La Salle County that you will discover on this website: St. Patrick of Seneca, St. Joseph of Marseilles, St. Mary of the Fields in Grand Ridge, and St. Patrick of Ransom.