Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
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MORANVILLE, John Francis, French missionary, born in Cagny, France, 19 July, 1760; died there, 17 May, 1824. He entered the seminary of Saint Esprit in 1778, and was ordained priest in 1784. He was sent immediately afterward to Cayenne, where he applied himself to the instruction of the slaves. His influence among the negroes was of the greatest benefit to the colony, and in 1792 the authorities, in order to retain him, persuaded him to take the oath that was prescribed in the civil constitution of the clergy. He did so under the belief that it was simply a declaration of obedience to the constituted authorities. Learning afterward that the oath was condemned by his church, he published an energetic retraction and embarked for Demerara on a Dutch vessel. He was pursued by a French ship, but arrived safely. As the authorities in Cayenne demanded his surrender, he sailed for the United States, which he reached early in 1795. He taught for a time in Baltimore, and was then given charge of St. Peter's church. He had a profound knowledge of ecclesiastical music and did much to improve the condition of the choirs in Roman Catholic churches, reforming the choral services, for which he composed hymns in English and appropriate music, His best-known hymn is "Sion, rejoice with Grateful Lays." He is regarded as the creator of the religious chant in the Roman Catholic church of the United States. He visited France in 1801, but after a few years returned to Baltimore, and was appointed pastor of St. Patrick's church. He soon acquired a reputation for eloquence, and his church could not contain the crowds that wished to hear him. In 1807 he completed a new church, which was the finest in Baltimore. In 1815 he founded the charitable society of St. Patrick, and opened a free school for girls, the first of the kind in the city. The same year he introduced a body of Trappists into his parish, but they remained with him only a few years. He retired to St. Mary's college, Emmettsburg, in failing health, but, on learning that Baltimore was likely to be attacked by an English fleet, he returned to his flock. During the yellow-fever epidemics of 1819 to 1821 in Baltimore he was constant in his attendance at the bed-side of the sick, even when he was attacked by the disease. His labors during these years impaired his health, and he was advised to return for a time to his native country. He sailed from New York, 1 October, 1823, but was still further weakened by the storms to which his vessel was exposed on the passage, and he landed in France in a dying condition.
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