Depelchin, Henri

Catholic Church (Jesuit)

Henri Depelchin was a Belgian Jesuit missionary in India. Born in Russignies, France, Depelchin entered the Society of Jesus in 1842. He studied theology and was a teacher for five years. He went to India in 1859, where he became the founder and first superior of the mission of the Belgian Jesuits in West Bengal. He first did “work in the bush” and later was a teacher. From 1864 to 1871 he was rector of the University College in Calcutta. During this time the number of students grew from 100 to 500. Afterward he wanted to work in the interior of the mission but instead had to take over the administration of St. Xavier’s College in Bombay (1872-1876) and at the same time lecture in philosophy, dogmatics, church history, and exegesis. In 1878 he was called to Europe by the superior general to prepare for entering Africa and to organize the Zambezi mission there. Together with five priests and five brothers he arrived in Zambezi territory in 1879 and remained until 1883, when he returned to Belgium. In 1888 he went back to India as rector of St. Joseph’s College in Darjeeling, in the Himalayas. At age 74 he was given responsibility for the initiation of the young Jesuit missionaries who made their third year of probation in Ranchi, the heart of the Khol mission. He died in Calcutta. His letters from India were published in numerous missionary periodicals in Europe. His letters and reports from the Zambezi mission were published in the collection Trois ans dans l’Afrique australe (1882 and 1883).

Karl Müller, SVD


“Le Révérend Pere Henri Depelchin,” Missions belges de la Compagnie de Jésus (1900): 289-294 (obit.); E. Moreau, “Les exploits d’un missionaire belge: Le P. Depelchin et ses compagnons,” Revue du Clerge Africain 1 (1946): 428-436.

This article is reproduced, with permission, from Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, copyright © 1998, by Gerald H. Anderson, W. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan. All rights reserved.