Recollections of My Life and Reflections on Times and Events During It: A Memoir by Father W. J. Howlett

Page 46

young man who was glad to accept it, to the satisfaction of all concerned. This was James J. Bent, who eventually became a priest for the Diocese of Covington, Ky.

          The new church at Kalamazoo was considered the finest Catholic church in western Michigan. It was a brick structure and the Archbishop told us it cost $65,000 and was paid for with the exception of $5,000. This was not the case, for Father Leber [Lebel] was a poor bookkeeper, and after his sudden death a much larger indebtedness was found and Bishop Rorgess of Detroit found difficulty in clearing up the affairs and having legal claims paid off. In the end the matter was never satisfactorily settled. Father Lebel was at our house in Barron Lake, and when my mother presented me for his blessing he remarked to her inquiry that he thought I would be a priest and that I had a fine head for a bishop. I thank God that there were not bishoprics enough for all the fine heads, and that the supply of heads never ran so low that min[e] had to go into the market.

          Another old pastor whom I visited was Father Baroux of Silver Creek. This was once an Indian Mission but now all the Indians had gone except one named Topash, and he was the organist of the little church. Father Baroux told me something of his early life, and how he was so frightened at his examination for ordination by Bishop Bouvier in France that he could not bless himself. It was only after the strongest pleadings of the superior of the seminary and his willingness to assume all responsibilities for young Baroux that the bishop consented to ordain him. The superior made no mistake in that case. He also read for me extracts from his very interesting diary of mission work in India at the time of the Sepoy rebellion in 1857, but it was a hot day and I was just after dinner and so sleepy that I was ashamed of my lack of attention, and consequently lost much of his reading.

          My headquarters that summer were at Niles with Father Cappon, and from there I returned to St. Thomas for the opening of school in September.

          Old St. Thomas! The name thrills me yet. But is there another to whom it brings the same thrill, born of experience in the carefree and hopeful days of youth? Yes, there is one, a layman, Mr. John Doyle, now of Chicago, but for many years a resident of Louisville, Ky, who has never forgotten its charm, even if he did not follow out to the end the motive that made him seek its guidance, but who, nevertheless, wrought as much good along other lines as he probably would if events had not deverted [diverted] his life’s work. But among the clergy I know not one to whom it is more than history and a hearsay, but that at least it will remain as long as the printed word interests those who share in the benefits of its legacies.

          St. Thomas was not impressive in its looks but it did impressive work. Its opening day in Kentucky was June 11, 1811, the day Bishop Flaget was installed in his new diocese that embraced Kentucky, Tennessee and the West and Northwest from the eastern boundary of Ohio to the unexplored regions of the unnamed territories beyond the Mississippi. Bishop Flaget brought his students and professors with him, and temporarily established his seminary on the spot where I

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