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

Page 72

From St Louis to Denver I had the pleasure of the company of Mother General Dafrosa of the Loretto Order and Sisters Dolorine and Otilla whom she was taking west for their first mission. We reached Denver without accident or special incident except that we were made the recipients of very special attentions from Judge Deverauz, a prominent official of the railroad and a good Catholic. It was Saturday morning, April 14, 1877. The next day I sang the high mass at the Cathedral, at which my mother and other relatives were present; then dinner and the afternoon with them, and a return to the Cathedral to report for work. 

          Bishop Machebeuf did not have as urgent need of my services as I had been led to think from his hurried call for me to return from Wuertzburg. Already he had three priests at the Cathedral; Fathers Ravedy, Matz and Reitmayer. A fourth had just been permitted to leave the diocese and go to California. It is true that Father Reitmeyer was not a regular assistant, there, but temporarily unplaced as his mission was too sparsely settled to give him a church anywhere or a competent living. He, too, went to California where he joined the Jesuits and lived many years among them. Father Maguire became pastor of a church in Oakland, California and built up a fine parish. We shall soon see that the force was still more reduced, but the work went on about as usual. 

          Denver had grown since I saw it five years before, and now numbered about 12,000 inhabitants. The Sisters of Loretto had enlarged their convent, and the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth had a good hospital for a town of that size. The Sisters of Loretto had mass in their chapel every week day but came to the church on Sundays. The hospital was rather far from the Church, and it was necessary for a priest to go there for mass. Sometimes an invalid priest might be there for the service but ordinarily it was attended to from the cathedral. Only two masses were the regular order on Sunday at the Cathedral, and this was the only church in the city. There were some outside missions with occasional mass, and a number of section houses along the railroads with Catholic foremen and laborers, and a few ranchers within reach of the stations. Then there were distant missions to which the bishop must go at times. The bishop generally took a boy with him, but seldom any priest unless one might go with him as far as his nearest neighbor, during these visitations. So, after all, the clerical force in Denver might be reduced to two, as it often was, and the essential work would be done. 

          I sang the high mass on my first Sunday in Denver, so I must preach on my second Sunday. This I did to my complete dissatisfaction. I felt that all eyes were upon me and all ears were open to hear what I would say. I know they hoped for the best, as I was considered a home boy, and all I can say is that I tried to do my best, but my best was poor enough. The high mass satisfied the choir on the previous Sunday, and that was a compliment to me, for I was sort of a chorus boy in that choir ten years before.

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