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

Page 77

          My stay in Germany was serving me in good stead, and I was urging the formulation of a parish for the Germans. I did not want it for myself, but a German priest (Father John Wagner) had come from Evanston, Illionois [Illinois], and was willing to undertake the work. He actually started the project but soon turned it over to another (Rev F Bender) who completed the organization and built a small church for the German element throughout the city. This was the beginning of St Elizabeth’s church, now in the care of the Franciscans. 

          The Irish were strong from the beginning, and St Patrick’s Day was a great day for them. They thought the French priests were not in sympathy with them, and there was some truth in it, for they were a rather wild set of Fenians anxious to blow England out of the sea. When St Patrick’s Day came around I was appointed to prepare and preach the sermon on the occasion. There was a military company--The Emerald Rifles--and they were to appear in uniform at mass with armed guards at the sanctuary gates and whom I had to instruct in the manner of saluting at the time of the Elevation. I did my best to get ready, but I was flabbergasted when just before mass there appeared Bishop O’Connor of Omaha and Bishop Conroy of Ireland. With Bishop Conroy, who was Apostolic Ablegate to Canada, was his secretary, Rev D J O’Connell, later Bishop of Richmond. What was I to do? I might get along in the presence of our home Bishop, but I really could not face three of them. I begged Bishop O’Connor to say a few words in my place but he was firm in his refusal. With fear and trembling I approached Bishop Conroy, and if I ever got anything for my blarney it was at that time. Bishop Conroy yielded, and preached on the most beautiful sermons it was ever my good luck to hear. I sang the mass and introduced the preacher, and we had a grand St Patrick’s day. My old sermon was laid aside and used at a later period when I had the Irish all to myself in another parish.

          In 1879 the Jesuits came from New Mexico and were given the section northeast Twenty-third Street and Park Avenue where they Established the Church of the Sacred Heart. This curtailed our work at the Cathedral but left us all the outside missions. those to the east I attended as far as Kit Carson near the Kansas boundary. This year also the parish of Central City in the mountains became vacant by the death of Rev Finotti, an aged and learned ex-Jesuit, famous in the East but now in the West for relief from rheumatic and other pains. This was an important parish and moreover it was on the point of bankruptcy and its fall would be a catastrophe to the bishop, who was responsible for the debts of the parish and a lawsuit here would bring actions from other sides for claims he could not meet. The bishop tried to get an experienced pastor for this parish but failed, and finally sent me to do my best. This was first experience in bringing order out of the frenzied finance of my predecessors, and I went with nothing but good will and the grace of God.

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