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

Page 88

and delivered two masterly sermons at the morning and evening services. My next care was to open a school. The large basement accommodated the school in September. There were 140 children for the opening day, and the number increased as the school went on.

          But why enumerate these things. Hundreds of pastors are doing the same work throughout the land and consider it ordinary routine at the foundation of every parish. No doubt they experience anxiety and labor, but the life of a priest in a pioneer country is partly made up of these, so we let them pass.

          In the summer of 1892 I took a little time off and left the congregation in charge of the Rev. Eis, a priest from Michigan, temporarily in Colorado for his health. He later became Bishop of Marquette. I made a rather extensive but rapid trip to Chicago and then by the norther route to the Pacific Coast, visiting St. Paul, Minneapolis, Helena Portland, San Francisco, and Salt Lake City. I wrote a running account of this trip for the Colorado Catholic at the time, but here I shall recall only a few of its interesting events.

          My oldest sister was then living at Stevensville, Montana, and as I had not seen her for twenty years, I stopped a few daye [days] at her home. It was in the valley of the Bitter Root river, close to St. Mary's mission, the original foundation of Father Desmet among the Flathead Indians. The church was a very neat structure in the form of a cross of logs, but was closed at the time as the Indians had been removed to a new reservation on the Mocko, or to St. Ignatius near Flathead Lake. The church was in a good state of preservation and I believe it has since been opened for the convenience of white settlers. In order to see the Indians I went to Saint Ignatius and was there for the great annual feast of the tribe - - St. Ignatius day. It was late at night when I got to the station, and from the mountain heights as we approach the mission the place looked like a large city. The lights in the building were still burning, and the campfires of the Indians glowed in the darkness like so many street lights. I rose early the next morning to say mass and my server was an Indian boy who did his part as well as any serving boy I ever had.

          At seven o'clock I went to the church to see seven hundred Indians received Holy Communion. It was anovel [a novel] and interesting site. During the master Indians recited the rosary in a peculiar quacking tone, and after every decade sang a verse of a hymn in nasal tones, but the air was rather pleasing. The men were on one side of the church and the women on the other, and almost all wore blankets; and the women had a colored handkerchiefs on their heads. Plain benches were in the church but few of them were used as seats, for all knelt on their heels and the women used the benches to lay their babies upon, and there were a goodly number of papooses. Two chiefs directed the lines for the communion and in the last in the lines were two aged men who were blind. At the high mass Bishop Brendel pontificated and gave confirmation to a large class. He also preached in English but Father Cataldo repeated each segment after the Bishop in the flathead tongue. The choir sang the modern music of the mass very creditably.

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