Louis E. (Louis Eugene) Caillet.

Some letters of Monsignor Louis E. Caillet and August N. Chemidlin, 1868-1899 online

. (page 1 of 7)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


Bequest of

Frederic Bancroft





Monsignor Louis E. Caillet


August N. Chemidlin


Edited by

Printed for private circulation

St. P&ul, 1P22

3 >J,J>>J > J^

> 5 J ,' ■•,

3 J 3 J

J J 3 J 3 3 3

Jj3,>3j 3 ' > , > '

13 , 3 , 3 3 3,3)




Father Caillet - - - - - 3

Rev. Humiihrey Moynihan, S. T. D.

August Nicholas Chemidlin - - - 29

Clara Hill Lin die 7/

Letters - - - -. - __ 39


In the Alhambra, 1889 - - - - Frontispiece

Father Caillet - - - - - - - 4

Mother of Father Caillet - - - - - 4

St. Paul Cathedral - - - - - - 4

St. Paul in the 'Fifties - - - - - - 6

St. Mary's Church - - - - - - 22

August Chemidlin and His Wife - - - - 28

Mary Hill - - - - - - - - 32

Louis and James Hill - - - - - - 32

Clara Hill - - - - - - - - - - 32

Mrs. Prince - - - - - - - 38

Mrs. Shawe - - - - - - - 38

John S. Prince - - - - - - - 38

August Chemidlin - - - - - - 42

Charlotte Prince - - - - - - - 44

Nettie and Mamie Prince - - - - - 44

Fanny Prince - - - - - - - 44

Emma Prince - - - - - - - 48

John Prince, Jr. - - - - - - - 48

The Prince House, Eighth St. - - - - - 50

James Jerome Hill - - - - - - 64

Mrs. Hill - - - - - - - - 54

The Hill House (1884) - - - - - 60

Charlotte Hill - - - - - - - 68

Ruth and Rachel Hill - - - - - - 68

L. Caillet - - - - - - - - 80

Gertrude Hill - - - - - - - 92

Walter Hill - - - - - - - 92

Grace Prince - - - - - - - 92

Alice Shawe - - - - - - - 92

At North Oaks Farm - - - - - - 94

Monsignor Louis Caillet - - - - - 106

A. Chemidlin - - - - - - - 116

Interior St. Mary's Church, 1922 - - - - 118



Of the early years of Louis Eugene Caillet
little is known. He was born in Lyons, Novem-
ber 21, 1832, in a home rich in naught save the pi-
ety that has given to the world the missionaries of
France. How much his mother had to do with
shaping the aspirations of his boyhood may be
gauged from the very tender affection he always
bore her ; the members of his household were famil-
iar with the picture that throughout his life held
the place of honor on his desk. For a priest of
Lyons, chaplain of a Convent, he also entertain-
ed an enduring regard, the man who divined the
possibilities slumbering in the soul of the youth
and kindled them to a flame of holy ardor for the
missionary life. With the prudence that was to
characterize him all his days, Louis Caillet did not
definitely decide to enter the ranks of the priest-
hood mitil he had knelt at the feet of the Cure of
Ars and heard from his lips words that he regarded
as prophetic. He took up his higher studies in a
seminary at Lyons, and was quietly pursuing his
course there, wondering the while in what land his
lot would be cast, when, one day, a priest from
America came in search of candidates for the Dio-
cese of St. Paul. It was the saintly Father Ra-



voux. He had much to tell the students of life
among the Indians, of the quest for lonely settlers
in forest and prairie, of the beginnings of religion
on the banks of the Mississippi, of the sore need of
priests in far-off Minnesota. He told how he him-
self had been for seven years in the wilds without
a brother priest ; how only three years before Bishop
Cretin, on taking possession of his See, was wel-
comed with a Te Deum in a little log chapel that
was his cathedral ; and how in his whole Diocese —
in all the territory between the Mississippi and the
Missouri, between the Iowa line on the South and
the British border on the North — he had found
only one priest. He was calling for men willing
to face toil and hardship, and Louis Caillet was
one of those who answered the call. With six
companions: Felix Tissot of Lyons, Claude
Robert of Le Puy, Anatole Oster, George Keller.
Francis Hurth, and A^alentine Sommereisen of
Strasbourg, he set sail for America. In later
years he used to tell with much amusement how
Father Ravoux laid down a stringent code of rules
and regulations for his charges, and how his plan
to establish a miniature seminary on the high seas
was sadly upset by the innocent pranks of two of
the younger "seminarians" bent on whiling away
the tedium of a voyage extending over forty-five

On the afternoon of Friday, June 16, 1854, the
future missionaries landed on the wharves of St.

[ 4 ]

Soon offer /m',< Ordination



Built h\j Bishop Cretin


Paul. On reaching the Cathedral they found
Bishop Cretin teaching catecliism. The Bishop
lost no time in setting them at work. Their first
task was to prepare for the procession of the Bles-
sed Sacrament around the Cathedral block on the
following Sunday, for it was the Sunday within
the octave of Corpus Christi.

A frontier town in the Northwest in 1854 was
full of strange interest for the young men fresh
from France. Only a few years before, the spot
on which St. Paul stood was a wilderness. The
little log chapel that Father Galtier had built in
1840, the "basilica," as he called it, "so poor that
it recalled the stable of Bethlehem," told them how
close they still were to the crude beginning of
things. And yet, the air was full of forecasts of a
wonderful future for the town. Every speech in
those days was adorned with a few well-worn lines
of Whittier:

I hear the tread of pioneers

Of nations j^et to be —

The first low wash of waves, where soon

Shall roll a human sea.

At no distant date the wilderness would blossom
like the rose; the Indian lodges around the town
would disappear; Atlantic and Pacific would be
bound by long slender lines of steel; New Orleans
would be brought within reach of St. Anthony.
These were the dreams of the settlers of the early
fifties. And, indeed, the fame of Minnesota, of its

[ 5 ]


prairies and their mold of a thousand years, of its
pineries and primeval forests, of its countless lakes
and broad-bosomed rivers, was spreading far and
wide, and from East and South families were pour-
ing in to seek their fortune in the land of promise.
One day the Democrat would announce that "six
steamboats arrived yesterday and landed about six
hundred passengers." Another day the Minnesota
Pioneer would boast that St. Paul was fast donning
the aspect of a city: "After dark the lights gleam
from the dwellings in multitudinous twinklings like
fire-flies in a meadow." But the pages that paint-
ed such roseate pictures of St. Paul and augured
such a golden future for it, would also record a
skirmish between Sioux and Chippewas, ancient
enemies, in one of its principal streets.

Three years of study and preparation for the
sacred ministry were passed in the Cathedral Res-
idence. It will be recalled that the Cathedral of
that day was a composite building of three stories.
On the first floor were a parlor, the parish library,
a dining-room, a kitchen, and a class room. The
second story was given over to the church. On
the third story were rooms for the Bishop and the
priests, the seminarians' dormitory, study hall, and
class rooms. Louis Caillet received his initiation
into the simple ways of missionary life when he
saw Bishop Cretin sweeping his own room, making
his bed, chopping wood, working in the garden,
and busy with many other occupations strangely

[ 6 ]







out of keeping with those of an episcopal palace
in France. The seminarians, too, were busy with
a variety of duties from early morning, when the
Bishop roused one of them to serve his Mass, cel-
ebrated punctually at five o'clock, until they re-
tired at night. Now and again, one or other of
them accompanied the Bishop on his trips through
the Diocese, sharing the fatigue of the rude roads
and the discomfort of log houses. The close of
Bishop Cretin's life was clouded with much suffer-
ing. During his last long illness Louis Caillet
and Felix Tissot were in constant attendance on
him, watching by his bed-side, doing all that affec-
tion and fidelity could do to soothe his pain and
cheer his lonely hours. Father Caillet always re-
tained a vivid recollection of the Bishop's resigna-
tion during the dreary months of his suffering.
"As I cannot work," the Bishop would say, "I at
least ought to offer my pains to God for the faith-
ful and for all." His efforts, too, to continue his
work in spite of constant distress and failing
strength were a pathetic memory with those who
were with him to the end.

Bishop Cretin died on the 22nd of February,
1857. Bishop Grace was not to succeed him until
two years later. For this reason Louis Caillet
was ordained priest by Bishop Smith, coadjutor
Bishop of Dubuque, on August 21, 1857. He
was assigned to the Cathedral, and now and then
tasted the hardships of missionary life on the long

[ 7 ]


trips he made among the scattered hamlets on the
prairie. As pastor of the Cathedral he ministered
quietly and steadily to the spiritual needs of his
growing congregation. In 1865 he was commis-
sioned by Bishop Grace to organize a new parish
to be known as St. Mary's. On Pentecost Sun-
day of the following year the corner-stone of the
new Church was laid with much ceremony. It
was a beautiful afternoon towards the end of May,
and all St. Paul turned out for the occasion. The
Catholic societies of the Cathedral and Assump-
tion parishes, the children who had received the
sacrament of Confirmation in the morning, and
who now marched singing Canticles in honor of
the Blessed Virgin, the acolytes in their scarlet
soutanes and spotless surplices (among them was
a little boy who was to be the first Bishop of North
Dakota, John Shanley), the nuns in their somber
garb, the vested priests, and the Bishop with his
guard of honor — this Catholic outpouring fifty-
six years ago was an unwonted spectacle in a
frontier town, and cheered the hearts of the Cath-
olic people of St. Paul. The parchment deposit-
ed in the corner-stone will come to light again,
when the church so auspiciously fomided will be
regretfully dismantled. It told how, on May
20th, in the year of our Lord 1866, the twentieth
of the Pontificate of Pius IX, the seventh of the
episcopacy of Thomas Langdon Grace, Andrew
Johnson being President of the United States,

[ 8 ]


William R. Marshall Governor of the State of
Minnesota, and John S. Prince Mayor of the City
of St. Paul, the corner-stone of St. Mary's was
solemnly laid by the Bishop of the Diocese, at-
tended by the clergy of the city and a large con-
course of the faithful. A sermon full of miction
and eloquence preached by Bishop Grace brought
to a close a day that always lived in the memory
of Father Caillet.

Building a church in the year after the war
was no light task. Father Caillet never forgot
the generous co-operation given to him by five
members of the parish — Messrs. John S. Prince,
Philip McQuillan, Bruno Beaupre, Patrick H.
Kelly and Patrick Nash. Neither did he ever for-
get the sacrifices made by hundreds of his congre-
gation, who were always so ready with a moiety
of their scanty incomes. On July 28, 1867, to the
great joy of priest and people, St. Mary's was
dedicated. Father Oster, in the absence of Bish-
op Grace, officiated. The sermon was preached
by Father Ireland, who took for his text the words
"i am the Way, the Truth, and the Life." Father
Ireland was, as Archbishop, to preach the sermon
at the Silver Jubilee of St. Mary's, and again at
its Golden Jubilee.

For six and fifty years St. Mary's was destined
to stand, a House of God, diffusing the blessings
and consolations of religion to thousands of souls
coming to seek what only the Catholic Church can

[ 9 ]


give, the truths and graces that Christ committed
to the dispensing hands of His priesthood. In
the words of Archbishop Ireland, it was the
"House of God and the Gate of Heaven, pro-
claiming to all the real purpose of life, and point-
ing out to the present generation the blessed re-
ward held out to those who serve God faithfully."
And its people loved it as the House of God. They
were ever adding some new touch of loveliness to
it, adorning it with tabernacle and font, with pic-
tures and candelabra and exquisite vestments,
sparing nothing that could contribute to the
beauty of the sanctuary and the dignity of its serv-
ices. Father Caillet's joy was full when, on
March 22, 1882, a few friends subscribed the sum
of twelve thousand dollars "to lift from the church
the incumbrance which had been a source of anxi-
ety to him;" and his happiness was no less keen
than that of the little group of his parishioners who
assembled in Mr. James J. Hill's residence that
March evening to meet him and announce the
good news to him. Piety reigned in the parish,
and the spirit of charity made of the congregation
one great family in which help was always ready
and the sorrow of one was the sorrow of many.
The life of a parish finds expression in its societies,
which are simply so many organized systems of de-
votion and charity; it is significant and interest-
ing to recall the number of church societies called
into being by the zeal of St. Mary's pastor: the

[ 10 ]


Rosary Society, the Young Ladies' Sodality, the
Holy Angels' Sodality, the Society of the Holy
Name, Knights of the Blessed Virgin, the St. Vin-
cent de Paul Society, the Perpetual Adoration So-
ciety, the League of the Sacred Heart, Ladies'
Aid Society, Altar Society, Literary and Reading
Circle. St. Mary's Home for friendless girls was
established in 1884, and was at first managed by
ladies of the parish under the following Board of
Directors: Mmes. J. J. Hill, P. F. McQuillan, J.
T. Beaumont, J. McCauley, P. H. Kelly, H.
Bamford, F. F. Mclver, P. R. L. Hardenbergh,
J. H. Allen, B. Beaupre, F. Seymour, Ahce
Goodrich, D. Ryan, A. McDonald. It was sub-
sequently committed to the charge of the Ladies
of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. For several
years the Orphan Asylum, the first institution of
the kind in the Northwest, although not founded
by Father Caillet, depended on him for the funds
that maintained it.

Mention should be made of an organization which
was known wherever the name of St. Mary's was
mentioned — St. Mary's choir. It dates back to the
earliest days of the church. Under the directorship,
first, of Mrs. A. M. Shawe, and, subsequently, of
Miss Elsie Shawe, musicians of a high order and
accomplished organists, by its exquisite rendering
of ecclesiastical music and fidelity to its best tradi-
tions, it contributed greatly to the sense of piety
that always marked the services of St. Mary's.

[ " ]


Much of the marvelous record of this choir was due
to the interest which Father Caillet always mani-
fested in it as an organization and in its individual

The completion of the church left Father Cail-
let's hands free for a work which he deemed the
most fruitful of his life — the building of St. Mary's
school. To this task he bent all his energies and in
1880 a structure of ample and dignified proportions,
spacious and handsome, well appointed in every
detail, faced the church, housing the children who
thronged to it from all sides. His parish he now
regarded as fully equipped: for his own comfort
he had no thought, and so the little frame house
adjoining the church continued to serve as his res-
idence as long as he was pastor of St. Mary's.

The school was the object of his special pride
and solicitude. It was characteristic of the man
that the young people who went out from its halls
were not lost to view the day they received their
diplomas. He kept steadily in touch with them,
following them with helpful interest, enlisting the
good will of men of affairs in their behalf, and en-
couraging their laudable ambition in a practical
way. The graduates of St. Mary's won their way
to the confidence of merchants and bankers. For
many men now holding posts of trust and emolu-
ment in the Northwest the reputation of St. Mary's
school first opened the door of opportunity.

[ 12 ]


And this was not the last service that Father
Caillet rendered to the cause of education. The
estabhshment of a convent of the Visitation nuns
was for some years among his most cherished hopes.
In 1872, with the authorization of Bishop Grace,
he journeyed to St. Louis to ask for a foimdation
from the Motherhouse in that city. He went back
in 1873 to renew the request, and in May of that
year, two sisters. Mother M. Vincentia Marotte
and Sister Xavier Wickham, visited St. Paul, re-
maining for some days under the hospitable roof of
Colonel J. S. Prince while plans for the coming of
a Visitandine colony were being completed. Four
trusted friends of Father Caillet — Messrs. J. S.
Prince, P. J. McQuillan, B. Beaupre, and P. H.
Kelly — took an active interest in the new enter-
prise, and were instrumental in a large way in
making the establishment of the Convent feasible.
On August 12, 1873, six sisters, travelling under
Father Caillet's care, arrived in St. Paul, and
found a pleasant home awaiting them on Somer-
set Street. The first Mass was celebrated in their
oratory on the Feast of the Assumption, when en-
closure was formally established. Father Caillet's
wisdom has been richly vindicated. The history of
the Visitation Community — the erection of the
Convent at the corner of Robert Street and Uni-
versity Avenue, and the erection of the splendid
Convents in which the nuns now carry on their
work, the contribution of the Community to Cath-

[ 13 ]


olic life in Minnesota, the impress stamped upon
the young women who with the choicest graces of
culture imbibed the spirit of enlightened piety that
the Visitandines impart — all this is familiar to
those who are acquainted with the forces diffusing
the blessings of education and religion in the
Northwest during the past forty years. Father
Caillet would have rejoiced to see the stately Con-
vent that is today the home of the nuns — the gift of
one of tlieir own alumnae — but he did not live to
see this happy fruition of his hopes. He watched
to the last over the Convent, faithful guardian,
guide, and friend of the Community for whose
coming he had been so solicitous.

Father Caillet was the ideal parish priest, the
true pastor of souls. He could lay no claim to
graces of oratory, in fact he never attained a facile
command of English, and yet, his people never
tired of his simple, solid instructions, setting forth
the teaching of the Church and the duties of her
children with a clearness and persuasiveness that
charmed alike the humblest and the most cultured
of his congregation. The piety and sincerity of a
priestly soul touched his words with simple elo-
quence — behind the M'^ords he spoke was the trans-
parent goodness of the life he lived. As a spirit-
ual guide he reminded one somewhat of the Cure
of Ars, with whose spirit he seemed to have been
penetrated. There is a sanity in saintliness that
pierces unerringly to the heart of a problem. This

[ 14 ]


gift Father Caillet possessed, and with it a rare in-
sight into character. Many a troubled soul went
out from St. Mary's, carrying the peace and sure-
ness that come from contact with one who dwells
habitually in another world.

He was the children's friend and father.
Between child and priest exists one of the beauti-
ful bonds of life. The priest looks at the child with
some of the love of Him who would have the little
ones come unto Him, and the child turns instinc-
tively to the priest with trust and reverence. Father
Caillet knew and loved children. He was interest-
ed in them, in all their doings and all their ways.
The school, which he built on a splendid scale and
at the cost of much sacrifice, was, as we have said,
the special object of his predilection. There he
loved to tarry among the young folk, never growing
weary of endless catechism, lighting up lessons
with stories and illustrations the children could not
forget. The privilege of preparing them for First
Communion he jealously guarded for himself .
When separated from them, they were ever in his
thoughts. His letters had messages for them —
messages that show how well he understood them.
When lying ill at Lyons he fancied them playing
under the window, or singing hymns to the Mother
of the Lord around her statue half-hidden in the
flowers of the garden. As the children of St.
Mary's grew to manhood and womanhood under
his fostering hands, they grew in reverence and af-

[ 15 ]


lection for their pastor and for the faith he so
sweetly taught them.

If Father Caillet is lovingly remembered by
many who knew him as a priest and were trained
in religion by him, he is still more affectionately
remembered by the few who knew him also as a
friend. For only a few knew him as he really was
— the unsuspected fund of affection, the considera-
tion for others that found expression in many
touching, thoughtful ways, the gentle shrewdness
that was never cynical and never credulous, the
judicious mind that begot confidence, the kindly
humor that flashed out so suddenly and so merrily,
the quiet fearlessness that would hold calmly
against pressure like a rock in a stream, the un-
changing simplicity of soul, and, over all, and suf-
fusing all, the priestly dignity of a man for whom
the thought of things unseen was never far away.
It is not surprising that those who enjoyed his
friendship turned to him in all the affairs of life
with a trust that knew no doubt and no limitations.

How loyal he could be to those whom he liked
and trusted his friendship Avith Mr. Chemidlin, ex-
tending over forty years, bore wistful testimony.
They were very unlike, these two men. Their
paths lay far apart. Their thoughts ran in differ-
ent channels. The sprightly temperament of the
layman was sensitive to much for which the priest
had little perception. And yet, they were drawn
together in a placid companionship that grew in

[ 16 ]


gentle thought fulness as the years passed by. The
letters bring out the contrast of temperament and
also the note of simple intimacy that pervaded their
friendship. Mr. Chemidlin never lets a chance
pass to tease Father Caillet. Father Caillet will
not make the trip to the Holy Land, much as he
covets it, because Mr. Chemidlin is debarred by
illness from sharing the pleasure of it with him.
Mr. Chemidlin's letter to Mrs. Hill on the death of
his friend is the cry of a desolate heart.

It is as pastor of St. Mary's that Father Caillet
is chiefly remembered. With St. Mary's his life
was bound up. To it and to its flock he gave the
best years of his life without stint, without reserve.
When illness forced him to seek health in a less
rigorous climate, his thoughts were with his flock
beyond the sea. Wherever he was, at Lyons or
Madrid or Rome, at Carthage or Tunis or in the
Sahara, "wandering from enchantment to enchant-
ment," his heart was with St. Mary's. He would
not exchange his humble church and choir for the
finest church in Paris. The church he built was
dear to him, and dearer still the spiritual edifice
that through his priestly zeal God deigned to
build up in the hearts of the people to whom he
ministered so faithfully.

The celebration of the Silver Jubilee of St.
Mary's, August 7, 1892, was the occasion of a cere-
mony which greatly gratified all who knew Father
Caillet. Archbishop Ireland had just returned

[ '- ]


from Rome, bringing with him the Brief that
raised the pastor of St. Mary's to the rank of Do-
mestic Prelate. All the Bishops af the Province
of St. Paul were present to do honor to their old
friend. Archbishop Ireland preached the sermon
and invested Father Caillet with the purple of his
new dignity. "I do not speak to praise or flatter
with sweet words," said the Archbishop, "I speak
to render testimony to truth; I speak to edify.
True merit does not seek to be known; but it is
our duty to know it and value it. We are assem-
bled this morning to honor a deserving priest. He
who was pastor of St. Mary's Church twenty-five
years ago is the pastor today. For ten years pre-

1 3 4 5 6 7