Charles George Deuther.

The life and times of the Rt. Rev. John Timon, D. D. : first Roman Catholic bishop of the Diocese of Buffalo online

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Online LibraryCharles George DeutherThe life and times of the Rt. Rev. John Timon, D. D. : first Roman Catholic bishop of the Diocese of Buffalo → online text (page 10 of 30)
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Advertiser of August 10th, 1844, the following.

" ' A Card. — We, the undersigned, trustees of the church of
St. Louis, Buffalo, having had the honor of an interview with
the Kt. Rev, Dr. Hughes, Bishop of New York, in relation to
the difficulties which have existed between the consTregation
and the Bishop for some time past, and having received from
him a true explanation of certain parts of the pastoral letter,
and finding thereby that we have been laboring hitherto under
a misunderstanding of the same, hereby express our willing-
ness that the church and congregation of St. Louis be regulated
according to the provisions of the said pastoral letter, and the
true explanation received from the Rt. Rev. author ; and we
promise, in our own name, and (so far as we can) in the name

* Corner of Ellicott and Batavia streets,
t Redemptorist. '


of our successors, that the administration of temporal affairs f>f
our church and congregation shall be conducted conformably
to the same.

" ' "We further take occasion to say, that if our course in
this matter has given any scandal or offence to our Catholic
brethren, we regret it; adding, merely, that our action pro-
ceeded from mistaken impressions, and that we should be the
last to oppose the authority of our religion, either intentionally

or deliberately,

" ' T. DINGENS, President Board Trustees,







" The Bishop, next day, Sunday, went to their church,
preached, gave absolution and his blessing.

" As few of the Germans then read English newspapers, some
who still adhered to uncatholic usurpations, spread a report that
the Bishop had been forced to give up, and acknowledge himself
in the wrong. Several who had been deceived by such reports,
mentioned it to George A. Deuther, Esq., who most prudently
said nothing until he could produce documents. In a few days
he found them. He had the English translated into German, and
published in the German newspaper, cut out the card and posted
it up conspicuously at the door of 'St. Mary's church. This had
the good effect of silencing the lovers of discord. "

Such was the origin and the settlement of the first difficulty
that broke out in St. Louis church, prior to the consecration of
Rev. John Timon as Bishop of the Buffalo diocese.

It is to be regretted that these unfavorable circumstances ever
happened to mar an otherwise brilliant progress in the Church
militant in this diocese. iN'or is it with pleasure that we record
them on these pages. Having therefore briefly narrated them,
we will resume the thread of our narrative, and commencing
jfrom a period when there were not as now such splendid edifices


of religious worship, so many religious orders and convents, as
well as institutions of charity, (in comparison with which many
an institution, not predicated on the true revealed religion of
Christ, dwindle into insignificance ;)" at a period when "there
were but sixteen priests and sixteen churches, though most of
those churches might more properly have been denominated huts
or shanties, many of which have since been replaced by brick or
stone churches, in various tastes and styles;" at a period when,
having accepted the mitre. Bishop Timon had scarcely a dollar
to his name, nor a house in which to take shelter or rest ; at a
period when troubles and dissatisfactions were ripe ; and con-
trasting the present marvelous progress, all developed by brain
work, by genius, by untiring zeal and unflagging industry on tlie
part of the good Bishop, whose life and services were instruments
in the hands of Divine Providence, with which He has accom-
plished His mysterious will in every age throughout all time ;
contrasting all these circumstances, what a sublime subject of
contemplation suggests itself for the philosopher and christian to



Rt. Rev. John Timon as Bishop.— Rev. Bernard O'Reilly, V. G.— Their Arrival.—
Reception.— Magnificent Demonstrations.— Te Deum at St. Louis Church.— Bishop
Timon's First Consecration.— Told to Leave St. Louis Church. — Begins St. Pat-
rick's.— Hard Work.— The Methodist and Hell.— The Irishman and Confession.—
The Viaticum and the Presbyterian.— Upset from a Sleigh.— Father McEvoy
TAKEN for a Lawyer and the Bishop for a Priest.

Almost immediately after his consecration. Bishop Timon
named the Kev. Bernard O'Reilly his Yicar General, and wrote
to the Rev. F. Guth, then parish priest in Bufialo, that he would
be with him on the 22d of that month, (October, 1817). Accord-
ingly, accompanied by Bishops Hughes, Walsh, and McCloskey,
and by the Rev. B. O'Reilly, he started, on the 20th inst., for
Buffalo. At that time traveling, whether by rail or water, was



not as commodious or (juick us it is at tlio present day, with all
the improvements that science lias since then made in locomotion
by steam. Consequently, it was not until in the morning of the
22d that they reached Rochester, where, amid a large assem-
blage, gathered u])on short notice to welcome their Bishop, in St,
Patrick's churcli,* Bisjiop Timon said his fii-st mass in the diocese,
preached, ajid gave his Episcopal blessing to the large congrega-
tion. As Bishop Timon had written to Father Guth that he
would be ill Buffalo on the 22d, and as he was always a man of
honor and word, he desired to continue his journey to Buffalo
innnediatcly, in hopes to reach there early in the afternoon. Ilis
Bight Bev. friends, already fatigued by a night's journey, wished
to remain initil next morm'ng, particularly as the weather was
decidedly unpletisant. But, although Bishop Timon thought their
request reasoiuible, and invited them to renuiin, when they might
rejoin him on the next day, they generally agreed to overcome
tljeir dispr»sition to do so, and accompany him on his journey.
As has been said, trains moved* slowly ; an accident further
retarded them, so that it was already after sunset before they
reached Buffalo.

What must have been the emotions of Bishop Timon as he
seared this city, which was to become, by the blessing of God,
the centre and Episcopal seat of the diocese. "What thoughts,
rapid and many, must have filled his mind as regarded the
future ; what hojjes illumined l)is visionary path ; what fears hung
like clouds, dark and uncertain, over his plans and his views
with regard to a proper disposition of tbe circumstances and
materials with which he had to deal in the discharge of his
arduous duties. He was a Bishoj) ; he had been elevated one
step higher in rank, and indeed, to a heart or soul governed only
by worldly motives, indifferent to all else except pecuniary
reward, and ambitious for titles, for honors, and emolument, the
elevation to a Bishopric was a recompense sufiicient for the most
ambitious, especially after the discharge of years of arduous
labor, after toils and privations in the service of religion, at last
to reach the goal of his wishes, the crook and mitre. But in a

* Rochester.

RIGHT REV. .TOnX TT>rON, D. D. 115

man like Bishop Tiiuon, particularly in a soul filled as his was
M'ith zeal and love in the service of Christ, no such sordid element
existed. On the contrary, he acce]>ted with humility, with resig-
nation and with joy the new field of ministerial labor assigned
him, panoplied with the same earnestness with which he had
penetrated forests, crossed swrillen torrents, on horse or in frail
canoes, every M'here planting the flag of faith in the very centre
of infidelity and Protestantism, and in spite of the opposition of
anti-Catholic bigots, who had often threatened to take his life.
What a harvest he has reaped, golden with the vintage of
success! Bnt how successfully he has done, let facts speak for

Bishop Timon reached Buffalo at 7 P. M. the same day he ha<l
left Kochester. It was already dark, and a slight, drizzling rain
fell from the murky clouds over head. As the train neared the
de]>ot, its occupants could distinguish a vast crowd, estimated at
that time to have been about ten thousand persons. These were
the Catholics of the city, assembled together irrespective of
nationality, to welcome and do honor to their new Bishop.
Torches and transparencies blazed with brilliant light, and made
the sombre clouds above them more solemn and threatening,
llich and swelling strains of nmsic from the bands enlivened the
occasion, the whole forming a scene at once indescribable vet
magnificent. The daily press at that time sjxtke in warm and
flattering terms of the reception thus given to the Bishop. The
Daily Courier said :

"At eight o'clock, our German and Irish citizens had assem-
bled in great numbei-s, and formed a procession on each side of
Main street, reaching from Exchange to some distance above
Seneca street. Every man bore a flambeau, and at a given
signal from the mai-shal, a line of light ran along the vast
column. Some little delay was experienced before the com-
mittee appointed to conduct the Bishops appeared, but at last
the rich swelling notes of distant music greeted the ears of the
multitude ; the din and confusion of preparation subsided, and
all became hushed into a respectful silence.


'^ Tlio music a]>projic'licd, and after a few iniimtcs had olajtped,
the carriage containing the Bisliops, their attenthmts, and tlio
committee, advanced about midway tlirough the lines ot'tire, and
then fitoppeil. The carriage in wliich rode* the J»ish<»p was
drawn by tour beautiful white chargers, and wius the most con-
Bjticuous object in the jirocession. At a signal nia<l(> for that
purprisc, the illuminated liunian ni;iss moved on, and as it
a<lvanced up Main street towards St. Txuis cliurcli, (its place of
destination,) beneath a canopy of l)la/ing light, it pnxbiced an
indescribably beautiful etfect. It far surpassed our exj»ectations,
and rcrtectcd lionor UY>on the distinguished individuals who were
the occlusion of it. * * * We trust Bishop Timon will never
liave occasion to repent that he hiis come to reside among us."

It was ten o'clock P. M. when the procession reached St. Louis
church. Here tlie Bishops, clergy and laity in silence adored the
blessed Sacrament. It wjis near eleven o'clock when the crowd
had dispersed. Bishop Timon himself, relating his experience at
tliat time, writes thus in the "Missions in Western New York":

''Tlie Bishop had no church to which he could safely assert a
right, nor had he a liouse to lodge in. He agreed to board, at a
certain fixed price, with the pastor of St. L^^juis churcli, and
betook liimself to understand the condition of the new diocese.
He named Rev. Francis Gutli Yicar General lor the Germans.

"In a few days, the trustees of St Louis church called on him
and requested him to consecrate their church. He complimented
them on the fine appearance the church presented, and that it
was well wrtrthy of being consecrated ; but that he was bound by
Church discipline, as decreed in the Council of Baltimore, not to
consecrate any church unless the title was in the Bishop. The
trustees assured him that the church had been deeded to the
Bishop, and belonged to him, in trust for the congregation ; and,
to remove all his scruples they brought him, in a few days after,
an authenticated copy of the deed of Ljuis Lecouteulx de
Chamont, Esq., to the Bishop. This was sufficient."

* This is contradicted • some say he walked, carpet-bag in hand.


After severul days ot'hibor uikI j)rL'p;iration, tlie Bisshop, liaving
to do almost all himself for a ceremony so new to th<^*e who
assisted at it, (jn the 21st Deceniber, 1847, consecrated the church
of St. Louis, preached at the consecration, and, after vespers,
]ireached a<j;ain and coniirme<l two hundre«l and twenty-seven
jtei-sons. Shortly after the c<jnsecratioti, the liev. jnu-tor of St
J.ouis church infljrmed the Bishop that ''the trustees wished liim
to find other lod<^iiigs, as tiiey <lid not like to see the Bishop
there." The Bishop felt sad ; after twenty yeiirs of arduous
ministerial labor, he found himself jxx»r, advancetl in age, and
^\•ithout a shelter on earth, lie told the gootl priest to say to the
trustees tliat "he never intended to remain j)ennanently at Sl
Louis church, for he wished to go a-nl labor where his beloved
tlock were in greatest want; that at St. Louis church the faithful
had nearly sutHcient helj), but that the Irish congregati<»n wjus
greatly in need of lii'I|t; and that he had already <ietermined to
make St. Patrick's church* his home." Although this discour-
aging circumstance occurred seemingly to slnulow the brilliant
ovation he iiaij received, still it by no means served to «lam})en
tlie zeal which, under sterner dilliculties, had sr» ot"tcn been put
to the test, ami umKr w liicli he had never tlinclied.

lie said himself that he felt sad ; but it was the sailness that
sometimes results from uncharitable and deceitful treatment,
rather than from dispirited and discouraiied feelinir^. F"r "he
wished to go and labor where his beloved Hoe-k were in greatest
want; * * * * ainl " had already <7tYt';v«<7Jt-</ to make St.
Patrick's church his home." Indeed, to be discouraged is to fail.
Di'iN the record of his subsequent life show that he was discour-
aged i Does it show that he failed ?

(^n the contrary, we tind him, on the 2Sth of November,
giving a retreat at St. Mary's, Rochester, at which there were
nine hundred comnumicants. On the 6th of December, he con-
lirmed in St. Peter's church, and on the 12th he gave another
retreat in Java. On the 20th, he began one in St Patrick's,
Buli'alo, preaching three times a day, making two meditations

• Corner of Batavia and Ellicott streets.

lis LIFE AM) TIM lis OF

*liiilv, iiiul, witli the oxroptifUi nt' a lew lioiirs recjiiired tnr i\nA
and sleep, passing all tiie rest (»t" his time in the eonlessional.
AV^hat w;is the result «»t' this zeal? It imlueetl him t<> continue
the retreat three weeks longer, at the end of wliieh time the
congregation, which only c<^»unted three huiidnd souls ait lirsf,
saw tilteen hundred ajtproach the holy table. From this circum-
stiince we may learn what results flow I'rom intereste<l zeal, and
wliat a fruittul parent of wealth and happinestj is application, if
it is properly employed.

The tii>t year was thus piussed in giving retreat^s, and in vi>il-
ing the diocese; four tlmusand six hundred and seventeen persons,
of whom one halt' were adult.>i, were confirmed. On the lil'th,
the Bishop preached at Jelferson, at 7 1*. M.; on the oOth, he
confirnied twelve persons, among whom was a convert from
Methodism, who had been territie<l by a sermon on hell, and
whose terrors had been aggravate<i by her ilreams. The Bishop
told her to ''do penance and you shall be saved." In vain she
read the Protestant Bible. At last she tbund a Catholic Bible ;
she read, beciime converted, and w;us baptized. At Corning
there wiis no place to say mass in, excepting the Methodist
church, in which the Bishop also preache<l. Ai'ter the ser-
mon an Irishnian approache<l and said : '' God bless you, l>ut
och, how good it would have been if you had said more about
confession; they do mock us so nmch about it." The Bishop
immediately cried <^)ut at the top of his voice: "To-morrow
morning at ten o'clock, I will say mass here, and preach on con-
fession and the pardon of sin." Xext morning, whilst being
shaved at a barbers shop, a couple of gentlemen entered, and
not knowing the Bishop, observed to each other, "-Well, Tom
ain't you coming to hear that Bishop, and to get your sins
pardoned? better bring plenty of money with you." The con-
versation went on awhile like this, none suspecting the Bishop
was present. As the Bishop began his sermon, however, and
was just finishing the relation of this anecdote that occurred at
the barber's shop, the two gentlemen entered. He explaine<l
very clearly and satisfactorily to his audience the sacrament of


penance, and erased from the minds of many the error they
entertained regarding confession, and satisfied them that Catholics
had been wronged on this point.

At Butli, he was called to administer Extreme Unction to a
dying man. An ex-Presbyterian minister, who was present,
observing the devotion and sincerity with which the Bishop heard
the dying man's confessi<»n, and administered the holy Viaticimi,
was deeply moved, and Jis the Bishop was about to depart, he
approached him, to<^)k him by the hand, and said: "God bless
you, that was very touching."

Bishop Timon visited every part of his diocese. At every
station we find his presence attracting many to Divine worship,
whilst his ekxpicnce and touching sermons penetrated the hearts
ot*his audience, some of whom were of Protestant faitli. The
inconveniences of travel at that time were no embarrassments to
his zeal. If lie reached a village where there wjis no church, he
instinctively provi(le<l for iiis wants, by obtaining the court house
nr othor public building, and with his own hands assisted in
erecting altars, and j>roi)aring for the sacrifice of the mass.

Indeed, such was his zeal, such his indifference to the extremi-
ties of the weather, and the violence done to him personally by
accidents and mishaps, that once, when leaving Owego for
Elmira in a sleigh, accompanied by the Rev. Mr. Sheridan, he
says, in his '' Missions " :

"•Tlie sleighing was good for a few miles, then gradually failed.
Whilst seeking the roadside, Mhere some snow remained, the
sleigh upset, the Bishop wjis thrown on the hard frozen ground,
much stuimed and cut; but at\er a few moments he strove to
continue his route ; then the sleigh broke down, and though they
hired a wagon, the horse gave out ; and thus, after great fatigue,
they were forced to stop at Factoryville." Kothing daunted by
his misfortunes, the Bishop heard confession till late that night,
and, as if nothing had happened, next morning was on his way
again for Elmira.

At Scio, N. Y., the Bishop confirmed forty- tsvo persons. In
the evening, accompanied by Rev. Thomas McEvoy, (since


dead,) he drove to the next station, Hornby llouse; but losing
their way, they stopped at a tavern on the road, and whilst taking
dinner there, the aged host and hostess told them frankly all the
bad that they believed of Catholics. The Bishop kindly corrected
their statements ; Mr. McEvoy took their part, and pressed the
Protestant arguments strongly on the Bishop, who thus had an
opportunity, which he did not expect, of removing many preju-
dices from the minds of these good people. When the time
came for starting, the Bishop asked them to say frankly whom
they thought their guests to be. Tliey answered that they thought
Mr. McEvoy to be " a lawyer, and the other a Catholic priest."



History of thk Troubles op St. Louis Church under Bishop Timon's Administra-

^''IIumanuiTi est errwre! " It is human for man to err. Hence
this would be a strange world, indeed, if there were none who
deviated from principle or law; if there were none who, from
different motives, opposed ChUrch authority, and by a direct
spirit of disobedience strove to accomplish their own purposes, as
if it were to spite the authority that had interdicted them. Nay,
that there are sometimes found men who thus obstinately persist
to force their plans and wishes upon the acceptance of law or
authority, however at variance with propriety and right, is, in
itself, a very mysterious circumstance.

One can easily understand why it is that men disobey, if,
after disobedience, there follows true repentance ; but when men
disobey, and under the cloak of pretended rej)aration seek to add
another crime to the catalogue of their errors, by continuing not
only to disobey but to rebel, why then the circumstance assumes
a more heinous phase, and renders such individuals unworthy of


Wlietlicr this will fi])ply to the conduct of some of tlie congre-
gation of St. Louis church, particiiUirly of the tnistees, will be
evident from what follows :

On page 240, "Missions in "Western New York," the Bishop
himself says:

"The trustees of St. Louis church asked his permission to
enlarge their church, so as to prevent streets being run througli
their lot. He refused^ thinking that it would spoil the church,
which was already the largest in the United States, and showed
tliem how they could build tower, piiest's house, etc., to suit them

This was in the Fall of 1848, and almost immediately after-
wards we find him making an Episcopal visit over his extensive
diocese, which occupied nearly a month.

" On the 19th February, the Bishoj) returned to Buftala from
his visit of more than a month through parts of the diocese. On
the way to his lodgings, lie met W. B. Lecouteulx, Esq., in the
street, who immediately accosted him thus : ' I am glad to see
you. I rejoice to be able to tell you that we have begun our
addition to St. Louis church, and that the work is alreadv far
advanced, I am now engaged about another important business
for the good of the church. Here is a petition I am going to pre-
sent to the Common Council, to request them to deed to St. Louis
church the grave yard that was given for it. I have searched all
tlie records, and I find that the deed was never made out, so that
it might be taken from us. I went to your house to show you the
petition before it should be jjresented, but you were not home.'
Tlie Bishop smiled, as he knew that his absence on the visit was
well known in the city. He read the petition, and then told Mr.
Lecouteulx that the petition contained things most untrue and
most offensive to the congregations of St. Mary's and of St.
Patrick's. That, to his intimate knowledge, the faithful of both
churches had been orderly and quiet at their burials ; that the
grave yard was given for all the Catholics in the city, and
further, that he, the Bishop, held the deed, duly executed and


duly recorded. The Bisliop invited the gentleman to come to
his house and see the instrument, wliich he did, noted the ])age
of records, and dropped the matter.

"The Bishop then went to the trustees, expostulated with tlieni
for having, after his express prohibition, begun the walls, which
were already two or three feet out of ground ; he recpiired them
to demolish the work, and, if they wished to build, to build
according to any plan they might prefer, but for the objects he
had sanctioned, not for the enlargement of a church already
very large. He then spoke to the Yery Rev. Mr. Guth, to whom
the tnistecK had referred him as having sanctioned the work.
Mr. Guth expressed himself nuich grieved and very sad, acknow-
ledging that he had sanctioned the work; but declared that, if
now demolished, lie could never hold up his head again, and
would have to withdraw to hide his shame. The trustees came,
they begged pardon, but, as so nnich was done, they entreated
that they might be pennitted to finish the part begun. The
Bishop, deeply touched at the grief of Mr. Guth, whom he greatly
respected, hesitated. At length he said that he could not
approve, but he would overlook, and not notice the act, provided
no more was attempted than the jjart already begim. The prom-
ise was given, but not kept."

In a printed pamphlet,* Bishop Timon himself writes as
follows :

"Deception and misrepresentation have their day. Truth
gradually finds its way to souls that have no interest in being
deceived. Thus, in 1844, August 10th, alarmed by the number
that had dropped off from them, the trustees begged pardon of
Bishop Hughes, and promised submission to the laws they had

" The Bishop then visited the church, and gave them a pastor.
But, alas, the germ of evil still remained, and showed itself in
many forms. In 1848 a plan was presented to Bishop Timon for

*" Documents and History of the Affairs of St. Louis Church."


enlarging St. Louis church, building two towers, etc. lie not
only disapproved of it, but absolutely forbade it, as a plan which

Online LibraryCharles George DeutherThe life and times of the Rt. Rev. John Timon, D. D. : first Roman Catholic bishop of the Diocese of Buffalo → online text (page 10 of 30)