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 14 of 30)
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dominant characteristic. Indeed, to that extent had nature
endowed him with this virtue, that sympathy for the suiFerings
and miseries of humanity, whether orphan or sick, indigent or
abandoned, led him to make the most extravagant sacrifices, even
to his personal attire, in order to wipe away the orphan's tear,
or rescue from degradation or want the infirm and old. It is
related by his physician, James P. White, M. D., that one day,
whilst standing with Bishop Timon on the threshold of the latter' s
residence, engaged in conversation, a poor and wretchedly clad
man approached them, and pitifully solicited alms. The Bishop,
after asking some questions, noticed that the man had no shirt,
and summoning the housemaid, directed her to bring down
one of his shirts from his bureau drawer. The servant hesitated,
but finally went up stairs on her errand. In a few minutes she
returned, but without the shirt, and informed the Bishoj^ there
were none left in his bureau drawer.


""Why, how can that be?" remarked the Bishop. " It was only
a short time ago that I had several new ones made, and now
they are all gone ! Have you not made a mistake? "

" mo, Bishop. There wei^e some in your room, as you say, but
I gave them away to other poor folks, as you directed me to do.
You have the last of them on you."

"Is it possible?" replied BishojD Timon, pausing for a few
moments to think on the matter; and, as he gradually recalled
the almost forgotten circumstance, an air of satisfaction over-
spread his features, and at the same time he took from his pocket
some money, handed it to the mendicant, and bade him go and
procure the necessaries of which he stood most in need.

Overflowing with the exuberance of this virtue for the miseries
of his neighbor, Bishop Timon now began to look about him for
a suitable site on which to erect an orphan asylum and an

For this purpose, in March, 1848, he visited Baltimore, and
obtained a promise of two Communities of Sisters for the institu-
tions just mentioned. It will seem strange to many of us, at the
present da3'^, if we pause awhile and reflect upon the resources
then at the Bishop's command, with which he had to commence
his plans and purposes, and contrast those poor beginnings with
the magnificent progress of these institutions to-day; it will seem
strange to many of us, how he has succeeded so successfully in
stamping the impress of his genius upon the few plastic materials
then at his command, and his success wdll compel candid minds
to rank him among the most remarkable men of the age, irre-
spective of the character of his calling.

In 1848, the population of Bufialo was not then as large as
now, nor were its commercial and manufacturing interests as
largely developed, although the city from various causes was
rapidly swelling in point of numbers, and its wealth proportion-
ally increasing with its population. There were but three
Catholic churches in this city then, but hj no means the splen-
did edifices that adorn our streets now; the wealth of the Catholic
portion of the people was limited, whilst the seeds of discord,


jjlanted in the breasts of many by tlie prejudices and misrepre-
sentations of disaffected persons, in a certain measure served to
dampen enthusiasm in the Catliolic heart. Besides, the Bishop
]>ersonallj was poor; his acquaintance and intiuence witli men
of position had not as yet any avaikibibty; and Iience, restricted
on all sides, except so far as his confidence in the Providence of
a good God, and aided by that indomitable and indefatigable
energy of purpose, that had frerpiently converted more discourag-
ing circumstances into liarvests golden with }>romise and reward,
he resolutely laid his plans, placed his shoulder to the wheel, and
triumphed above the insinuations and mistrusts of the weak-

On the 3d of June, 1848, the promised Communities of Sisters
arrived in Buffalo. There were in all six Sisters of Charity,
three for an orphan asylum and three for an hospital.

It was with considerable dittieulty that a suitable place could
be obtained in which to commence the practices of their vocation.
At length, after some trouble, the house where St. Vincent's
Orphan Asylum now stands, was prepared for them. But there
was no house for the hospital. This, however, he soon obtained.
The site where the present imposing edifice now stands was
selected, as being the most suitable to purchase, and time has
since demonstrated the wisdom that made the selection. Origi-
nally its dimensions were more limited, whilst prosperity a)id
patronage have since nobly verified the prediction of that unfor-
tunate but heroic servant of Christ, the lamented Bernard
O'Reilly,* in his defence of this institution, against the "bigoted"
attacks of its opponent. Rev. John C. Lord, a Protestant minister,
who, under an anonymous signatm-e, wrote an article for the press,
urging that no appropriation by the State Legislature should be
given to the hospital, principally because it was sectarian in its
character. The prediction,

" That the time will come, (for sober reason is not long absent
at a time,) when this community will pronomice a severe, but'

♦Afterwards Bishop of Hartford, Conn., consecrated Nov. 10th, 1850, and perished at sea
January, 1856, in the ill-fated steamer Arctic.


merited sentence against the Rev. John C. Lord for his action in
this matter, unworthy the christian, the clergyman, and the well
disposed man."

The hospital, in its flourishing condition to-day, is the mute
but eloquent sentence and rebuke that may be inferred in the
above prediction.

On page 252, " Missions in Western Kew York," we read :

" On the 21st of June, 1848, the Bishop bought from the man-
agers of the Buffalo Orphan Asylum, the house and lot which
they then occupied, as they wanted to build on a large lot, which
Louis Lecouteulx, a good Catholic, had given for a General
Orphan Asylum to this corj)oration ; having subsequently put
two orphans under their care, and having been refused permis-
sion to send a priest to instruct them, when well, or aid them on
their death bed, he withdrew the children. The Bishop was
informed that most of the children in that asylum were Catho-
lics, but that no priest could have access to them. After getting
the deed, and making the first payment, he found it difficult to
get possession, when it was known that he had bought it for the
Sisters of Charity and for a hospital. After fixing various days
for giving possession, and failing, tl-.e Bishop, on the 5th of July,
went to the Director, from whom he had bought it, and said :
'This delay is a great inconvenience, as the Sisters for this house
have now no place. You say that you cannot find a suitable
house; I will then take all your orphans, put the girls with the
Sisters of. Charity, and keep the boys in my own house; and,
when you find a suitable place, you can take them back; only I
will request you to leave the Catholics with me, and to take back
the Protestant orphans only.' The next day they began to move,
and, on the 8th of July, the Sisters entered into the hospital, in
which, under God's blessings, they have saved many lives, and
done an immense amount of good.

"This charity hospital had scarcely been opened over one
year, when Bufftilo was attacked with epidemic cholera. As no
cholera hosi)ital then existed, the Sisters of Charity promptly
tendered to the City Council the use of that institution for cholera


patients. All wlio came or were sent, were very kindly received;
and, though the city soon took measures to establish a cholera
hospital, yet, as the Buffalo Medical Journal says: 'The number
of patients received in this, the city institution, was two hnndred
and forty-three, of which one hundred and fiileen recovered.
The Sisters' Hospital, however, received one hundred and thirty-
four patients, of which eighty-two recovered. Considering the
character of hospital cases,' continues the Medical Journal^ ' tho
results of the charity hospital, as declared by the rate of mor-
tality, certainly affords grounds for much satisfaction. * * *
We are free to say that, whatever credit is due to the institution
for the large proportion of recoveries, belongs to those under
W'hose immediate charge the institution is placed. * * * *
Each patient admitted to the hospital was, at once, placed under
the charge of one of the Sisters, and received her unceasing and
assiduous care, as long as it was recpiisite. Scrupulous exactness
in the execution of all medical directions, and fidelity in the
administration of remedies, could be confidently depended upon,
together with all other attentions and appliances which the cir-
cumstances of the case might suggest. The degree of patience
and endurance exhibited by the Sisters of Charity, in their un-
wearied labors of mercy during the period of epidemic, was a
matter of astonishment, not less than of admiration. Night after
night, as well as on successive days, they were at their post,
never manifesting weariness or diminished zeal, and during the
whole period not one was debarred by illness from the exercise
of her volimtarily assumed duties.' — Buffalo Medical Journal^
Vol. Y, No. 6, pp. 319 and 332."

Thus, scarcely had the hospital been opened more than one
year, than Buffalo was attacked with epidemic cholera. Now
was the moment, or occasion, in which to try the temper of
men's souls, and to test the utility and permanency of this noble
institution. Medical journals and the files of the public press
of that day, will testify in ardent terms to the heroism exhibited
in behalf of suffering humanity by those self-sacrificing women,



the Sisters of Charity. 'No j^rivation, no labors were too severe
for those noble types of tenderness and care, the hospital Sisters
of Charity.

Oh ! unfaithful would be the pen that could pass over lightly
the sacrifices of women who have left their happy homes, their
parents' comfortable firesides, their friends and relations, to enter
an arena of life variegated with so many vicissitudes and trials,
and under wliich many a noble heart has fallen. Let the paeans
and eulogies written and spoken by the tongues of even those
who disagree with them in faith, be heard ; and how eloquent
and how sublime is the pathos that tints the phrases of gratitude
and admiration uttered in behalf of the Sisters of Charity.
Night after night, day after day, they were at their post of
danger, fearless of the contagion, whilst others, with less christian
fortitude, shrank from the slightest acquaintance with the disease.

Not only are these remarks true with regard to the. Sisters of
Charity at the hospital, but even the Sisters at the orphan asylum
showed their devotion in caring for the little orphans rapidly
gathering under their charge. From the " flats " and from other
places of the city where poverty prevailed to a great extent,
children were gathered together into the asylums, and rescued
from destitution, misery and vice, in order to become, as they
have since done, industrious and respectable members of society.
Many children thus provided for were the or^jhaus of parents
who had died at the hospital from cholera, and who otherwise,
if left to the mercy of the world, might have perished physically
as well as morally. Silently, devotedly, and faithfully did they
labor in their mission, indifferent to the vanities and allurements
of the world, exhibiting a moral heroism that challenges com-
parison. Heroism in man, by nature the sterner sex, is noble, is
sublime, especially in defence of woman ; but when woman
sacrifices upon the altar of duty and religion the diflidence and
fears of her sex, the ties that bind her to her kindred and friends,
and all the advantages and pleasures the world might afford her,
oh ! then this exercise of christian fortitude transcends sublimity ;
it becomes angelic. Hence we may say, without reserve, that to


Sisters of any religious order whatsoever in the Catholic Church,
and devoted to the amelioration of the human race, too much
encouragement cannot be given, since they are centres from
Mhich radiate, in all directions, the sweetest and most heavenly
rays of christian charity.

Necessarily, an institution commenced under disparagements
and embarhissments, had to struggle to gain a fo<:)thold on the
confidence of the public. In order to extend its field of useful-
ness, it required help and resources, without which it is impossible
to support any undertaking. For this purpose, tlirough the
assistance of kind tHends, steps were tjiken to obtain an apprr>-
priation from the State at large, on the ground that the charities
bestowed by the Sisters of the hospital were general and public,
and not confined to Catholics alone ; and hence, being an institu-
tion incorporated according to law, not sectarian in its character
nor its objects, and in which persons of every race, clime, or
creed were received and cared for, it was no more than just, that
such an institution deserved a share of the public moneys, appro-
priated by the State for charitable purposes.

No sooner, though, had the appropriation been asked for, than
it excited the venom and bigotry of a particular class. In the
estimation of these, it was not conf(.)rmable with our form of gov-
ernment to bestow appropriations on " Romish institutions," and
the public, through the daily papers, was asked whether

" Eoman Catholics were to be the almoners of Protestant
charities to the poor and destitute ? whether there was no other
^vay of taking care of the sick and maimed than to turn them
over to the Sisters of Charity ? Had it come to this, that the
sick were to be neglected unless the State endowed the institu-
tion ? If they (Protestants,) were so dependent on Pomanists,
it were high time they bestirred themselves."

These and kindred expressions, oftsprings of provoked "big-
otry" and suspicion, were numerous, and were contained in a
public discussion in the columns of the Buflfalo Daily Exjyt'ess^
bet^veen two prominent individuals* of this city, who, as

» Rev. John C. Lord, and Bev. B. O'Reilly.


champions for either side, labored, the one to undermine, the other
to sustain, the existence and support of the hospitah We do not
desire to resurrect the rancor and heat of controversy which, to a
more or less degree, were engaged on both sides, and which, as
the correspondence published in full will reveal, resulted fre-
quently in a departure from the main toj^ic in order to launch
invectives at each other, particularly on the part of the Rev.
John C, Lord, who first introduced the side and, in our opinion,
irrelevant issues of "Romish superstition," "despotism," "Bloodj^
Mary," etc., etc. ]!!To doubt time has somewhat softened the
vehemence of opinion on the part of the Reverend gentleman as
to the usefulness of the hospital, and served to undeceive him in
regard to its "sectarian" character.

In the controversy we find it assumed that because the hospital
stood on a lot deeded in the name of Bishop Timon, and because
Rev. B. O'Reilly and a few Catholic laymen were a corporate
body to govern and protect the institution, according to law, that
therefore the hospital was sectarian in its character, and hence
the appropriation asked for was an indirect application of the
Romish Church for funds from the public at large. How shallow
the argument. But it is not our province to go deep into detail
and sift the matter ; it is self-evident. Was it not plain that a
religious body of women, irrespective of the church to which
they belonged, who devoted their lives to caring for and nursing
the sick, the poor, the lame and wounded, were worthy of en-
couragement, especially when it is considered that there are few
who have the moral courage to sacrifice the comforts of life for
this calling? What diiference did it make in whose name the
title of such an institution might be, provided it were incor-
porated according to law, and bestowed its charity upon all,
irrespective of creed or clime? But time and experience have
dissipated the falsity of its "sectarian character." Even this the
Rev. John C. Lord will honorably admit, having been called at
least twice to the hospital, if not oftener, to attend sick calls of
those adhering to his church.

And when we unhesitatingly assert that the hospitals instituted


imcler Protestant management stand no comparison with hospitals
under the good Sisters of Charity, (meaning no disparagement to
Protestant institutions for the good they do,) we re-echo the testi-
mony of those who have investigated the subject; we repeat the
opinion of physicians whose vocation in life bring them in direct
acquaintance with the workings of such institutions. But with
regard to the Buffalo hospital, the appropriation asked for was
entirely proper and just, nay, even humane^ for further reasons.

If, as it was further assumed, the appropriation was intended
for the spread of Komish institutions, etc., etc., if a fear of this
land prevailed, could not an investigating committee have been
appointed by the citizens to examine the account books and
papers of the hospital, and find there, to the satisfaction and
silence of the " great spirit of enqiury," the sources to which
every cent of the money so appropriated had been applied ?
This mode of procedure would have been more consistent, and
more in accordance with true nobility of character, than in ex-
pressing in print the speculative reasonings of a bigoted and
prejudiced mind, thereby unjustly trying to throw a firebrand
into an institution of charity filled, or nearly so, with helpless
human beings, who, through their "ministering angels," the
Sisters of Charity, called upon the generosity and benevolence
of the American people for support and for aid. This is why it
was humane to ask for the appropriation.

At the time the petition was in circulation for further appro-
priations, there were debts upon the building, in consequence of
additions, repairs, enlargements and the improvements neces-
sary in order properly to meet the increasing wants and
maladies of the public generally. The beds were nothing more
than pallets of straw, without sheets, until Bishop Timon, on the
strength of his own credit, obtained several pieces of muslin, out
of which the good Sisters managed to do the best they could.
Again it was assumed that the hospital was " a kind of nun-
nery;" the afiidavit of a young man, once an inmate of the
hospital, was produced to show that " Protestant patients in the
hospital had been assailed with arguments and motives to induce


them to renounce tlieir faith." There was a shudder at the idea
that the Sisters of Charity were to be the "ahnoners" of public
charity; and it was declared that appropriations for such institu-
tions, in which the public had no ascertained or ascertainable
rights, " was not only an outrage upon the Protestant commu-
nity," but even " unconstitutional."

But the result of to-day puts to shame the advocates of such
nonsense. After struggles and privations, too numerous to re-
hearse, including such opposition as the pen of bigotry could
raise, the hospital has, in the Providence of a good God, nobly
triumphed above the mean insinuations and shallow sophistry of
those whose casuistry was parallel with their bigotry.

The character given to the ho8j)ital, that it was "a kind of
nunnery," and that it was not certain when the Sisters might be
called away to another sphere of duty, was simj)ly absurd. To
have said this much, was to have betrayed an ignorance, not
only in what monastic institutions consist, but even in what man-
ner " Catholic Sisters of Charity " are associated together. John
C Lord even admitted his ignorance on this point, when he said
in the discussion :

" I do not know the precise tenor of the vows of a Sister of
Charity. I have understood they are not those of perpetual celi-
bacy, though, I believe, it is deemed a reproach to look back;
the cloister is the natural terminus of the novitiate." Then he
merely understood^ and admitted he did not know anything
about what he was trying to discuss, although he undertook to
call the hospital a "kind of nunnery." The affidavit alluded
to, made by a young man named Charles Heinz, however much
supported by the athdavits of one or two other men, may pass
for what it was worth. It was only one affidavit against thousands,
not of Catholics alone, but of Protestants, who could testify to the
contrary. !Nay, when the affidavit was made, the young man
had but shortly before left the hospital, not entirely recovered
from the sickness with which he had been so sick, and not
entirely in his mind. He knew nothing of the English language,
having been but a short time in this country, and if he did


consent to make an affidavit, it seems that he acted more as an
irresponsible party. But we leave the matter to the reader to
infer, especially after he shall have made a careful and just esti-
mate of testimonials of hundreds of others, who have been loud
in their praises of the worthiness of the hospital in every respect,
if it is a Roman Catholic institution.

The numbers who have been helped and cared for by the
" Buffalo Hospital of Sisters of Charity," and w^hose names and
places of residence may be found in the " book of record," are
the most eloquent testimonials that could be referred to in vindi-
cation of the hospital against the unjust aspersions cast upon it by
Rev. John C. Lord. They will prove how their false fears of
"Black Ghosts," "Romish Superstition," "Nimnery," were soon
dissipated after they had entered the institution. One,* who has
since gone to his grave, and who, when well, as the editor of a
German newspaper, was most abusive towards the hospital and
the Sisters, because his reasonings were based upon false pre-
mises, could testify how, with tears in his eyes, when he himself
experienced the humane treatment of the Sisters, (having subse-
quently been forced to ask charity of the hospital on account ot
sickness,) he repented of the unfavorable and unjust manner in
which he had criticized them. The colored people sent from the
jails and poorhouses, people of every "creed, color or country,"
during raging epidemics, such as cholera, persons wounded from
accidents on railroads or steamboats, all can testify in more elo-
quent terms than our feeble pen in behalf of the interested
charity, mercy and goodness of the Sistei-s at the hospital.
Hence, how puerile and imbecile were the reflections of John C.
Lord, who, (judging him by his controversy,) evidently under
the cover or shield of the propositions he advanced against giving
an appropriation, coveted the discussion of another issue, that of
" Roman Catholicism." Any one wishing to take the labor to
peruse that famous discussion, as revised and enlarged by him in
a printed pamphlet afterwards, in which he challenged Rev.



Bernard CReilly to a public discussion on " auricular confes-
sion," and in whicli he made a dying appeal to the Catholic
laity, particularly urging them not to be misled by their priests*
but to think for themselves, will discover the " cloven foot " of
the gentleman, and infer the notoriety he sought to obtain, and
mil wonder that we should have paid so much notice to the mat-
ter at all. But we felt a little constrained to do so, in justice to
history, particularly of an institution of which Bishop Timon was
the sole originator and founder.

Rev. Bernard O'Reilly did not escape censure for his conduct
in this matter. Bishop Timon, on his return from Europe,
severely reprimanded him for having had any thing to do with
the discussion in his absence, and remarked at tlie time, that the
best defence that could have been made for the hospital, would
have been to allow it to speak for itself, as it has since nobly
done. But, thanks to the liberality of men of more enlarged
views and less prejudices, the hospital received the appropria-
tions, with which it has done immense good for the city of Buflklo
and vicinity.

In the meantime, whilst the hospital was exerting and taxing
its utmost energies towards caring for " cholera cases," the good
Sisters at the orphan asylum also contributed towards a large

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 14 of 30)