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 6 of 30)
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the State Bank of Missouri, although, indeed, for a few years it
would declare no dividend, in order that it might keep itself
strong amidst the frightful crisis of 1837. Afterwards, however,
it gave very large dividends, and thus all the invested funds of
the religious charitable societies which, through the Visitor, had
been entrusted to this bank, were saved, and brought good

On his arrival in ISTew Orleans, the Visitor had placed his
little colony of missionaries in the houses of different clergymen,
and, at the request of Bishop Blanc, gave a retreat to the Sisters of
Charity in IsTew Orleans, as well as retreats to other religious insti-
tutions, until the Mississippi river would be free of ice and become
navigable. During this time, the Bishop of New Orleans offered
his seminary to the Lazarists, which the Visitor accepted, subject
to the approbation of the mother house at Paris. The Bishop
likewise pressed the Visitor to accept of Donaldsonville as an
almost necessary port of entry. The latter did so, ad temptis,
but subject also to the will of the Superior General.

Finally, when navigation had opened. Visitor Timon embarked
with his little colony of missionaries, and on the 10th of February,
1838, reached the seminary of the Barrens in safety. It may be


well imagined that great were the rejoicings of the community
for the help vouchsafed, and for the evidences of interest which
the mother house took in that distant infant province. Indeed,
the personnel of the congregation was greatly augmented by the
security which the Visitor had obtained. From Paris, Italy, and
Spain came the disciples of Christ, among whom were Mr.
Douienec, Alabou, Pasqual, Amat, Cercox, Calvo, Estany, Bur-
lando, D'Marchi, Bagliloli, Gustiniani, Parodi, and several lay
brothers. Some M-ere called in a few years to their eternal
reward, others were sent to Mexico or recalled to Europe, whilst
the rest still remain, laboring most zealously in the holy ministry.


Improvements in the Mission.— The Visitor goes to Texas as an Envoy op Eome.—
Meets Friends in Galveston.— Goes to Houston.— Opens a Mission.— Results.—
Poor O'Brien.— Scandalous Conduct op two Mexican Priests.— Visitor returns
TO New Orleans.— His Report.— Arrives at Natchez, Miss.— Reads Mass in Mrs.
Girardeau's House.— Preaches in the City Hall.— Enthusiasm.— Goes to St.
Louis.— Religious Zeal.— Proposed for an Episcopal See.— Declines.— Refuses
to Administrate the St. Louis Diocese.— Further Developments.

In March, 1838, the Visitor contracted with Messrs. Fiena and
Taylor, for finishing the towers of the church at the Barrens,
they indemnifying him in work for neglects in a previous con-
tract, effected during his absence in Europe. The college was
now in a.prosperous condition, the number of pupils having been
auo-mented by recruits from Louisiana. The missions also took a
new impulse. In the new church, which had so far been finished
as to permit the celebration of Divine worship, Mr. Burlando
played the organ, M'hilst the other reverend gentlemen sang the
Gregorian Chant in the choir. The church was always crowded,
as well by Protestants as by Catholics, anxious to listen to a kind
of music which until then had never reached their ears. In con-
sequence of all this, conversions became more frequent. Early in
December of 1838, Bishop Rosatti ofiTered the missions of Peru



to the Yisitor, which the hitter referred to his counciL On the
12th December, 1838, the Yisitor with Mr. Armangol, BouUier,
Amat, Tiernan, Gustiniani, and two lay brothers, met Bishop
Blanc at the Church of the Assumptioii, and began the intended
new seminary. The Yisitor wrote for a patent, and knowing the
disposition of Mr. Armangol, he also requested that certain
restrictions should be imposed on him as the new Superior. The
advice, however, was not followed. He also established Mr.
Boullier, Superior of the Church of the Ascension in Donaldson-

In the month of June, 1838, Bishop Blanc had written to
Bishop Rosatti and to Yisitor Timon, relating the sad condition
of Texas, and stating that it was the wish of the Holy See that a
trusty person should be sent there to examine into the condition
of religion in that country, then independent, and to report to
Rome. This duty the Bishop of New Orleans wished the Yisitor
to undertake, which, by the advice and wish of Bishop Bosatti,
he consented to perform. Accordingly, on the 24th December,
1838, accom]3anied by Mr. L'Eberia, the Yisitor set sail for Gal-
veston, Texas, Here the missionaries expected to meet with
none but strangers, yet, by a providence of God, almost the first
man the Yisitor met at Galveston, was Col. Michael Menard, a
man distinguished in that part of the country, and who had been
one of the convention for forming the State constitution. Other
faces, some of them formerly pupils at the Barrens, soon made
the missionaries quite at home in Galveston. On the feast of the
Holy Innocents, the Yisitor said what was considered there the
first mass ever said in that place. During the few days' sojourn,
waiting for the steamer, Yisitor Timon preached often, baptized
several, heard many confessions, and ratified several marriages.
On the 31st December, the missionaries started in the steamer
Rufus Putnam to ascend the river up to Houston, then the seat
of government. There, too, the Yisitor had the consolation of
meeting some senators and members of Congress, whose acquain-
tance he had made on his extensive missions. He preached in
the hall of Congress, senators and representatives being present.


He also rented a convenient room, put up an altar in it, and held
regular service. Many came to confession and communion. It
would indeed be difficult to estimate the sad and dang-erous con-
dition of a Catholic at that time in Texas.

" The following reminiscences, from the pen of the Bishop, will
reveal a state of things altogether deplorable, but which was
the result of his investigating missionary visit to Texas. For
instance, the Yisitor was one day passing along in the suburbs of
the city, making inquiries and taking notes of the condition of
the people, with regard to their spiritual wants. It was a chilly,
drizzly day, and as he walked along, he found lying upon the
ground a poor Irishman, named O'Brien, very sick, but by no
means intoxicated or in liquor. The Yisitor got a few men to
assist him in lifting up the suiFerer, and bringing him to the
nearest house. Whilst there and striving to relieve him, the
priest revealed his sacred character. "Words can hardly express
the joy that beamed from the countenance of the poor, unfortu-
nate man. He immediately forgot all his sorrows and sufferings,
in the thought that he, a dying man, who believed himself to
have been hundreds of miles from a priest of God, had one then
standing by his side, prepared and ready to aid and console him.
With joy he, therefore, made his confession, and really, the emo-
tions and sentiments with which he received the blessed sacrament
of the Altar and the holy Yiaticum, were very touching. Hear-
ing that there was a kind of hospital in the place. Father Timou
engaged some persons to bring the sick man thither, and in a few
hours followed after, to aid still more the penitent on the long
journey he was about to take. The missionary found the hos-
pital to consist of a log hut, through the crevices and openings of
which a chill wind was blowing upon ten or twelve sick persons,
whose straw beds rested on the clay floor. In the middle of the
hut there was a hole in the clay floor, in which a fire had been
made, and over the fire hung a pot of boiling soup. There being
no chimney or stove-pipe, the smoke found its way out through
the crevices or openings, according to its whim or the caprice of
the wind. In the meantime, whilst the priest was urging the


keeper of the hospital to take some ])recaution to keep the wind
from the sick and dying, and whilst he was giving him some aid
to do so," the poor sick man, O'Brien, in his agony, groaned much
and jjainfully. The keeper hallooed to him several times to " be
silent. " Alas ! poor man, he could not be silent ; death had
already seized him. Then the keeper, in his anger, stepped up
to the dying O'Brien, shook his fist in the latter's face, and said:
"If you don't be silent, I'll make you," &c. Here Father
Timon rushed forward to intercede for the poor man, and save
him from the threats of the infuriated keeper, but when he had
drawn near, poor O'Brien had just breathed his last, and was no

" No timely hand was here to save ;
In death he calmly sleeps ;
Let Charity the stone engrave,
As Pity turns and weeps."

From senators and men of extensive information, the Yisitor
got full details of the most scandalous lives led by the only
priests then in Texas. They were two priests from Mexico,
living at San Antonio de Bexar, in the West of Texas. Both
publicly cohabited with women whom they themselves called
their wives, and the children by such cohabitation these wretched
men acknowledged to be their own. They said mass daily because
they were supported by the people, and derived their support by
it. But they gave no instructions, heard no confessions, and
taught no catechism. The poor Mexicans were willing to die
for their religion, yet they hardly knew what their religion was ;
how could they? Their faith seemed rather a Divine instinct
that grew from their baptism, than a faith of knowledge.

Such was a part of the condition of Texas at that time, suffi-
cient, at least, to show the utter destitution of S23iritual comfort,
and the low degradation in which the people lived, but for whom
God in his mercy was about to provide, and j)roperly elevate to
the true standard of enlightened christians. On the 9th of Jan-
uary, 1839, the Yisitor returned to Galveston. Before leaving

EIGHT KEV. JOHiSr TlilON, D. D. 69

this place on his tour through the State, he had appointed a com-
mittee to see about getting a lot for a church. On his return,
these gentlemen met him, and showed him that there would be
every facility for raising money to pay for a lot and build a
church, if a priest could be sent to take charge of it. Holding
this answer under consideration, the Yisitor, on the 12th of
January, returned to ]^ew Orleans, and made an official report
of his investigations in the State of Texas, to Bishop Blanc, who
sent it on to Borne.

The Yisitor delayed several days in Kew Orleans, on various
business, among other things preaching at a retreat for a reli-
gious community, during the duration of which, at the urgent
request of Bishop Blanc, he accepted an invitation to establish a
mission at Natchez, Miss., on his way home to the Barrens. On
his way thither he stopped at the new Seminary of the Assump-
tion, where he found the affairs of the seminary in such a
disordered and extravagant state, tl^at he censured the Superior,
Mr. Armangol, who, it will be remembered, was reluctantly
appointed for that position by the Yisitor, on' account of the mis-
givings the latter had of Mr. ArmangoPs administrative qualities.
He, however, set the matter aright there as well as at Donald-
sonville, where he also delayed on his way up the river, and,
after an uninterrupted journey of a few days, arrived in
Xatchez, on the 25th of January, 1839.

At this place, it was but a renewal of the zeal and missionary
devotion, which he had exhibited on other occasions and in other
places. The usual difficulty occurred of obtaining a proper and
fit place in which to celebrate the sacrifice of the holy mass.
But Providence, ever ready to assist the indefatigable labor of
this zealous Lazarist, soon enabled him to obtain a place for
Divine worshi23 ; and at length, under the roof of an old lady,
the good and pious Mrs. Girardeau, who offered the missionary
a large room in her house, an altar was erected, mass celebrated
on it, and a mission started that was productive of great benefit
to that poor community. By invitation, also, he preached ser-
mons of controversy in the City Hall of J^atchez, that redounded


greatly to the glory and honor of God. Many marriages were
adjusted, and numbers flocked to their duties in holy confession
and comnmnion.

Besides all this good accomplished, the people of the place
submitted to the Visitor plans for building a church in Gothic
style, so enthusiastic were they for establishing in the beginning
a proper edifice in which to celebrate the mysteries of their hoi}'-
faith. The Visitor, however, recommended them not to begin so
extravagantly at first, as by so doing they might incur debts
which afterwards would prove to be a burden, rather than a
pleasure to them. He, therefore, advised them to begin a plain,
large, but substantial building, which, (as soon as circumstances
would admit of building a handsome church,) might serve for
other uses. The Visitor then left them apparently determined
to follow his advice. But, alas, like all human hopes, it was not
regarded as faithfully as promised, and years afterwards, the
first Bishop named for that place had reason to regret that it
had not been followed.

On his return to Missouri the Visitor, having received instruc-
tions to invest other funds in proper stock, went to St. Louis for
this purpose.

Here, at the request of the good Bishop Eosatti, he gave a
retreat or mission to the people, which lasted two weeks, and
during which time he also conducted a special retreat of eight
days tor the Sisters of Charity. Measures were likewise taken
for a mission to La Salle, where Mr. Raho had been appointed
Superior. After this laborious work in the cause of religion, the
Visitor proceeded to Kaskaskias, where he commenced another
mission for the people of that place, and one also for the Sisters
of Visitation, then established there. During the mission, by spe-
cial request of influential Protestants, he gave lectures at night,
in the Court House, on Catholic doctrines, through which sev-
eral were converted to the faith ; many fervent communions also
were the fruits of this mission.

On the 5th of May, 1839, Bishop Eosatti laid the comer stone
of a church, under the title of the "Most Holy Trinity," to be


the church of the seminary at St. Louis, under charge of the
Lazarists, whom, it seems, he was determined to bring to that
place. Visitor Timon preached the dedication sermon.

The Yisitor continued in the exercise of this good labor until
Jmie following, when, on the eleventh of this month, it was
announced by letters received from Mr. Etienne, Superior Gen-
eral of the Lazarist order in Paris, that Yisitor Timon and Mons.
Odin had been proposed at Rome for Episcopal Sees. This
news was very embarrassing to the wishes and humility of both
these reverend gentlemen, and caused them great uneasiness.

On the 30th of August following, the Yisitor sent Mr. Estany
and Escoffier to the mission of La Salle.

Li the meantime. Bishop Eosatti, on the 7th September fol-
lowing, paid a visit to the Barrens, and handed the Yisitor a
papal bull, constituting the latter Bishop of Yenesi, and Coadjutor
of St. Louis, with the right of succession. But the zealous Laza-
rist would not accept of these honors, painful to his christian
feelings, and returned them next day to Rome with his refusal,
preferring to remain in the position he then held ; and, in order
to console Bishop Rosatti, who seemed very sad at the result,
he pointed out the Rev. Rich. Kenrick, as one eminently quali-
fied for the position. Bishop Rosatti, satisfied that he could not
change the resolution of Mr. Timon, immediately wrote to Rome
to have Mr. Kenrick appointed, which was accordingly done.
The Yisitor, likewise, respectfully refused to assume the duties
of administration of the diocese during the impending absence
of Bishop Rosatti, on business of importance for the Holy See.
He feared that, by complpng, he miglit indirectly come too near
having a mitre placed upon his head without being aware of it.
As his ambition was only to do all the good he could, and as his
position then afforded a wide field for a display of christian
charity, he was entirely content, until Providence manifestly
ordered otherwise.

Meanwhile the mission at the CajDe had become very important,
and a convent for Lorentine Sisters was established there. On
the 21st July, 1839, Bishop Rosatti had consecrated a new stone


church, under the title of St. Yincent. On the 6th of October,
the Visitor, in company with the Lazarists stationed there, made
a very successful mission at La Salle. On the 21st of October,
the Visitor began a retreat at the seminary, for the members of
the congregation who were not too far away in the missions to
prevent their attendance. At this retreat twenty priests, three
students, and nine brothers of the congregation were present.

On the 1st of November, 1839, he began another retreat for
the parish at the Barrens. This retreat lasted two weeks, during
which the Visitor and Mons. Odin preached in their turn. God
greatly blessed this mission.


Me. Torxatori and the Drawing Master.— Mission of Oauchita.— Visitor Timon
APPOINTED Prefect Apostolic of Texas.— Mons. Odin sent to Texas as tice-
Prefect.— The Two Mexican Priests Silenced.— Visitor with Bishop Flaget
visits the Missions.— Visitor quells a Parish Strife.— New Church for Cairo.
—Evils at Assumption.— Visitor goes to Texas.— Subscription for a new Church.
—Funeral Rites of Minister to Mexico.— Meets with General Henderson.—
Preaches in the Capitol.— A Church for Houston.— Goes to Austin.— Dangerous
Travel.— State op Texas.— Grand Reception by Judge Burnet.— First Mass in
Austin.— Dines with the French Minister.— Table Talk.

During all this lapse of time, the internal affairs of the
seminary and college prospered, and augured bright hopes for
the future.

A circumstance, however, occurred, that served by no means
to interrupt the course of study, or impede the efforts of the
teachers in the discharge of their duties, but which (leaving it to
the inference of the unbiased reader to determine,) was a theme
of conversation at the time ; and since it is found in the inemoirs
of the Bishop, it may not be impjoper to repeat it here :

It seems some opposition was made by the truly pious and
venerable Mr. Tornatori, to what, in his estimation, were con-
sidered innovations. For instance, from the very beginning the


new Yisitor, who had great confidence in the theological know-
ledge and unbending severity of' Mr. Tornatori, had chosen the
latter for his confessor. But on the 29th of January, when the
Yisitor had called on him to make his weekly confession, Mr.
Tornatori refused to hear him, alledging as a reason that Mr.
Timon had introduced into the college a drawing master, (inaitre
de dessinj and yet Mr. Tornatori considered " les arts d? agreement
'pernicieuxP The Yisitor of course referred the matter to his
council, in which it was decided that "Z^s arts d'' agreement^''
music and drawing, should continue.

The Yisitor next turned his attention to the State of Louisiana,
and whilst visiting some of the posts established there, com-
menced a mission on the Oauchita. Here he found a people, all
descendants of Frenchmen, on a branch of the Oauchita river,
who were even more abandoned, as to religious help, than those
Avhom he had once found in Arkansas. The mission here was
productive of much good ; all that was needed was a priest.

Daring the continuance of this mission the Yisitor, on the 26th
of March, 1840, received Mr, Andrien in the novitiate. At this
time there were many Lazarists in the community who could not
yet speak English, and accordingly, with the advice of his
council, the Yisitor resolved to place several of them in missions
where, in conjunction with the exercise of their ministerial func-
tions, they could also have an opportunity to learn to speak the
English language. Besides, the Bishop of St. Louis stood greatly
in need of priests in his diocese, and in order to contribute to the
holy zeal of this good prelate, he consented, on the 1st April,
1810, to take, ad tempus^ the church, house, and parish of Katch-
itoches, on the Red River, this place being at that time, on the
land side, the key of Texas, which, by advice to the Yisitor from
Mr. Etienne, was to be assigned to the congregation of missions.

On the 12th of April, the Yisitor returned to the college at the
Barrens, accompanied by a number of boys, sons of highly
respectable families of Louisiana. On his arrival he found letters
there, appointing him Prefect Apostolic of Texas, w^th power to
administer confirmation. At first the honor seemed threatenino"


to his humility, but after consulting with his council, he accepted
the appointment, and immediately despatched Mons. Odin to
Texas, as Vice Prefect, and Mr. Douterlounge as an assistant.
On his way thither, Mons. Odin and his companion were mira-
culously saved from a violent tornado, as he descended the
Mississippi river. All joined to pray for their safety, which, in
the providence of God, was realized, much to the joy of their

Before they left the Barrens the Visitor, as Prefect Apostolic,
had entrusted to Mons. Odin a letter to the two priests at San
Antonio, taking from them all faculties as priests, requiring them,
under pain of suspension, to desist from the discharge of all
ministerial functions. This letter had the good effect of checking
the enormous scandal occasioned by these two men, of whom we
have already written as having lived in concubinage with women,
and who discharged no other duty than merely offering up the
sacrifice of the mass.

"But," pleaded these unhappy men, "at least, Mons. Odin,
permit us to say mass, the honorarium of which is the only
suj)port we have for our families."

"I cannot," said Mons. Odin; "here are my orders. But I
will do for you whatever is in my power. Receive the masses
which your friends offer you, keep the honorarium^ and /will
say, or have said, the masses for you."

The generous and prudent offer of Mons. Odin was accepted
for a period of about three months, Mons. Odin doing as he
promised, until finally these unfortunate priests began to be
ashamed of themselves and the example they afforded, and
accordingly withdrew into Mexico.

On the 22d June, 1840, Mr. Paquin was appointed Superior
of the seminary by the Visitor, who assembled all the priests of
the community, and urged upon them a clieerful obedience to
their new Superior. He then briefiy alluded to the state of the
congregation at the time he had been appointed its Visitor, with-
out house or funds ; no property except the Cape propej-ty, which,
besides being burdened with debt, was mortgaged for the


purchase money. Then he contrasted the condition of the com-
munity affairs, by showing the debts reduced, the mortgage
liquidated, and more property, worth at least two hundred and
fifty thousand francs, acquired. In the college, every department
was well furnished with books and philosophical apparatus.
Every one present seemed pleased at the happy contrast, and to
echo the words, " To God the glory, to God the praise." On the
5th July, the Yisitor began an interesting mission in the exten-
sive hospital of the Sisters of Charity at the Barrens. It w^as a
touching sight to note the fervor of those poor people, and to see
the lame conducting the blind, who in turn supported their
conductors, as they gave each other mutual help to reach the
communion table.

St. Genevieve had long been served by a priest of the con-
gregation. It was now offered to the Yisitor as a permanent
mission, and as it would have been difficult to abandon it, by the
advice of his council, the Yisitor accepted of it and the " Old
Mines," and established there two regular houses.

In August, 1840, the venerable Bishop Flaget sent for the
Yisitor, and both together paid a visit to the mother house of the
Lorentine Nuns in Kentucky. Here he was delayed several
days, revising the rules and regulations of that congregation. In
the meantime, whilst giving retreats, making other missions, and
visiting the newly established houses, he received reports from

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 6 of 30)