James J. (James Joseph) McGovern.

The life and writings of the Right Reverend John McMullen, D. D., first bishop of Davenport, Iowa online

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Online LibraryJames J. (James Joseph) McGovernThe life and writings of the Right Reverend John McMullen, D. D., first bishop of Davenport, Iowa → online text (page 1 of 42)
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First Bishop of Davenport, Iowa.



Right Rev. John Lancaster Spalding, D. D.



Hoi-FMANN Brothers,
"^ Printers to the Hor.v Apostomc Sek,



I'li, n;;\v.yohk



Entered according to Act of Congress in the year 1888, by


In the office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington, 1). C


[. H. Yewdale & Sons Co.,

Printers, Electrotypeks and Uinders,



Archbishop of Chicago,



Many years have elapsed since the subject of the following Me-
moirs, in conversation with the writer, said that : " A contemporary
history of the Catholic Church in this Country ought to be collected
and published, even in the shape of biographical sketches of eminent
members of the Hierarchy." The writer replied, that in one particu-
lar instance, the suggestion would be carried out, and a contribution
made to the history of the Church in the Diocese of Chicago. No
attention was paid to the remark by either at the time, as the early
demise of the first speaker did not have the least shadow of proba-

When all that was mortal of Bishop McMullen was consigned to
the tomb, his words came forcibly to mind and the writer realized
that the promise became a duty. In undertaking it he has found his
own deficiencies in the way, and many difficulties to overcome ; the
latter showing the soundness of Bishop McMullen's suggestion. There
has certainly been an apparent indifference in collecting and publish,
ing whatever is of historical interest to the Church in the Archdiocese
of Chicago, and the reason may be in the comparatively rapid changes
of diocesan administrations, which have taken place since the first
Diocese was created in 1844. The writer found a great difficulty
in searching for material which he knew had existed, but it was found
that much perished in the Fii"e of 1S71. If he has failed to obtain
more that would be of historical value to the histoiy of this portion
of the Church in the West, he hopes that his labor will stimulate
others to further the good work. The lives of the deceased Bishops
of the Dioceses in the State of Illinois would be a means to the end.


but to do so in these Memoirs would make them too voluminous and
beyond the real object of thfe writer.

The life of Bishop McMullen was that of a true servant of the
Lord — singularly striking among the pioneer priests of the young
Church of the Great West. He was well understood and appreciated
by all who . knew him — a rare instance among men — and his
memory, like that of the just man, " shall be in everlasting remem-

The Writings of Bishop McMullen, which appear in the Appendix,
were published in the Monthly, and their mex*it deserves for them
a chapter in the Catholic literature of this Country.

The writer is under the deepest obligation to the Right Rev. John
Lancaster Spalding, D.D., for the great interest he has taken in the
publication of these Memoirs, and for his valuable Introduction.



His Birth— Birtliplacje—Depurture of His Family for America— Arrival
in Canada— Kemoval to the United States— New York— Lockport,
111.— Chicago— Incidents of Character— He attends School— His First
Communion in Joliet, 111 5


The Right Rev. William Quarter, D. D.— The Diocese of Chicago— The
Bishop's Labors— He Founds the University of St. Mary of the Lake
—His Pastoral— Young McMullen enters the University. 11


Traits of Character— Studious Habits— An Accident— He has Chai-ge of
the Altar Boys in St. Mary's— His Kindness to Fellow Students— St.
Patrick's — Bishop's Letter — Hibernian Benevolent Society —First
Diocesan Synod— Bishop Quarter's Death ". 18


Absence of Father Quarter when His Brother Died — His Grief — Father
Quarter takes Charge of the Diocese — His Zeal— His Great Works of
Charity— The Fever Stricken Immigrants — The Cholera— The Or-
phans—Notes from Father Quarter's Diary 28


Bishop Van de Velde Appointed by the Holy See Successor to Bishop
Quarter— Sketch of His Life— His Consecration— His First Pastoral —
His Great Interest in the Diocese — He Singles out Young McMullen
for the Pi-iesthood- The Western Tablet — Van de Velde
Writes for it.— John McMullen, Correspondent 35


Historical Facts Relating to the Diocese of Chicago in the Years 1852-53—
John McMullen, Correspondent — He Writes on Questions of the
Day— February 14, 1852 55


Departure for Rome — Interest Displayed by Father Quarter in New
York — Ai-rival in Dublin— Archbishop Cullen— Visit to Ballynahinch
— Incidents of Travel— Arrival in Paris— Correspondence— They Sail
from Marseilles— Arrival in Civita Vecchia— Rome— First Interview
with Cardinal Fransoni— McMullen's Case Presented to the Council
of the Propaganda— Case Rejected— John McMullen's Words— Car-
dinal Fransoni i-eceives both Students into the Propaganda 93



The Propaganda Colle^— Its Rules— Incidents of Student Life— Spiri-
tual Retreat at San' Eusebio— The Discovery of the Church and Cata-
combs of St. Alexander— Pope Pius IX. gives an Audience to the
Propaganda Students in the Monastery of St. Agnes — The Accident. 104


Right Rev. Anthony O'Regan, D. D., Bishop of Chicago— Letters to
his Students in the Propaganda — Illness of John McMullen — His
Letters— Visit of Bishop O'Regan to Rome— Trip to Genzano— Ex-
amination for Holy Orders — Ordination — His Remax-ks— He Takes
his Degrees in Theology — His Departure from Rome —An Incident. . 115


Rev. Dr. McMullen's Arrival in Chicago — He meets Bishop Duggan —
His Letter— Bishop Duggan— His first Mass in Chicago— His first
Sermon in St. Mary's— His Zeal~He founds the House of the (Tood
Shepherd — He Encounters Opposition — An Incident — Removal of
the Asylum to the North Side — The first Frame Building is Burned—
His Correspondence— Acknowledged Success of the House of the
Good Shepherd 125


Rev. Dr. McMullen, Rector of the Cathedral of the Holy Name— He is
appointed Pi-esident of St. Mary of the Lake — The Condition in
which he found his Early Alma Matei- — His Staff of Professors-
It is found Necessary to erect a New Building— Its formal Opening
—A German Catholic High School 143


The War— Confidence is placed in Dr. McMullen by the people— The
death of Gen. Mulligan— The Obsequies— The Eulogy 148

Progress of the University as a Seat of Learning— It Receives no Finan-
cial Support in Keeping with its Needs— Dr. McMullen's Kindness
to Students— He Publishes the " Catholic Monthly " — The University
of St. Mary of the Lake closes its Doors— The Cause 153


Dr. McMullen establishes' St. Paul's Parish— His Labcu's in its behalf-
He continues to teach in the Seminary of St. Mary of the Lake— A
Metliodist Convention is held in Chicago — Resolutions adopted in it
for the Conversion of Catholics— Dr. ;McMullen's Challenge— It Jis
taken up by a certain Rev. Mattison — The latters Quibbling causes
the Challenge to fall through — Comments of tlie Public Press. — Cor-
respondence 160


Dr. McMullen accompanies Bishop Duggan to the II. Council of Balti-
more— The Cholera visits Chicago during his absence— He takes a
Census of his Parish— Bishop Duggan's Hlness— His Departure for
Carlsbad, Austria— He is called to Rome— He returns to Chicago-
Complications arise on account of the Bishop's acts— Dr. McMullen
leaves Chicago for Rome— A Letter from him— Death of Very Rev.
I)ennis Dunne, D. D. — Reconciliation— Bishop Duggan's mind suc-
cumbs at last— Dr. McMullen's return to Chicago 175



Very Rev. Thomas Halligan appointed Administrator of the Diocese of
Chicago— Dr. McMullen is assigned to the Charge of the Mission
of Wilmington — His Labors in this Place — He builds a Church in
Bi'aidwood—His studious Life— His Lectures in behalf of dift'erent
Charities— Incidents of his Life during this time— Bishop Foley's ap-
pointment to be Administrator of the Diocese of Chicago 179


The Right Rev. Thomas Foley. D. D.— Sketch of His Life— Appointment
to the Diocese of Chicago— Sermon of Installation by Bishop Becker
— Remarks by Bishop Toley— His Charactei'istics — His Labors— An
Address to the Congregation of the Holy Name 185


Dr. McMullen is appointed Rector of the Cathedral of the Holy Name —
He calls on Miss E. A. Starr— The Congregation of the Holy Name
—Dr. McMullen's Labors— The Great Fire, 1871— Desolation— Dr.
McMullen looses everything— He goes East to collect Help for the
Stricken People— Death of his Father— Bishop Foley sees to the Wel-
fare of the Orphans — Dr. McMullen's Temporary Church — Hard-
ships of the Winters, 1871-72-78 in the Temporary Frame Structure —
The New Cathedral 194


Retreat of the Clergy of the Diocese in 1877— Bishop Foley appoints Dr.
McMullen Vicar-General — A Diocesan Synod— Bishop Foley's trip
to Baltimore— His Sickness there— Aggravated by returning to Chi-
cago— Bishop Foley's death— Obsequies— Funeral Sermon by the pres-
ent Archbishop of Philadelphia, Most Rev. P. J. Ryan— Dr. McMul-
len is appointed Administrator 302


The Diocese of Chicago created an Archdiocese by the Holy See— The
Right Rev. P. A. Feehan, Bishop of Nashville, promoted to the new
Archdiocese— Dr. McMullen remains Vicar General — He is appointed
to the new Diocese of Davenport, Iowa— A Sketcli of the Dioceae —
Dr. McMullen receives a Letter from the Cardinal Prefect of the Pro-
paganda announcing the nomination— The Bishop elect accepts it. . . 223


The Ceremony of Consecration in the Cathedral of the Holy Name — A
Large Assemblage of the Hierarchy — The Holy Name Cathedral tilled
with the Friends of the Bishop Elect— An Incident — Presentations
to the new Bishop by the Priests of the Diocese and the People of the
Holy Name — Addresses made on the occasion 230


Bishop McMullen's Departure from Chicago— Expression of Sorrow by
the Bishop and the People of the Holy Name Parish— The Bishop's
Reception in Davenport — Address by the Mayor of the City — Bishop
McMullen's Reply '. 237


The Bishop takes Formal Possession of the New Diocese — He tinds
among the Sisters of Mercy some old Friends— The Bishop's first
Sermon 248



Presentation of an Episcopal Rosidenee made by the Priests of the Dio-
cese of Davenport to liishop McMullen— His Expressions of Delight
with his beautiful Home and Surroundings. — Correspondence —
His Episcopal Visitation— Number of Contirmations 353


Bishop McMullen visits Council Blufts— His Reception— Addresses made
on that occasion— Month's Mind— His Address to the Clergy — The
First Diocesan Retreat of the Clergy — The Priests of the Diocese
again show their Appreciation of Bishop McMullen by a Munificent
Gift— The Bishop's First Pastoral Letter. . . 260


Bishop McMullen intimates that he is seriously sick— The Visitation of
his Diocese increases the malady— His Hardships— He does not spare
himself —He is advised to rest— Presentation of a Purse by the Priests
—Bishop McMullen takes a trip to New York and the Seashore — Not
much Benefitted— He sends Two Thousand Dollai's to the Holy Father
— He returns to Davenport— His illness becomes so serious that he is
ordered to California— Dangerous Sickness while there— He returns
home— He prepai'es for Death— He rallies and goes to Chicago— His
return — Bishops and Clergy visit him — Incidents — Bulletins announc-
ing his Condition — His Death— Expressions of Universal Bereave-
ment 366


The Diocese of Davenport in Mourning— The Obsequies— St. Margue-
rite's Cathedral tilled with sorrowing people— A large Concourse of
the Clergy and Laity from dift'erent Parts of the Uaited States in At-
tendaxice- -Archbishop Feehan officiates — Bisho]) Spalding delivers
the Funeral Sermon— The deceased Prelate's Remains are Interred
under the High Altar in the Cathedral— "iMonth's Mind "—A Me-
morial Tablet erected in St. Mai-guerite's Cathedral by the Priests
of the Diocese 278


Writings of Bishop McMullen i— clxi


The charm of biography lies in man's social nature, in his
need of life other than his own, in his dependence not merely
upon his material environment, but upon the moral world also,
which is as indispensable to his growth and well being as warmth
and nourishment Hence all life, if we can rightly get at it
is interesting. Philosophers have found food for thought in the
habits of an insect, and men of science have been filled with wonder
in studying a microbe.

Conversation turns forever on what men and women say
and do, or have said and done. The lovers of truth are few, but
all take delight in a story. Teach wisdom, and you bore ; gossip,
and you find listeners. Literature begins with myths and ends
in novels; and the myth and the novel are biographical. Is not
the blessed Gospel a life ? And what is history but an epitome
of innumerable biographies ? The life of a priest or bishop does
not usually abound in incidents, and here in the United States at
least, it tends to grow hopelessly prosaic. But is not all American
life monotonous, as there is a sameness in American scenery, and
a levelling down in American society ? We are a matter of fact,
unimaginative people, full of schemes and projects, which are
sometimes impracticable, but never romantic. Our life of toil,
of feverish activity, with its common sense aims, is not however
devoid of interest. It is on the contrary, as stimulating to the
thinker as to the practical man.

The questions it suggests, the problems it raises fill us at once
with hope and fear ; their scope is worldwide and they portend
good or ill to the generations yet to be. Our religion, like our
life in general, turns to practical ends. The old faith wears here
a modern garb ; casts oft the robe of ceremony and goes to work
in plain attire. We have had no men of genius to throw around
it the splendor of immortal minds; no conflicts to create the
heroic mood ; no persecutions fragrant with memories of martyrs
and saints. Priests and Bishops have had to take their place in
the army of workers, and to accompany the ever increasing multi-
tudes in their peaceful march across the vast continent. Where the


forest was felled or the prairie broken, they had to build the church
and the school ; where pestilence raged, they had to gather the
orphans into asylums ; where cities rose as in a dream, they had
to push their way into the bustling crowds, lest amid the noise and
the struggle the voice of conscience should become inaudible; when
the teachings and the history of the Church were attacked, they
had to be ready to defend. Of the men upon whom such tasks
were imposed, he whose life is here recorded, was a type. As a
child he was borne on the tide of immigration which like another
gulfstream set from Ireland towards the shores of America. After
a brief delay in Canada and the East, his parents started westward
and settled near Chicago and there amid the marshes on which
the great city was to rise, the stronghearted boy grew to manhood.
In the floating population of sailors, adventurers and traders who
formed the small town that had sprung up at the southern end
of Lake Michigan there was nothing, one may well suppose, to
awaken thoughts of a I'eligious vocation in the mind of a healthy
and ardent youth. Little else, in truth was to be found there than
the world, the flesh and the devil. For the sensual there was the
invitation to gross indulgence ; for the aspiring, the hope of sudden
wealth : and for all there was the excitement of a new and un-
tramelled life, the quickening of energies, the stirring spectacle
of the intermingling of various races and types of every character,
gathered here where but yesterday the Indian drowsed in his tent.
What stories of adventure, of deadly encounter, of miraculous
escape, what accounts of the billowy expanse of unbroken prairie
stretching north and south and west beyond the Mississippi, be-
yond the Missouri, to the foot of the Rocky Mountains, asleep on
their treasures of silver and gold, must not the youth have heard.
He had a boy's love of the chase, and were not the prairie-chickens
drumming amid the wild grass from Lake Michigan to the Ohio ;
were not the rivers and lakes alive with fish and fowl? Still one could
almost hear the tread of the buffalo, darkening the earth for miles
on miles as they fled from man and death towards the great desert.
How should he walking among the rabble of a frontiertown, witii
the visions which rise in young hearts in the presence of un-
known worlds teeming with life, thronging upon him, how should
he turn away from it all to think of God and souls? Ask why
when we look on the starlit sky, on the woods in autumn, on the
grave of one we love, we are drawn away from ourselves to the
unseen, infinite ? Why does joy make us afraid ? Why does
beauty make us think of death? Why does possession make us
poor? Why is yearning our best happiness? In many ways the
eternal reveals Himself and the paths along which He leads the
soul are mysterious. Little truly was there in the Catholic Church of


this western town to attract any one. There was no beauty within
or without.

The poets line — Coehim non animum mutant, qui trans mare
currunt, is hardly a half truth. In leaving behind country,
friends, customs, habits, and the sanctities of home, a man often
leaves the best of himself. For the multitude, as for the young,
morality is what is customary, and when different races are thrown
together in a society which is still rudimentary, disorder and con-
fusion result. Faith is weakened : character deteriorates : the good
are discouraged, and the violent and the unscrupulous rule. Bar-
barism threatens to return, the power of religion is undermined,
reverence dies, respect for authority is lost and the very means by
which society seeks to protect itself are often lawless. Bishop de
St. Palais, who was one of the first priests who ministered to the
Catholics of Chicago, was fond of telling of his early experiences
there. A missionary in Timbuctoo could hardly have a less promis-
ing field. And to add to the difficulty every now and then, some
unworthy or contentious priest, drawn to the place by a kind of
affinity, gave scandal by his disorderly life, or excited the people
to rebellion. There were various factions in the congregation, as
there were various nationalities, and it was not unusual for the
pastor, to be cited to court, as witness or defendant, and on such
occasions no effort was spared to make his position humiliating.

This surely was not a state of things to inspire a longing for
the priestly life : but it is a privilege of the young that they create
their own world, and the sight of evil, when the heart is fresh
and pure, but serves to make good the more attractive.

At all events from the midst of this strife and confusion,
young McMullen's thoughts turned to God. At his mothers knee
possibl}^ he learned to look above and to cherish the desire for bet-
ter things; possibly the voice of some holy priest sank into his
heart and kept ringing there like an echo from heavenly spheres :
or may be like many another one, drawn by the mysterious appeal
of divine grace, he instinctively felt the vanity of whatever passes
away, and heedless of hopes and promises which the grave swal-
lows, threw all his life on the eternal. We little know the depths
of a boy's heart — how capable he is of scorning our wisdom, our
money, our honors ; led on by some godlike passion to pursue
ideal aims. How insignificant to him in such a mood, the world's
most ambitious achievements appear. The sacred enthusiasm,
which caused St. Paul, in the face of Plato's philosophy and the
marvellous art of Athens, to glory only in the cross cf Christ,
which in other centuries has led kings and emperors to lay aside
their crowns, to put off their regal splendor, that in obedience and
poverty they might follow after the Crucified, still glows in many


a young soul, fanned by the spirit wliich breathes where it listeth.
And whom this ardor seizes is borne on over obstacles and scan-
dals, heedless of protest and scorn, to consecrate his life to the
service of Christ and the souls for whom He died.

When Bishop Quarter arrived in Chicago in 1844, John Mc-
Mullen was already at heart a priest. It was his happiness to
serve at the altar, to listen to religious instructions and to pursue
the studies which were to fit him for the work to which he be-
lieved God had called him. In the zealous and enlightened
bishop he found a friend able and willing to guide and encourage
him, and when a college was opened, he was among the first to
enter. And in a short time his fine character and excellent en-
dowments were recognized alike by teacliers and students. He
may even then have lacked something of the lightheartedness,
the buoyancy, the overflowing life which are the charm of youth.
His serious countenance, his swarthy complexion, his dark eye,
his silent ways and habitual self-control, certainly gave him a place
apart amid the crowd of his fellows. He was however neither
morose nor haughty.

If he was earnest, he was loving : if he was taciturn, he was
helpful, and if he was without frivolousness, he was none the less
capable of entering with keen relish into all youthful sports. But he
loved .study more than play, and it is pleasant to behold him dur-
ing the hours of recreation, sitting in the bower he had con-
structed beneath a spreading tree on the college grounds, reading
or helping the weak or the slow among his schoolmates. Not less
pleasant is it to know, that though a lover of peace, he was al-
ways ready to stand between the bullying cowards, who are never
absent from a crowd of boys, and their victims. It was at this
time, it seems, that he became acquainted with the Imitation, a
book which speaks to the heart of the young and the old, of the
happy and the wretched, and his deeply religious nature eagerly
responded to the appeal of a Kempis, who far from the world and
all thought of the praise of men, wrote the immortal treatise,
which shall find sympathetic readers so long as devout minds and
gentle hearts shall exist on earth.

He was now prepared to take up the study of theology, and when
his Bishop, wlio was in Rome, wrote that he hoped on his return,
to be able to send him thither, his heart thrilled with glad
expectancy. He had indeed come from Europe, but he had come
as the soul comes from God, bearing but vague intimations, dim
visions of its origin. His conscious life has been passed on the
frontiers of civilization ; he has lived face to face with nature un-
impressed by man. He has seen the interminable plains that roll
westward, but they have no history ; he has watched the play of


the billows on the great inland sea, but they tell no tales. And
now Europe which moans with memories rises before his imagina-

He shall see again the land where he was born ; he shall visit
the great cities of tlie world, he shall stand amid scenes consecrated
by genius and heroism; he shall look on the ruins of extinct
civilizations ; he shall kneel where martyrs have died and shall
kiss the earth sanctified by their blood.

O visions that rise when young hearts dream of the lands where
poets have sung, where heroes have conquered, where saints have

Online LibraryJames J. (James Joseph) McGovernThe life and writings of the Right Reverend John McMullen, D. D., first bishop of Davenport, Iowa → online text (page 1 of 42)