The History of Our Cradle Land
by Thomas H. Kinsella

Transcribed by Sean Furniss

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REVEREND JAMES J. O'CONNOR.

After the transfer of Father Gleason to Kansas City in the Spring of 1889, six pastors of Holy Trinity church followed one another in comparatively quick succession until July, 1895, when Rev. Francis Taton was placed in charge.

The first of these was Father James J. O'Connor who held office from April, 1889, to March, 1891, when he was called by death in the flower of his young manhood.

He was the first pastor, though not the first priest to die in Paola. Rev. James Colton, brother of Mrs. John Sheehy, died here in 1884 and is buried in the Circle of Holy Cross cemetery, directly west of the Cross.* Father O'Connor passed to his reward in the priest's residence on Tuesday, March 3, 1891, at 6:55 p. m. He had been in poor health since his ordination and the end was not unexpected. He felt the loneliness of the West and the absence of all who were near and dear to him.


*--Liber Defunctorum--A. D. 1884, on the 9th of May having received the rites of the Church, died, about sixty years old, the Rev. James Colton, pastor of Eden, Fond du Lac Co., Wisconsin. Having obtained leave of absence to restore his broken health at his sister's (Mrs. Sheehy) home near this place, on the account of the greater mildness of the climate. It pleased God to call the good Father to Himself. He was one of the pioneer priests of the arch-diocese of Milwaukee, in which he built many churches and pastoral residences. R. I. P. A. Carius

Father O'Connor was born in Newark, New Jersey, in 1867, and took a full collegiate course, graduating at Berlin, Canada, in 1885. Soon thereafter he was ordained and assigned to Kansas. From Chetopa he came here. From the outset he was deservedly popular in this parish, and his friends and admirers included people of differing creeds. Self-poised and affable in conduct, he bore the dignity of priest and scholar in every act of life even to the moment of final dissolution. His parents lived in Cleveland, Ohio, and in obedience to their wishes the remains were sent there for burial.

Funeral services as published in "The Western Spirit," is here given:
The funeral of Rev. Father James J. O'Connor on Friday, March 6, was largely attended. Mass was said at the church at 10:30 a. m. by Rev. Father Lee of Armourdale, assisted by Rev. Fathers Madden, Curtin, Redeker, Scherr, McGuire and Michael.

Rev. Father Gleason, of Kansas City, preached the funeral sermon from the text, "I am the resurrection and the life," and his eloquent sentences fell on appreciative ears. The large church was crowded and every listener was impressed with the touching tributes to the dead priest. Father Gleason began by saying that he came with no polished sentences of chiseled words to perform the last sad and solemn rites of the Holy Church over the remains of his dead brother. From this he went on without notes or stops to close one of the ablest and most appropriate sermons ever delivered in Paola. Many tears were shed by members of the congregation and others.

About 1 o'clock in the afternoon carriages and wagons began to arrive at the church and an hour later the funeral cortege proceeded to the Missouri Pacific depot from where Mr. Jacob Koehler accompanied the body to Cleveland, Ohio, for burial. The procession was a long one and represented all creeds and sects.


REVEREND NICHOLAS NEUSIUS.

Father Neusius succeeded the lamented Father O'Connor in March 1891, and remained in charge until the following August. He was a young priest, born in Germany, but partly educated in America. He was noted for his thoroughness and efficiency, a strict disciplinarian and a willing worker--an excellent priest in every way. He established the League of the Sacred Heart on the first Friday of June, 1891, and appointed the first promoters.

An explanation of the frequent changes of pastors, during the next few years, may be found in the fact that this was the period of expansion in church affairs in Kansas. The old time horse-back missionaries were passing, and mission stations were being supplied with resident priests, who in turn, established other missions, or abandoned fruitless ones as the case might be.

The Right Reverend Bishop sought out theological students in various schools in Europe, and in addition to these, he maintained a number in various American seminaries. A native clergy was, of course, his ideal, but the country was too new to expect its realization. Very soon, however, Bishop Fink was successful in obtaining for his vast diocese--the whole of Kansas--a very efficient body of young priests, and as a consequence, Leavenworth became one of the best organized dioceses in the West. It would be a mistake to suppose, however, that all this was easily attained for we know that the good bishop experimented a great deal with the placing of priests in the various parishes so as to obtain the best results, and to satisfy the people of various nationalities rather than the priests themselves. Indeed, the latter had little or nothing to say in the matter.

This aspect of affairs formed the greatest problem of the saintly bishop's whole regime; it confronted him for years and baffled his best ingenuity at times; but he had a remarkable man as his Vicar General, who had the art of cutting the gordian knot at every critical juncture.

Very Rev. John F. Cunningham had spent a life time on the prairies of Kansas and knew how to advise the young men and even sympathize with them as they passed out to grub or starve, as the saying was.

It would be easy to picture, without doing violence to truth, a sad state of affairs over much of the sparsely settled sections of a diocese covering a territory of 82,000 square miles. In the bordering counties along the Missouri River and the Missouri line, the horse-back missionaries of former days found every Catholic home a home indeed; they were never lonesome, they were welcome to the simple accommodations offered them and, as a consequence, they were to a large extent care-free.

But when the time of expansion came and the missions farther west received their pastors it was then that the real troubles began. It must be remembered that these young priests came from the centers of civilization in Europe and America, that they were men of education and often highly refined. They were indeed unprepared for the new order of things. Had they been raised in the West, the results would have been different, but as it was, many became bewildered and discouraged, for it required the greatest heroism to endure the lonesomeness of the prairies, and often, also, a lack of sympathy on the part of superiors, no less than on the part of those whom they came to serve.

Mountains and streams are companionable but the dead level of a winter prairie is very oppressive to the mind, all the more when silence reigns and the elements of social life are absent. As a consequence some priests returned again to the East, some sought admittance into other dioceses, and a few fell by the wayside. The slow process of improvement, however, went on, the wisdom of the bishop prevailed and finally, the demon of loneliness and the spectre of poverty were gradually eliminated. Fine churches, schools, and pastoral residences sprang up all over Kansas as the people multiplied and the towns grew apace. Finally in 1887 the State was divided into three diocese: Leavenworth, Wichita and Concordia, with a total Catholic population, at the present time (1918) of 132,000. The various Catholic institutions, too, developed wonderfully, so that the Colleges, Academies, hospitals and asylums are now amongst the best in the United States; while many religious orders are well represented, and are laying great foundations for the future.


REVEREND THOMAS QUICK.

Father Quick was the tenth pastor of Holy Trinity church. His term extended from September, 1891, to September, 1892. He was a man advanced in years, of kind disposition, very charitable to the poor and very forgetful of himself. He did not seem to know the value of money or how to ask for what was his by right. All he seemed to delight in was to give. The wandering workmen who filled the country at this time were known as "tramps" and hungry tramps generally made a straight line for the Catholic rectory when they arrived in any town. If there was a hospital or a Sisters' School, that would, probably, be the first place the penniless, able-bodied men would call for a "bite to eat." At times it often looked like a small "bread line" at the back door of nearly every priest's house in the country.

Paola being at the converging point of several railroads, got more than its share of the "Wandering Willies." The citizens protested and refused to aid "strapping fellows that should be at work," but the men protested that there was no work to be had, that if they could get to Kansas City or St. Louis or Chicago they could find employment. Father Quick found many an occasion to aid this class and never turned any man from his door.

He himself was an Englishman and had labored amongst the poorest of the poor in the slums of Manchester for years before coming to America. He had the unique distinction of accompanying the famous "Manchester Martyrs," Allen, Larkin, and O'Brien, to the scaffold and held the crucifix to their lips before the death-caps were drawn.

The Irish people held this kind-hearted priest in great regard and when he transferred from Paola to assist Father Hayden in Topeka, the people here sent a delegation to the Capital with a testimonial and purse of three hundred dollars as a mark of their esteem.


REVEREND THOMAS E. MADDEN.

From September, 1892, to September, 1893, Father Madden was pastor of Paola. he was a bright young man, lately ordained, a product of the Eastern schools and a native of Brooklyn, New York, and entirely unaccustomed to western life. He was a refined and lovable character, but, still, "a college boy"--active in sports and sought after in society. Evidently his place was under the tutorship of an older priest where his splendid ability would develop normally with his years.

He established the first parochial school in Paola with Simon Kennedy of Fulton, Kansas, as teacher. The basement of the church proved unsuitable for school purposes and the people began to feel the need of a school building which was hoped would be erected in the near future. In the meantime the basement school was abandoned and the school was not re-opened again until St. Patrick's was built in 1902. Father Madden left Kansas and took up his duties under Bishop Lancaster Spalding of Peoria, Ill., where he has distinguished himself in every line of priestly activity and has been promoted to the pastorate of one of the leading churches of the city of Peoria--St. John's where he has an assistant and a parochial school with eight teachers and three to four hundred pupils.

Owing to the scarcity of priests the parish of Holy Trinity was vacant from June 20, 1893, to September 25, or October 1, 1893, when Father Burk was appointed. In the meantime Father Moses McGuire came from Fulton, Kas., once a month to say Mass for the people of Paola.


REVEREND MAURICE BURK.

The next in order of appointment was Father Burk; he, like the four preceding pastors remained but a short time, he was destined, however, to return in after years and accomplish great things for Holy Trinity parish. Born in Germany at Wadersloh in Westfalia on September 28, 1869, he passed through all his studies most successfully and was finally ordained to the holy priesthood in Louvain, Belgium, on the 29th of June, 1892.

His destination was for the Kansas missions, and on his arrival was, after a short respite, sent to Paola as pastor on the 25th of September 1893, and remained until October 4, 1894. For many years, in fact, from the time of Father Gleason the financial affairs of the parish were at a standstill; Catholic families were being added to the parish year by year but they were all busy with their own affairs and the church suffered to drift along from 1888 to 1894 when Father Burk took up the most pressing need of the time, namely: the building of a new rectory. The old one built by Father Wattron away back in the '60s had served its usefulness and was now unfit for human habitation. The present beautiful building was erected in 1894 and the work incidentally revealed the latent ability of the young pastor which in after years showed forth so conspicuously.

Father Burk was respected and admired by the people although he remained with them but one year. The Right Reverend Bishop knew of his learning and strength of character; of his prudence and industry which was all the more effectual on account of his genial manner. he was a gentleman without affection and a priest above everything. Such a person could not remain hidden in a country tow, so that the next thing we find he was called away on October 4, 1894, to be the Bishop's assistant as secretary. His heart, however, was in Paola and when a vacancy occurred in 1903 he asked to be sent back to his first love.

 

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