The History of Our Cradle Land
by Thomas H. Kinsella

Transcribed by Sean Furniss

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SILVER JUBILEE OF SISTER MARY ANGELA
Of the Ursuline Convent, Paola, Kansas,
September 30, 1920


At an early Mass on the morning of the Jubilee, the Sisters and pupils offered up their prayers and Holy Communions for the Jubilarian; and at nine o'clock a Solemn High Mass was celebrated by Rev. E. Scherer of Greeley, Kansas, assisted by Rev. James A. Ording of Olathe as deacon, and Rev. Father Koch of Edgerton, Kas., as subdeacon; Very Rev. A. Domann being master of ceremonies.

The music under the direction of Sister Cecelia was in keeping with the occasion.

The address by Rev. T. H. Kinsella, LL.D., was a follows: .

Reverend Mother, Respected Sisters, and dear young ladies: --We are celebrating today the Silver Jubilee of Sister Angela. Jubilees always suggest age and therefore I am tempted to call her dear old Sister Angela, forgetting that she is not old in years but rather old in virtue and heavenly merit. We congratulate her today in a light vein of youthful merriment because it is only a step in the fleeting years that lead to her golden crown.

Silver is beautiful but gold alone is the standard. To you, then, young ladies is given the privilege of celebrating Sister Angela's Jubilee all by yourselves; we but look on, your teachers sit back in admiration of your exuberant joy as displayed by last evening's musical and literary program, and in this morning's spiritual bouquet, followed by this solemn service of thanksgiving into which I now insert my humble discourse in tribute to the Jubilarian and in praise of her labors as a nun in the Order of Saint Ursula. My discourse today will be but the first chapter in the story of a life that will continue on, I feel certain, to the golden years of achievement wherein Sister Angela, like the great foundress of the Order, St. Angela of Brescia, will accomplish the will of God without stopping to consider the glorious results that are sure to follow.

Great women have adorned the pages of history in the old world as well as in the new: Rebecca, Esther, Judith, and many others down to her before whom the Angel bowed in reverence as Queen of Heaven and the mother of the redeemed. Then, too, the martyr's palm, the virgin's spotless robes and the confessor's chains were shared by many noble women during the first ages of our era.

We have had a Helena, a Scholastica, a Clara, and we have had a Teresa whose great learning and spirituality placed her apart and gave her the right to be regarded as a Doctor of the Church. When she began her great reform, her worldly goods consisted of three pennies--three sons. Her friends remonstrated, saying: "Teresa, what can you do with three pennies?" She replies, "I know that Teresa and three sons cannot do anything, but Teresa, three sons and God can do all things," and subsequent events proved the truths of her words.

Then came the great women of modern times--Jane Frances De Chantel, Madame LeGras and a host of others in France. England and Ireland produced an army of valiant women form the earliest times down to the present century, and, finally, America developed a type of womanhood that has been an honor to the race. For my purpose today I shall mention only two or three. Mother Elizabeth Seton, who founded the Sisters of Charity at Emmitsburg in 1810, and Mother Catherine Spalding, the foundress of the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, Kentucky, in 1812. Then came the Sisters of Loretto near Fairfield, Kentucky, under the saintly Father Nerinx. All three orders were American in origin and grew to maturity under the stress of poverty and adverse conditions.

Not in any age did women rise to a higher plain of heroism nor attain a greater degree of spiritual perfection than those native American women living and laboring in the log cabins of the New World. Their followers are now numbered by the thousands and their institutions of learning and beneficence dot the continent from Boston to New Orleans and from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean. It was my good fortune to have passed my college days in the immediate vicinity of those early foundations and to have been influenced by the primitive simplicity that still lingered there. My sister dwelt in the Order of Nazareth for thirty-three years and her remains now rest in one of the most hallowed spots in all America--the little cemetery of Nazareth.

There were others, of course, mothers, wives, and daughters of the common people who were truly great, but whose deeds are not recorded on earth but rather in heaven. Who has not heard of Margaret of New Orleans? She is one of many. It took the soul of the South and the heart of the French people to place that unlettered woman on the pinnacle of fame. Margaret Haughery was the orphan child of parents who fled from fever and famine in Ireland. The girl was taken as a servant from Baltimore to New Orleans, where she had learned one thing well, namely, how to make good coffee, and to this she added another accomplishment, that of making good bread. Margaret noticed one day how the poor sailors after long voyages rushed from their ships to the drinking places along the river front. She then bethought herself that if she would make some buns and warm coffee they would prefer that to the "drink." Following her inspiration she established her little stand near the water's edge. Gradually, as bees find flowers, the sailors found Margaret's buns and coffee and found them sweet as "mother used to make." The fame of these buns spread and all New Orleans wanted them. She enlarged her business, then built an extensive bakery, hired an army of helpers and conducted a very successful business. Then she began to think of the orphans--"Maybe they, too, would like my buns," she said, and she baked a few extra batches and sent them over to the Catholic Orphan Asylum; the next day the Protestant Orphan Asylum received its share and, then, the Jewish Asylum came next. The more Margaret gave away the more her income increased. People began to take notice; Margaret had become a power in the commercial life of New Orleans. Men of business came to consult her, her counsels were found to be safe and her business foresight unerring. The woman who never wore anything but calico and a sun bonnet is now regarded with respect by the whole city.

As her last days approached she willed all her wealth to the three orphan asylums and at last she gave up her noble spirit to the Hand that gave it. She finished her course in all the simplicity of faith and trust in her Divine Savior. A great silence fell on the City of New Orleans when Margaret Haughery died; her funeral was not like any other ever seen in the city. The mayor and council attended and all denominations poured out en masse. All the orphans of the city made a wonderful sight to behold and the Cathedral and all the adjoining streets were filled with mourners. The Archbishop blessed the remains and, then, an almost endless file of people followed the body of that humble woman to her grave. The people of New Orleans would not, could not forget. They erected a magnificent monument to her on the principal plaza of the city--the first ever raised to a woman in America, it is said--and at its unveiling were all the municipal officers, the governor of the state of Louisiana, three ex-governors, the clergy of all denominations, and the archbishop of New Orleans surrounded by a concourse of people, including the orphans, that was beyond the power of man to number. Such is the story of an humble American woman.

My dear young ladies, I will now read to you a letter written by Mother Catherine Spalding some sixty-five years ago. It will doubtless remind the older Sisters present of letters written by Mother Jerome during the formative period of this institution. It was written when I was but one year old. It will form the first fine thread that weaves our own destiny into one great pattern of wonderful lace, wrought by the invisible fingers of a Divine Hand.

"Jan. 9, 1855.

"My heart yearns for you all with maternal interest. Oh, if you all have hearts as devoted to all the interest of the community as mine is, there would truly be but one common interest and self would be laid aside.  *  *  *. Our community must be the center from which all our good works emanate, and in the name of the Community all must be done. Then let none of us be ambitious as to who does more or who does less. God will judge it all hereafter. Let us therefore strive hard daily to secure our eternal union in the bosom of our Blessed Lord in Heaven. Our Church is finished; we are just preparing to put the seats in it. Then there will be an edifice to the honor of God, not indeed as fine and rich as the one built by Solomon; but as fine as His poor daughters of Nazareth could build for His honor for future generations. We hope to use the new academy next summer; then we are ready to begin to arrange this house for the Community, where the Sisters may live as a regular community should live. As it is, we are all scattered and sleeping about where we may find most convenient. Oh, how I long to see all fixed as a Community should be, and then I may lay me down in peace! Pray for me, my dear child, that God in His own good mercy may give rest for me--and indeed we should not seek rest here, for here is the time for labor and sorrow. Now, my good Sister, do not be too particular with your poor Mother. You know how hard it is for me to write since I have suffered so much severe pain; I never expect to be entirely well again  *  *  * write to me whenever you can. I am always
"Your sincere friend and Mother,

"Catherine."

On January 9, 1855--the date of this letter--the Territory of Kansas had just begun to exist. There was no church then in the little nameless place which we now call Leavenworth. Atchison, Topeka, and many other important towns and cities did not exist, yet the threads in the beautiful pattern are moving swiftly and little by little we begin to notice a design. Oh, how wonderfully beautiful is that piece of lace, all wrought out by the hand of God! Never have the eyes of my mind beheld anything like it. The stitches that form the loops and links are being formed right here in this chapel and there is a place in the piece for each one of us if we be in harmony with God's Holy Will. In imagination we can picture to ourselves two spools of thread, one of silver and one of gold. The spool of gold unwinds at Nazareth, Kentucky and the spool of silver at New Castle, Indiana. These threads like spider's webs are carried far afield and meet on the banks of the Marais Des Cygnes River in far off Kansas.

Then came other threads from the Rhineland, France and Italy. Watch the threads moving! Mother Catherine was now dying at Louisville on the 20th of March, 1858, and on that same day a band of pilgrims was passing down the Ohio River from New Castle, Indiana, by way of Cincinnati, and had landed at Louisville preparatory to taking another boat that would bear them around Cario and up the Mississippi to St. Louis, thence by way of the Missouri River to Westport Landing; this was on the 26th of March and on the 28th they arrived by wagon at this point--forty miles inland, and on the 29th they finished their twelve days' journey at Osawatomie.

A little band of the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth arrived in Leavenworth from Nashville, Tennessee, that same year and their chaplain, Father Ivo Schacht, came out on horseback to minister to the scattered people of Johnson and Miami counties. He it was who built the first church at Paola, assisted by a donation of land and money from the Chief of the Peoria tribe of Indians. His parishioners were the same families that had lately arrived from Indiana. They were the Allens, the Cunninghams, the Collins, the Sheehans, and the Morans with their wives and children. The followed the great drought of 1860, the failure of crops and finally, the Civil War. The Mission languished but was never abandoned. A long line of successors followed Father Schacht and many eminent priests labored here to complete his work. A generation passed and Paola grew in numbers, wealth, and beauty. Finally the Ursulines came and established this academy in 1896, chiefly because there was a Catholic church in town. Therefore, it can be said that this great Order of teachers would not be here today if Father Schacht never would have arrived here if the Sisters of Charity had not come to Leavenworth in 1858 and those Sisters spring from the foundation laid by Mother Catherine Spalding at St. Thomas' seminary near Bardstown, Kentucky, Bishop Flaget and Father David being, of course, the real founders. These saintly men go back to the days of the French Revolution. It thus can be seen that the threads are running true to form; the silver and gold are commingling. The emigrants from Indiana or rather from Ireland are now about to play their part. It was for them and through them that Holy Trinity church was built and rebuilt and restored again from its ashes a third time. These first Catholic settlers of 1858 were the prime cause of all that is ours in Paola today.

The Ursulines' history runs back through the ages; the thread of their destiny is of purest gold and is now being woven into the selvage of the pattern by the Divine Hand. Coming out of Italy through France and Germany they arrived in the United States at an early period of our history. This branch of the order, however, came from Cologne to Louisville, Kentucky, during the last century, at the invitation of Father Leander of the latter city. As a boy I knew Father Leander and I visited the original foundation of the Order on Shelby Street in Louisville; that was fifty years ago. Good Sister Angela is not the only one celebrating a Jubilee today. It is my Golden Jubilee of the day I knelt in that beautiful convent chapel and asked God to bless me, to guide me, and protect me through all the years. I have said that prayer many thousand times since and the good God has never failed me. Notice one more, dear children, how the threads interlace, commingle, are lost to sight only to reappear again. this a hundred lives from many nations are all combined in working out the pattern.

Let us take one precious filmy thing and make a frame, a background for Sister Angela's picture--what more beautiful in all the world? Thus she will become a part of the whole design as if the piece were made for this occasion and for her alone whereas, in reality, she is but a tiny strand in the selvage, so far only twenty-five stitches have been taken and it is impossible, as yet, to tell what the final effect will be. Doubtless it is meant to beautify and strengthen, to bind the whole into unity and finality "unto the coming of the day of Our Lord Jesus Christ."

Sister Angela Meyer was born in St. Louis and came of a refined and devout Catholic family. While yet quite young she came under the influence of a holy nun of the Ursuline Order--Sister Innocent, who is still living at Louisville, having celebrated her Golden Jubilee and is now awaiting her day of final victory. Little Angela was only a postulant in Kentucky but coming to Kansas with Mother Jerome and her companions she received the white veil at Scipio in 1895. She followed the Community to the new foundation at Paola, and after two years, in 1897, she made her vows to which she has faithfully adhered through peace and joy, through stress and storm adown the silver years of her young life. For six years she taught music at the academy and for nineteen years her energies have been devoted to popular education in the Parochial schools. She has the distinguished honor of being the first novice of this community, and the first person to receive the holy habit of the Ursuline Order in Kansas and the first among first in every virtue. She has propped up the foundations of the house and stood by the mast when its ship of destiny seemed to be on the verge of sinking. Endowed with a fine mind and a resolute will, she feared nothing, she braved the storm, and re-awakened the drooping spirits of all around her.

Yes, I am right, the tiny golden strand introduced into the selvage of the pattern was meant not only to beautify but also to strengthen; to unite, console, counsel, and inspire. The day may come, and it never fails in Kansas to come, when stress and storm, cyclone or tornado may sweep across the face of things unexpectedly; and then, it will require the courage and the faith of Angela, it will require an angel hand to prop again the foundations and to guide the barque of destiny into peaceful waters should the occasion ever arise. On the other hand, it can be said, that a greater danger lurks in the other extreme; perpetual peace and prosperity is more dangerous than adversity because of the inherent weakness of human nature. Our Blessed Lord said, "when I am lifted up I shall draw all things to Myself," not when I worked miracles or when I have spoken the wisdom of My Father to the sons of men but, rather, when I have been lifted upon the cross, "I shall draw all things to Myself," and the first fruit of the redemption was the penitent thief on the summit of Calvary. From that day to this, all peoples and tribes and tongues have been drawn "to Christ and Him Crucified."

St. Paul said, "I glory in nothing save in the Cross of My Lord Jesus Christ," "I preach Christ and Him Crucified," I died daily that Christ may be manifest in me." It can be said, my dear young friends, that no mere human being ever drew more souls to Christ than St. Paul, because with Christ he was nailed to the cross.

Our venerable foundress, Mother Jerome, in all her struggles and sorrows carried the cross that Mother Catherine Spalding and Mother Elizabeth Seton carried. With St. Paul they all could truly say, "With Christ I am nailed to the cross," but can others claim that distinction? You have drawn all else to yourselves--name and fame and popular esteem. You have won the respect of our fellow citizens, the approval and respect of our Rt. Rev. Bishop and, what is more than all the admiration of your chaplain--no small matter; you attract many pupils, and the friendship of many friends; your magnificent buildings and beautiful grounds are very attractive indeed. the curriculum is the all important thing because a great school must flourish here and Ursuline Academy must stand in the first rank so as to be attractive and worthy of patronage. Music, painting, dancing, and domestic science hold an important place in the daily grind; nor are religious instructions and chapel services in any way restricted--all of which is very beautiful, and all as it should be, but a statue of Mary is out in the cemetery kneeling at the foot of the cross and the living Martha is busy about many things. The result is expressed in the works of St. Peter, "Master, we have labored all night and have taken nothing." Where are those beautiful young souls that pass from year to year? Where are the nuns of the future? Has the Crucified One ceased to draw all hearts to Himself? Is the day of doom at hand? Has the Cross become again a stumbling block to the Gentiles? Is Christ rejected once more? No, my daughters in Christ, a thousand times no, it is we who have feared to follow Christ to the summit of Calvary where alone we can draw all hearts to Him--'glorying in nothing save in the cross of their Lord Jesus Christ'--desiring nothing but to be brides of the Lamb and singing nothing but that new song not given to others to sing--following wheresoever He goeth, even to Calvary that they might reign with Him forever in heaven.

May God help us all, and may the blessing of the Most High descend upon us and upon Sister Angela today and grant her many years of life, and may her golden days be as fruitful and happy as the silver years that have passed. Upward, then, and onward, Angela, Ad majorem Die Gloriam.--Ad multos annos.

 

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