Father Charles Cassidy, C.P., Holy Cross Province (1877-1953)

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Born William Cassidy March 6, 1877 in Emettsburg, Iowa, he was the son of Henry Cassidy and Anne Joyce. When he was two years old his family moved to Hull, Iowa . When he was 65 years old he returned to Hull to give the Memorial Day Address. In 1892 two Passionists came to Hull to conduct a parish mission . They were Fathers Angelo and Ferdinand. The missionaries stayed at the Cassidy family home. In 1893 he decided to enter the Passionists. He arrived at St. Mary’s, Dunkirk, New York on January 9, 1893 and was under the direction of Father Nicholas Ward. The stay in Dunkirk was short and on May 31, 1893 he went to the novitiate in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania where he was a novice under Father George Basel. He professed his vows on July 2, 1894. His religious name was Charles. He was a novice during the First Missionary Congress in Pittsburgh which was held in January 1894. He studied in Louisville, Kentucky. At that time he was seventeen years old. Father Denis was rector there and Father Justin Carey was a professor and director. The monastery chronicles noted that there was no regular prayer life in the community until the small number of Passionist seminarians arrived to anchor the culture of prayer. In fact, a prime reason for the seminary students to have their studies in different monasteries was for the ability to maintain the rigors of the prayer life. In 1895 the students in Louisville instituted the “Venerable Strambi Literary Society” Meetings were held every Sunday under the guidance of their new director of students Father Valentine. Young Charles Cassidy was elected President of the Literary Society on January 12, 1896. At the same time he was aware of the intellectual life and in December 1895 wrote an essay entitled “The Advantage of the Study of Philosophy.” As time went on, though, this interest in philosophy led him to entertain doubts of faith which passed in time. On September 23, 1896 the class moved to St. Paul, Kansas, a place that Charles Cassidy did not have great love for. Neither did he and Father Peter Hanley, C.P. see eye to eye. There Charles concluded the philosophy study and started to study theology. When his class was ordained at St. Paul, Kansas on May 6, 1901 he was not with them, because he had to be hospitalized at St. Joseph’s Hospital, Kansas City. Upon his recovery he was sent to West Hoboken, New Jersey to gain strength and study Lehmkuhl. Finally on September 21, 1901 he was ordained by Bishop O’Connor of Newark, New Jersey with only his director, Father Stanislaus being present. After ordination he was sent to St. Mary’s Monastery, Dunkirk to be professor at the Preparatory College. In August 1903 he was assigned to Normandy, Missouri to begin his ministry as a preacher of parish missions. His first mission was with Father Gabriel at Holy Rosary Church in Chicago, Illinois and his last mission was on October 5-12, 1947 with Father Gregory McEtterick, C.P. at Whitensville, Kentucky. During these years he preached over 700 mission and retreats. Among his most notable was the June 1926 mission at St. Celestine’s Church, Chicago to over 5000 people. A special mission platform was erected. In order to prepare his sermons he would save notes and newspaper articles. His was a constant collector. His method of sermon writing was as follows: He would gather together in a manila envelope all quotations and reflections on a given subject. From there he would pick a subject and begin to write a rough draft. After several takes he would then type out the manuscript which he would use at the pulpit. At the same time Father Cassidy was interested in the retreat movement particularly in Brighton, Massachusetts. He also was interested in retreats to non-Catholics. In 1922 he visited Rome and Europe and upon his return he became the professor of sacred eloquence. When that assignment ended he began to preach missions and retreats again. As illness set in he sought out spiritual cures for arthritis to no avail. At the same time, his later years led to moments of mental anguish which often prompted him to desire isolation. Then he would gain his presence of energy and composure. In 1945 he participated at the missionary congress in Normandy, Missouri. He died at Sts. Mary and Elizabeth Hospital in Louisville after suffering a heart attack brought about through a long term heart condition and diabetes.