Father Cornelius McGraw, C.P., Holy Cross Province (1893-1960)

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Born Francis McGraw on December 13, 1893 in Kankakee, Illinois, when he was a young man he thought of joining the Congregation of St. Victor. While reflecting on this decision he met John Joseph Mayou, a Catholic layman who had once been a Passionist novice in Pittsburgh during the early 1900s. Mr. Mayou spoke to McGraw about the Passionists so the young man entered the Passionist preparatory school at Holy Cross Monastery, Cincinnati in July 1912. After several months he went on to the novitiate in Louisville, Kentucky and professed his vows on September 15, 1913 and received the religious name Cornelius. Prior to ordination he studied at Chicago, Illinois and Normandy, Missouri. He was ordained by Bishop Paul J. Nussbaum, C.P. in Chicago on September 18, 1920. Early on it was the opinion that Father McGraw did not have the ability to preach missions and this ordination took place after it was deemed that he was in good health. He was a respected confessor, did eventually preach missions and was librarian in Des Moines, Iowa, St. Paul, Kansas and Detroit, Michigan. This was based on his scholarly temperament. He also had a love for carpentry. He repaired the stairways in the Chicago monastery. He and the students of his day built the vestment cases in the sacristy of the old Chicago monastery public chapel. He also, early on was a teacher at the Passionist prep in Normandy, Missouri, was later on vice-rector and then director of professed students. He also had a strong impact among the people of Centreville, Iowa. He was a member of the first group of Passionists to go to Holy Family Mission in Ensley, Alabama to work with Black Catholics. Right from the start he turned to the large cities of Chicago and Cincinnati to obtain funds and supplies especially for the clinic operated by the Sisters of Charity from Nazareth. Kentucky. He was also able to gain the services of the Felician Sisters of the Chicago province and the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Conception from Joliet, Illinois who teach in nearby Fairfield, Alabama. And for one who was doubted as a preacher in his youth he developed a reputation as a street preacher in the Mobile, Alabama diocese. This included difficult living conditions, an irregular diet and a hostile audience. Oftentimes the missionary preacher, some of which were diocesan, would drive up to a residence and request the permission of the owner to use the yard as a place to preach. If agreeable a public address system was hooked up and a portable phonograph was turned on which would play sacred music. After a sermon would be preached. One time a house owner did not want Father McGraw and to make his point went into his house and returned with a shot gun. At Lewisburg, Alabama Father McGraw’s preaching led twenty five converts into the church. Father McGraw also did street preaching in the Covington, Kentucky diocese. It is said that Bishop Mulloy was so impressed that he asked McGraw what he could do in return to which McGraw said “Bring the Passionist Nuns to your diocese.” A short time later the Passionist nuns were established in Erlanger, Kentucky. He also gave many missions in the Natchez, Tennesse diocese and in other southern areas. In 1959 while preaching in Cottleville, Missouri he weakened and was hospitalized at St. John’s Hospital, St.Louis. A short time later he died.