American Passionists in Argentina
by Father Peter Maguirre, C.P.
July 4, 1926
The American Weekly of Buenos Aires
In our present age when the United States of America are sending out so many and such well-equipped men to the various parts of the world in the interest of science, commerce, and finance; and in particular when the grand and noble Republic of Argentina is the recipient of so many picked men of great intellectual and executive ability, one is tempted perhaps to think of America merely as the colossal scientific, commercial, and financial marvel of the world. To an outside observer who hears of her great progress in what we commonly call material things, and even in the more strictly intellectual things, America may appear as a great, big, successful, intellectual animal, without heart or soul religiously.
What a gigantic blunder such a thought would be! America, taken as a whole, is just as religious as it is scientific, commercial, and financial. I do not say you do not meet with irreligion, nor with crime, nor with Paganism pure and simple, for you do. I do not say you will not find un-Christian selfishness, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, for you will. Yet, I maintain that these are but, the ignoble exceptions, and as it were shadows, throwing into sublimest highlight the noble, generous, religious, God-fearing, and God-loving soul of America.
If America in a spirit of broad generosity strives to make other nations and peoples the benefitted recipients of her scientific, commercial, and financial abundance, so too in a moral and religious way does she strive to assist them, especially those nations which are entirely or mostly Pagan, and those other nations which while entirely and deeply religious and Christian, yet by reason of greatly scattered populations, or because of immigration to these places from America, Ireland, England, Scotland and other places where English is the prevailing language. These good religious people finding themselves in a strange land, surrounded by people speaking a different language, naturally long for and need for themselves and for their children, those who can come to them speaking their own language, and bring them the moral support and sweet consolation of their own religion. From the time when America was first able to “stand on their own feet,” as we say, till the present time, she has been just as religiously generous in going to the spiritual assistance of these peoples as she has been in helping them in a scientific, commercial, or financial way,—in fact, in the present writer’s opinion, even more so.
Not to speak of hundreds of other noble and generous instances, the writer is concerned merely with the Passionist Fathers of the U.S.A. He is not at present speaking of their Missions in Hunan, China, to which place in the past two years they have sent and supported some thirty Missionaries, building Churches, schools, and orphanages; nor is he speaking of the establishment of the American Passionists in Germany. He is merely, confining, himself to the work the American Passionists have done in Argentina.
It is likewise far from the writer’s intention to in any way ignore or minimize the excellent work done in Argentina by the good Passionist Fathers from Ireland, and the similarly noble, self-sacrificing, deeply religious work done by the Irish-Argentine Passionists themselves and done, moreover, in the face of almost insurmountable obstacles of every kind. No! In the present article, the writer is confining himself to the work done in and for Argentina by merely the American Passionists.
Purpose or Mission of the Passionists in Argentina
The year 1877 marks the first coming of the Passionists to Argentina, and indeed, to South America. That year saw in Argentina an Irish population of some 28,000 scattered over 7,400 leagues. They led, a pastoral life, and families lived at a considerable distance from one another and it was difficult to attend to their spiritual wants. “While indeed the Irish people were the most conservative portion of the population and had grown very wealthy by their industry, the Archbishop saw the dangers to which they were exposed in new surroundings, customs, and ideas, and especially so in the case of the young people,” writes Rev. Felix Ward, C.P. in his book entitled “The Passionists.” This was the prime reason for the Passionists coming to Argentina, to minister to the Irish population scattered over the length and breadth of the land. Since that time the good work and influence of the Passionists has grown and spread till it now embraces every branch of missionary work conformable to their Holy Rule.
From their first beginning in the “Old Tin Chapel”, as it was called, in Calle Estados Unidos, the present site of the grand structure of Holy Cross Church, “the handsomest Gothic structure in South America” (says Fr. Ward, C.P.), the work grew and spread till it can now boast of Monasteries, Churches, Schools, and hospices, in Buenos Aires, Capitán Sarmiento, Jesús-María (Córdoba), Salto, Montevideo (Urug.), Santa Lucia, Vicente Lopez (Prov. Buenos Aires), as well as its two grown-up sons, the missions in Chile, and the Independent Province of Brazil, each having three Monasteries, Churches and Schools.
“The official status of the Passionists in Argentina,” writes Fr. Ward, C.P. in 1923, “is that of chaplains of the English-speaking population, who are almost wholly Irish. Yet they attend to the spiritual needs of others as well. But it is as missionaries that the Fathers are so well and favorably known in the great Southern Republic, in Uruguay, Paraguay, and in the Falkland Islands. Innumerable missions have been given by them in English, Spanish, and Italian, sometimes in all three languages simultaneously, but oftener in English and Spanish on the same mission. But their missions to the Argentine Irish have been their work in this line; and they have not been restricted to cities and towns; they have been conducted in the great plains or camps and amid the picturesque hills of that country. They have collected the Indians in the heart of the Pampas and given missions to them. With no railroads and few roads of any kind, hardships were so great and living accommodations so primitive, that the Fathers might well be put in the category of ‘Foreign missionaries’ in the ecclesiastical sense. They have given missions, retreats, novenas, lectures, and conferences to religious communities and to the laity… Another interesting line of work is the instruction and reception of converts. The Fathers have candidates for instruction all the time… In spite of the inroads made by rationalism, imperialism, and anti-clericalism, the charms of this old Catholic country, amid innumerable monuments of the colonial period, are most attractive. It is redolent of the spirit, traditions, customs and manners of old Castile, and its Catholic atmosphere leads men to the Church. From this it is readily seen that while attending to their special work as chaplains for the Argentine Irish, they identify themselves with the country, advance its interests and win the confidence of all classes and greater regard for their own devoted people.”
The testimony of a non-Catholic will be interesting here, that of Mr. F. E. Guernsey, writing of the Passionists in Argentina. He writes “I have known priests who had gone into the most savage parts of the country as full of zeal as the early Franciscans, and others who live among the poorest populations of cities sharing the same humble fare as their flocks. No nobler body of men can anywhere be found than the Passionist Fathers now laboring in one of the suburban cities amongst the most object poor.”
American Passionists in Argentina
When one seeks to write in so brief an article as the present, the part played by the American Passionist in this grand work, he is necessarily confined to the more salient undertakings and accomplishments of their lives. Then too, in that a merely chronological relation would tend to become insipid and boresome, one is confronted by more or less of a problem as to how to write about men, who, speaking in a very broad and general sense, have led more or less the same life, dealing with the same problems, and doing practically the same work. So, if the reader will be good enough to try to bear these things in mind, we shall strive to treat of the matter in a way that seems to us best adapted to our purpose. We leave decided to treat of these men under the aspects of their more outstanding characteristics, grouping and classifying them, not so much as to the time they lived and worked, but rather according to the type and importance of the work they have done.
The writer is deeply indebted to the good Fathers of Holy Cross Monastery, who have furnished him much information from personal recollections of those of whom he is about to treat; also to the private chronicles of the Argentine Passionist Province, to the volumes “The Passionists”, by Rev. Nicholas [sic] [correction: Felix] Ward, C.P.; “An Awakening and What Followed”, by James Kent Stone; numerous temporary clippings from The “Southern Cross” and “The Standard”. To all who have helped us in the compilation of this relation, we wish to express our deepest gratitude and most sincere thanks.
The Greatest American Passionist in Argentina
Of all the Americans who came to Argentina to help the Passionists in their noble work, the one who is universally conceded to have been the greatest man personally and to have done the most for the establishment, growth and spread of the Passionist Order and work, was Fr. Fidelis Kent Stone, C.P., S.T.D., LL.D.
Few men have had a more remarkable career. His life reads like romantic fiction. Born in Boston, Mass., of a distinguished family, his father being Dr. John Stone, of the Episcopal Seminary at Cambridge, and his grandfather, the noted American jurist and Chief Justice, Chancellor Kent (who is famous for his published commentaries on law)—his long life of eighty-one years was crowded with incidents and events that make him tower amongst great men like the topmost peak of a mountain range.
Of a brilliant mind and having had exceptional opportunities, he was a classic scholar in the amplest sense of the term. After graduating with distinction at Harvard, he continued his studies for two years at the University of Gottingen in Germany, and for a year also at the University of Florence. Returning to the United States he served as an officer in the Civil War, in which he was wounded at the same Battle in which his brother was killed by his side. [The previous statement is incorrect. Stone was not wounded in the later battle in which his brother died.] Even in his old age he retained his soldierly appearance as Colonel Roosevelt, his fellow alumnus, who called to see him at Holy Cross Monastery when on his visit to Buenos Aires, wrote of him: “With his tall, erect figure and military gait, it seemed to me I could hear the clank of the cavalry sabre as he walked.”
After the Civil War he received Orders as a Protestant clergyman and for several years was President successively of Kenyon and Hobart Colleges.
As nearly as can be ascertained, it was shortly following the death of his young wife in 1869, that after long and deep consideration of his own faith and the claims of the Roman Catholic Church, he became a convert to the Catholic Faith. It was then that he wrote his celebrated Latin poem “Ita Tenebrae Sicut Lux,” analogous in sentiment to Newman’s “Lead Kindly Light.” He also wrote a book “The Invitation Heeded,” which he supplemented in later years with a work entitled “An Awakening and What Followed.” Both have had a wide circulation, and are expositions of the author’s reasons for entering the Catholic Church.
In 1872 he was ordained a priest of the Paulist Congregation, and five years later, entered the Passionist Order. Since then his life was one of ceaseless activity, not only in North America, but in various other countries. Mexico, Cuba, Chile, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Argentina were also the scenes of his indefatigable zeal.
In Argentina, he labored for many years at different epochs from 1879 till 1918, when he returned to the United States where he died a few years later, Oct. 14, 1921, in California.
After Father Martin Byrne, C.P. had returned from Argentina to Ireland, and Father Nilus, C.P. to the United States, “Father Fidelis was made Superior and became the Founder (of the Passionists) in Argentine,” says Fr. Ward, C.P. Through many trials and difficulties, despite innumerable obstacles, Father Fidelis carried to success the foundation of the Passionist Order in Argentina. He preached his first Argentine mission in 1881, and shortly after this, the Passionists’ first Church in Argentina was erected on the site of the present Holy Cross Church, Estados Unidos. It is remembered today as “The Old Tin Chapel” of Holy Cross. In 1886, the New Monastery of Holy Cross was completed and dedicated; while the New Church of Holy Cross was built beside the Monastery and opened March 11, 1894, standing today as one of the most handsome Gothic structures in S. America.
Another Monastery (St. Paul’s) was built, at Capitán Sarmiento. Here again the zeal and perseverance of Fr. Fidelis showed itself, for when, by reason of the then great isolation of the Monastery, the advisability of discontinuing there was under discussion, Fr. Fidelis, with deep faith in God’s help and unswerving confidence in the Irish-Argentines, fought for the continuance of the foundation, and it stands today as a monument of his perseverance, and fidelity to his duty to the Irish-Argentines.
After this he pushed the work forward with great energy. A Monastery was founded at Jesús-María, in the Province of Córdoba. Foundations were also made in Chile and Brazil, in each of which countries, there are three Monasteries. The good seed sown by Father Fidelis has grown now into three distinct Provinces in South America, that of Argentina, the mother Province, and her two big grown-up children in Chile and Brazil.
Yet, Fr. Fidelis’ greatness does not end as the practical founder of the Passionists in Argentina. He was also an intellectual giant. Possessed of the original, powerful intellect of a genius, he was a master-professor of Theology, Philosophy and Higher English. He was a Latin and English poet of great ability, his sermon compositions were masterpieces.
“As an Orator,” The Standard relates, “it may be said that he enjoyed international fame, having been elected to speak at such events as the inauguration of the Catholic University of Washington, and the Consecration of the Pittsburgh Cathedral in presence of the whole Catholic Hierarchy of America. He was also ‘Appleton Preacher’ at Harvard for a term, and ever won admiration for his masterly eloquence.”
To all of these grand and noble qualities was added an earnest, genial, entertaining personality that made his company most charming.
Such in brief is the life, work and characteristics of Father Fidelis Kent Stone, the greatest of the American Passionists who came to Argentina. It will need a far more gifted pen than the present writer’s, worthily to portray the Romantic life of so famous a man as Father Fidelis,—born a Protestant, educated a Protestant, Anglican Minister, convert to Catholicism, Catholic Priest, Passionist, Missionary, Founder of Monasteries, Civil War Veteran, Philosopher, Theologian, Poet, and master-orator.
After centering our gaze on the majestic Fr. Fidelis Kent Stone, and then turning to see the numerous other American Passionists who came to Argentina, at first sight one is inclined to feel a kind of anti-climax in the doing. Yet there came from America to Argentina a host of other American Passionists, who, if not so great as Father Fidelis, were men mighty in mind and work for Argentina,—brilliant schoolmen, prudent executives, and celebrated missionaries, many of whom also were, like Father Fidelis, converts to Catholicism.
In fact, all the Passionists who came down from the North were more or less gifted in all these fields—were what we commonly call all around men. None the less, it is also true that they were particularly gifted in some ways rather than others. Hence, for want of a better division, or classification, I have chosen to specify them as Schoolmen, Executives, or Missionaries, according as, after a fair observation of their lives and works, they seemed to the writer to fall under one or other of these categories in a more special way.
From Pittsburgh, Pa., came Father Edwin Coyle, C.P., more than twenty-five years ago. He was preeminently a Professor. Possessed of a prodigious memory, depth of thought, and versatility of studies, he spent almost all his time while in Argentina, training the young Passionists for their life work of Preaching and Teaching. After many years of hard work in the schoolroom, he returned to the United States, to begin the Foundation of the Retreat Movement for Laymen in Pittsburgh, Pa. The writer is personally acquainted with Fr. Edwin, having assisted him in a secretarial way when he was preparing his discourses and literature for the Lay Retreat work. At that time it seemed that the most outstanding characteristics of Father Edwin’s mind were its fine appreciation and valuation of distinctions, its keen logic and breadth of knowledge.
Following much along the same lines as Father Edwin, came Father Paul Nussbaum from Philadelphia. He labored here from 1892 till 1902. He was later consecrated Bishop of Corpus Christi, Texas; and recently transferred to Marquette, Michigan, which is his present Episcopal See. He, too, was possessed of an excellent mind, but especially in the fields of Philosophy and Theology. Many of the present day Missionaries here in Argentina were his pupils. Yet, his work was not confined to the professional chair. Being a very good speaker, he preached Missions in English. He was also quite a Spanish student. He held many offices in the Passionist Order, and it was by reason of the high esteem in which he was held for knowledge and zeal for souls, that he was elevated to the Episcopacy.
Father Edmund Hill, C.P.! What memories are associated with his name. He labored here from 1889 till 1891, a matter of merely two years, yet he left a never-to-be-forgotten impression upon the people of Argentina. His name is redolent of the great Father Fidelis, who was his intimate friend. Like Father Fidelis, he, too, was formerly an Anglican Minister, and later converted to Catholicism. He was English by birth, went to the United States, entered the Passionist Order, performed his work in life, and then returned to England where he died some five years ago. He preached many missions here, and was preeminently the “Poet-Preacher.” He was an English scholar of the highest ability, and a poet whose grandeur of character was only surpassed by the beauty and idealism of his many inspired verses. He did a great amount of work among our non-Catholic brethren, whose minds he so thoroughly understood and whose position he well appreciated. For their benefit, he published a volume entitled “Short-cuts To the True Church,” which has a wide circulation in the North; also another volume of the same type “The Voice of the Good Shepherd: Does it Live? And where?” Of his poems, we have two volumes “Passion Flowers” and “Mariae Corolla.” He tells us himself that many of his most beautiful poems were composed while in Argentina.
Speaking of poets, brings to our mind Father Ambrose Halpin, C.P. of New York, who came to Argentina in 1894 and labored here till 1919 when he passed to his eternal reward. Father Ambrose was first cousin of Edward Doyle, the “Blind Poet of Harlem,” Editor of “The Up-Town Visitor.” He came from the famous family of Halpins of New York. Before coming to Argentina he worked several years in Mexico. Here in Salto, his memory lives in especial benediction, not merely for his gentle, unassuming, saintly character, but also because of the great amount of good he performed there for the inhabitants. While, indeed, he was entirely familiar with Spanish, and quite a student therein, still his very greatest work as a preacher was done in English. A great lover of the Sacred Heart, he was most zealous in promoting devotion thereto. However, the most prominent feature of his work in Argentina, was, in addition to professorial work, his indefatigable zeal in spreading the knowledge of and encouraging the reading of good, clean, wholesome literature, so much needed in his day when the great waves of printed filth were beginning to wash ashore on the minds of men the contamination of wide-spread immorality and indecency.
It is always with pleasure, lively and keen, that American literary circles learn of one who has a broad knowledge of and is a sincere advocate of the best writings of our great American authors. Father David Knott, C.P., who came to this country from Kansas some 25 years ago is just such a man. He might well be placed among the best American literary men in Argentina. Without exaggeration, it can be said of him that through his extensive knowledge of American writers, and on his advice, veritable libraries of our best writers have been imported to this country and find places of honour in the studies of the Argentines. He did not preach these things from the house-tops, nor was he seconded by the millions of Carnegie, but in his own quiet way from deep appreciation of the merit of American authors, he made them known and loved.
Father David is still working here, and his genial disposition and happy manner has endeared him to many hearts, Catholic and non-Catholic alike. Many a tale of nobility and goodness could be told of him by the inmates and officials of the British Hospital of which he was Catholic Chaplain for very many years. His many great traits of character, his ministerial and philanthropic work amongst the poor of the Boca, the English-speaking people of the camp, Pergamino, Rojas, Estancias Santa Rosa, and Salto his present place of residence, attracted the attention of his Superiors and confreres. He was elected as Superior of the Monastery at Sarmiento; also as Master of Novices. His scholarly ability won for him the post of Professor at Córdoba, which he filled with much distinction, especially in the fields of English literature and Latin.
Father Thomas O’Connor, C.P., born in Ireland, later immigrating to the United States, came here in 1900. His name immediately recalls to our minds the Great Scholastics of the Middle Ages. His was a master-mind in the fields of Theology and Philosophy, like the Angel of the Schools, St. Thomas Aquinas, of whom he was a most able follower. He loved to train the youthful mind in the sound principles of Philosophy, and his stupendous fund of information, resulting from an omniverous habit of reading, made him an invaluable Professor. Though he was the first Provincial of the Argentine Passionists when they became a distinct Province, and though he journeyed to Rome in staunch interest of the Fathers here, he will always be remembered as “The Theologian and Scholastic Philosopher.”
The gift of tongues needs not the confusion of Babel nor the wonders of Pentecost, to give it an enviable place in the hearts of men. It has a charm all its own. English, Latin, Greek, Spanish, French, German, and Italian, form no mean repertoire in any man’s possession. Take these and add to, them degrees in Theology and Philosophy, especially Psychology, a vast knowledge of History, to say nothing of Sacred Scripture and kindred subjects, and you have some idea of the mind of Father Edward Tuohy, of West Hoboken, N.J., who come to Argentina on October 6, 1899, and died here February 12, 1905.
Unlike many men of gifted intellect, Father Edward was blessed with the happy faculty of adequately conveying his thoughts to others as well as possessing them himself. He was a pulpit orator of the finest type and a lecturer, of great distinction. He lectured to the English Literary Society on “Poets and Poetry,” and so pleased his audience, that he was requested by them to repeat his lecture, which he did to their extreme satisfaction. Gracious and cultured in manner, always pleasant and agreeable, full of information and the willingness and ability to impart it to others, Father Edward made a most enjoyable conversationalist. He filled the professorial chair with distinction, and the office of Monastic Superior several times to the great satisfaction of all his subjects. He died in Argentina, a man of much renown and widespread fame.
The last of those whom I have chosen to term Schoolmen is Father William Cushing of New York, who came to Argentina twenty-seven years ago. He hardly needs an introduction to most of the readers of the AMERICAN WEEKLY, and, is well-known to the worthy editor of this excellent American publication. Father William is the son of Thomas Cushing, one of the noted lawyers of his day in Old New York. Father William’s brother, Charles P. F. Cushing, was one of the gallant three hundred Americans who lost their lives in the storming of San Juan Hill, in the Spanish American War.
What is now known as Times Square, formerly Long Acre, could tell many a story of the boyhood pranks of the now Father William, for there it was he used to play as a boy. He was educated at St. Francis Xavier’s College on W. 34th St., and there received his degree of Master of Arts. In classifying Father William merely as a Schoolman, we find difficulty because his work has led him along two greatly divergent lines even here. In addition to the important post of Director of St. Paul’s College, he taught Theology and many other subjects to the Passionist Students. He brought through the long and arduous years of studies for the Priesthood two distinct bodies of Students, from the beginning of Classics to Ordination. Many pupils of his are holding high positions as superiors and missionaries amongst the Argentine Passionists. Indeed the present head superior of the Passionists here, Very Rev. Fr. Anselm, C.P., Provincial, was at one time a pupil of Father William. For twenty-two years Fr. William was stationed at Capitán Sarmiento.
For the past five years or more he has been Director of The Knights of the Cross, whose headquarters are at Esmeralda 1072. This is a Social, and cultural centre for English-speaking Catholics. Connected with it is a general reference library with complete collections on all the subjects of the day in their relations to the Church. A feature of the Library is an interesting collection of some 500 present day Biblical works in Spanish, including upwards of fifty versions of the whole or parts of the Bible.
Catholic papers of all English-speaking lands are there on file. Frequent lectures on live topics are given as well as night classes in commercial and cultural subjects. The present high standard of efficiency of the Knights of the Cross is due in the main to the indefatigable zeal and labor of Father William.
An intellectual man, an ardent Hispanophil, a lover of and distributor of good literature, a man of books and yet none the less of great religious and philanthropic activity, Father William stands very high in the affectionate estimation of the English-speaking people of Buenos Aires and, indeed, of all Argentine.
The above is a relation of those American Passionists, who it seems to the present writer have been of greater note in the educational sphere than in any other. There are others whose ability in matters pertaining to the government of the Passionist Order in Argentina has won for them greater distinction as executives.
Father Eugene Ryan, C.P. from Staten Island, New York, came here in 1883, and after a long illness of five years, died on April 2, 1906. In addition to his excellent ability as all orator and his no less excellent work on the Missions in the camp, his particular gift lay in the province of government. On him was laid the burden of Superior of the entire Passionist Order in Argentina; for three successive terms, that is for a period of nine years, he was Superior of Holy Cross Monastery and Church; he was also Director of the Alumni in Salto. He took a most efficient part in the erection of Holy Cross Church. While austere and retiring in disposition, he was always ready to help others in time of need, especially the poor and sick. His kindly way and utter sincerity made him a great favorite with the religious Brethren, his subjects, and the Irish community in both city and camp. He died amidst great sufferings, yet with marvellous resignation, a model of executive ability united to kindness and consideration, leaving him greatly beloved in and out of the Monastery.
Another man whose executive ability was very high was Father John Joseph Hirtenberger from Kittanning, Pa., who came to Argentina on the 21st of January, 1884, with his brother, the famous Brother Evaristus C.P. He labored here for some twenty years, returning to the United States because of a nervous breakdown, the result of untiring work in the erection of Holy Cross Church and his Missionary labors in and around Holy Cross. It was with sorrow of heart that his friends in Buenos Aires learned of his death in Western U.S.A. a few years ago.
Let us now take a rapid survey of a Passionist from Kentucky, the Reverend Father John M. Macklin, C.P., who came here in 1894, and is still actively engaged at Jesús-María (Córdoba), where he holds the office of Master of Novices. Before coming to Argentina, Father John Mary, as he is popularly known, being a great mathematician was intensively engaged in bank work in the United States. His father operated one of the largest confectionary factories in Kentucky. Here too, is a man who is hard to classify merely as an executive, for he has done an abundance of charitable and philanthropic work among the poorer of the Irish in Argentina. He has likewise published several booklets among which are “Instructions for the Sick,” “Perfect Contrition,” “Brief Explanations of Religious Questions and Devotional Practices.” Yet his greater ability seems to lie in his calm, level-headed good sense that enabled him to find good practical solutions in the ever difficult problems of government. He was Superior very many times and held the reins of government over the entire Argentine Province for three or four successive terms. Those who are well acquainted with Father John Mary, say that one can always expect a wise, common-sense, utterly unbiased solution of difficulties from him. While, indeed, more or less ascetical in appearance, Father John is a most pleasant companion and while being a true servant of God, still feels it in full accordance with the joy of the children of God to be guilty of many a pleasant and innocent witticism, and to relish the same when used by others. He is greatly revered by his religious Brethren and the people outside the Monastery as well.
Back in 1914, just before the Great World War broke out, the present writer had the honor and happiness of meeting the man who was at that time responsible for sowing the first seed of my desire to come and work for the people of Argentina. Just a few words from a great good man,—the seed was sown, and though it took twelve long years, it finally sprouted, and grew, and has eventually borne fruit, such as it is. I unhesitatingly, under God, attribute my present vocation to Fr. Fidelis Fowler, of Pittsburgh, Pa. He came to Argentina in 1896, and since that time has journeyed back to the United States, and twice to Rome in the interests of and representing the Passionists in Argentina. While, indeed, he preached missions in English through all the camp towns, still I would immediately specify him as an executive. He has held almost every office in the Argentine Province, having been Vice-Master at Sarmiento, Rector of the same Monastery more than once, Master of Novices, Professor, Consultor to the Provincial for three successive terms, which needed a special dispensation from the Holy See at Rome. He founded St. Paul’s Union, in Carmen de Areco, which will soon celebrate its Silver Jubilee of institution. He initiated the movement, collected the money for, and built the grand hall which has lent such distinction to St. Paul’s Union. Then, by tact, prudence, and good general-ship, he placed the institution on a firm and lasting working basis in every way. Practically the same may be said of him concerning the Keating Institute, of this city,—he was the brains and motive power behind the founding and building of this noble establishment for Irish-Argentine children. It was with deepest respect and admiration that the writer shortly after his arrival in Buenos Aires, on accompanying Father Fidelis to the Keating Institute, saw the little children crowding affectionately around this good priest, and in evident love calling to the other children: “Father Fidelis is here, Father Fidelis is here.” One little child about four or five years of age insisted on accompanying him wherever he went. The good sisters related to me, how the children would go to the roof-garden from where the Monastery could be seen, and this little one would call out with its tiny voice: “Father Fidelis, come over and see us.” It is axiomatic, that the man whom children love is indeed a good man. Thus in brief is the life of this able executive, who gave all his energy to the English-speaking people of Argentine and who now holds the office of Asst. Superior at Holy Cross. Why save flowers till one is dead and gone? Why not permit the recipient to indulge at least a little of their fragrance while alive? If I might be permitted to say a word on his personal character, it would be that to meet Father Fidelis is to love him.
The prime motive, the raison d’etre of the Passionist Order anywhere in the world, is—after the sanctification of its members—to conduct Apostolic Missions and Retreats. Most naturally then, we expect them to be expert in their particular line of work and chosen vocation. So that in speaking of some of the Fathers more particularly as Missionaries, let it be remembered that this does not mean that the others were not Missionaries. For all of them, by the grace of God, have done and do according to their power Missionary work either in the broader or stricter sense of the term.
Of the American Passionists who labored here for a time, and later returned to the United States, the first who comes to our mind is the Great Defender of Latin America, Father Isidore Dwyer, who came here in 1892, with the present Bishop of Marquette, Michigan. Father Isidore was ordained to the Priesthood in 1894, in the Cathedral of Buenos Aires. Because of ill health, he had to return to the United States in 1903. His ten years of labor in Argentina was spent on the Missions. A man of excellent mental equipment, gifted with wonderful powers of oratory, he conducted many missions in English and Spanish. He was a great favorite with the people and was in constant demand as a confessor, in which capacity his prudent judgment and wise counsels made him invaluable. But the Argentines will, I dare say, remember him as the Great Defender, in Argentina and the United States, of the civilization and morality of all Spanish America. He wielded a vigorous pen in scathing rebuke of those who so meanly and contemptuously dared to blacken unjustly the reputation morally and civilly of the people whom he knew so well and amongst whom he labored for many years.
The people of Salto, and indeed of all Argentina, will readily recall the priest whose home was the pampas, and whose address was “the saddle,” Father Julius Boyd, C.P. from New York. He was born in Ireland, went to the United States as a young man, and came to Argentina more than twenty-five years ago, labored for ten or twelve years in Argentina, and then returned to the United States, where he now holds the office of Asst. Superior in the new Passionist Monastery, at Springfield, Mass. Combining in himself the qualities of strictness and joviality, united with intense activity, he would travel for miles and miles on horse-back all through the camp, preaching to the people and instructing them in their faith and Christian duties. It was said of him, that when one would want to enquire for his address, that his residence was “The Saddle.” His greatest work was done in Salto, where “The Irish Hall,” the English-speaking social centre of the district, remains a monument of his zeal and work for the people.
Many of the American Missionaries have passed out of this life and are now enjoying a well-earned rest with God in Heaven. The first American Passionist to die in Argentina was Father Clement Finnegan, C.P., who passed to his eternal reward on April 19, 1883, not two months after the dedication of the “Old Tin Chapel” of Holy Cross. Father Clement was a commissioner with the renowned Fr. Fidelis Kent Stone, and indeed died in his arms. He was only 28 years old when death overtook him. In his book “An Awakening and What Followed,” Fr. Fidelis says of Father Clement’s death: “He died in my arms,—the most peaceful death I ever witnessed. It made me think of that sunset out on the camp… He smiled faintly, inclined his head ever so gently, and was gone.”
Fr. Constantine Colclough, C.P., born in Ireland, later becoming an American citizen in the United States where he was engaged in banking and law work, came to Argentina on May 19, 1887, after long years of experience in the work of the Congregation in the States. He was a missionary of great renown and found an affectionate place in the hearts of the people. Almost all the interior designing and decorating of the new Holy Cross Church was done through his instrumentality. But the glory of his missionary career, was suddenly cut short by typhoid fever, from which he died at Rosario in 1894.
Many of our American readers will recall Mr. Walter George Smith, of Philadelphia, who was appointed by President Wilson to succeed Governor Smith of New York, as Indian Commissioner; the same Mr. Smith who was one time President of the American Law Association, and for many years Trustee of the University of Pennsylvania. Brother to Mr. Smith was another of the American Passionist Missionaries, Fr. Maurice Smith, C.P. who came to this country more than thirty years ago. Their father was General Kilby Smith of Civil War fame. They were a family of poets, their grandmother being Mrs. Piatt, wife of Judge Donald Piatt, and their mother Elizabeth McCullough Piatt, who published a volume of poems. Their sister, Helen Grace Smith, who was still living a few years ago, is also known in Philadelphia as a poetess. Father Maurice Smith, is also one of the many converts to Catholicism, who after embracing the Faith, entered the priesthood. He was a most amiable and cultured gentleman, possessed of a humble, beautiful character that won him the hearts and affections of all with whom he worked. He was well known in the United States for his untiring missionary labors, and his work in Argentina was but a repetition of his success as a missionary in the North. But sudden illness cut short his labors here, and after two years he passed out of this life.
And now we come to a typical New Yorker—they were typical even in the olden days. Full of life and vigor, buoyant, jovial, came Fr. Martin Hogan, C.P. in 1893, nearly 34 years ago. He conducted Missions in English, Spanish, and Italian, and it is said of him that there was no place in Argentina where he did not conduct a Mission. After working for many years in Mexico, he labored in Argentina for about twenty years. He was a favorite among the people, and highly esteemed by the native clergy. When the late Archbishop, Dr. Spinoza, went on his rounds of visitation to the camp, he always insisted on having with him Father Martin, to attend to the spiritual needs of the English-speaking people. He died in 1912, about the time the present writer had the blessing of entering the Passionist Order.
Still working here are two more missionaries, who are known throughout Argentina for their zealous labors for the good of souls. Father Joseph Campion, C.P. of California came here as a boy on the first of January, 1886, at the time when the period of prosperity that set in under the administration of President General Roca was at its height. Father Joseph is a brother to the well-known Campion Brothers, stock raisers. He lived at Salto for many years. Now while, indeed, some may say Father Joseph is not a missionary in the strict sense of conducting Apostolic Missions, yet in the broader sense of the term, he is a missionary, and a great one. You need but mention his name to the poor and the sick of the city, and you will find it is held amongst them in benediction. Prevented by a more or less delicate constitution from engaging in the more severely physically taxing work of Apostolic Missions, Father Joseph’s love and zeal for souls has made him literally a missionary, “one sent by God,” to the poor and neglected of the great Metropolis of Buenos Aires. Night and day has he labored for them, never refusing the plea for help, whether coming in the busiest moments of the day, or in the still hours of the night when he would be taking his well earned rest. A man of many mental endowments, an excellent religious, a blessing to the poor and the sick, a great comfort to those who seek his advice and help in the confessional, Father Joseph is a man well-beloved by all the people. A Passionist since 1893, he has long since passed the year of his Silver Jubilee as a son of St. Paul of the Cross, the founder of the Passionist Order.
The other American missionary still laboring in Argentina, though now more than seventy years of age, is the venerable Father Louis Hohendoner [sic] [correction: Hochendoner], C.P., of Pittsburgh, Pa. Father Louis is the golden link between the early days of the Passionists in Argentina and the present. He has been in Argentina more than 40 years, coming here on May 29, 1883, and over 50 years a Passionist, having celebrated his Golden Jubilee in 1922. To give anything like an adequate description of the zealous labors of this man of God, would require volumes rather than a mere outline such as one is necessarily confined to in an article of this nature. Every corner of the Republic has been the scene of his Missions, over and over again. Possessed of a remarkable gift of languages, especially a perfect knowledge of Spanish, a good singer and musician, a winning and sincere manner, Father Louis is revered and loved not only by the leading Argentine families, but by the whole people. He worked side by side and hand in hand with all the good old pioneer American Passionists in Argentina of whom I have already spoken, and stands today as the one great living monument of the past, “like a lone gigantic oak in a forest, after wind, and rain, and time has levelled its fellows to the earth.”
When after forty-two years of labor in Argentina Father Louis returned to the United States for a visit, there was held a Solemn Mass in his old Parish Church in Pittsburgh, Pa. At the time the contemporary newspapers chronicled it as one of the most remarkable events in the history of the Parish, to see the venerable priest and his only surviving brother, surrounded by over sixty nephews and nieces and close blood relations.
Perhaps the most fitting way in which to sum up and conclude this all too brief sketch of Fr. Louis is to use the words spoken at his Golden Jubilee by Dr. James P. Kelley: “Of Fr. Louis’ work in the glorious cause to which he has devoted his holy and fervent life, it does not come within my province to give expression, which I know I could not adequately do. Words would fail me. In Catholic Argentina, his name is a household word, written in characters, of gold upon the souls of the living and the dead;—always on guard; ever ready at the call of duty; whenever a soul is to be snatched from the fiery ordeal, then this valiant soldier of the Cross stands at attention, always under marching orders, for the fulfillment of his priestly duties, to bring comfort and consolation to the weary conditioned.” And those further words of the then Provincial Very Rev. Fr. Constantine C.P.: “He is not exactly the link between them and the founders in this country. He is something more; he is one of those founders, and the only surviving one.”
After armies have battled bravely to victory, and nations have proudly flown their flags of freedom, and heroes’ brows have been decked with wreaths of glory, while from their new and spotless uniforms flash the silver and golden sheen of victors’ medals,—how very often we see forgotten the quiet modest heroism of the little nurse who rose supreme over the so natural revulsion at the sight of gory wounds, and held desperately to her post, tenderly cleansing the powder-burned and dirt-filled gashes, binding up with loving care the broken, maimed, and mangled masses of humanity brought back on stretchers from the firing line. At that time of glorious triumph, what little thought is given to the staunch heroism of aged mothers and fathers, of brave little wives, and sisters, and sweethearts, who gladly gave their dear ones to the war, cheering them on to battle, while choking back the groaning sobs, that would have revealed the poignant suffering in their hearts from the martyrdom of separation they so well knew might never be assuaged throughout their life on earth. Just as equally unfair and unjust would be the writer in this present article, were he to omit the meagre meed of praise to those other American Passionists who came to this country, and who though not priests were none the less noble auxiliaries to the priests and to the grand work in Argentina,—the American Passionist Lay Brothers.
The storming of Mobile, Alabama, by Admiral David Farragut of Civil War fame, the surrender of Forts Morgan and Gaines, the capture the Confederate ironclad Tennessee, were events that will ever be remembered in the history of America.
Brother Alphonsus Keily, C.P. carried with him to the grave the scars of these conflicts, especially the loss of a finger, for he was one of “Old Farragut’s” fighting men and was with him through his many desperate struggles against the Confederates. Brother Alphonsus was born in Piltown, Waterford, Ireland on the 8th of Sept., 1848. He went to the United States as a boy, enlisted in the Navy under Farragut when the Civil War broke out, and then led by his chivalrous spirit he chose the day of Old Glory to enlist himself in the “militia of Christ,” and on July 4, 1874, while the flag for which he had fought and bled was proudly floating over the housetops of Pittsburgh, he pronounced his vows in the secluded Passionist Monastery of the city’s suburb. After 20 years of active work in different monasteries in the north, he came to Argentina on Christmas Eve, 1891, accompanied by Frs. Fidelis Kent Stone, Stephen Keily, and Fr. Maurice Smith. He labored in Argentina for nearly 32 years, dying here at Holy Cross Monastery on August 26th, 1923, as a result of a stroke of paralysis. His labors in the monastery, while hidden in great measure from the public eye, were of vast importance to the Fathers of the Monastery. Nursing the sick, preparing the meals, receiving those who visited the monastery, caring for the Church, were some of the humble but noble works of Brother Alphonsus for fifty long years. He celebrated his Golden Jubilee as a Passionist on the Fourth of July, 1923.
Brother Athanasius Finnegan, arrived here from the United States on May 29, 1883. He rendered invaluable service at critical junctures in the establishment of the first Passionist Monastery in Argentina, but a sudden attack of typhoid fever cut short his career, and he died in the British Hospital on January 8, 1885.
One need but affectionately mention the name of Brother Evaristus, C.P. in almost any Catholic Argentine household, and it immediately acts as the magic “Open Sesame,” giving entrance into hearts who hold the beloved memory of this great good man in deepest reverence. In many a home, his likeness holds undisputed possession of the place of honor amongst the photographs of the dear departed ones. Brother Evaristus Hertenberger [sic] [correction: Hirtenberger], C.P., brother of Father John Joseph Hertenberger [sic] [correction: Hirtenberger], C.P., was born in Kittanning, Pennsylvania on August 22, 1861. He became a Passionist in the United States on November 28, 1876. He was then a mere boy of 15 years, which means that he spent nearly the whole of his long life of 62 years in the service of God. He died on the 3rd of February, 1923. He came to this country on the 21st of January, 1884, and excepting for a short time when he was sent to the United States on an important mission in 1907, he spent the remaining years of his life till 1923, working in Argentina. To do his work more effectively for the Argentine people, he took out his naturalization papers and became an Argentine citizen. “He was a man of many unusual gifts of mind and heart,” says “The Southern Cross.” “He could turn his hand to almost anything and make it a success. He was, as the saying is, truly an all around man. No honest work, however lowly, did he consider beneath him; and few were the more lofty attainments that were beyond the reach of his great capabilities. Like the Divine Master Himself, he had a special predilection for children, and was never so happy as when he could be in their midst distributing some little presents to them, beholding their pranks, and listening to their innocent prattle.” “Brother Evaristus was one of the pioneers of the Passionist Order in this Republic”—writes Fr. Michael Quinn in “An Appreciation”—”and as far as I am aware, the last of them remaining, with the exception of Rev. Fr. Louis who sang the Requiem Mass (for him). As infirmarian of the Monastery, Brother Evaristus nursed in their last illness, almost without exception, his fellow religious who preceded him to the grace. He laboured unremittingly for the advancement of the Passionist Order in Argentina and gave himself unselfishly to the service of the people, especially of the Irish. All the Passionist houses here are in a great measure indebted to him for their existence or improvement, but in a particular manner is Holy Cross, Church and Monastery, an imperishable monument to his genius, to his religious fervour, his spirit of sacrifice and indomitable perseverance as supervisor of its construction. His death was tragic. He had been suffering from heart trouble for a number of years, but his powerful frame hitherto firmly withstood every attack of illness, no mater how grave, until it suddenly came down with a terrible crash, like a mighty edifice gradually and totally undermined.” He died of heart failure on February 3d, 1923.
With the conclusion of the brief sketch of the great Brother Evaristus, C.P., we likewise bring to a close this summary of the lives and works of the American Passionists in Argentina. Merely the more salient features of their work here has been touched on, but the writer indulges the fond hope that some abler compiler will enlarge upon such all too short relations, erecting a more proper and more worthy edifice wherein to enshrine the memory of these American Passionists, who, in a spirit of generosity and love, have given their lives and their energies, their hearts and their souls, for the establishment and upbuilding of the Passionist Order and for the spiritual care and well-being of the Irish in Argentina, the Argentines themselves, and indeed of all English-speaking people of this noble Republic, which through days and years of bitter strife has battled its way to fullest freedom, till now in glorious exultation its unfurled banner of heaven’s beauteous Blue and White proclaims to all the world the unfettered liberty, progress, and Godliness of the brave and gallant land of Argentina.