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The Story of the Mountain
Mount Saint Mary's College and Seminary

Mary E. Meline & Edward F.X. McSween

Published by the Emmitsburg Chronicle, 1911

Chapter 33 | Chapter Index

Chapter 34: 1839

William George read (father of Wm. Geo. Read, '47), who with John Scott, '27, and Roger B. Taney, had sat in conference with the Bishops of the second Provincial Council of Baltimore in 1833, distinguished himself by defending with his own body the Carmelite Convent against the mob on the 18th of August, 1839, and by testifying in behalf of the nuns before the Committee of Investigation. The mad spirit that had raged in Boston, however, became rampant in Baltimore.

Archbishop Eccleston that same month went to New York in obedience to the Holy See to place the administration of the diocese in the hands of Bishop Hughes. Bishop Dubois' condition had been slowly growing worse.

On May 2d Bishop Hughes had written to Mr. Frenaye, of Philadelphia:

"You will be sorry to hear that Bishop Dubois had another elight attack today, from which, however, he is now partially recovered. But his restoration from the former attacks was not complete, and his entire recovery is, I think, more than doubtful." "This final decision," says Mr. Hassard, "was a great blow to Bishop Dubois. When the news first reached him his imperious spirit rebelled against what was, in his eyes, an undeserved humiliation, and his constant protest was, ' They cannot take away my authority unless I am guilty of some crime. I will never give it up, never !' Bishop Purcell, who had gone to Rome a year previous, the first visit since his episcopal consecration, arrived in New York in the 'Sylvia de Grasse' early in September. He had been one of Father Dubois' favorite pupils at the Mountain and was loved by the old man with deep affection, being called by him his 'dear son.' Bishop Purcell threw himself on his knees before his old preceptor, reminded him of his age and infirmities, and how necessary it was that the affairs of the diocese should be in the hands of a young and energetic man, who could cope with the restless and mischievous spirit of the times. He implored him to submit to the will of the Pope, patiently and promptly, and thus add another jewel to his heavenly crown. His appeal was not without effect few moments of struggle, divine grace triumphed and Bishop Dubois yielded his authority with exemplary and astonishing meekness. To use his own words, he 'obeyed the bit, but not till he had covered it with foam.' From this time, though he officiated occasionally, he took no further part in the government of the church."

There is, to our mind, something inexpressibly touching in the last scene of this venerable life consecrated through so many years of hardships and trouble in the service of God's church, and finding its reward not in applause or gratitude of man, not even in the approval of the Holy See, but in the record of a good conscience and the smile of Heaven. He who had done so much for the education of the priesthood, who might almost be called the father of the American clergy, saw his bishopric taken from him by one whom he had received twenty years before as a poor lad. He bowed to the stroke, but in his infirm state of mind he could not conquer a natural repugnance to " Mr. Hughes," as he persisted in calling him. They lived in the same house, but they met no oftener than was necessary. So he passed the rest of his life in pious exercises. "He appears reconciled and cheerful," writes Bishop Hughes; " of course, I leave nothing undone to make him so."

But during that sad and painful scene, did the two young bishops, (Hughes and Purcell) remember the days of their first appearance at the Mountain? To one did the old dogeared Latin grammar and the arbor in the garden arise, and to the other, the day upon which he walked up the terrace steps with that letter of introduction from friends on the Eastern Shore and the certificate of the Methodist college? And ah ! could they have looked forward, these two spiritual sons of Father Dubois, to the culmination of their own careers, the one just entering upon his, the other already advanced along the path he was to tread for fifty years, both to mark and make important eras in the history of the church in the land of their adoption and both to end, ah the pity of it! very much as he their beloved father was ending now ; the succession of Mountaineers to their mitres to be unbroken in each case. How little they then, in the prime of life and use aid discern what the years were to bring them, even; of the broken old man before them! Let us

The letter from Father Stokes of Nashville, Tenn. gives us good picture of the state of the church and the trials of the at that time: it is addressed to Mr. McCaffrey of date October 10, 1839, and must interest Mountain:

The diocese of Nashville, as I presume you are aware, was in a most desolate condition until the appointment in 1838 of Bishop Miles, and, what is still more distressing, none are found willing to share his labors and privations. He has been alone, without a priest, almost since his consecration. As he despairs of obtaining the assistance of experienced priests, and is unwilling to hold out inducements to good men occupied in other places, which he perhaps might not be able to realize, I have suggested to the Bishop the necessity as well as the propriety at securing for his diocese some young men already educated, or nearly so, whom he himself might raise to the priesthood. I spoke to him of your college as the place where he would be most likely to succeed. The Bishop would for the present he contented with two young men of piety, zeal and talents who at least were acquainted with a portion of Theology. So great is his necessity he would, upon your recommendation, ordain them and allow them a sufficient time to complete their studies with himself before he would send them on the mission. Will you I to inform us whether you have such young men amongst your seminarians, at present disengaged, free from any pledge to another bishop, and whose disinterested zeal would lead them to offer for this laborious mission, assuring them at the same time that their situation shall in all respects be made as comfortable as that of the Bishop himself. The Bishop is just now recovering from a long and dangerous illness which brought him to the verge of the grave. I have come to his assistance during his illness and am very anxious to secure for him a permanent priesthood. You will, I have no doubt, interest yourself for him and write to us as soon as possible. You will, if you succeed, be regarded by the Bishop as the best benefactor of his long-neglected people.

[In 1838 there were in the United States four hundred and seventy-eight priests. In Tennessee the new bishop had not one to help him. And this is where Father William Byrne, '10, was going in 1833, five years before that, as we saw, to start another new college all alone.]

This year we find mention of the Gregorian Society, a debating and literary association among the seminarians; the committee, William Henry Elder and Francis P. McFarland reporting that its rule had been approved by Father Borgna, Director of the Seminary.

The Sisters of St. Joseph's opened this Fall, at the toll-gate, one mile south of Emmitsburg and the same distance east of the College, a preparatory school for boys, which gave several distinguished pupils to our house. The Emmitsburg Sisters this year took charge also of the domestic department of St. Mary's Seminary, Baltimore.

Chapter Index

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