The Catholic Church in Virginia
THE CATHOLIC CHURCH IN VIRGINIA. The gracious history of Catholicity in the Old Dominion commonwealth has been such as to lend dignity and distinction to the state and to represent well the noble functioning of the great mother church of Christendom. This publication is favored in being permitted to reproduce, with minor elimination and paraphrase, the admirable record written by Rev. F. Joseph Magri, M. A., D. D., a distinguished priest of the Diocese of Richmond, and author of a most interesting and valuable history of the diocese. In the reproduction no formal marks of quotation are to be used.
The history of the Catholic Church in the Old Dominion began only thirty-four years after the discovery of America by the ardent Catholic navigator, Christopher Columbus, and just eighty-one years prior to the settlement of Jamestown by the English. Official documents extant in Spain, whose authentic and authoritative value have been acknowledged by later historians, establish the above fact beyond all shadow of doubt.
A celebrated judge of San Domingo, Lucas Vasquez de Allyon, obtained from the King of Spain a patent authorizing him to make settlements on the mainland and to Christianize the American natives. Accordingly, with 600 men, women and children, horses and supplies, he sailed from Puerto de la Plata, San Domingo, in three small vessels, June, 1526. Accompanying the expedition were the Fathers Antonio de Montesinos, Antonio de Cervantes and Brother Peter de. Estrada, all members of the religious order of St. Dominic. It may be noted here that Father Montesinos had acquired much celebrity, both on account of his eloquence and because of indomitable warfare against the traffic in slaves. He was the first to denounce slavery publicly in the new world, which he did in 1511, one year after his arrival in San Domingo, then called Hispaniola. He declared the enslavement of the Indians to be sinful and a disgrace to civilization, for which he was arrested and taken to Spain for trial. There did he so earnestly defend his attitude that the King took immediate steps toward ameliorating the conditions of the oppressed Indians within his realm.
Passing through the Virginia capes and ascending the James River, the colonists landed at Guandape, named by Ayllon St. Michael, the spot being, according to Fcija, pilot in chief of Florida, who had been sent by the Spaniards to Virginia in 1609 to obtain information concerning the doings of the English, the exact place of settlement of the latter in 1607. Shortly after landing, the Spaniards constructed rude buildings, including a log chapel, the second place of Christian worship on the American mainland, the first being in Florida. Owing to the severity of winter, the hostility of the Indians, and internal discord, the settlers, under the leadership of Francis Gomez, in the spring of 1527, reembarked for San Domingo in two of the vessels, one of which foundered with all on board, leaving only 150 out of the total number to reach their destination. Among these was Father Montesinos, who later went to Venizuelas and who died a martyr in the Indies.
A second expedition, sent by Menendez, the governor of Florida and nominal governor of Virginia, settled on or near the Rappahannock River at a point called Axacan, September 10, 1570. The party consisted of Fathers Segura, vice provincial of the Jesuits, and Louis Quires, six Jesuit brothers, and some Indian guides. A combination log chapel and residence was erected. Don Louis de Velasco, an Indian guide, thus named by the Spaniards, turning traitor, led a band of hostile Indians who massacred Father Quiros and Brothers Solis and Mendez, February 14, 1571. Father Segura, with Brothers Linares, Dedondo, Gabriel Gomez and Sancho Zevalles, met a similar fate four days later. On obtaining news of the massacre from a pilot sent by him the following spring, Menendez sailed for Axacan, captured and hanged the murderers, Who were, shortly before death, converted and baptized by Father Rogel, a Jesuit missionary.
The above location of the point of the second Spanish settlement, having as its authority the renowned Catholic historian, Dr. John Gilmary Shea, has been seriously called in question by some later historians and writers of note, who would place the settlement on some one of the other Virginia estuaries of the Chesapeake, or even on some stream or inlet to the south of Virginia. It may be with propriety Here noted that the present profound and brilliant student of history and its allied branches, the Rt. Rev. D. J. O’Connell, D. D., bishop of Richmond, after exhaustive study of the subject and journeyings over the territory in question, has arrived independently at the conclusion of the present writer, and while conceding the possibility of a. different location as the place of settlement, has thrown the weight of his authority in favor of the truth of Shea’s account. Admitting the contention that Axacan probably denoted an extensive region, he holds that the name must also have been applied in a, more special sense to some restricted spot or territory south of the Potomac, and on or near the Rappahannock River. Ills weighty arguments are based principally on local tradition, and the several Indian names of places to He found within the region in question, which seem to have been identified with or to have had their derivation from the word “Axacan.” From both an historical and a religious standpoint, the importance is evident of the conclusion that the fair soil of Virginia luis been watered by the blood of martyrs. (References: Garcia, “Ensayo Chronologico,” 142-6; Fernandez, ” Historia Ecclesiastica de Nuestros Tiempos,” [Toledo, 16111 ; Navarette, “Real Cedula que contiene el Asiento con Lucas Vasquez de Allyon;” “Collection de Viages y Discubrimientos” II [Madrid, 1829], 153-6; Tanner, “Societal Militans, 1675, 447-51.”)
If we consider the Spanish temporary settlement made in Virginia in 1526 as the first period of Catholic history, and that of 1570 as the second period, we may logically consider the Jamestown settlement as the beginning of the third period. Evidence is being brought to light to show that Edward Maria Wingfield, the first president of the English colony at Jamestown, was a Catholic, acid that his religious belief was the principal ground of opposition fostered by Capt. John Smith, which culminated in Wingfield’s removal from the presidency. Ibis administration was fiercely assailed by the prejudices of an intolerant age. Recent research has fully vindicated his character. The Encyclopedia of Virginia Biography, under the editorial supervision of Lyon Gardiner Tyler, LL. D., president of William and Mary College (Vol. I, Edition 1915-Lewis Historical Publishing Company, New York), says: “Wingfield was blamed by the others for what could not be prevented by any president, and the most trivial objections were made against him to justify his deposition from the presidency (September 10, 1607). He was kept a prisoner on shipboard till Newport’s arrival in January, 1608, and April 1.0, 1608, he returned with Newport to England. he afterwards wrote an account of his stay in Virginia, which was discovered and published not many years ago, and it gives us a very different idea of the man from that so long current on authority of John Smith, who was his bitter enemy. He never returned to Virginia.”
On account of the oath of royal supremacy, Catholics were not supposed to enter the colony. Many Catholics, were, however, sent from England and Ireland to Virginia as to a penal colony. After the battle of Drogheda, (1649), Oliver Cromwell had many of his prisoners, who were no doubt, Catholics, transported to Virginia.
WASHINGTON EULOGIZES THE CATHOLICS
We find mention of two priests, Fathers Edmond and Raymond, arrested in Norfolk in 1687 for administering to the spiritual wants of the Catholics of that section. In 1774 and succeeding years, Father John Carroll (afterward Archbishop of Baltimore) attended from Maryland a log church which he had built in Virginia, at Aquia Creek. A great number of Catholics came to Virginia during the Revolutionary war period, and many entered the ranks of Washington, Rochambeau and De Grasse. During the fall and winter of 1781 masses of thanksgiving were offered in the French camps and on board the French war vessels then in Virginia waters, for the surrender of the English, this result being due in a large measure to the timely and effective assistance of France, a Catholic nation.
General Washington himself, in appreciation of the conspicuous part taken by Catholics in the Revolutionary war, addressed them as follows, under date of March 12, 1790: “To the Roman Catholics of the United States of America: I hope ever to see America among the foremost nations in examples of justice and liberality. And I presume that your fellow citizens will not forget the patriotic part which you took in the accomplishment of their revolution and the establishment of your government, or the important assistance which they received from a nation in which the Roman Catholic faith is professed. May the members of your society in America, animated alone by the pure spirit of Christianity, and still conducting themselves as the faithful subjects of our free government, enjoy every temporal and spiritual felicity.”
FIRST KNOWN PRIEST IN RICHMOND
At the close of the Revolutionary war, a considerable number of Catholics from Maryland, with some French, English and Irish merchants, settled in Virginia. Amongst the latter was the gallant Col. John Fitzgerald, aide-de-camp to Washington, at whose house in Alexandria, Lafayette, himself a Catholic, is said to have had his headquarters.
In July, 1791, Rev. Jean Dubois, with a few other French priests and some French families, and carrying letters of introduction from Lafayette to the Lees, Randolphs, Beverlys, to James Monroe and Patrick Henry, arrived in Norfolk, where he labored for about five months. From Norfolk he proceeded to Richmond, where, by invitation of the General Assembly, then in session, he was given a room in the capitol, in which he held services. During his few months’ stay in Richmond, Father Dubois supported himself by teaching, one of his pupils being Patrick Henry, who, in return for his French lessons, taught the priest English. Father Dubois next labored in the Valley of Virginia. In 1808 he founded Mount Saint Mary College, Emmitsburg, Maryland, and in 1826 became third bishop of New York. At the time of Father Dubois’ labors in Norfolk and Richmond and during the succeeding years, various zealous missionaries were doing valiant service in Tidewater and the Valley of Virginia.
BISHOPS OF RICHMOND
Rt. Rev. Patrick Kelly, D. D. (1821-2). The erection of Virginia into a diocese, because premature, was strongly opposed by the Archbishop of Baltimore. Consecrated in Ireland, August 24, 1820, and although bearing the title, “Bishop of Richmond,” Bishop Kelly was never able to visit the capital city front Norfolk, where he took up his residence because of the preponderance of Catholics in that city. Soon becoming convinced that the time had not yet been ripe for the creation of the new diocese, Bishop Kelly, on his own petition to Rome, was relieved in July, 1822, and transferred as bishop to Waterford, Ireland.
In a letter dated September 10, 1832, Archbishop Whitfield, of Baltimore, under whose jurisdiction Virginia then was, relates how he had sent into the State a missionary of great zeal, who found the Protestants exceedingly kind, courteously offering him the use of their churches, town halls and other public buildings.
With the coming to Richmond, in 1832, of Rev. Timothy O’Brien, Catholicity it, the capital city took on new life. In 1834 he replaced the little wooden church built by Father More, at Fourth and Marshall streets, with St. Peter’s Church at Eighth and Grace streets, and constructed St. Joseph’s Orphan Asylum and Academy, bringing three sisters of charity to teach in the institution. After eighteen years of truly marvelous labors for religion in Virginia, Father O’Brien departed for Massachusetts.
Rt. Rev. Richard Vincent Whelan, D. D. (1841-50). On coming to his new charge, March 21, 1841, Bishop Whelan made St. Peter’s Church his Cathedral, and established a seminary and college. In 1842 he dedicated at Norfolk, St. Patrick’s, and at Petersburg, St. Joseph’s churches, and one year later that of St. Francis at Lynchburg. He constructed a church at Wheeling in 1846, and two years later established St. Vincent’s Orphan Asylum, Norfolk. Transferred to the new See of Wheeling, July 23, 1850, Bishop Whelan continued to labor with apostolic zeal until his death, twenty-four years later.
Rt. Rev. John McGill, D. D. (1850-72). Bishop McGill, formerly a lawyer, came to the diocese from Louisville. In 18l) 5 he convened the First Catholic Virginia Synod. He was instrumental the following year in founding at Norfolk St. Vincent’s Hospital.
Know-nothingism died on Virginia soil, its death being due principally to Bishop McGill and to Governor Henry A. Wise. In a communication to the Richmond Enquirer, November, 1855, Governor Wise concludes with these words: “I ant a Protestant by birth, by baptism, by education, and by adoption. I am an American-in every fibre and every feeling an American yet in every character, in every relation, in every sense, with all my head, and all my heart, and all my might, I protest against this secret organization * * * to proscribe Roman Catholics and naturalized citizens.”
On the ceding back to Virginia of Alexandria, that city and county became a part of the Richmond diocese, August 14, 1858. The following year the Bishop dedicated St. Patrick’s Church, Richmond, and in 1860 introduced into the diocese the Benedictine Fathers. He brought also to Virginia the Visitation and the Holy Cross Sisters.
In this connection, there is special consistency in reproducing in this review the following quotation from the published work by Father Joseph Magri issued in 1906 and entitled “The Catholic Church in the City and Diocese of Richmond.” It should incidentally be stated that the Diocese of Richmond has jurisdiction over or includes nearly the entire State of Virginia and eight counties of West Virginia.
“In 1860 an event of great importance to the church took place in Richmond, namely, the transferring of St. Mary’s Church and the Germans of the city to the care of the Benedictines, who during all the succeeding years up to the present have labored with a, zeal and success worthy of the highest commendation. The change came about in this wise: Rev. Father Polk, S. J., the pastor of St. Mary’s, a man beloved by all and one who had succeeded in making his congregation a truly flourishing one, was recalled by his superiors to Georgetown. It was his fondest hope to leave some order of religious succeed him at St. Mary’s. With this end in view, he made an earnest appeal to the pious Archbishop Boniface Wimmer, O. S. B., of St. Vincent’s Abbey, Pennsylvania, with the result that Rev. Leonard Mayer, O. S. B., was sent as the first Benedictine pastor of St. Mary’s, Richmond. He arrived at his new charge August 2, 1860, and three days later was fore tally installed. For thirteen years did he labor zealously and faithfully, his period of office covering the most difficult times in the history of the church in the South. An eloquent speaker, a skilled musician, and possessing traits of character calculated to draw people to himself, it is no wonder that the people loved hint and that today his name is held in reverence by every Catholic German family of the city and by :ill other people who knew him.”
Since the death of Father Mayor the great and worthy service continued by the Benedictine Fathers in connection with the activities of the diocese has been ,in integral and important part of the history of this important See.
Bishop McGill ardently espoused the cause of the, Confederacy, urging his people to defend their Southland and Catholics enlisted in various companies, among which we may mention in particular the Montgomery and Emmett guards. Priests and sisters throughout the diocese busied themselves with the care of wounded and dying soldiers, while members of the Catholic societies visited and brought food ;end clothing to the inmates of prisons and hospitals. Whenever and wherever possible, the Bishop offered the use of churches and schools as hospitals. He published two learned works, and also took part in the Vatican Council in 1860-70. Bishop McGill died at Richmond, January 14, 1870.
Rt. Rev. James Gibbons, D. D., later Cardinal Archbishop of Baltimore (1872-7). Appointed Bishop of Richmond July 30, 1872, Bishop Gibbous began at once an active and efficient administration of his diocese, the effect of which has been felt to the present day. Forming new parishes, erecting schools and other institutions, and making frequent visitations to different points, he rapidly improved religious conditions which naturally suffered from the ravages of war. His gentle ways, as well :is his tact and his lucidity of thought and expression, attracted not only the Catholics, but also hosts of non-Catholics, who came to meet him, or to hear leis learned and inspiring discourses. Among the most notable events of his regime was the introduction into the diocese of the Little Sisters of the Poor, the building of St. Peter’s Boys’ Academy, and the remodeling of St. Joseph’s Orphan Asylum, Richmond. Bishop Gibbons w:is created Coadjutor Bishop of Baltimore May 19, 1877, succeeding Archbishop Bagley in that See the following October, and was in 1886 created Cardinal. Ills illustrious career throughout the passing years is too well known to need extended mention here. He died at Baltimore, March 24, 1927.
Rt. Rev. Joseph Keane, D. D. (1878-88). Rising to the episcopacy August 25, 1878, Bishop Keane soon endeared himself to the people of the State. So irresistible was his eloquence that crowds invariably flocked to hear his sermons and lectures. he followed closely in the footsteps of his distinguished predecessor, dotting the diocese with new churches, and building up parishes. Tit 1886 he convened the Second Diocesan Synod. He also brought into the state the Josephite Fathers, to labor among the colored, and the Xaerian Brothers, to further educational work. Bishop Keane was appointed first rector of the Catholic University, Washington, August 12, 1888. He became Archbishop of Dubuque, .July 24, 1900.He died June 22, 1918.
Rt. Rev. Augustine Van De Vyver, D. D. (18891971). From the day of his consecration, October 20, 1889, Bishop Van De Vyver ruled over his see with commendable vigor and zeal. The principal event of his regime was the gift by Thomas F. Ryan and consecration, November 29, 1906, of the splendid new Sacred Heart Cathedral, whose artistic beauty has excited deserved attention throughout the country. Mrs. Ryan, wife of Thomas F. Ryan, who donated the furnishings of the Cathedral, generously constructed churches, schools and other institutions, in different parts of the diocese. Another most important event was the establishment, with permanent maintenance, at Rock Castle, by Gen. and Mrs. Edward Morrell, of an industrial college for colored boys, and by Mother Catherine Drexel, of Philadelphia, of a similar institution for colored girls. The founding, in 1908, by the McGill Union, aided by the Knights of Columbus, of a costly young men’s home in Richmond, was also an event of no small significance.
Bishop Van De Vyver’s rule over his diocese during the course of twenty-two years was longer than that of any preceding bishop. Guided by deep humility, he thrice ineffectually attempted to resign his See. His death occurred October 16, 1911, and caused widespread sorrow. His funeral, October 20, was attended by great dignitaries from within and without the State, as well as by a concourse of people from every walk of life who loved him as a kind and sympathetic father, and as a, true and tender friend. By his own request, he was buried among his beloved dead in Mount Calvary Cemetery, which, when vicar-general, he had wisely purchased. The Mount Calvary Cemetery Association, under the able presidency of Col. John Murphy, encouraged and generously aided by the dead prelate’s illustrious successor, himself the honorary president of the association, as well as by donations throughout the diocese, erected to the memory of Bishop Van De Vyver not only a dignified and suitable monument, but also a beautiful granite chapel, wherein mass is offered for the repose of the faithful departed.
Rt. Rev. Denis Joseph O’Connell, D. D. (1912). The principal events in the public life of Bishop O’Connell prior to his appointment as Bishop of Richmond are the following: Obtaining the Doctorate in Sacred Theology from the Propaganda, and ordination in Rome, in 1877 ; appointment to St. Peter’s Cathedral, Richmond, Virginia, and later as pastor of Winchester, Virginia; secretary of Cardinal (then Archbishop) Gibbons and of the Third Plenary Council of Baltimore, in 1884, carrying the decrees of the council for ratification to Rome and returning as secretary to Bishop Conroy, Ablegate of Canada.; rector of the North American College, Rome, from 1885 to 1895; created a domestic prelate March 20, 1887; from 1895 to 1903 vicar of Cardinal Gibbons for his titular Church of Santa Maria in Trastevere, Rome; rector of the Catholic University, Washington, 1903 to 1908; May 3, 1908, consecrated titular Bishop of Sebaste; December 24, 1908, appointed auxiliary Bishop of San Francisco; January 19, 1912, transferred as Bishop of Richmond, succeeding Bishop Van De Vyver.
Universal joy was manifested in the diocese at the news of the appointment to the See of Richmond of the Rt. Rev. D. J. O’Connell, D. D. His brilliancy of mind, the remarkable depth and extent of his learning, his singular culture, united with unusual and varied experience among the great and the learned in different quarters of the globe, making of him, in a large sense, an international figure-all served to show the good fortune of the diocese in having him to rule over its destinies.
The installation of Bishop O’Connell, March 19, 1912, one of the most imposing religious events ever witnessed in the South, was attended by the Governor of Virginia., the Mayor of Richmond, judges of the several courts, delegates and members from the principal Catholic societies of the State, and a vast concourse of people of all denominations. There were present an eminent cardinal, archbishops, bishops, monsignors, a papal chamberlain, and provincials of the different religious orders, presidents of colleges and seminaries, the faculty of the Catholic University of America, many alumni of the North American College, Rome, of St. Mary’s Seminary, Baltimore, and of St. Charles’ College, Catonsville, Maryland, with prominent priests of virtually every diocese of America. The entire ceremonies were graciously presided over by his eminence, James Cardinal Gibbons; archbishop of Baltimore, a devoted and lifelong friend to the bishop.
The Rev. E. M. Tearney, irremovable rector of Lynchburg, in his fervid sermon, said: “We rejoice with Bishop O’Connell, who takes possession of his diocese surrounded by so distinguished ;in assemblage of his friends. It is n most auspicious home coming, and its augurs well. The Diocese of Richmond has been accustomed to great bishops,” he continued. “Some of them have gone forth into wider fields and have attained the highest distinction within the power of the head of the church to bestow. Others have worked and ended their lives among us. You,” he said, turning to the bishop, “will perpetuate the distinction which has from the beginning characterized the bishop’s office in the Richmond diocese, and will bring to it new honor.”
Bishop O’Connell then delivered feeling and eloquent addresses severally to the bishops, the priests and the people, paying, in the course of his remarks, a glowing and grateful tribute to Mr. and Mrs. Thomas F. Ryan, easily the prince and princess of American Catholic Philanthropists and church benefactors.
His eminence, Cardinal Gibbons, who delivered the closing address of installation, in his usual happy and appropriate style, said: “Your bishop appears before you today, not as a stranger, whose ability and availability were to be put to the test, but as an old friend with his familiar face, as an elder brother whose merits have been tried and approved by the bishops.” Then, turning to the bishop, he said: “The people of the Old Dominion, without distinction of faith, welcome you, not only as an enlightened churchman, but also as a patriotic citizen who will take an active interest in the welfare :rod prosperity of the commonwealth “
VIRGINIA CATHOLICS AND THE WORLD WAR
The period of Bishop O’Connell ‘s rule over the Richmond Diocese will go down in history as the time of the most momentous war the world has ever known. The call to arms in 1917, by the Congress and President Of these United States, met with instant and whole-hearted response from the bishop, the priests, the religious and Catholic. Unity of the diocese. Under the bishop’s orders, all the Catholic forces of the diocese were marshaled for immediate and complete service. From the pulpit of the Cathedral and that of every church within the diocese, the thunder of patriotic words was heard. Catholics were bidden to unite and to make every human sacrifice, even to the shedding of the last drop of their blood, in defense of their country, and to exert to the utmost every legitimate means “to make the world safe for democracy,” to perpetuate in our country “a government of the people, for the people, and by the people.” The war served but to accentuate to the world the wonderful organization and power of the Catholic, Church-an organization and power which, exerted to the full, as they were in the cause of democracy, served to make sure and to hasten the day of victory, which brought with it peace to a distracted world and the triumph of right and justice. * -* * To attempt even a meager detailed outline of the part played by Virginia Catholics in the World war and in the work of reconstruction, would be an undertaking far too great ‘for the time and space allotted us. Suffice it to say that at the country’s call every diocesan and parish organization was placed at the disposal of the president;; every form of Catholic activity was directed toward one purpose, the winning of the war.
Before the draft had been ordered, the flower of the Catholic young manhood of the diocese had already enlisted. Catholic men and women who could not go to the front, engaged largely in war productive work at the various posts or government plants. Every Catholic congregation saw itself greatly reduced in numbers, and this because of the absence at the scenes of war, not only of those who were required thus to serve their country, but also of many among the volunteers who by right were not included in the draft. Of Virginia’s stalwart Catholic sons who saw active service, many sleep their last sleep on Flanders field, while other rest beneath the deep Atlantic waters, but whether the supreme sacrifice was required or not-those who bared or were ready to bare their bosoms to the bullets of the enemy are all heroes. Those, too, are heroes who nobly did their part at home, providing the men at the front with sinews of successful warfare, or helping to relieve the vast suffering entailed by a cruel and uncalled-for war. Those who served at home, with those who served at the front, were all soldiers. To them does the Catholic Church of Virginia, as does the Catholic Church elsewhere, say, as Napoleon is said to have once done to his chosen troops after their splendid performance in battle, “Soldiers, I am proud of you! “
There was hardly a time during the entire period of America’s participation in the war when there was not within the various camps and cities of the states and on board ships within the Virginia waters, a number of Catholic soldiers, sailors and marines exceeding by far the resident Catholic population of the diocese. With the bishop giving the example by his active participation in patriotic celebrations at different camps, the priests stationed at or near the various army and naval posts, voluntarily did valiant chaplaincy work, greatly aiding, and, in many cases, entirely filling the positions of regular army and navy chaplains. Too much praise cannot be given the work of the Oblate Fathers, who, at the invitation of Bishop O’Connell at the beginning of the war, and financed by the Knights of Columbus, established at Portsmouth, under the leadership of Rev. P. J. Hammersley, United States Navy, the headquarters of five chaplains who attended the Jamestown Naval Base the St. Helena Training Station at Berkley, the Virginia Beach Rifle Range, the Naval Hospital, the Marine Barracks and Magazine at or near Portsmouth, Virginia.
The marvelous work done in Virginia by the Knights of Columbus deserves much more than passing notice. Under the able guidance of the state deputy, Judge John J. Blake, of Richmond, the various councils united and coordinated their efforts with telling and far-reaching results. In this short sketch it would be impossible to go into details concerning their splendid and successful efforts. Thus for instance, their sending to the battlefields o: France and Flanders, to represent them as field secretary and to take charge of their work at the front the Worthy Grand Knight of Richmond Council No 395, the Hon. Samuel L. Kelley, was productive o: decided benefit to the overseas men of the service Shortly after the beginning of the war, the cardinals archbishops and bishops of the United States former the National Catholic War Council, which, working in conjunction with the Knights of Columbus, gave to country and state a degree of unselfish service that Materially hastened the day of victory and peace.
Besides the Knights of Columbus, the various other state and city Catholic associations of men, women, and even of the children, used with telling effect in war work the .full measure of their collective and individual resources.
In the Red Cross and other humanitarian or patriotic drives for emergency funds; in the purchase of Liberty Bonds and War Savings Stamps; in the donation and collection of clothes and other needed articles for the war victims; in the making of surgical dressings, and in other forms of relief work, acting under the special stimulus of bishop, priests and religious, the Catholic men, women and children of the state gave to their country a measure of loyalty and service that should ever win the admiration and gratitude of all true Virginians.
In Richmond the combined McGill Catholic Union and Knights of Columbus home became the center of patriotic activity for all the Richmond Catholic societies, in addition to being one of the principal recreational headquarters for all men of the war service. In other cities, especially those at or near army posts and camps, the Catholics rose to the occasion in all kinds of work relating to the comfort and general welfare of soldiers, sailors and marines. In connection with such work we may specially mention the St. Joseph’s societies of Petersburg and Hopewell, St. Mary’s Lyceum at Alexandria, St. Vincent’s organizations at Newport News, St. Mary’s at Old Point and at Fredericksburg, St. Andrew’s at Roanoke, Holy Cross at Lynchburg, St. Francis’ at Staunton, St. Joseph’s at Martinsburg, and organizations and individuals who looked after the interests of the marines at Quantico. The work of the Victory Club at Norfolk and of the Catholic Club at Portsmouth, under the inspiration of the local clergy, and particularly of Mr. A. J. Barrett, field secretary of the Knights of Columbus, and of the National Catholic War Council, was of a high order. Thus, for instance, on Christmas, 1918, the Catholic Club of Portsmouth, working conjointly with the Knights of Columbus, banqueted during the day 2,500 uniformed men, and the following New Year’s Day not less than 3,500 men. Service proportionally as great was rendered by the McGill Catholic Union, as referred to above, and by the Knights of Columbus and War Councils of Richmond, Norfolk, Petersburg, Newport News, Alexandria and other points. In the work of reconstruction following the war, too much cannot be said in favor of the vocational schools of the Knights of Columbus established at Richmond and at Norfolk. The watchword of the Knights of Columbus, “Everything free,” made the war heroes feel that the immeasurable value of the services they gave their country is not measured by dollars and cents.
In general, it can only with truth be said that the war work and the consequent reconstruction work of the Catholic Church in Virginia and of her many organizations, as well as the individual work of Catholics, was so extensive and so complete as to excite in all sections of the commonwealth the warmest admiration and commendation.
VIRGINIA CATHOLICITY-PRESENT AND FUTURE
Since the appointment, in 1912, of the Rt. Rev. D. J. O’Connell, D. D., the present learned, cultured and brilliant bishop of Richmond, the religious strides made in Virginia and the northeast portion of West Virginia under his jurisdiction have been indeed remarkable. Greatly handicapped on taking charge of the diocese by a shortage of priests, he vigorously set to work to remedy the difficulty and deficiency, with the result that the number of priestly laborers within the diocese has nearly doubled since he has been at the helm of Catholic affairs in the Old Dominion. Additional religious workers, too, have been brought into Virginia to carry on special educational and charitable work, while several entirely new parishes have been recently established.
Many beautiful churches have been reared, including one each at Newport News, Hopewell, Alexandria, Norfolk, Clermont, Virginia Beach, Ocean View, Mount Ida, Woodslane, Ridgeley, Woodford, Minnieville, one near Yorktown and two churches at Roanoke, while :it the Government town of Craddock, Virginia, near Portsmouth, barracks were purchased and converted into a church. The rapid expansion of Richmond, just as has been the case with Norfolk, calls for additional parishes in Virginia’s capital in addition to two new parishes lately formed from part of the territory of St. Peter’s Church, formerly the Cathedral. The work of establishing such parishes wilt be taken up by the bishop just as soon as available missionaries and means are at hand. In various harts of the diocese splendid church and parish sites have been secured, looking toward future religious development.
Among the educational establishments constructed under the inspiration of Bishop O’Connell may be mentioned handsome and up-to-date schools at Richmond, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Petersburg, Lynchburg, Martinsburg, Clarendale, Ocean View and Fort Monroe, besides the remodeling of old buildings into schools at Roanoke and at Alexandria.
The new Sacred Heart Cathedral School, lately erected, is in keeping with the majestic cathedral itself. Commodious homes for the consecrated religious who teach in the schools have likewise been constructed or purchased at Richmond, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Petersburg, Lynchburg, Roanoke, Alexandria, Clarendale and Fort Monroe.
Under the able generalship of the present illustrious Bishop of Richmond, who ranks not only as one of America’s greatest churchmen, but also as one of Virginia’s foremost citizens, and directed individually by his loyal lieutenants, the apostolic priests of the diocese, and the many religious working in conjunction with them, the true and tried Catholics of Virginia not without reason feel that, bright as have been their annals of the past, the brightest pages of Catholic Church history in Virginia remain yet to be written.