Indian and White
In the History of the Northwest
Part II, Chapter 21
By Holice and Pam
Extra special thanks to Holice B. Young for transcribing this book. The excellent work she does continues to help many researchers! Thanks also, to Pam Rietsch, for sharing her books with genealogists!
DIOCESAN SYNODS. A CLERICAL IMPOSTOR.
The first Diocesan Synod just alluded to in the preceding chapter convened June 24, 1884, under the presidency of the Ordinary and was attended by four Secular Priests and nine Jesuit Fathers, as follows:
Rt. Rev. John B. Brondel, bishop of Helena; Revs. Jos. M. Cattalo, S. J., Superior of the Jesuit Fathers in the Rocky Mountains; Peter Barcelo, S. J., Missionary among the Crows; Jos. Damini, S. J., Fort Benson; Jerome D'Aste, S. J., St. Mary's Mission; Remigius De Ryckere, Deer Lodge; John J. Dols, St. Patrick, Butte; Jos. Guidi, S. J., Cathedral; Camillus Imoda, S. J., Cathedral; E. W. J. Lindesmith, U. S. A. Chaplain, Fort Keogh; Jos. Menetrey, S. J., St. Xavier, Missoula; Lawrence B. Palladino, S. J., St. Ignatius Mission; L. S. Tremblay, S. T. L., Frenchtown.
The opening day, being the Feast of St. John Baptist, the Patron Saint of the bishop as well as that of the Diocese, was made the occasion for blessing and laying the cornerstone of the new St. John's Hospital.
The plans and specifications for the new structure were prepared gratuitously by William Sweeney, of Baltimore, Md., at the request of his brother, John M. Sweeney, an old-timer and much respected citizen of Helen whom we have mentioned several times in this narrative and who, not only after, passed away to his reward.
The original frame structure erected fourteen years before was moved aside sufficiently to make room for the new edifice. The annex used for their own quarters by the sisters was moved and joined to what had been first the insane asylum and later the first orphans home. Of the old land-marks the one remaining and still serviceable is the addition put up by sister Loretto.
Being veneered with brick it could be utilized in the plans and was let to form the rear part of the new structure.
The ceremony of blessing and laying the cornerstone was unusually impressive, thirteen of the clergy, the largest number of priests that had ever come together in Montana, being present and taking part in the function. Later in the day, at the dinner served in honor of the occasion by the Hospital Sisters, the clergy indulged in the pleasantry of toasting the rt. Rev. Bishop in twelve different languages, namely, Greek, Latin, English, Flemish, Italian, German, French, Blackfoot, Crow, Flat Head and Nez Perces.
Two other Synods have been held since and it will be well to refer to them here.
The second took place in June, 1887, its meetings or sessions being attended by seven of the secular clergy and six Jesuit Fathers. Like the first, it also was made the occasion for the blessing and laying of the cornerstone of a new edifice, the present St. Vincent's Academy, the ceremony being again conducted with unusual circumstances and solemnity. The institution from humble beginnings has grown to be, perhaps, the foremost of its kind in Montana.
In the same synod the Secular Clergy, following the lead of the Ordinary, petitioned the Father General of the Society of Jesus for the establishment of a College in Helena. Owing to circumstances unexceptionally favorable at the time the petition was granted.
The people of Helena, however, otherwise so far-sighted in everything calculated to advance the prestige, influence and prosperity of their city, failed for the moment to appreciate the opportunity. Attempts made to forward the project met with little encouragement and the College, first intended for Helena, has since been located in Spokane, where it had admittedly become an important factor in the growth of the "City of the Falls." However, it is with no little pleasure that Helena can, with pride, point today to Mr. St. Charles, a high-class Catholic Col
lege, which has recently been created in the capital city of Montana by the rt. Rev. J. P. Carroll, the successor of the late Bishop Brondel.
The third and last synod was celebrated four year later, that is, in June, 1891, nine secular and five Jesuit Fathers participating in its deliberations. By comparing one synod with the other it will be seen that the secular clergy of the Diocese were increasing though not very rapidly.
About the time of the events chronicled above, there came to Helena by way of Great falls an individual claiming to be on the Oblates M. I., who labor so zealously and so successfully on the missions across the British line. He was a middle-aged man, of medium height, partly clad as a cleric, but rather unrefined in both appearance and manners. In fact, his looks and ways led several into the suspicion that the man was really a Jew, but whether such or not, so far as we know, has not been clearly established. He spoke French fairly well, but poor and broken engirt, while his accent showed him unmistakably a German.
His coming had been announced to Bishop Brondel by a telegram from Great Falls, not received, however, until an hour or so after the man's arrival. The message had been singed presumably by one of the Bishops of British Columbia, but the signature was a forgery. The fellow had represented himself in that part of the country as the Superior of the Jesuit Fathers of Montana. He now represented himself as the Superior of the Oblates M. I., across the border. He called himself Father Lawrence, or Pere Laurent, in French. Bishop Brondel received his visitor rather coolly and not without some misgivings, at first, but thrown off his guard by the forger telegram, soon became much interested in the stranger and, in a way, fascinated by him and his innumerable stories, which bordered on the marvelous. According to his account he had been a personal and intimate friend of President Carnot, of France, and a favorite of Pius IX, had also for several years been a missionary in china, where he had suffered for the faith, to the point of being left for deed by his executioners. In confirmation of which he showed an ugly scar on his person.
The Bishop happened to be reading at this very time the life of Venerable--now Blessed--John Baptist Vianney, the Cure
d'Ars, which gave the shrewd fellow the chance of playing a trump card. He now began to speak of his long intimacy with the servant of God, declaring that he had lived with him a number of year so that he had come to be known as the Petit Cure d'Ars by the people, who would call him by no other name.
While his Lordship appeared to be wrapped up in his visitor and the man's tales, the writer and Father Follet could hardly bear the sight of the stranger and would absent themselves deliberately from his company. He spent some two weeks in the Bishop's House and said mass every morning, but a glance at his conduct whilst at the altar convinced the writer that the stranger had woefully forgotten his rubrics if, indeed, he had ever learnt them.
It was a Saturday, late in the evening, that his Lordship entered out room to chide us, good-naturedly, for our distant manner toward the guest. Charity covereth a multitude of sins and according to the teaching as well as the experience of St. Francis de Sales, it is no easy matter to combine virtuously the simplicity of the dove and the prudence of the serpent, as our Divine Saviour bids us do. Hence it is that good souls, of all others, are the most liable to be imposed upon by designing artful people. The reason is obvious. Of the two, namely, the risk of wounding charity by suspicion and distrust and that of being duped by frauds they dread the former far more than the latter, being as they always are solicitous not to sin, and caring little whether they suffer themselves. Thus their very goodness making the, as it does, more unsuspecting, renders them also much more liable to be imposed upon by cunning impostors.
We had caught the man in a couple of inconsistencies incompatible with straightforward and sincere conduct. We mentioned these to the Bishop, who was startled and hardly closed his eyes in sleep that night.
The guest had left the premises early in the morning to go to St. Helena's Church, where by previous arrangement he was to hold services and preach to the German congregation. The Bishop felt justified in examining the man's belongings and found in his valise several letter blanks, with the Episcopal coat-of-arms on the, which the stranger had hurriedly taken from the Bishop's study, where he had been left along no more than
one or two minutes. The bishop found there also one of the four parts of a breviary, which, however, did not corresponding to the season and which had written upon it the name of Father Dols. Bishop Brondel now hastened to the German church, intending to say Mass there himself, if he could do so without creating a scene that might cause scandal. It was too late, the man was already at the altar.
At dinner, during which not a single word was spoken, the stranger sat to the Bishop's left and surely he must have noticed the changed attitude of his host, though neither he nor Father Follet knew the reason. Immediately after dinner the Bishop followed the fellow upstairs and curtly, yet with becoming dignity and perfect self-control, ordered him out of the house. We could not but admire on this, as well as on the other occasion, Bishop Brondel's mastery over himself.
Notices were sent out to all the priests of the diocese to put them on their guard against the clerical fraud, who, notwithstanding, succeeded in deceiving a number of people not in Montana alone, but in Idaho, Washington and Oregon. In the meantime, as his past unsavory record became better known, it also came to light that he had been in jail one or more times.
One Sunday afternoon whilst our school children were assembled in the hall back of the church to rehearse for the closing exercises, a terrific storm broke out, one pearl of thunder after another, shaking us up rather unpleasantly. Suddenly there came a blinding flash accompanied by a deafening crash. The lightning had shattered the turret on the southeast corner of the building and a globe of fire somewhat smaller in size than a football, but perfectly spherical, blinding by its glare, was seen speeding along the angle of the structure beneath the shattered turret. It cut diagonally across the stage, where at the moment several of the pupils were standing, making its exit by one of the open windows on the west side. Thank God, no one was harmed. The young people as well as the Sisters who were with them and those who sat head the path of the bolt were shocked into momentary insensibility.
Here we shall leave for a while the local history of Helena and turnout attention to some of it dependencies. This we shall do in the next three chapters, in the last of which a brief reference will also be made to our cemeteries.
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