Chancellor Bismarck’s Loss and Missouri’s Gain
Fr. Phil Hoebing
It is impossible to understand and appreciate the influx of Franciscans into Missouri in the nineteenth century without looking briefly at St. Francis of Assisi, who founded his order in 1209. The early Franciscan preachers used stories to illustrate the religious points that they wanted to emphasize for their listeners. The Little Flowers of St. Francis, also known asThe Fioretti, is a collection of stories about St. Francis and his early followers. Franciscan scholars still discuss seriously the wonderful story of St. Francis and the Wolf of Gubbio. Was there really a Wolf of Gubbio, or is the story told to show St. Francis’ love of all nature? In the story, all Franciscans agree that St. Francis did call him “Brother Wolf.”
A Franciscan scholar, Roy Gasnick, summarized much about St. Francis in two brief paragraphs.
Though Francis was wealthy, he chose to become poor; though educated, he relished being a fool for God. With dramatic flair, he electrified Europe by saying “no” to power., “no” to money, “no” to any structures or policies that hurt his fellow human beings.
Francis was driven to do such “strange” things because God had marked him out for a unique role in the history of salvation. He was to cut away the tangled webs of the Dark Ages’ social structures, to restore the Gospel of Jesus as the foundation for faith and belief, and thus to rebuild the Church and the world.
Francis looked around him. Almost all of Europe had become Christian, though Christian in name only, The Muslim world was shut off ; the Far East not yet reached. Missionary work—-was all but dead.
Francis, on fire, became the first modern foreign missionary.
Jorgensen tries to simplify the very complex life of Francis in these words:
Praeco sum magni regis, “I am the great King’s herald.” Thus had Francis that April day in 1207, answered the robbers in the woods of Mount Subasio, and he had in that explanation given the war-cry and motto for all of his future life. (Jorgensen, p. 61)
Celano in his Life of St. Francis gives this description of Francis’ encounter with the robbers. This happened after Francis’ conversion in 1207:
He who once enjoyed wearing scarlet robes now traveled about half-clothed. Once while he was singing praises to the Lord in French in a certain forest, thieves suddenly attacked him. When they savagely demanded who he was, the man of God answered confidently and forcefully: “I am the herald of the great king. What is it to you? They beat him and threw him into a ditch filled with deep snow, saying: “Lie there, you stupid herald of God.” After they left, he rolled about to and fro, shook the snow off himself and jumped out of the ditch. Exhilarated with great joy, he began in a loud voice to make the woods resound with praises to the Creator of all. (Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, The Saint, Vol. I: p. 194. Pub. The Franciscan Institute, 1999.)
Felder (The Ideals of St. Francis), has these comments on St. Francis and his mission and how seriously he took Jesus’ words to His apostles: “Go into the whole world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation.”(Mark 15, 14)
(Year 1209) The brothers accepted with joy the commands of obedience; they set themselves at the feet of the Saint, eager to labor for the conversion of the world, and to go whithersoever he might wish to send them. Francis embraced each one and said: “Cast thy care upon the Lord. He will preserve thee.” The plan of the mission was quickly outlined: Francis drew on the ground the figure of the cross, with its arms pointing to the four quarters of the globe, and sent out the brothers in these directions. (Felder P. 304)
The first apostolic attempts appear in all respects similar to those of the apostles. The complete renunciation of all earthly things, their mission into all quarters of the world, the command to preach penance, the return of the disciples to their Master . ..The plan of Francis obviously tended to imitate the activity of the apostles in every respect. (Felder, P. 305)
The First Followers of Francis
It is by looking at Francis’ first followers that one also finds the enthusiasm and apostolic spirit of twentieth century Franciscans. They are also driven by the spirit and zeal of Francis of Assisi. We have only to look very briefly at the first four followers of St. Francis to appreciate the charism of St. Francis.
Brother Bernard of Quintavalle
In the Deeds of Blessed Francis and His Companions one finds this description of Bernard and how he and Francis opened the Missal after Mass to find guidance for Bernard:
The Lord Bernard of Assisi, who was one of the most noble, wealthy, and wise men of the city, to whose advice everyone consented, began to consider wisely Saint Francis’s profound contempt of the world and his great constancy and patience in tolerating insults, since for almost two years, tested and despised by all, he seemed to become ever more steadfast. He said to himself: “In no way can this Francis not have great grace from God.”
Inspired by God, he invited Francis to eat with him. Francis assented to this request and with him that very evening.
In the following morning Bernard and Francis went to the Bishop’s residence to hear Mass.
After Mass Francis and Bernard asked the priest to help them.
…The priest took the Missal and, preparing himself with the sign of the Cross, opened it in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. At this first opening came: “If you seek perfection, go sell all that you have, and give to the poor.”…
Lord Bernard immediately took all his goods, which were of very great value, and he joyfully gave them too the poor. With his lap full of money, he literally and generously distributed it to widows, orphans, pilgrims and servants of God, with St. Francis accompanying him and faithfully helping him in all those things. (Early Documents, Vol. III: The Deeds of Blessed Francis and His Companions, p 438)
Brother Peter Catani
Bernard, before he began to follow St. Francis, had consulted with Peter Catani about Francis and his activities in Assisi. The two wondered if the former lover of parties was really sincere in his giving his life to follow the Gospel. Peter was a kindred soul and was one of the canons in the cathedral church of San Rufino. He was a layman who, in his position of law-counsel, enjoyed one of its prebenships. (Jorgensen, pp 62-63) Historians do not report how wealthy Peter was or how he distributed his goods, but he was the second follower of the Poverello.
Sylvester was the third follower and his story is quite interesting. He was the first priest to become a follower of Francis and tried to take advantage of Bernard’s generosity.
But Lord Sylvester, when he saw all of this being dispersed, was led by greed and said to St. Francis: “You did not pay in full for some stones you bought from me for building churches.” St Francis, astonished at his greed, did not want to argue with him. But as a true observer of the Gospel, giving to all who ask, he put his hand into Lord Bernard’s purse, and put a handful into Lord Sylvester’s lap and said that if he wanted more he would give him more. But he left contented.
Later after Lord Sylvester returned home and was thinking that evening about what he had done that day, he regretted his greed and recalled Lord Bernard’s fervor and Saint Francis’ holiness. (Francis of Assisi, Early Documents, Vol. III, The Deeds of Blessed Francis and His Companions, p. 438)
For three nights he was touched by a vision in which he saw a golden cross that came forth from the mouth of St. Francis and reached to the Heaven, and its arms extended to the east and west.
Afterwards he became a lesser brother of such holiness and grace that he used to speak with God as friend with friend, as Saint Francis often experienced.
Peter and Bernard, being important men in Assisi, attracted much attention when they gave up everything to profess a life of poverty and to preach the Gospel. One young man in Assisi, who was very impressed, was Giles. He said goodbye to his family and went in search of Francis. When he found him in the woods he threw himself down and asked to be admitted to the new order.
“Dear Brother,” said Francis, raising him up, “it is a great favor that you have received today. If the Emperor, coming to Assisi to choose a knight or a chamberlain, had let his choice fall on you, you would feel proud, and rightly so. Well, it is God himself who invites you to His court, by calling you to serve Him in our own little band.” (Jorgensen, p. 66)
Francis frequently reminded his followers that they were the Knights of the Round Table, and that they had to practice the virtues of the knights, especially chivalry. Giles became known for his wit and for his ability to work. Many stories are still told today about Brother Giles. One story that frequently finds itself being repeated, even today, at a meeting of Franciscans, is the following. Readers should remember that St. Bonaventure (d. 1274) was the brilliant theologian from the University of Paris and that his writings are still read seriously today by scholars and theologians.
When Giles in his old age was placed before the General of the Order, St. Bonaventure, the first question he asked this learned man was the following: “Father, can we ignorant and unlearned men be saved?” “Certainly,” answered St. Bonaventure kindly. “Can one who is not book-learned love God as much as one who is?” asked the old Franciscan again. “An old woman is in a condition to love God more than a master in theology,” was Bonaventure’s answer. Then Giles stood up, went to the wall of his garden and called out to the wide world, “Hear this, all of you, an old woman who never learned anything and cannot read, can love God more than Brother Bonaventure.” (Jorgensen, p. 238)
Thomas Celano in his first life of St. Francis, describes how Francis acted when he had eight followers and how he sent them into the world to bring Christ to all.
“Go, my dear brothers,” he said to them, “two by two through different parts of the world, announcing peace to the people and penance for the remission of sins. “
Then Brother Bernard with brother Giles hastened on his way to Santiago. St. Francis with one companion chose another part of the world. The other four, two by two, went to other regions. (Early Documents: Vol. I: Celano, p. 207)
Francis was very popular as a leader, and many men, being impressed with his ideals and love of God, wanted to follow his way of life. The followers came from every profession, and there were knights, troubadours, businessmen, lawyers, and even robbers who joined St. Francis. The Little Flowers of St. Francis is a wonderful book that is loved by folklorists. It was written more than a hundred years after Francis’ death in 1236. The book tells the stories of Francis’ earliest followers and how they remembered incidents of Francis and his early companions. This collection contains many of the stories about Brother Juniper that have always been priceless.
We must first consider how the glorious Sir Saint Francis was conformed to the blessed Christ in all the acts of his life; as Christ at the beginning of His preaching chose twelve apostles to despise all worldly things, and to follow Him in poverty and in the other virtues; in the same way St. Francis chose at the beginning of the foundation of the Order twelve companions who possessed the highest poverty. . . .
And as those holy Apostles were admirable to the whole world for their holiness and humility , and full of the Holy Spirit, so these holy companions of Saint Francis were men of such holiness, that from the time of the Apostles the world did not have such admirable and holy men. (Early Documents, The Little Flowers of Saint Francis, p. 566)
In 1210, when Francis received permission from Pope Innocent III to found a new order in the Church, he and his followers immediately began to preach the Gospel, and many men chose to follow his new way of life. Already in 1211 and 1212 men were leaving their professions to become itinerant followers of the Poverello. There are many fascinating stories about how such conversions took place. One biographer repeats a story that was frequently told and retold in the early Order. This incident happened in Florence.
In the latter city a celebrated jurist joined himself to him, Johannens Parenti, a doctor of the University of Bologna and judge in Civita’ Castellana. Wadding, following Rudolphus, gives an anecdote about Parenti’s entrance into the Order. While on a walking tour he heard a swineherd driving his grunting hogs into the pen with the words, “Hurry up into the sty, pigs, as lawyers hurry to hell.” The old proverb, “Die Juristen sind boese Christen.” (Lawyers are poor Christians) seems to have been current in the thirteenth century. In any case Parenti gave up his office and became a Franciscan, at about the same time as another Bolognese lawyer, Nicolo dePepoli, took up with interest the Franciscan mission to Bologna. (Jorgensen, pp. 145-149)
There are many stories abound about the difficulties that some of the early followers had in trying to follow the life of St. Francis. In his wonderful human way he was able to have his followers love him deeply, even when they did not like what they had been asked to do. The following account was popular among the early Franciscans because many of his followers, having been lawyers, businessmen, knights and troubadours, were not accustomed to beg for their meals.
At Civitanova there was a certain friar of noble parentage named Michael who simply would not go out to beg because he was ashamed.
Now it happened that St. Francis came there, and he was told about that friar. The Saint scolded him very severely, and under holy obedience he commanded him to go alone, naked with only his breeches, to beg in a certain village that was about a mile away.
He humbly obeyed, and out of obedience went naked to beg, having set aside all shame. And he received enough bread and enough grain and other things, and he returned heavily burdened. And from that day he felt such joy and grace that as long as he lived he did not want to do anything but to go and beg. (Brown, Little Flowers, p. 315)
The First Mission to Germany
Jordan of Giano, an early historian of the order, tells of the mission to Germany in 1219.
In 1219 the tenth year after his conversion, at the Chapter held at Saint of Portiuncula, Francis sent his brethren into France, Germany, Hungary, Spain, and the remaining provinces of Italy to which they had not yet gone.
Frequently, in his desire to carry out God’s work, Francis was not too practical in considering all the problems that might face the missionaries. Hungary and Germany were exceptionally difficult countries to evangelize. Jordan of Giano has this interesting account of their problems.
When they went into that country (Germany), they were asked if they wanted some place to rest, or something to eat, or anything of this sort. Not knowing the language they answered “Ja,” and thus they were received by many persons. When they saw that with the word “Ja,” they were well treated, they decided that they should answer “Ja,” to any and all questions. (Jordan of Giano, pp. 243-247)
At that time, the heresy of the Albigensians was disturbing many parts of the Catholic world. The heresy rested on the belief that there were two Gods, one good and the other evil. One of the doctrines they taught was that matter was evil; and in theory they held that marriage could not be considered purely spiritual. Often the denial of the spirituality of marriage led to unbridled sensuality. Francis on many occasions challenged by his life and actions the teachings of the Albigensians.
Thus it happened that when asked if they were heretics and if they had come for the purpose of troubling Germany. Not understanding, they answered, “Ja.” Some were then imprisoned, and some were divested, brought to the carnival, and were made a laughingstock of the people. The Friars then saw that they could not bring forth fruit in Germany and then returned to Italy. For that reason they considered Germany to be so cruel that they did not dare to return there unless by the desire for martyrdom. (Jordan of Giano, pp. 243-247)
The Friars Return to Germany
The famous Chapter of Mats was held in 1221 and was attended by 5,000 Friars. Francis who had given the leadership of his order to Brother Elias was present at the meeting, but he was very weak. Jordan described the meeting.
At the end, that is, when this chapter was to be closed, Saint Francis recalled that the Order had not yet been built up in Germany. Since he was weak at the time, Elias spoke whatever he had to say to the chapter. Saint Francis, sitting at the feet of Elias, drew him by the tunic. Elias bowed down to him and took heed of what he wished, and rising, said: “My confreres, thus says our Brother,” indicating Saint Francis, who was called the Brother par excellence by the Friars, “there is a certain region called Germany, in which there are devout men. As you know, they often pass through our land in the sweat of the sun with long staffs and great leggings to visit the tombs of the saints, while singing praises to God and His holy ones.
St. Francis admitted that the first Friars who were sent to them had been treated badly, but he asked for volunteers to go to Germany. He encouraged them in this way.
Our Brother requires no one to go to them. However, he wills to give the same obedience, indeed a fuller obedience, to those who want to go, inspired with zeal for souls, than he would give to those going across the sea. (Jordan of Giano, pp. 243-247)
About ninety of the Friars stepped aside to volunteer and of that number twelve priests and thirteen lay brothers became missionaries to Germany. That was the beginning of the Province of Saxony that was founded in 1230 in Saxony. This was the province from which the Franciscans would come to the United States in 1858.
Bishop Junker, Fr. Brickwedde and Fr. Gregory Jangknecht
When Bishop Juncker was appointed Bishop of the diocese of Alton, Illinois in 1857, he desperately needed priests for his new diocese. Fr. Brickwedde had come to Illinois from Germany and agreed to help Bishop Juncker recruit German priests for his new diocese. They knocked on the door of the Provincial of the Franciscan Province in Paderborn in 1858. Fr. Gregory Jangknecht was the provincial, and was having a very difficult time with the political situation in Germany. He only had 125 Friars left in his province and 6 convents. Yet when Bishop Juncker asked this man of vision for missionaries, he was most willing to help, and admitted that he himself had wished to be a missionary when he became a member of the Franciscan Order.
Habig in “Heralds of the King” describes Fr. Gregory in this way:
His election as provincial occurred when he was not yet twenty-six years old. This fact alone indicates that he was a most extraordinary young man, a friar and priest of great ability as well as mature spirituality, and a true disciple of the Poverello, who was able to accomplish great things because he relied completely on Divine Providence while he had a very humble opinion of himself.
Bishop Juncker was surprised when the young provincial readily agreed to establish a friary which would serve as a center for missionary work. — Fr. Gregory himself had wished to become missionary but he had to assume the burdens of a office before the opportunity came. (Habig, p. 27)
Bishop Juncker was very happy to get two friars from Paderborn, knowing that the German province was having serious problems just staying in existence. Fr. Francis Jerome Gray, O.F.M., historian of the Sacred Heart Province, had some interesting comments to make of this visit.
Luckily for Illinois and Missouri, Bishop Juncker had brought with him Fr. August Brickwedde, the pastor of St. Libory, Illinois. He had formerly been pastor of St. Boniface in Quincy, Illinois. Fr. Brickwedde was a great storyteller and entertained those Paderborn Franciscans with stories of life in America. While Bishop Juncker was with Fr. Gregory who promised two priests for America, Fr. Brickwedde created so much enthusiasm about the new world, that nine Franciscan would come to Teutopolis in 1858. Fr. Brickwedde had charmed those German friars with an idyllic vision of what life could be like for the Christian missionary in America. Here was the Garden of Eden, freedom to preach the Gospel without government control (remember that Bismarck was tightening his fist around the religious orders in Germany), souls could be saved, the faith of German immigrants could be preserved, the Order planted in America, and Indians to be ministered to. The Franciscans have always been pilgrims and itinerants, willing to explore new worlds, and Fr. Brickwedde’s stories stirred up much enthusiasm in that community. Roaming fever took over the province and even the Provincial, Fr. Gregory himself, wanted to come. He did visit the friars in America and he spent much time in Hermann, Missouri. He even considered retiring in Hermann. (Personal Interview) (Also Habig, pp. 26-28))
Bismarck, The Iron Chancellor (1815-1898)
The Franciscans went from 80,000 to 8,000 members in the nineteenth century. The decrease in number was due in part to the pressures that Bismarck and Napoleon put on religious orders. These leaders of their countries wanted to get rid of the Friars and other religious who had dared to challenge the authority of the state.
Rev. Francis Jerome Gray, PhD, historian of the Sacred Heart Province had these comments to make to make about Bismarck.
The Kulturkampf (1873) was Bismarck’s war on the Catholic Church in Germany. The Jesuits were expelled on July 4, 1872 and other religious orders followed the following year. In 1873 the “May Laws” or “Falk Laws” were passed for the purpose of making the Catholic Church in Germany subservient to the secular government. While they did not succeed in accomplishing this, they inaugurated an intense persecution of the Church on the one hand, and on the other strengthened the opposing Center Party which was headed by the Franciscan Tertiary, Dr. Ludwig Windhorst. …The climax came on May 31, 1875, when all convents were closed and all religious were banned.
Franciscans from Fr. Gregory’s province went to Holland or Austria . ..Twelve years later in 1887 Bismarck allowed the Friars to come home, but only twenty-five percent did. So Bismarck, ever willing to shift his politics when the occasion arose, blamed the whole episode on Dr. Falk and his like. Bismarck hated the “Red International” Socialism more than the “Black International” Catholicism. The Catholic Center Party was willing to support him in parliament if he gave up his persecution of the church. A deal was struck. (Gray, Vol. 8 p.11)
The Friars in Germany were no doubt very proud of Dr. Ludwig Windhorst, a Franciscan Tertiary (member of St. Francis’ Third Order) who was the head of the Center Party. He took on the difficult job of solving some of the difficulties that were caused by Bismarck.
At the height of the struggle, the Center Party was fortunate in finding a leader who could steer it through these difficult times. Ludwig Windhorst (1812-1891), author of a speech delivered below, was a devout Catholic, experienced politician, and one of the authentic heroes of the era, a man of keen intelligence and solid judgment. He was also one of the few politicians who relished doing battle with Bismarck. As the following speech demonstrates, it was not so much Windhorst’s eloquence as his ever ready wit and stinging repartee that made him a force to contend with in debate.
Wikipedia (the online encyclopedia) describes some of Bismarck’s laws against religious communities. In 1871 the German Criminal Code threatened clergy discussing politics in the pulpit with two years in jail. This article was called: “The Kanzelaragraph” (from the German Kanzel “lectern”, pulpit). Bismarck also began to monitor the education of the clergy, and required notification of all clergy employment. The biggest move of Bismarck was to make marriage an obligatory civil ceremony and to remove it from the control of the church.
Heather Stratton, in her article, “Bismarck’s Failure: the Kulturkampf” gives some of the underlying reasons for Bismarck’s hatred of the Catholic Church. He wanted to make Germany the greatest power in Europe, and he viewed the Catholic Church as an obstacle to a united Germany. His views are summarized in her brief paragraph:
Kulturkampf means “a struggle for control of the minds of the Germans” or as most have translated, “the battle of civilizations.” The “battle” referred to the one between Bismarck and Catholics beginning as early as 1864 when Pope Pius IX issued the Syllabus Errorum or Catalogue of the Principal Errors of Our Time. The pope in this papal statement condemned the practices of modern actions as civil marriage and civil education. The Church states that only marriage inside the Roman Catholic Church was legal and that education should also be in the hands of the Church…Even greater was the doctrine of Vatican I on papal infallibility. Soon people feared that the Church would go one step further and declare the pope infallible on all matters and try to establish a Holy Roman Empire again.
Gray, a former professor of history at Quincy University, had researched, as much as possible, Fr. Gregory’s ingenuity in combating Bismarck’s regulations. Quincy University has a very unique and valuable library because of the creativity of that German Franciscan.
We will never know why Fr. Gregory resolved to send the books of the friars to America when they might just as well have gone to the houses in Holland. Perhaps he wanted to save them from the clutches of the state then, and in the future. The friars were forbidden to remove anything of value; yet they were able to smuggle out 3,500 books and 45 incunabula (books published before 1500). Gray, Provincial Newsletter, Vol. 8)
In a private discussion, Gray believed that Fr. Gregory saw what Bismarck was doing and moved the books out of Germany before Bismarck could take them. Gray believed that Bismarck was confiscating libraries from religious houses, and then selling the books to support his armies. The Friars seem to have taken books to Austria, Belgium and Holland by hiding them in hay wagons and other vehicles and hauled them to these countries. These books were later sent with the Friars when they came to the United States.
These volumes were originally placed in the houses of study, but later became scattered about in the Sacred Heart Province. On February 2, 1932, the Provincial ordered these books to be sent to St. Louis where they were placed in a fireproof closet on the top floor of the newly constructed St. Anthony Friary in St. Louis. They remained there until the opening of the new library at Quincy University on April 5, 1967. Shortly thereafter, the province deposited these treasures in the temperature-controlled “Rare Book Room.” To step into that room is a step into a clerical library of the 15th to the 18th centuries. (Gray, Vol 8, p. 11)
There were nine Franciscans who came to America in 1858 and their trip was filled with experiences that are narrated by Habig.
9 Franciscans came to America in 1858. A carpenter, a tailor, a cook and baker, sacristan and shoemaker, 3 priests and a tertiary brother who handled money. They wore their habits on the boat but changed to secular clothes when they arrived in New York . .Neither the bishop nor Fr. Gregory had the money to travel so the Franciscans went to the Austrian Leopodine Association which had been aiding the struggling Church in America. The Association gave them 1,500 florins—-the equivalent of $723.00. The cost for each friar was $80.00. They left on August 27, 1858. (Habig, pp. 29-30)
It should be noted in the above account that a layman handled the money. In the Rule of St. Francis there were two things that would cause difficulty in the United States. One rule stated that Franciscans could not handle money, and the other rule that Franciscans could not ride horses. St. Francis was so committed to poverty for his followers that he did not want his followers to even touch money. Riding of horses was also forbidden because only the wealthy, in his day, rode horses. The Friars in the United States quickly saw the need for dispensations from these two aspects of the Franciscan Rule. Old timers among the Franciscans could still remember how the first pastors counted the collections from the Sunday Masses. They had a long sick with a small board attached to it. With this tool they could push the money around on the table and count it without actually touching it. These were no longer seen in Franciscan parishes after 1900.
St. Louis in 1862
Although the Friars were working in the Alton Diocese in Illinois in 1858, by the year 1862 they were already assisting irregularly at St. Libory’s Parish in St. Louis. Gray seems to think that Bishop Juncker, since he brought the Friars to Illinois, thought he had some control over them and suggested that they stay in his diocese. It was already in 1862 that the friary, church, parish, and school of St. Anthony’s in St. Louis, Missouri were founded. Fr. Servace Altmix, the first pastor, was a man of great talent and energy. The Franciscans had been hesitant about accepting a friary in St. Louis, when the bishop first offered them a parish. They had insisted on wearing their Franciscan habits on the street, and this practice seemed to have been opposed by some in the St. Louis Chancery office. Fr. Servace Altmix was the first president of Quincy University in 1860, and the first pastor on St. Francis Parish in Quincy. Habig gives an interesting account of some letters from Fr. Servace.
Three interesting letters written by Fr. Servace from St. Louis on December 22 and 22, 1862 and January 14, 1863, were found in 1910 in the boiler room of St. Anthony’s Friary and Church and fortunately saved for the archives of the province. They relate Fr. Servace’s experiences in St. Louis in December, 1862, and January, 1863, and the preliminary steps which were taken in the founding of St. Anthony Friary and Parish. He conferred with Messrs. Withnell, Mauntel, Bunte and Backer in Stringtown, and found them to be men who were motivated by “pure and religious motives”; he visited the archbishop, who was pleased with the fact that Father Servace wore the Franciscan habit wherever he went in the city, and advised him to accept the property offered by Mr. Withnell rather than that offered by Mr. Mauntel, and he called also on the vicar general and several of the pastors. He was at the rectory of Saints Peter and Paul Parish when a man came to take a priest to some smallpox patients who were in the hospital on an island in the Mississippi near the Workhouse. With typical intrepidity, Father Servace offered to go, and administered to two boys, 13 and 14, who had asked for a priest. One of them he baptized and to the other he gave the last sacraments. (Habig, 131)
The Friary of St. Anthony (3140 Meramec St.) was built in February, 1863. In 1869 the Archbishop gave valuable books for the library to Fr. Servace, and the Friary, within a short time, became a school of studies for Franciscan students of theology.
The Missouri Missions
Between 1858 and 1876 there were 206 Franciscans who came to the United States from Germany. These Friars were asked to come to many midwestern states to minister to German Catholics. After locating in St. Louis they were asked to help in many cities, towns and rural parishes in Missouri. No one quite knows exactly how many parishes and institutions were served by the German Franciscans. It would seem from records in the Archives of the Sacred Heart Province, the Friars had ministered in more than 109 parishes, hospitals, schools, Sisters’ Convents and mission churches.
At the time of the Franciscans’ arrival, the southern limit of St. Louis was Keokuk Street. Stringtown, Maryville, and Carondelet lay south of St. Louis and were not added to the city until 1870. In Stringtown there was a Workhouse or jail. The Friars became regular chaplains in 1879 and their residence was at St. Anthony’s on Meramec Street.
In Missouri nine Friaries were established and eventually, for one reason or another, a number of those were given up. At one time there were Friaries in Wien, Chillicothe, Rhineland, Kansas City, St. Louis, Hermann, Washington, Koch and Eureka. Each of these centers had mission churches and parishes that were served by the Friars.
St. Anthony Church, 3140 Meramec Street, a Landmark in St. Louis
Until 1880, the Friars also had charge of the parishes of Creve Coeur and Kimmswick and they helped out regularly at Holy Trinity and St. Liborius’ parishes—In many other Missouri parishes they assisted on Sunday. The Polish Parish, St. Stanislaus, was also founded and administered by Friars for five years. This section of St. Louis was known as Kelly’s Patch.
St. George Friary and Parish in Hermann, Missouri
The Friary was established in 1875 when Archbishop Kendrick entrusted this parish to the care of the Franciscans. Seven other churches were attended from Hermann. churches at Chamois, Rhineland (now Starkenberg), Hancock Prairie, Little Berger, Berger, Morrison, and Case were missions of the Friars at Hermann.
Building of St. George Church
There were a number of Brothers who helped in the building of the church. The history of this church shows ingenuity of the Friars. Br. Bruno’s talent reminds us of the work of Brother Adrian Wewer who came from Germany as a carpenter, and became the Franciscan architect who built more than one hundred churches in the United States. Besides the churches he also built friaries, hospitals and schools. The Franciscan Brothers contributed so much to the development of parishes, as we can see from their work on St. George’s of Hermann, Missouri. They showed themselves to be excellent craftsmen who were able to build, carve, paint and do many things for schools, hospitals, and churches.
During the pastorate of Father Ambrose Janssen, 1886-1899—-a second story added to the friary, the church was remodeled, and a brick church tower was built by Franciscan brothers, especially Brother Bruno. This brother was a shoemaker . ..Brother Adrian Wewer drew some plans, and Brother Bruno adapted them to give the interior of the church a Gothic appearance. The interior walls, partly of brick and partly of stone, were plastered with cement.
Brother Bruno went to the farms of the parishioners, selected some white walnut trees, supervised their cutting, and hauled them home. From this material he carved a very ornate high altar, communion rail, confessional, and crib; he also did the gold-leaf work and the varnishing. Brother Hugolinus carved the two side altars; and Brother Louis decorated the interior of the church. The tower, built by Brother Bruno, still stands today; it is 110 feet high. From some odds and ends scattered abut on the church property, Brother Bruno made a good tower clock which kept accurate time for many years.
Between 1913 and 1921 a new friary, church, and school were built. The plans were made by Brother Leonard Darscheid and the new church incorporated Brother Bruno’s tower. (Habig, p. 255)
Today people driving into Hermann are still impressed by the high tower and church standing on the top of the hill.
St. Mary of the Angels Friary and Parish, Wien
A friary was founded in Wien, Missouri, in 1876. The church was not completed until 1892. Only two Friars lived at Wien, but they were quite active because they visited numerous mission stations in Chariton, Macon and Shelby counties. These trips to these settlement were made on horseback. The names of the places that the Friars visited are: Hagers Grove, New Cambria (formerly Stockton), Lingo (previously Peabody), Hurricane Branch or Hickory Branch, Kelly’s Settlement (later Hamden), and Newhall. Later some of these missions were attended by Friars from Chillicothe.
St. Columban’s Friary and Parish in Chillicothe
In 1878 the friary at Chillicothe was opened in the diocese of St. Joseph at Chillicothe. By the end of the following year a new church and friary had been built. A new school was also built and the teachers were supplied by the Sisters who had an academy in Chillicothe since 1870. The parish grew rapidly and a new friary was built in 1893 and the church was enlarged. Bishop Burke blessed the beautiful new church in 1894.
The Franciscans were disappointed when the Bishop divided St. Columban’s parish and began St. Joseph parish on the southern side of Chillicothe. They did not think a second parish was necessary, and it rendered the debt on the enlarged St. Columban’s Church so much more burdensome for the remaining people in St. Columban’s Church. In 1914 the Friars surrendered to the diocese the friaries and parishes in Chillicothe and Wien. They also left the diocese with the stations they had served from those two Friaries. During the thirty-seven years that the Franciscans were at Chillicothe, they attended no less than fifteen mission stations in eight counties in northwestern Missouri. Some of the following places no doubt no longer exist: Utica, Springhill, Cunningham or French Settlement, Hogan Settlement or Leopolis, Nettletop, Braymer, Breckenridge, Sumner, Brunswick, Indian Grove, Gallatin, Laredo, Meadville, Milan, and Unionville. Altogether the Franciscans had 21 churches or missions that they served from the Wien and Chillicothe Friaries.
The Basilica of the Benedictine Abbey at Conception was designed and built by Brother Adrian Wewer. Abbot Frowin of Conception, was searching for an architect to build the Basilica. How he met Brother Adrian is a guess, but since Brother Adrian built St. Columban’s at Chillicothe it is quite possible that the Abbot and the Franciscan architect met there.
The St. Louis Province separated from the German Province (Province of the Holy Cross) on July 2, 1879. It became known as the Sacred Heart Province and its headquarters were at 3140 Meramec Street.
People who Made a Difference
There are many people who would not have accomplished wonderful things for the Church and the community, if the Franciscans had not come to the United States in the 19thcentury. Fr. Augustine Tolton (1854-1897) is a name that is known to many, and the brief statement from The St. Joseph Advocate in October, 1886 summarizes his importance to America and to the Catholic Church.
“First men are necessarily historic men, most particularly in religion and race. And so we have in our midst today a colored priest, a native American, once a slave, one of ante-bellum “four millions” said to be incapable of education, moral habits, etc. It is upon this assumption their degradation is boldly justified.
Father Tolton is the genuine article, a typical Africo-American. His photograph shows the vivid and striking likeness of a solid man, true as steel, without a shadow of pretension, well up in his sacred duties, able to preach and converse in more than one language, humble as a child, boasting of his African blood and aglow with devotion and love for his race. As he passes through the streets of Quincy, men raise their hats to him and the priests at table give him the place of honor.” (St. Joseph Advocate, October, 1996)
The escape of the Toltons from slavery has many unexplained details. How could this lady with her three children walk from Brush Creek, Missouri to Hannibal and then to Quincy, Illinois? Quincy became their home and Augustine was able to go to school at St. Peter’s School. Fr. Peter McGirr was very helpful and suggested that Gus might consider the priesthood, probably not realizing the problems that could create in a post-Civil War Society.
Augustus was taken under the wing by a number of clergymen, who tutored him privately. In turn, Tolton worked with several local priests (e.g. Fr. Michael Richardt, O.F.M.) In providing for the spiritual needs of Quincy’s Black Catholics). Augustus’ education received a major boost when he was permitted to enter St. Francis College, the forerunner of Quincy University. Tolton showed promise as a potential candidate for the priesthood, but efforts by local priests to place him in U.S. seminaries proved futile because of his race.
Fr. Michael Richardt, O.F.M., was most effective in finding a seminary for the young Tolton. Showing signs of a vocation to the priesthood, the well-behaved and bright boy, who had to work in order to support the family, received special instructions from members of the diocesan clergy and the Franciscans, Fathers Francis Albers and Engelbert Gey. Through the Franciscan Father General, Father Michael Richardt then obtained Tolton’s admission to the College of Propaganda in Rome in March, 1880. (Habig, p. 271)
Fr. Servace Altmicks, O.F.M.
Fr. Servace, at 29 years of age, was among the first Franciscans to come to the United States in 1858. He made a big effort to learn English as quickly as possible. He tested a little of his English on an Irish lady in New York, and was so happy when she responded positively. He also gave her a religious medal which he blessed for her. He wrote that the American people were very friendly to those Franciscans getting off the boat in New York.
Fr. Servace was a brilliant and active Franciscan and became the first pastor and college president in Quincy.
A member of the first group of pioneers who came from Germany in 1858. He was the founder of Friary, Parish, and College in Quincy in 1859. The patron saint for the new parish was St Francis Solano, (1549-1810). He was born in Spain and went to South America in 1589. He was called “Taumaturgus” (Wonder Worker) of the New World. He spend his the rest of his life as a missionary, traveling throughout South America, but especially around Lima, working with the natives and Spanish colonists. He was reputed to have converted 9,000 natives during a single sermon. Learned many native languages and dialects quickly, and it is said that he preached to tribes of different tongues in one language and was understood by all. He could play the lute, and was known to play and sing before the altar. He was also a noted healer.
Undoubtedly Fr. Servace was instrumental in naming St. Francis Solano the patron of the new institutions in Quincy. Perhaps he recognized the need for a model and ideal for the Friars who were struggling with many difficulties, among which was the difficulty of the English language. Francis Gray, Provincial historian, had some interesting observations to make about the talented Fr. Servace:
Fr. Servace Altmicks – founder – president – pastor – superior – best teacher – was an imprudent man. He believed in being “A fool for Christ’s sake. He let the bishop and Fr. Schaefermeyer (pastor of St. Boniface) know that the friars were not at their beck and call: He did not consider the English of the other friars good enough to allow them to preach elsewhere. He was repeatedly admonished not to wear his robe everywhere – advice he ignored. The last straw was his sermon – delivered at high Mass in St. Boniface with Fr. Schaefermeyer presiding. He told the women – who had so generously supplied the friars’ needs that they were a bunch of gossips. His provincial had to find some place for him outside of the diocese of Alton. So on December 20, 1862 he was sent to St. Louis to establish the parish of St. Anthony. (Gray, History of Province)
Fr. Servace became very important for the St. Louis parish and had good relationships with the pastors of other parishes in the city.
Fr. Francis Borgia Steck, O.F.M. (D. 1962)
One of the St. Louis missionaries, Fr. Englehardt, went to California and published books on the Franciscan Missions both in Arizona and California. He asked for assistance from Fr. Francis Borgia Steck who was teaching at Quincy College at that time. Francis Borgia Steck was a prolific and distinguished author. When he returned to Quincy College he became interested in the historical problems of the Joliet-Marquette trip of exploration on the Mississippi River in 1673. He then chose this subject for the topic of his doctoral dissertation at Catholic University in 1923. The book was published by the Catholic University Press in 1927. Fr. Francis Steck taught at Catholic University from 1933 to 1947. Besides his work on the Joliet-Marquette Expedition, he also wrote many articles, booklets, and books on Spanish Dominion in Mexico. (Habig, pp. 485-486)
Fr. Michael Richardt.O.F.M. (Provincial Minister, 1891-1897)
Fr. Michael Richardt was influential in having Augustine Tolton accepted to the Propaganda Seminary in Rome. Gus Tolton was a former slave and could not find a seminary that would accept him for studies for the priesthood. Through the request of the Minister General of the Franciscans in Rome, the Cardinal at the Propaganda College, accepted the young man. Fr. Richardt later became Minister Provincial of the St. Louis Franciscans with its headquarters at St. Anthony’s.
Brother Adrian Wewer, O.S.F. (1836-1914)
Brother Adrian was the principal architect for the Franciscan Province of St. Louis (later called The St. Louis-Chicago Sacred Heart Province) which has its headquarters at St. Anthony’s at 3140 Meramec Street, St. Louis. Brother Adrian worked out of St. Anthony’s for most of his life as he built schools, friaries, hospitals, churches and other buildings. He came to St. Louis in 1865 and began work on the new St. Anthony Church. It is believed that he built more than one hundred churches from the East Coast to the West Coast. Franciscans are convinced that he, being such a humble and unassuming person, was involved in the building of other churches that are not credited to him. Even though Brother Adrian was to travel widely in the United States to construct many buidings durng his fifty years as architect, he always remained a resident of St. Anthony Friary on Meramec St .
(Article by James A. Harmon, Division of Fine Arts at Truman State University, Kirksville, MO.)
The Goette Brothers
It was only a few years after its establishment as a province (1879) that the Sacred Heart Province began to send missionaries to distant China. There were three Goette brothers, Fr. Remi, Fr. Athanasius and Fr. John Capistran, who were the first missionaries to China. Fr. Remi was the first American priest from the United States to go to China and worked there for forty years. His brother, Fr. Athanasius became the first American bishop from the United States and labored for twenty years in the missions before his death. The third brother Fr. John Capistran also spent thirty five years in China. He almost died from a beating by a group of fanatic pagans but lived until 1919.
After some years, in 1922 the district of Wuchang, Hupeh, was made the common mission field of the four American Franciscan provinces. In 1924, The St. Louis Province received a Chinese mission field in northern Shantung. There were many Friars who went to China and many who interested in volunteering for this China ministry.
December 7, 1941
Everything was going well for the missionaries until December 8, 1941. That was the day when the Japanese began the war with the United States. Early that day the Japanese came in force to the various American mission centers and announced that the two countries were now at war. There were arrests and searching of buildings and continual harassment of the Americans by the Japanese soldiers. The Americans were not allowed to travel except with a special pass issued by the Japanese and this pass was not easily obtained. The Friars heard rumors that the Japanese were planning a concentration camp outside the town of Weihsien on the railroad about sixty miles east of Chowtsun. This happened on March 23, 1943 when all the American missionaries were put into this camp. The prison compound was actually the American Baptist Mission of Weihsien and comprised of twenty acres of land with many buildings. There was a large ballfield, volley ball court, and tennis courts.
A wonderful story that is almost forgotten involves the missionaries and their baseball team. Fr. Mike Rooney, O.F.M. of the New York Province told the story many times when he met a Franciscan from the St. Louis Province. Fr. Wendelin Kleine was one of the missionaries who was imprisoned by the Japanese after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. Fr. Wendelin was a very quiet man, and very unassuming. He never liked to talk about his experiences as a missionary or of his experiences as a prisoner in the concentration camp. However, there was wonderful Franciscan storyteller from the New York Province. He would love to tell the baseball story whenever he found a Franciscan from the St. Louis-Chicago Province. Since Fr. Wendelin would never discuss the baseball game Fr. Mike Rooney kept the story alive. He would begin by talking about Fr. Wendelin.
Did you know Fr. Wendelin Kleine? Well, that guy could have played baseball with any major league team in the U.S . He was a little guy but, man, could he pitch. Well, we used that ball diamond in the prison camp, and played baseball for our exercise and recreation. Now most of the missionaries were not much when it came to playing baseball. They had played ball in the seminary and that was all. Now there was two of us who could play. There was Wendelin who could pitch, and myself who could catch and hit. I could have gone to the major leagues myself, but chose to become a Franciscan instead, applying to be a member the New York Province—and then I became a missionary to China. Well, anyway we guys played baseball, and were watched very carefully by the Japanese soldiers. I guess they thought, after a while, that they could beat those old priests. They challenged us to a game. Well, we had Wendelin to pitch, me to catch, and Pauli in center field. You know him . . Pauli Grosskoph . .St. Louis Province. Well, Pauli could really catch fly balls. I think we had a Jesuit and a Maryknoll who could catch a ground ball. This game created quite a lot of interest. There were about 1,700 Americans in the camp. We had about 350 priests and brothers, and 150 missionary sisters in the camp, but many of the men were no good at baseball—–even in the seminary.
I’ll never forget that game. Wendelin was perfect. Hardly any Japanese player got a hit. Pauli corralled a few fly balls. I hit a home run and couple of doubles. Some guys got on base by walks and we had a few hits. We managed to get somebody on base, and I drove them in. We beat the Japanese 2-0. They were upset about getting beat by an bunch of old Catholic Missionaries. They really lost face.
The history of the St. Louis-Chicago Province is very rich with many outstanding men over the one hundred and fifty years it has existed. As Fr. Brickwedde told those Franciscans in Paderborn, the United States would be a place of opportunity. The Native Americans were not ignored by the German Franciscans. In 1879. Fr. Servace Altmicks volunteered to Superior and Bayfield, Wisconsin to bring the Christian message to the Chippewas, Menomenee, and Ottawa nations. Being gifted in languages, he learned the Chippewa and Menominee languages and was very proud when he could read his first sermon in the Menominee language. One wonders if he chose St. Francis Solano as the patron of Quincy and other churches because he was a missionary who learned the languages of the natives in Peru. (Habig, The Indian Missions, pp 197 and following)
The nineteenth century Franciscans could not predict or foresee the problems that were going to be created by the Civil War.
Fr. Francis Gray, the provincial historian, had some critical remarks to make about some of the Quincy residents who were Republican.
The Quincy area — surrounded on three sides by the slave state of Missouri –was engulfed by the Civil War in 1861. The city was deeply divided by its sympathies. The rich landlords- – founders of the city – – were Republicans of New England origin; the professional class came from the border states.
The Civil War was a disaster for the college. Fr. Servace Altmicks, Fr. Maurice Klostermann, and Fr. Bernadine Hermann were trying to conduct class in an impossible situation: there was an army camp across from the school, the streets were full of convalescent soldiers transported by steamboat from the southern battlefields; Quincy was the staging area for the Missouri campaigns; high wages were offered to willing boys; it was hard to keep one’s mind on Homer and Virgil with bugles sounding in one’s ears.
In 1862, it seemed the North would lose. There were no longer enough volunteers – – men would have to be drafted for the slaughter. The clergy were neither deferred nor exempt. (Gray)
Gray writes that some universities had found friends in high places in the Republican Party and were spared while the friars had no one to take up their cause.
On January 23, 1863. The Quincy Whig Republican denounced Fr. Ferdinand and Fr. Maurice as draft dodgers. The charge was unjust. They were not American citizens: they had not applied for citizenship: nor resided here five years. Fr. Ferdinand was not moved, but the gentle “papa” Maurice age forty-two was quietly transferred to Teutopolis,Illinois.
Friars speculate what might have happened, if Fr. Maurice could have remained in Quincy. Gray claims that Fr. Maurice came from a family of educators in Germany. He himself had been a teacher in Germany before he became a Franciscan, and was very competent in planning the new college.
The Friars did work out their problems, and called on their rich traditions to solve those difficult situations. They exemplified the values and ideals of their founder, St. Francis. Those friars were truly “Heralds of the Great King.”
Early Franciscan Classics, Translated by the Friars Minor of the Franciscan Province of Saint
Barbara, Saint Anthony Guild Press, Paterson, New Jersey 1962. The Chronicle of Jordan of Giano.
Saint Francis of Assisi, A Biography, by Johannes Jorgensen, translated by T. O’Connor, PhD, LL.D. Longmans, Green and Co., New York, London, Toronto, 1925.
St. Francis, A Biography, by Omer Englebert, trans. Eve Marie Cooper, Servant Books, Ann Arbor, Michigan, Franciscan Herald Press, 1979.
The Little Flowers of St. Francis (Fioretti), translated by Raphael Brown, Image Books, pub. Image Books, 1958.
The Ideals of St. Francis of Assisi, by Hilarin Felder, O.M. Cap., trans. Berchmans Bittle, O.F .M. Cap. Benziger Brothers, New York, Cincinnati, Chicago. 1925.
Heralds of the King, The Franciscans of the St. Louis-Chicago Province, by Marion Habig, The Franciscan Herald Press, Chicago 9, Illinois. 1958.
Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, The Saint, Vol. I, Pub. New City Press, New York, Franciscan Institute of St. Bonaventure University, St. Bonaventure , NY. 1999.
Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, The Prophet, Vol. III, Pub New City Press, New York . Franciscan Institute of St. Bonaventure University, St. Bonaventure, NY. 2001.
Roy Gasnick, O.F.M.:
James A. Harmon, Br. Adrian Wewer, O.S.F. (1836-1914)
Phil Hoebing, “Build My Church.”
Francis J. Gray, O.F.M., PhD. History of the Province, Friar Enquirer, Newsletter of the Sacred Heart Province of Franciscans, Vol. 8, November and Vol. 8, December, (1992) and Vol. 9, April (1993)