Fr. Butler's "State of Kansas and Irish Immigration," Page 29, continued:

     In 1864, the Catholic population of Leavenworth was nearly 4000. The good Bishop was obliged, for the fourth time, to turn his attention to the erection of a church capable of accommodating this large number of Catholics.
     Full of gratitude to Almighty God, and trusting in the generosity of the people, Bishop Miege resolved to build a great cathedral worthy of the flourishing premier city of Kansas. He erected an "episcopal residence," of large dimensions, of stone and brick, which is an architectural ornament to the locality in which it is situated.
     After years of trial, and many privations, the zealous Bishop bade adieu to the old frame house, where he had dwelt since his first arrival in Leavenworth, and with two priests to assist in the spiritual labours in the city, moved into the new episcopal residence. Meanwhile, the work of erecting the cathedral went on rapidly, and when I arrived here, in 1867, the immense structure was about being "roofed in." On the 8th day of Decem-


ber, in the following year, the great cathedral was solemnly consecrated, and dedicated to the worship of the Almighty, under the invocation of Mary Immaculate.
     The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Leavenworth, is one of the finest Christian churches in the United States. Persons who are considered good judges place it in the fourth position--that is to say, they believe there are only three churches in the United States to be ranked before it for beauty, and everything else that goes towards making it an architectural masterpiece. It is 200 feet long, and about 175 feet wide. It is capable of accommodating two thousand people. The ceiling and the back wall have been beautifully frescoed by a French artist, and the vast dome is a magnificent specimen of the talented painter's skill. The windows are all of stained galss from New York. Amongst the "side altars" we have one dedicated to the Apostle of Ireland, St. Patrick, and a painting of the saint in the background.
     As I do not undertake to give a full description of the beautiful church, I wish merely to add, that, for internal ornamentation and general effect, I know of no church in the city of Dublin that can be compared to it. Three resident clergymen and the good bishop are kept busily employed on Sundays hearing confession, and performing other religious duties. Three masses are celebrated in the Cathedral every Sunday.
     There is also a German Catholic church in the city of Leavenworth, under the charge of the Carmelite Fathers--two of whom reside in their convent there; also parochial schools attached to each church. Some years ago a few members of the celebrated Order of Sisters of Charity arrived in Leavenworth, and, with the approbation of Bishop Miege, began their noble work amongst the people. They soon established an excellent academy for young ladies, and hospital for the sick and wounded, and an orphan asylum. God's blessing was with them in all their undertakings; they received new members every year into their order; they now number one hundred sisters, about ninety of whom are Irish.


Within the past year the Sisters of Charity have erected a magnificent convent, which cost sixty thousand dollars. Members of the order have also established themselves in other cities of the State, and are earnestly engaged in their glorious works of mercy and Christian love.
     When Bishop Miege took up his residence in what is now the city of Leavenworth there were very few priests in the entire territory of Kansas. The Jesuit Fathers of the two Indian missions of Osage and St. Mary's were only six in number, and these comprised the entire clerical body under the jurisdiction of Bishop Miege in 1854. But what a happy improvement since that period! At the present moment the number of priests, regular and secular, in the State of Kansas is forty-nine, eleven of whom are natives of Ireland. It is, perhaps, to be regretted that in the present clerical body the number of Irish priests is so small. The vast majority of the Catholics of the State are Irish, and undoubtedly, priests of their own nationality, who understand their manners and character, could do a great deal of good amongst them.
     It must be said, however, that the French, Belgian, Italian, and German priests labour zealously in the vineyard; and it must not be forgotten that some of them were the first brave pioneers of Catholicity in Kansas. It would be a great blessing for our people if some zealous young priests would leave their curate homes in the "old country," and come out where they will find work enough to satisfy their fervent hearts. Multitudes of the peasantry have been passing here from worse than Egyptian bondage in Ireland "to the land flowing with milk and honey;" yet, strange to say, no Moses is found to go with them as a leader, as a priest of the Most High.
     Parishes have lost half their congregations by emigration; yet the curates look around at the desolation, and seem to forget that the simple, noble-hearted peasantry,


far away beyond the ocean, are in want of the consolations of our holy religion. I do not believe that the young priesthood of Ireland lack the true zeal of missionaries.
     There are many of them, however, who are not suited by nature to undergo the hardships of missionary life. When I came here, in 1867, there was not the great number of railroads that now lie like a network over the entire State; and, consequently, some of the missionaries suffered from severe travelling on horseback from station to station.
     Some were accustomed to ride sixty miles daily for a week before returning to "head-quarters;" and oftentimes they passed the long hours of night sleeping under some lone tree upon the prairie, their head resting upon their well-worn saddle. It is true there is some severe duty for missionaries in Kansas, even at the present day; but there is no district so distant from a railway that cannot be reached in one day's journey. There are, however, swollen "creeks" in the winter time, which the zealous missionary must cross on horseback, and this, too, when the water is more than twenty feet deep. The reins are thrown loose upon the horse's neck, and the animal plunges, and swims, and bears his rider over the water to the opposite bank. Some of the Kansas priests, at the present time, can perform all their journeys to their various stations and churches by rail. Many of the railroad companies are very liberal towards the Catholic clergy, and often give "free passes, good for a year," to the priests who live or labour along the route.
     In the year 1854 there were only three Catholic churches in Kansas; now there are forty-five churches, and ninety "stations" where Mass is occasionally celebrated in various portions of the diocese.
     The great difference in the conduct and morality of the Irish in cities and those in the country is remarkable. I, who have been engaged amonst the Irish


people as a "curate" in "the old country," and as a missionary in Kansas, must acknowledge that I cannot discover much difference between the Irish farmers at home and out here. But, on the other hand, there is a remarkable difference between the Irish who live in large cities and those who dwell in the country.
     On the second and fourth Sunday of every month I celebrate mass at St. Joseph's Church, eight miles distant from Leavenworth.
     When I enter my "buggy," at six o'clock in the morning of the above days, to drive out to St. Joseph's, I feel as if about to go to a country chapel in dear old Ireland. The journey up and down the rugged hills, and through the lonely woods, and over the rippling streams, does not seem a long one, for memory is travelling all the time amidst the green valleys of the Emerald Isle, through the glens of lovely Wicklow, and amidst the giant mountains of the North.
     And when at length I catch a view of St. Joseph's Church from the summit of some hill, how like an Irish scene is the appearance presented! Outside the church the Irish farmers are gathered in groups chatting over local or political affairs, or some old men are telling anecdotes of "the old land," while the young Irish-Americans smile at the simplicity of their fathers. There is a little "graveyard" near the church where some Irish hearts are sleeping; and husbands drop tears and offer prayers over the grave of the dead companion; and wives, too, kneel above the dust of those whom they "took for better or worse," in their Irish chapels, long years ago!
     The scene around "the prairie church" differs much in one point from that around an Irish chapel. Long lines of horses and wagons are seen standing on the road-side near the church, or coming over the prairies. The farmers and their families come in wagons or on horseback to Mass--none walk along the country road, as they were wont to do olden times in Ireland. In


winter, when the mud is very deep upon the roads, young women travel to church on horseback, and at such season the long cavalcades of men and women present a picturesque appearance crossing the prairies or emerging from the woods. The Irish farmers in Kansas preserve the same filial respect for the priests that they exhibited at home in Ireland, and the same feelings of pure devotion to God, and respect for his holy house.
     But the same cannot be said of some of our people in large cities and towns. Intercourse with people of every shade of religion, and with many of no religion whatever, and the intoxicating feeling of freedom to which the Irish have not been always accustomed, sap the foundation of faith in many of our exiled brothers.
     Some few, too, join secret societies, such as Freemasons and Odd Fellows, for the purpose of advancing rapidly in worldly wealth.
     But, thank God!--there are many large religious, benevolent, and temperance societies in America, composed entirely of Irishmen and their sons. It is true that some of the most degraded men upon this great Continent are natives of Ireland, but it is also a fact that some of the best, noblest, most intelligent citizens of America are Irishmen.
     The one great fault here, as at home, is love of intoxicating drinks. No doubt, want and misery engendered that vice amongst our people in "the old country;" but unfortunately, it follows many over here, and some men who possess qualities that might have raised them to a high position in the great country have fallen in the dust through their inordinate love for liquor. No men seem to be more successful in their worldly pursuits than good, intelligent Irishmen, and it is a common remark in this country that if they all could overcome their love for strong drinks, they would be the leading men of America.
     The finest type of men on this Continent are the sons of Irishmen born here. I speak of them, abstracting


from their religious tendencies. They possess all the noble qualities of the Celt, together with the independent energetic spirit of the American. But it must be admitted that many of them are sadly deficient in knowledge of the truths of our holy religion; and consequently careless in the fulfilment of the duties imposed upon her children by our Holy Church. One great cause of this ignorance of religion, and carelessness in the great affair of the salvation of the soul, can be traced to public schools. These schools are numerous in all the States of the Union, and are well supported, the teachers being paid by the State. A special tax--called "the school tax"--is imposed upon all the people, and brings in a large amount of money.
     I do not intend to explain the whole school system of the States; I merely wish to draw attention to one point. Children of every religion, and children of no religion--Jews and Pagans and Christians‚-all attend these schools, and from one end of the year to the other the name of Almighty God is never uttered by the teachers. As a consequence, children of Catholic parents learn bad habits and care little about religion, if a watchful eye at home is not fixed upon them. These schools deserve the title that the great Archbishop MacHale prefixed to some colleges in Ireland--they are truly "Godless."
     The Catholic bishops and priests of America perceive the danger to the faith of the rising generation from the godless teachings of these public schools, and are making earnest efforts to provide proper teaching for the little ones of Christ. Catholic parochial schools exist in many dioceses--some of which are conducted by the Christian Brothers and other religious bodies; many are carried on by lay teachers, under the superintendence of parochial clergy.
     But what we have to contend with the school tax. The school tax is an injustice in this free country. Catholics are obliged to pay this tax for the support of


schools to which they are opposed, and even although they send their children to other schools not supported by the State. It is difficult for Catholic parents to pay the tax and pay for their children's education at Catholic schools. If we could get a share of the school tax funds for the support of our Catholic schools, then we would have every chance of educating the rising generation of Catholic children free from evil influence, and under the protection of those safeguards which Almighty God has given to His Chruch.
     It is true that the Catholic Church is gaining great numbers of converts every year in America, but if we consider all the children of Catholic parents who are being lost in the meshes of infidelity, we will probably cease to rejoice.
     We hear our people boasting oftentimes of the blessings diffused through America by Irish immigration. I gladly acknowledge that Ireland has been, and is, "a Missionary nation," and that Catholicity would be hardly known on this continent had not the scattered Celts sailed over and planted the cross on many a prairie. But, then, if we seriously consider the loss of thousands of sons of Irishmen gone away from the fold of Christ, we will be inclined to wish that "the old race" would remain at home beside their Irish chapels until their bodies are placed to sleep in holy ground, in the shadows of ruined abbeys, than come here to see their children growing up in infidelity.
     But in the country the sons of Irish farmers grow up as good and faithful as if they lived all their time in "the Isle of Saints." For this reason, as well as for many others which I have already stated, I am a strong advocate for farming life for the exiled Irish. While treating of the sons of Irishmen I must not fail to remark that the great mass of them possess an extraordinary love for the land of their fathers. They have learned many of the traditions of "the old land" from their Irish mothers, and their American love of Liberty


fills them with enthusiasm for the welfare of Ireland.
     I feel now that I am drawing to an end in the treatment of my subject. I have endeavoured to fulfil a promise made to many friends, and a duty I owed to my fellow-countrymen at home. I have described things as they really are in Kansas, having no object in life to gain by doing so. I do not seek notoriety through the Press, but I struggle for that which urged me out here from my quiet "curacy" in Dunlavin--the good of the Irish people. My patriotism is the broad national Irish one--"for Faith and County."
     In conclusion, and as a last advice, I say to all the Irish people--Do not come out to America if you can live at home. If you cannot live in Ireland, come out and till the fertile prairies, and you will be happy.

"Uncle Sam has lands enough
To give us all a farm."


Return to the first part of Fr. Butler's: "State of Kansas."

Or, return to the second part.

Or, to the third part.

{Smith Family} {Keating Family }{Bushey Family}{Donahy Family}

Please contact: Fr. David Smith, S.J.,
with comments.

This page was created on March 25, 2000,
Feast of the Annunciation.