Born: 28 June 1863, Glenkeen, County Tipperary
Entered: 06 September 1886, Florissant MO USA (MIS for Neo-Aurelianensis Province NOR)
Ordained: 01 August 1897, St Francis Xavier's, Upper Gardiner Street, Dublin
Final vows: 02 February 1903
Died 22 November 1946, Touro Infirmary, New Orleans LA, USA - Neo-Aurelianensis Province (NOR)
part of the Spring Hill College, Spring Hill AL, USA community at the time of death
by 1895 came to Milltown (HIB) studying 1894-1897
◆ The Mungret Annual, 1897
Marching Through Georgia
Father Michael Kenny SJ
Writing from the South, as we term the southern half of the United States, the first thing that just now occurs to one to speak of is the climate. The papers are raging with yellow fever in Louisiana, much more than is Louisiana herself, and New Orleans used to have a bad name in Ireland, I remember, before I came to America, having been comforted by my friends with the statement, “New Orleans is the Irishman's grave”. Well, I have since lived thereabouts several happy years, and have not yet owned in it even grave. I have been through the South, from Missouri to Mobile, and from Georgia to Texas, and I can say with truth that its climate, though not so bracing, and not always so pleasant, is as healthy as that of Ireland. The hot season is longer than in the Northern States, but never so oppressive. Sunstroke is practically unknown in the South. The thermometer scarcely ever shows more than 86° in the shade, and, owing to the dryness of the air, 90° in the South is not more severe than 75° in Ireland. The Gulf Stream, it must be remembered, is our next-door neighbour, and its effects on the South would be even more noticeable than on Ireland, were not the equator a close neighbour too.
"But, then, what about your yellow fever?” It is not ours; it is an intruder. It comes in from the Central American States when the quarantine officers are napping. It has occurred only about as often as an Irish rebellion. When it stays it does less damage than smallpox, and it disappears before the breath of the first wind from the North, The terror it inspires in non Southerners is not much better grounded than that of the English traveller in Ireland, who expected to see a blunderbuss aimed at him from behind every hedge.
So much by way of introduction. Let us be “marching through Georgia”. I select Georgia, as “the subject of my story” because certain incidents that occurred during my stay there are likely to prove interesting, and because the College in which I lived frequently reminded me of Mungret. It looks out from the summit of a gently sloping hill over a wide-extending plain. It is three miles west of Macon, a city of much the same size as Limerick, and a mile south of it flows the Ocmulgee, a river as large, though not so imposing, as the Shannon.
The State of Georgia is about the size of New York, but the population, half of which is negro, is not yet quite as large as that of Ireland. Except in the larger cities, there is scarcely any Catholic population.
So much are the sons of Ireland identified with the Catholic Faith, that the terms Irish and. Catholic are synonymous. This was brought home to me before I was a day in Georgia. Arriving in Macon, I called for a buggy - every conveyance that is not a railway-car or a wheel-barrow is a “buggy” - and I told the driver, a “coloured gem'man”, to take me to Pio Nono College.
“Dar ain't no Nono College round heyar, sah”.
“Isn't there a college at Vineville?” “Oh, yas, sah, de Irish College!”
And when I asked him on the way why he called it the “Irish” College, he replied, “ “Caw, sah, dey is aw Irish up dar”.
I told him this was not so. There were Americans, French, German, and even English.
“Yas, sah, but dey is aw Irish. Yous aw done jined de Irish Chu'ch”.
Pio Nono College having become a Jesuit .Novitiate, the name was changed to St Stanislaus, and, to advertise the fact, an arch was erected over the main entrance on which the new name was painted in prominent characters. The intelligent natives at once concluded that the “Irish College” was now the property of Mr Stephen Stanislaus, who was presumed to be the “boss” of the whole concern, and vendors of eggs and poultry would frequently call on their way to market to ask “Mr Stanislaus” to “sample their wares”. And so it remained the “Irish College”.
In the rural districts around us there was not a single Catholic, white or black. Most extraordinary notions were prevalent about Catholics and their faith. They worshipped idols several times a day, and whenever and wherever they had the power they delighted in feeding their cattle on good fat Protestants. This doctrine was preached from a “white” pulpit in our neighbourhood. The particular breed of cattle named was pigs!
When we passed near their houses the negro mothers were on the look out lest we should kidnap their children, for we were supposed to be medical students. When they passed our grounds and saw us robed in gown and cincture, they were greatly puzzled, never having seen the like before, and one was overheard to say, with a sigh of relief, “Gosh! dey wear pants, anyhow!” But we soon became better known by white and black, and their ignorant prejudices were dissipated.
Having come to know the neighbourhood, we were on the look-out for lost sheep, chiefly black ones. One negro told me his grandfather was “Irish”, and he himself was inclined “dat a-way”, but was not as yet quite “contracted and disposed to it”.
“But”, he said, “yous aw should see Josh Brown; he's Irish, you bet”. “You mean Catholic?” “Yas, sah, dat's what he says. I reck'n Josh's a Ca'h’lic f'om away-back. He talks religion in de forge ovah yondah. Yas, sah, he's a blacksmith, an' I tell you, sah, he kin talk. White gem'men argufy wi' Josh!”
This was a very high testimonial to a negro's respectability and attainments, so we determined to interview “Josh”.
We met him coming out of his forge one evening. He was a man of fine proportions, in spite of the absence of a part of one of his legs. His features were regular and pleasing, and, unlike negroes generally, his forehead was high and broad, and did not recede; but his face was as black as night. Change his colour, and he could pass as a good type of Caucasian. Even his accent or manners would not betray him, for he spoke and acted like his white neighbours, and his moral tone would certainly not suffer by comparison with theirs. We told him we were informed he was a Catholic.
“Yes, sir”, he said, doffing his hat, and holding it out at arm's length; “I believe in the Holy Roman Catholic Church!”.
Expressing our pleasure at the news, we asked where he went to church.
“Sir”, he answered, “I don't go to church. I was never in a Catholic church in my life”.
“And you say you are Catholic?” .
“Yes, sir, I have been a Catholic seventeen years”.
We explained the inconsistency of his position. He admitted it.
“But”, he added, “to go to a Catholic Church I have to expose myself to the contempt and the slights of the whole white congregation, and I don't think the Lord expects me to do that. They look down upon me as a ‘nigger’, and would despise me as an intruder, and neither there nor elsewhere do they want my company. So, sir, I say my prayers - the Catholic prayers and worship God in my own house, and I trust he hears me”.
When we tried to show him his mistake, he interrupted us with a story :
“Shortly before the War” - the American War of Secession is always referred to as ‘the War’ - “I was walking one Sunday with my wife in the streets of Atlanta. As we passed an Episcopal Church we heard the organ playing and the choir singing. We stopped to listen, and my wife was so attracted by the music that she went just inside the door to hear it better: I called her back, but she did not hear me, and I walked on. As she entered the door the preacher was ascending the pulpit. He saw her, and immediately called to the clerk :
‘Take that impudent negress and teach her not to dare enter the company of white people. Give her thirty lashes’.
And he gave them. She came to me bleeding and crying, and I swore a solemn oath never to enter a white man's house or a white man's church. Was I wrong?”
“You did'nt swear not to enter God's church when God Himself commanded you to enter?”
“Well, no, sir, but you see ...”
Not waiting to see, we explained to him that, with Catholics, there was no distinction of class, or colour in church matters, and that, believing in the Catholic church, he was bound to become a Catholic in reality, and we invited him to the College chapel for the following Sunday.
“Are there any Irishmen there, sir?” “Oh, yes, plenty of them; I'm one”.
“Then, sir, I'll be there. Irishmen were the only whites that ever treated me as if I had a soul. They would speak to me, and instruct me as a fellow man. It was an Irishman taught me to read, and it is owing to Irishmen I am a Catholic. Sir, I will attend your church next Sunday”.
It is but just to Catholics of other nationalities to add that Irishmen were nearly the only Catholics that had come in Brown's way.
Sunday morning arrived, and at the hour appointed, a large sable figure stalked up the avenue with great dignity, and Brown entering the chapel knelt down, stowing away his wooden leg as best he could.
After Mass the Father Superior interviewed him, and was astonished at his thorough know ledge of the Catholic religion and his quick intelligence. He talked with ease and directness about what he knew, and never about any thing else. His manner had much more of the unconscious tone of independence of the American white than the unconscious servility of the American negro. As he was thoroughly instructed he was told to prepare for baptism in a few weeks; in the meantime I ascertained his history.
He had been born a slave in Virginia, and his master was a Doctor Griffin, a brother of Gerald Griffin, a name that should be dear to Mungret men, who have within easy reach the scenes immortalised by his pen. Doctor Griffin, himself, taught him to read and write, contrary to the wishes of his American wife and the laws of Virginia, which forbade, under heavy penalties, the teaching of reading or writing - not to say arithmetic - to any coloured person. This law was not peculiar to Virginia. But Dr. Griffin's tuition stopped there. He gave no religious instruction. Brown, like all negroes, felt the need of some religion, so he attended the services of the nearest negro conventicles. He “sat under” Baptists Northern and Southern, Hard-shell and Soft-shell; Methodists North and Methodists South, Methodists Episcopal, Non-Episcopal, and Afro-Americans; Seventh day Adventists, Moravians, and Presbyterians of every variety. He shook with Shakers and quaked with Quakers, and even once had his feet washed gratis at a gathering of Feet washers, whose religion consists exclusively in “washing one another's feet”.
But he “found salvation” among none of them. The most devout at these meetings were the loudest shouters, and the favourite preachers were they who screeched and jumped most frantically. Brown grew tired of shouting and being shouted at, so he read his Bible at home on Sundays, and observed the Christian law as best he knew how to. Only one thing he had in common with his neighbours thorough going hatred of the “Irish” religion, and if half the atrocious things he had heard about it were true, he would have been quite justified.
One day, however, while working as a rail road blacksmith, his boss, who happened to be an Irishman, talked to him about religion. There was a warm controversy, which resulted in the Irishman lending Brown Challoner's Catechism and Reeve's History of the Bible. Brown slept none that night. “I commenced Challoner at sun-down, and at sun-up I had him read through”. He then took up Reeve, and when he had finished he re-read both, verifying the Scriptural quotations in his Protestant Bible. He was surprised to find that some of the books referred to were omitted. He borrowed a Catholic Bible and some other Catholic books from Irish acquaintances, and found that the omissions from the Protestant Bible and the alterations of texts were quite arbitrary, Finally he got together the Catechisms of the principal Protestant sects, compared them; one by one, with the Catholic Catechism (Butler's), and by burning them, throwing in the Protestant Bible, as “lagniappe”.
“I found”, he said, “more sense and truth in one page of the Catholic Catechism than in all their religions put together”.
When he returned the books to his Irish friends, and told them the result, they made him a present of the whole collection. He had them bound, and, owing to his constantly circulating them, had to repeat the process several times. When I saw then they were tastefully bound in calf, but the leaves were in rags. “I'll keep them as long as I live”, he said, “and whenever my eyes fall on them, I offer a prayer for all Irishmen”. About the same time somebody gave him a newspaper cutting of a sermon on the Church by Fr Damon SJ, a famous American preacher. Finding it to express his views accurately and precisely, be read it as a profession of faith every Sunday.
When he had become thoroughly converted, as he thought, great zeal began to stir up within him. He would spread the light of truth among his brethren; so he became a Sunday-school teacher teaching Catholic doctrine at Methodist Sunday-schools. But the preacher detected him, denounced him as a “wolf in sheep's clothing”, and he had to quit. He tried the Baptists next, but they also expelled him as a dangerous heretic, and finally he confined his propaganda to his forge, where, hammer in hand, he boldly preached and stoutly defended Catholic truth from behind an anvil. I found him once engaged in controversy with a white gentleman, while the hoof of a mule was reposing in his apron. In spite of the difficulties of the situation, he reduced his educated opponent to silence. In fact, to anyone who attacked the Catholic religion from a Protestant standpoint, Brown was a dangerous adversary. He knew his ground, had a quick, logical mind, and his practice for years in debating with all comers had made him ready of thought and speech.
He was baptized in due time, and when, soon after, his wife followed his example, ho obtained a list of devotions as practised in Irish Catholic families, drew up an “order of time” for the same, and he and his wife continue to practise them faithfully to this day.
Catholics, white and coloured, are numerous in his neighbourhood now, many of whom owe their conversion to his word and example: They all respect and esteem him as a model Catholic. Had he lived in the days when to be a Catholic was to be a saint, his brethren in the faith would have done no less.
The first white converts in the district owed their conversion to Brown. There was a young man of twenty who used to amuse himself occasionally by chopping logic with “Uncle Josh”. Having travelled somewhat, he had few anti-Catholic prejudices, being rather inclined to think there was something good in the Catholic religion, since every liar he knew had a fling at it. However, he tried to take a fall out of Josh on the subject. But for once declining discussion, Brown produced his Challoner, Řeeve, and the “Faith of our Fathers”.
“Take these, Master Willie”, he said, “and read them, and when you know what you're talking about I'll argue with you”.
When “Master Willie” had read the course prescribed, he had no longer a desire for argument. He was convinced, but for various reasons was unwilling to join the Church just then. Brown introduced him to us. There was no moving him. “But”, he said, “you must see my grandmother. She is very old and cannot have long to live. She was never baptized in any church, and I should like to see her become a Catholic before she dies”.
I had often heard the negroes speak of “ole Mrs. Reilly”. She was rich, wicked, and wise, I was told, and very close in her business dealings, though she could at times be generous. Negroes she held in supreme contempt, all except Josh Brown and his wife. These were of the few “niggers” she would allow to have any claim to heaven, and she would relegate even them to a separate compartment labelled “coloured”, as in railway carriages, and far away from “white folk's heaven”. She would have naught to do with the hypocrites in the various churches around her, and she delighted to give the full length of a terrible tongue to any preachers who presumed to crack their wares at her door.
Nevertheless, the “Irish preachers” marched upon her fortress with a brave show of courage - the presence of her grandson ensured our safety from the dogs. Entering we saw a sharp featured intelligent-looking old lady seated in an arm-chair. Her great age may be inferred from the fact that her husband had fought at the battle of New Orleans, which took place in 1813, and only a few years before their marriage. At the time I speak of, 1888, she was still in receipt of a pension awarded for his bravery.
She neither welcomed nor repelled us, but sat in her chair with a fixed expression on her face as if she had made up her mind to hear us out, We talked of the weather, the crops, her health, and finally her name. Her husband, she said, was of Irish origin. We told her the O'Reillys were a famous Irish family, to which O'Reilly, the Spanish Governor of New Orleans, and many other celebrities, belonged She told some humorous stories of Irishmen she knew; we added our quota, and when leaving we were invited to call again. Meanwhile her grandson explained away some of her objections to Catholicism, and our next visit found her disposed to receive instruction. Her grandson and another non-Catholic undertook to teach her the Catechism, and they did it so well that in a few months she was ready for baptism. She had only one difficulty. Baptism would wash out not only all the sins of her long life, but all the punishment due to them, and of so great a grace she was utterly unworthy. When with the thought of her unworthiness she weighed the other thought of God's mercy, all her difficulties vanished, and her prejudices along with them. She wished all negroes to be saved, and even prayed for them.
I thought the edge of her tongue had disappeared too, for so far I had seen no indication of it. But the day before her baptism it proved as sharp as ever. A swarm of grand-children, and even great-grand-children, hearing of the intended ceremony, swooped down upon her from the city to dissuade her; and one after another took up the note, rebuking her and reviling the Church.
“What religion would you have, me join” she asked. This was a bombshell in their midst. Belonging to different sects and sub-divisions thereof, they were all at one another's ears in a moment, each declaring that his or her's was the only genuine article. Then the old lady gave her temper full swing.
“Away with ye, ye gibbering hypocrites! Ye come here hovering around me like a flock of buzzards, waiting for any body to drop, to gorge on my property. Not content with wishing my old carcass in the grave, ye would give my soul to the devil, and ye dare to dispute, here before my face, about the worst devil to give it to. Away with ye, ye pack of rattle snakes!”
Mrs Reilly was baptized in her eighty-eighth year, and it was affecting to see the tears course down her furrowed cheeks as the cleansing waters flowed upon her head. She lived only a few years, and died with the blessing of the Church. Nor did her grandson and the other non-Catholic who instructed her “unto justice” themselves become “cast-aways”. They married, entered the Church, and are now rearing a large family of Catholics.
After Brown's conversion several scholastics devoted their walks to giving instruction to the negroes, old and young, who were willing to receive it. Contrary to Brown's theory, two of the most indefatigable and persevering were not Irish. One was an American - the negros called him Mr “McLoch” and the other a young Englishman, whose name they turned into something like - “Bamboo”. They frequently walked miles under a hot sun to instruct an old negro or negress, and returned, time, after time, to find everything forgotten. As we were passing once the shanty of an old man of eighty, whom we had been trying for weeks to enlighten on the Trinity, he called out, hobbling after us :
“Ques'on me, sah ; ques'on me. I knows it au now, sah, right sma't”.
“Well, how many Persons in One God?”
“Wall, sah, you see, dar is” - and he 'pro ceeded to count on his fingers - “dar is de Fadah, an' de Son, ar' de Holy Ghost, an' Amen!”
It took over a year to instruct him, but he was finally baptized If he was weak in knowledge, be was strong in faith. He wore his beads around his neck, and his scapulars out side his coat, and, to be an out-and-out, finished Catholic, he asked for a gown and cincture like “Massa M'Loch's”. He reached his ninetieth year, and died in the faith.
The children were more easily instructed, and some of them were very intelligent, but, being utterly unaccustomed to Catholic ways of looking at things, their answers were sometimes startling. Here is a dialogue that took place at our Sunday-school :
“What are angels, Ebenezer?” “Dem's heaven's folk, sah”. “George Washington, is that right?”
“No, sah, 'cause dar is oder folk in heaven 'sides angels”.
“Well, then, what are angels?”
“Dem's God's own folk, sah!”
“Augustus, what is the most necessary thing for baptism?”
“Do watah, sah!” “Next?” “The priest, sah!” “Next?” “De baby, sah!”
I had some prints representing St. Peter Claver baptizing a very repulsive-looking negro. I thought it a very suitable prize for negro children. Before distributing to the deserving ones, I held the prints up to their admiring gaze. Pointing to St Peter Claver, I asked who they thought that was. “I reck'n dat dar is a saint”, said Ebenezer, “dar is a yaller rim 'round his head”.
"And what is he doing?”
“He's Christ'nin' the devil, sah”.
The prizes were never awarded.
Though my store of reminiscences are not exhausted, my time and space are, so I will no further tire my readers. A variety of incidents came under my notice during my stay in Georgia which would furnish to a Catholic “Ian MacLaren” still untouched material for an interesting and edifying book. Should these notes fail to inspire some still unknown genius with the desire of portraying negro life, perhaps they would suggest to him the nobler thought of saving negro souls.
The American negroes ignorance of the Christian Religion is almost as dense as that of those who were the object of Claver's zeal and the occasion of his crown. Yet they are an intensely religious race When you speak to them of Christ they will listen eagerly, and religion is the frequent subject of their conversation They undergo no small part of the privations and sufferings that induced the poor of the Roman Empire to turn to Christianity for consolation. Yet there are in a civilized land eight million negroes outside the Church of Christ, and absolutely ignorant of its truths.
This ignorance is not to be laid at their door. They have not rejected the light. They have never seen it While the various sects have expended millions, and are yearly expending immense sums in providing them with so called Christian teachers, the Catholic Missionary has done for them practically nothing. Irish and Irish-American priests are doing noble work among the whites in America, but their hands are full. Anyhow, they have not reached the negro.
Yet, I believe if a Columbkille or Columbanus were amongst them, he would find opportunities Is the race of the Columbas and Galls and Aidans dead in Ireland? Are there not in the cradle-land of apostolic men youths generous enough to emulate the example of the noble Spaniard, “the slave of the slaves for ever”? Such a man should be ready to endure the sufferings and toil of the apostleship of the heathen, without its glamour; contempt, and persecution from without and from within, sustained by no hope of a martyr's crown. He should be a man of unbounded zeal and unshakeable constancy, of warm heart and generous sympathies; a man who beneath dirt and rags and colour can recognise a soul and love it.
◆ The Mungret Annual, 1900
Father Michael Kenny SJ
The name of Rev M Kenny SJ, is by this time very familiar to every reader of “The Mungret Annual”, and to him the magazine owes a great deal, both in its foundation and afterwards. His kindly advice and generous sympathy encouraged in no small degree the first editors to undertake a task which at the time seemed hazardous ; and the high excellence of his literary contributions and the trueness of their spirit to the object of the magazine have been an essential element in obtaining for “The Mungret Annual” the position it occupies among college journals. We feel confident that we only echo the sentiments of all our readers when we express a hope that Father Kenny will continue to allow many an old friend to enjoy in “The Mungret Annual” some of the fruits of his spicy wit and his Fare creative fancy.
Father Kenny entered the Apostolic School in the Crescent College, 1880. He afterwards read what promised at first to be a very distinguished University course in Mungret, where from the beginning he gave evidence of rare literary talent. Owing however, to excessive application when studying for a scholarship in Ancient Classics, RUI, in 1883, he contracted a tedious headache, which resulted in his being compelled to leave Mungret before obtaining his degree. He was among the first band of Apostolic students to leave Mungret for America, and entered the noviceship of the Society of Jesus for the New Orleans Mission in 1886. He read his Theology in Milltown Park, Dublin, was ordained in 1897, and after spending his year of Third Probation in Tronchiennes, Belgium, he returned to America, where he is now attached to Spring Hill College, Mobile, Ala.
◆ The Mungret Annual, 1902
Letters from the Past
Father Michael Kenny SJ
Rev Fr M Kenny, who is now working among the negroes in Macon, Georgia, writes to us in his usual racy style. The following extracts will be of interest :--
“I'm a kind of a pastor here, but I've got to make my own parish. You remember, perhaps, something I had in the first “Annual” about Marching through Georgia. Well, here I am again marching over the same ground, but now as a priest, gathering together the few surviving veterans, healing the ‘wounded soldiers’, and, above all, raising recruits, maintaining meanwhile perpetual skirmishes with the devil, the world, and the flesh, in the shape of heretics and heresiarchileens of every denomination, but principally Methodists and Baptists and the countless sub-divisions thereof: Baptists, Regular and General, North, South, Coloured and White, Separate, United, Primitive, Freewill, Hard-shell, Soft-shell, Feet washers, Six Principle, Seventh Day, Original, Old Two-Seed-in-the-Spirit-Predestinarian! etc; Methodists, Episcopal, North, South, African, White, Wesleyan, Protestant, Congregational, Zion Union, Evangelical, Primitive, Free, Independent, etc. Yesterday I met a boy who told me he belonged to the Brick Methodists, and of course I told him he was a brick.
This state of things has its humorous aspects, but in itself it is all very sad. We have organized Catechisin classes for Whites and Coloured, which are doing very well, especially the latter. It would do your heart good to hear forty darly children singing ‘Teach me, teach me, Holy Mother!’ To appreciate it to the full you should stand at least a quarter of a mile away. I go around every day and catechize on the highways and bye ways, 'in season and out of season, Black and White, at home and abroad.
If I had time I would write you an article, but this sketch of my present work (omitting many other duties) will convince you that I have not.
Please pray for my catechumens, Black and White, and particularly that I may find means to erect a church anir folwol for them. I am especially here for that purpose. But the folk here are all poor, as poor as I ever saw thein in Connemara, and I have to depend on the charity of outsiders altogether. I want to establish if possible, an Industrial School, to be placed in the charge of a sisterhood instituted for that purpose. So please pray, and get the Mungret boys to pray, that we may succeed, for it is a truly apostolic work, in spite of the fact that the apostolic character is lamentably deficient in the projector of the enterprise. But ecclesia supplet”.
◆ The Mungret Annual, 1907a
Letters from Our Past
Father Michael Kenny SJ
The following extract from a letter of Fr M Kenny SJ, under date October 22nd, 1906, relates incidents which seem so characteristic of missionary life in the Southern States of America that we venture to quote it:
On my way last year to. Palm Beach, on the eastern coast of Florida, I made Jacksonville, Florida's chief city; a half-way house. I was received with open arms by my old friend and fellow Tipp, Father Michael Maher, and I assure you I never felt nearer to Mungret or Tipperary since I left them. God be with them both! Fr Maher is pastor, and deservedly held in high respect by all. He is at present building a $100,000 church, which is not likely to be in debt when completed. Fr Veale who has charge of missions in the neighbourhood - that is, within sixty miles or so - dropped in while I was there, on the grounds that he had a right to a short rest, having just completed a school edifice, every brick or which he laid will his own hands. He proved himself as proficient in the nicest points of Theology as in brick-laying, not to mention innocent jollity. Fr Veale is a man of earnest and efficient zeal and solid, unassuming ability, of whom Mungret may be proud. We phoned to Fr O'Brien, at Fernandina - about 1oo miles away, and the same evening he was taking supper with us. It was a great pleasure to me to meet him, for he is the same quiet, warm-hearted scholarly old friend as in Mungret days. We were soon the four of us - on both sides of Shannon's banks, and while we recalled reminiscences of all kinds, and praised and blamed, we felt that Mungret is very dear to a Mungretman.
My stay was short perforce, but its pleasant memories had not faded from my mind when, after travelling several hundred miles my train stopped at St. Augustine, the oldest city in America, and I was met at the station by another Mungretman, Father Curley. He took me to the Cathedral, where my name alone made me welcome. Bishop Kenny is the worthy prelate who rules the Floridas. I told him I was rejoiced that, after struggling hard for a thousand years, the Clan-Kenny had at last succeeded in producing a bishop (St Kenny was only an abbot, I believe). After that we took a genial swim together in the broad Atlantic. The bishop spoke in the highest terms of the zeal and ability of his Mungret priests. Those I have met, including Fr Parry, (whom I had the pleasure of entertaining in Augusta, last February) are certainly a credit to their Alma Mater ; and our Florida fathers are loud in praise of all the Mungretmen in that diocese.
◆ The Mungret Annual, 1932 : Golden Jubilee
Father Michael Kenny SJ
The name of Fr Michael Kenny SJ, (1882-'86) has frequently appeared beneath interesting and witty articles in the earlier numbers of the “Annual”. The “Annual” owes a great deal to him both in its foundation and afterwards. Fr Kenny belongs to the rapidly dwindling band of pioneers who joined the Apostolic School in the Crescent. He afterwards read what promised to be a very distinguished University course in Mungret, where from the beginning he gave evidence of rare literary talent. Owing, however, to excessive application when studying for a scholarship in Ancient Classics, RUI, in 1883, his health became impaired and he was compelled to leave Mungret before obtaining his degree. He was among the first band to leave Mungret for America, and entered the noviceship of the Society of Jesus for the New Orleans Province in 1886. He read his theology in Milltown Park, Dublin, was ordained in 1897, and, after spending his year of Third Probation in Tronchiennes, Belgium, he returned to America.
He was for some years Professor in Spring Hill College, Mobile, Albama, and in St Charles' College, Grand Coteau, La. His literary talents got full play when he was appointed one of the editors of the “Catholic Weekly, America”, then just founded. It is in no small part due to his unsparing energy that America is at present one of the most important and influential Catholic papers in the United States.
For many years he was Regent of the School of Law at Loyola University, New Orleans. Well known as an author and lecturer, his latest book, Catholic Culture in Alabama, has been well received, not alone by Catholic journals, but by the whole American Press.
◆ The Mungret Annual, 1935
Moscow in Mexico
Father Michael Kenny SJ
The American Public has been aroused out of its apathy towards things Mexican by the facile pen of this great friend of Mexico, who has not shirked the toil and danger of a long journey through the country to collect first-hand information for his exposure of the present Mexican situation in the World Press.
The Mexican Crisis
To a Missionary as well as to a liberty-loving people, Mexico should prove a gratifying and even inspiring theme.
In the latest of a series of articles I. have been writing. on Mexican conditions, at the instance of Mungret's illustrious alunmus, Archbishop Curley, for the “Baltimore Catholic Review”, I recorded that though less than three hundred priests are now tolerated, in all Mexico, some two thousand are still toiling bravely for their people at the risk of liberty and life.
I mentioned the aged Archbishop Orozco who lately ordained twenty priests in a cave, and other hunted prelates who pontificate in rags, particularly one who is unnamed because Federal assassins are upon his track. For its reminiscence of the heroism of Irish penal: days, this passage may be cited :
A theologian of highest rank, a scholar, an orator, a teacher and a writer of distinction, this prelate has for nine year's defied decrees of expulsion, and, despite constant espionage, has traversed the Sierra from crag to crag, bringing encouragement to his people, who in turn risk" their lives for his defence. The Mexican constitution also prohibits priestly training. This Bishop is providing for the priesthood of the future. There is a rude log cabin in the Sierra Madre which is dormitory, dining room, lecture, and study hall and chapel for twenty-two young men whom he himself is training for the ministry and providing the complete ecclesiastical course. Often they have had to fly for their lives and build another log seminary in a more remote Sierra fastness.
In the Irish penal days Bishop O'Gallagher held such a seminary in the mountains of Donegal, and, driven thence, Heroism. he trained other youths in the Bog of Allen. From that school came several patriot prelates, among them Dr Doyle, who divides with O'Connell the honours of Catholic Emancipation. May we not expect that emancipators of Faith and country will yet issue from that log seminary in the Sierra, where again Bishop and priest aspirants meet feloniously to learn?”
Extending 1833 miles on the south western border of the United States, Mexico has a population of 15,000,000, of whom some forty per cent are pure Indian, fifty per cent Mestizo or Indo-Spanish with Indian usually predominating, and ten per cent purely white. There are scarcely any negroes; for the reason that slavery was never permitted in Mexico. It is predominantly an Indian nation with native outlook in all except in its Christian culture; and in both these respects it presents a striking contrast to its northern neighbour where the native The remnants are less than one Indians. half of one per cent, and scarcely one half of these are Christians. The relative conditions are due to the fact that the first aim of Spanish policy as well as of missionary effort was to Christianize the natives and preserve them. Aiming solely at profit and aggrandisement and finding the natives an obstruction to material progress, the Protestant Auglo-Saxons crystalized their policy in, the phrase, “a good Indian is a dead Indian”. Hence, the United States has no Indian problem, having killed it off; and Mexico, with her natives kept both alive and good by Christian zeal and sacrifice, presents the problem of a mainly Indian nation, foreign in most respects to the European, but particularly to the Anglo-Saxon concept of material civilization.
There is now more Indian blood in Mexico than Cortez found there at his conquest; and it is there because Christian zeal prevailed over profiteering. In.1524, twelve Spanish and three Flemish “Franciscans” entered Mexico. They and their successors, aided by the converted natives; transformed the warring nomad tribes into a devout people of a distinct and autonomous Catholic culture.
Jesuits, Dominicans, Benedictines, Augustinians, also founded training schools, academies of arts and crafts, colleges of higher studies, for natives and Mestizos as well as Spaniards and Creoles, and they formed pueblos with church and school and hospital, from coast to coast under native mayors, governors, and teachers.
This marvelous transformation was accelerated by the Apparition of the Blessed Virgin at Guadalupe, near Mexico City, to a poor Indian named Diego, on whose mantle she imprinted the marvelous image that is now universally venerated as Our Lady of Guadalupe. It soon became imprinted on the native heart, and the imprint is still there.
The decline of Spain in the 18th century affected her colonies also. The expulsion of the Jesuits in 1767 brought about the ruin of all work for the good of the native. communities. Schools became abandoned and illiteracy became general when the anarchic regime, which subverted the Spanish rule, shut out the priests from the schools. A fund of some fifty million dollars, which the Jesuits had established for the benefit of small farmers was confiscated.
Von Humbolt wrote in 1810 that the schools and colleges and various benevolent - institutions in Mexico were in number and character far in advance of the United States of that period and literacy was more universal than in any other American country.
Rapid decline of general culture and public well-being followed the replacement of Spanish domination in 1810 by a series of mock republics ruled for the most part by a bandit minority who robbed and antagonized the Church to maintain them selves in power and pelf. This antagonism was promoted by the Masonic Order, which again was fostered and in part founded by the first United States Envoy, Joel R. Poinsett, in order by secret machinations to organize parties who would sell out northern Mexico to the United States. He thus created a political pro American machine of Masonic personnel and purpose which, through the arms and other support it has received from American administrations, has been enabled through a less than ten per cent minority 'to rule and ruin Mexico for the greater part of a century.
Poinsette's immediate aim was to form enough slave states out of Mexican territory to enable the pro-slavery South to dominate the abolitionist North, and he found that in order to effect this, the power of the Catholic Church in Mexico must be broken. In New Orleans, 1825, he got the Supreine Masonic bodies to head their signed and sworn program with resolutions that the Church must be shorn of all civic rights and that all her schools and all education must be monopolized by the state, and religion must be excluded from all teachings. This is the program that the Juarez code enacted in 1857, that the Carranza and Villa banditry further extended in the Constitution of 1917, and Calles and his communists gang have fully and finally realized in 1934, by the imposition of the most rabidly atheizing education on all schools by constitutional amendment.
By their assistance in men, money and arts, from the days of President Buchanan down to the seizure of Vera Cruz and Tampico by President Wilson, the United States administration have given consistent support to the bandit minority, and: never once to the conservative leaders who think and would govern on essentially American principles.
The Cristeros rose in 1926 under the banner of “Christ the King” for Faith, Fatherland, and Liberty; and despite the strict embargo held against them by our government while it supplied munitions freely to their enemies, they were making a winning fight in a dozen states when Calles patched up a treaty with the Church that stopped the revolt. He and his gang broke their pledge within a week, and they have since executed some five thousand of the Cristero leaders, and priests unnumbered. The orgies of persecutions and robberies and murderings went on until now the Church is as bare of property and rights as happened in the worst of Ireland's penal days, and to Church and people there is not a shred of religious or any other liberty left.
American Vested Interests
The bigoted sects that had dominant political influence in the United States up to the repeal of the Prohibition amendment, and the Supreme Council of the 33rd degree Scottish Rite Masonry gave enthusiastic support to the Mexican persecutors of the Church. This and the urgings of powerful American Companies and individuals, that secured and still secure oil and mining concessions in Mexico, will account for United States support of the persecuting and corrupt regimes and of the present Ambassador Daniel's laudations of Calles, and his dereligionizing acts and policies:
Moscow in Mexico
But the power of the United States sects has waned, and the Masonic Council's claim of political control over its three million membership has been exploded. Following my exposure in October of present Mexican conditions the general public gradually became aware that the National Revolutionary Party, the only one permitted in Mexico, was a communist, atheistic force, as determined as Moscow to extinguish not only the Catholic religion but all religion and set up an atheistic communism on the grave of liberty.
The exclusion by the Mexican government of some secular papers of wide range that published my interviews stimulated inquiry, and the general arraignment that followed in the Catholic press and in public meetings addressed often by leading Protestants and Jews, and specifically in Congress by non-Catholic as well as Catholic Congressmen and Senators, induced the great dailies of New York and Washington and Chicago and other cities to publish series of articles by special correspondents on Mexican conditions. This is the first time that the American press has furnished the people with some idea of the communistic system on their borders and the unspeakable outrages that have been perpetrated with their own government's contrivance and often with its positive support.
These revelations have also aroused the Catholic body to a unity and energy of civic protest that it had not risen to before. A resolution that was sent out in October of last year by the students of Spring Hill College to a thousand educational institutions throughout the States brought about a widespread student propaganda in favour of Mexico, and was the model of thousands of resolutions that poured and are still pouring from all quarters into Washington.
Canabal’s Atheistic Education
What impressed the public imagination most was the barbaric lewdness of the anti-Christian teachings row being forced by public authority on all the children of Mexico, and the clear evidence that the onslaught was made not merely on the Catholic Church, but upon religion as such and all the moralities it fosters. The grand exemplar whom Calles held up as the model of all governors was Garrido Canabal of Tabasco. Having expelled all priests from that State and closed and confiscated all churches, he issued a treatise on Socialistic Education, which his picked legislature promptly adopted as ordered. He had it illustrated with pictured mockeries of the Way of the Cross and of the most sacred religious beliefs and practices, and he tells then that God and Christ and religion are myths and were debasing the masses until he had taught then to burn up their Christianl symbols and “fetiches” and schooled them in scientific socialism.
How it is Done
Premising that “God is a grotesque, fanaticizing, debasing myth”, they put this Canabal system into organic law and are now enforcing it throughout the land. How, it is asked, can a less than ten per cent minority impose such Soviet monstrosities on a people more than ninety per cent Catholic. Their style is simpler even than Moscow's. The minority have organized gangs, called army and police, thoroughly supplied with United States arms, minitions and aeroplanes; and the people are shut out from such supply. Their armed gangs run the elections, and if, despite these precautions, hostile candidates are elected, the PNR Committee on qualification of candidates promptly counts them out. This happens in all state and Federal elections, with the result that the National Revolutionary Party Candidates are always returned, even when overwhelmed at the polls. This will supply the answer to another obvious question, “Why do people put up with it?”
In fact they do not; and their heroic resistance at terrible risks augurs well for the liberty movement they are now organizing widely and effectively against overwhelming odds. Two million voters had sent in signed resolutions of protest; and when these were ignored by the mongrel legislatures, they had the courage to make their protests vocal and public. Recently a hundred thousand men and women marched in Mexico City, in face of tear gas and batoning; in like demand. Similar marchings of women and school children as well as fathers of families and youths have been held throughout the country, though subject to the firing and bombshells of Canabal's Red Shirts and police. At Guadalajara on March 3, over three thousand women and Children, bearing placards denouncing atheo-communist education, braved the fire of the Red Shirts; and though several were killed and many wounded, they marched to the governor's palace urging their demands and crying, “Viva Cristo Rey”. Monster indignation meetings that were organised by fathers and students were also shrapnelled; and this but served to further unify the University bodies against the whole government program and personnel.
Students Public Protests
I was present at a secret convention in Mexico City of delegates from the twenty four Universities of the country. For six days, under the guidance of the Jesuit Fathers, they discussed the best methods of resisting the atheizing education and other dereligionizing projects and of de feuding and diffusing Christian culture. They returned to their States, Students and within a week, the Federated University Students. were holding meetings and marchings and organizing public protest against atheo-commuuist education. They succeeded in forcing the government to exempt the Universities from its application ; and their influence is now extending, further.
Defenders of Liberty
The allied societies of Fathers and Mothers of Families have practically emptied the government schools in many districts. Since private schools are forbidden they hold classes in their homes, graded from house to house; and the raiding of these by the Red Shirts and police has become increasingly perilous to the raiders. The defenders of Liberty groups have been multiplying, and they have managed to get sufficient arms to hold their own against the Red Shirt gangs. They are being formed into a nucleus in many states somewhat after the Sinn Fein fashion of Michael Collins, for the general revolution that is now in the making.
United States Sympathy
This a national uprising against Callism on civil, social, and economic grounds, and is not specifically religious. The Church is not a party to this movement,. but Archbishop Ruiz, the Apostolic Delegate, has emphasized, in a recent Pastoral, the right of the people to defend themselves; and should they determine that only by arms can they recover and defend their natural rights, the Church would have thought to say, “neither promoting nor prohibiting”. Their prospects of success are enhanced by the understanding and practical sympathy now being manifested
for the first time by the people of the United States. The secular press in the larger: cities have been issuing a series of revealing articles on the persecutions they found launched by law and force against all religion and all liberty in Mexico; and Father Coughlin, the famous “Radio priest” of Detroit, has given to his more than ten million audience a clear and inspiring account of the Mexican horrors and their own government's responsibility for the tyranny that perpetrates them. This was at the instance of his Bishop, Most Reverend Michael Gallagher DD, a Mungret College alumnus.
The Catholic body is now more united and determined and its action more intelligent than heretofore in regard to Mexico's rights and America's duties.
The Knights of Columbus, are now organizing the Catholic laity to demand and exact as citizens that our Intelligent government take suitable action against the destruction of human rights in Mexico. Protestant and Jewish as well as Catholic legislators introduced resolutions in Congress to that effect; and Senator Borah brought before the Senate his famous Resolutions demanding a Congressional investigation into the facts of the persecution in Mexico and effective corresponding action by the government.
Borah Resolution Undermined
But the Administration proved mysteriously obstinate. Millions of protests against their connivance with Mexican tyranny through Ambassador Daniels' favouring utterances and otherwise, went unheeded; and they exercised every influence to kill the Borah Resolution. This was due to the underground influences, Masonic and financial and sectarian, that had hitherto been able to frustrate all action in favour of a Catholic people by a government which had again and again intervened in favor of oppressed of other faiths in distant lands.
Archbishop Curley Intervenes
This is all the more 'strange in view of the “New Deal” which President Roosevelt based on the principles of the Leo XIII and Pius XI encyclicals. However, the latest news is that the administration has suddenly modified its attitude and will no longer oppose Congressional investigation. On March the 25th, at the Jesuit College auditorium in Washington, within earshot of the Capitol and White House, Archbishop Curley delivered an address which has changed the situation. He stated on personal knowledge that the Administration had given instructions to frustrate further efforts on behalf of persecuted Christians in Mexico and to prevent Congressional investigation into these inhuman outrages, even when infringing on American rights. Citing the numerous historical interventions of President and Congress in favor of persecuted Christians and Jews in distant lands, he said :
“'Secretary of State Hull, in refusing to express a formal and dignified protest to the Mexican Foreign Office, is creating a new departure in American diplomatic practice and is reversing an honourable and time-honoured principle of American sympathy and protest on behalf of the oppressed in other lands, substituting for this century-old tradition an unjustifiable policy of ignoble silence...... Millions of American citizens who have devoted their blood and treasure for the maintenance of this republic have a right to learn from some authoritative source just what is blocking public hearings on this question. One word from the Administration would secure consideration. This word has not been uttered...... Consequently, our fellow citizens, irrespective of race of creed, are faced with the regrettable but undeniable fact, that the present Administration is ranged in definite opposition to the maintenance of one of the most prized principles of American life and international obligation.
The Archbishop of Baltimore's words, as wise and timely as they were courageous, have had instant effect throughout the country, as in Washington, and give promise of moving the Administration to range itself no longer with the destroyers of all liberty in Mexico. Even this negative assistance will suffice to enable the defenders of liberty to overthrow the clique
that enchains it. A postscript to my articles, which will soon be issued in book form, has some acknowledgements which may throw further light on the kind of people they were pleading for:
The writer would pay tribute to the many men and women in Mexico who supplied him at much risk with ample materials, were not their taming the equivalent of sentences to jail or to death. He would also record his lasting indebtedness for the thrill of inspiration furnished him by the examples of heroic sacrifice and religious loyalty it was his privilege to witness in men and women and children of all classes.
Among these he would mention the Indians who wove so cunningly an immense carpet of multicoloured flowers for Our Lady of Guadalupe Shrine that he mistook it for a great Persian rug, and who, by faithful worship in their plundered churches, atone for such sacrilege; the tradesmen and peasants who set up altars in their shops and homes when their churches were robbed of them; the children who sang out bravely in chorus, “Hay, Dios, hay, Dios”, when taught that God is not; the student delegates of twenty-four universities, who risked their careers by training for a week in Mexico City under Jesuit guidance to preserve their nation's institutions from the atheo-communist taint; the Catholic leaders of National Defence who daily challenge death for liberty; and the two thousand priests who, often in penury and rags and hunted as felons, still bring the Bread of Christ to their people.
The Jesuits in Mexico
A secular correspondent gives the Jesuits the credit for preserving the Faith in Mexico. This is generous exaggeration; but fraternal bonds must not deprive them of their due. They
are some two hundred in number, all native Mexicans, and all under sentence of expulsion; but every one of them is there, under varied guise, organising young and old, parents and sodalities, students and teachers, workers and merchants, employers and employees, and issuing and distributing apposite literature, to keep the Faith in Mexico. Experience in many Provinces of both hemispheres warrants the judgment that, in ability and virtue and multiple sacrificial activity and in sterling patriotic as well as religious devotedness, there is no Jesuit body in the world superior to the Jesuits of Mexico, nor truer to the ideals of Ignatius of Loyola. The spirit of Father Miguel Pro, Mexico's most venerated martyr obviously animates his brethren.
Altogether, our people may take the message confidently to heart : The Catholics of Mexico are brethren worth praying for and working for and fighting for.
◆ Mungret Annual, 1944
Father Michael Kenny SJ
Father M Kenny SJ (1882-86) has never failed to provide matter for a note in the Annual. He is eighty now but still going strong. Mons R O'Donoghue (1906-'12) brought him over to St Mary's from Springhill College to celebrate his birthday in proper style - with a dozen old Mungretensians. Father Kenny's literary vein is far from exhausted. He sends us a copy of the Catholic World in which he has a timely article on Hispanidad - the spirit of Spain. He brings his ripe culture to bear in explanation to the USA citizen of why the South American wishes to be very much a Spaniard in spite of the good neighbour policy. Father Kenny also writes an introduction to the poems of Father O'Brien “Sagart Singing”. Last, we notice that he has collaborated in a study of a parish in Tipperary-Glankeen. Readers of the first numbers of the “Annual” will remernber a poem on Glankeen, signed “MK”. Surely Father Kenny merits the words of the Catholic World : “he represents the best in the culture of the old and the new worlds”.
◆ The Mungret Annual, 1947
Father Michael Kenny SJ
Readers of the “Mungret Annual” and many of our Past will have learned with regret of the death of Father Kenny who died on the 22nd November, 1946, at Springhill College, Mobile. He was one of the first Apostolic students, entering the Apostolic school in its infancy at the Crescent, October, 1880. As a student he was outstanding and was prefect of the Seminarists in his last year at Mungret. He was among the first batch to enter the New Orleans Provence of the Society in 1886. He returned to Ireland for theological studies and was ordained in Dublin in 1897. Father Kenny's services to the Church in America during his long course as Professor of Philosophy, Jurisprudence, Sociology, Regent of Loyola Law School and Associate Editor of America, would be impossible to estimate. Yet these numerous occupations did not mean that he had forgotten his Alma Mater or the “Mungret Annual”. As early as '97 we find him contributing a poem called “Mungret Old and New”, and again in ‘99 and the following year we find his versatile mind putting into poetry the old story of the “Dead Language Duel” and many following editions of the Annual have his name among its contributors. To these we must add his priestly work of giving retreats and missions. Among his outstanding works as an author are “The Mexican Crisis”, “Catholic Culture in Alabama”, “The Romance of the Florida's”, and “No God next Door”.
His last visit to Mungret was to be present at our Golden Jubilee, 1932. We mourn the passing of one of our earliest students and one of our most outstanding Past. To his relatives and friends we offer our sincere sympathy.