In the inscrutable designs of Providence he, who took the initial step Toward bringing the Sisters of St. Joseph to the West, was not to share in their labors. Father J.M. Coudert, one of the Montferrand deacons recruited by Father Macheboeuf in 1856,1 had set his heart upon establishing a school in Las Vegas, New Mexico where he was pastor. During the years prior to his appointment he had been on most intimate terms with Bishop Lamy. In his capacity as the Bishop's secretary2 he must have often discussed the indispensable part which must be played by religious teachers in the Southwest. The spirit, history, and adaptability of the various communities must have been considered. Both being natives of southern France they were no strangers to the Sisters of St. Joseph, and it was to this community that Father Coudert turned after his appointment to Las Vegas.
Having secured the permission of Bishop Lamy, he made the long and arduous overland trip to Carondelet in June, 1867, where he hoped a personal plea to the Mother General would bring quicker and happier results. To his dismay, when he reached Carondelet, he found that Reverend Mother St. John Facemaz was in Rome seeking papal approval for the Congregation.3 So eloquent must have been his exposition of the desperate need for religious teachers in his far-away mission that the authorities at Carondelet gave him to understand that a colony of Sisters would be supplied in the near future.
In the meantime, Father John Baptist Salpointe had been attempting to reestablish the faith in Tucson, Arizona, a city notorious for its violence, general lawlessness, and deplorable Indian troubles. In his anxiety for the preservation of the youth of his flock he appealed to his bishop, John Baptist Lamy, for assistance in obtaining religious teachers. Since the latter was already putting pressure upon Carondelet for the Las Vegas missionary group, Father Salpointe felt he could also put in a petition for teachers. Accordingly, Bishop Lamy sent the following letter to Carondelet in regard to the needs of the two priests:
It was with a very real regret that Mother St. John was forced to refuse Bishop Lamy. She was of the stuff of which missionaries and martyrs are made and was in complete sympathy with the needs of her compatriot in his Western missionary diocese. Having left her native France in 18546with the burning desire to participate in the salvation of the Indians, his request was one which, under ordinary circumstances, she would glory in fulfilling. But a condition existing within the Congregation deterred her. The final period of trial before the approbation of the Constitutions would be granted was being undergone. Because of the many foundations being placed under the care of the congregation it had become a custom, almost from log-cabin days at Carondelet, to engage the novices in various active works. Now the Holy See had definitely declared that the novices should be confined to the novitiate house--thus leaving many posts unfilled. Mother St. John regretfully acquainted Bishop Lamy with this Information in the following:
This letter dashed any hope for gaining Sisters from Carondelet which Father Coudert might still have entertained. However, Las Vegas was not to be long without the beneficial influence of religious teachers. In the very next year, 1869, the Immaculate Conception Academy was founded by the Sisters of Loretto.8 Father Salpointe was not so easily daunted, nor was Bishop Lamy disturbed by Reverend Mother St. John's reply. For, two months later we find him again addressing her, brushing aside her objections with not even a reference to them, and almost insisting that sisters be supplied to Tucson. As in the first letter, he emphasizes the growing importance of Tucson and must be forgiven for not revealing its many unpromising aspects.
This letter reveals, somewhat, the tenacious character of the great "Apostle of New Mexico." Faced with the overwhelming task of ministering to the spiritual needs of such an extensive diocese he refuses to take seriously Reverend Mother's plea of insufficient numbers, but casually reminds her that she has "many Sisters." What her reaction to his second message was we can only conjecture since there is no available record of it. However, he was relieved of the problem of obtaining religious teachers for the remote Territory of Arizona by an action of the Holy See. For, three months from the day on which he penned his message to Carondelet, the Territory was made a Vicariate Apostolic with John B. Salpointe designated as its first Bishop.10
As an example of the paucity of priests in the Territory we cite the Bishop- elect's predicament when he determined to return to his native diocese of Clermont Ferrand for his consecration.
Father Salpointe had a dual purpose in choosing Clermont for the scene of his consecration. Forgetting for a time the unceasing labor and poverty of his desert vicariate he could revel in the pomp and magnificence of the consecration ceremonies at this old-world cathedral. At the same time, he determined to use this opportunity to gain recruits for Arizona from the fruitful seminaries of France. While preparations were under way at Clermont for the sacred event which was to take place on June 20, we find the Bishop-elect addressing Reverend Mother St. John from Lyons. The letter implies that Mother St. John had given Bishop Lamy at least a tacit promise of a group of Sisters. It can be only supposed that this promise was given because both Lamy and Salpointe were of the persistent type which could and did take much for granted when there was a question of aid for their vast vineyards. The letter is as follows:
Tne cannot but admire the temerity of this beggar bishop who before he has the definite promise of sufficient sisters to staff one school is requesting enough for two. Since he was in Europe, Bishop Salpointe utilized this circumstance for making his Ad Limina visit to Rome where he acquainted Pope Pius IX with the condition of his distant vicariate.13 It was August by the time he returned to Clermont where he was happy to find a letter from Mother St. John dated June 24th and containing the welcome news that a group of Sisters would be waiting in St. Louis to continue with him on the last lap of his long journey. Because of the great distance which her sisters must traverse and the perils and discomfort they probably would experience, Mother St. John must have asked for a description of the Tucson house to which he had so often referred and a detailed account of the proposed journey. For in his response is contained the following:
When Bishop Salpointe reached Carondelet in the autumn of 1869 eager to meet his Arizona missionaries and start with them the long trek westward, a crushing disappointment awaited him. No preparations had been made. No volunteers had been chosen. Instead Reverend Mother St. John gently but firmly insisted that she must be better informed of the route they would follow and of conditions in Tucson. Consequently, he could not hope to receive them before spring. Mother St. John feared neither the pinch of poverty nor the pain of arduous labor for her sisters, but she dreaded sending them into what seemed almost certain death. An authority on pioneer Arizona has this to say of conditions during the very years the Tucson mission was being considered.
Before he reached home, the Bishop himself admitted Reverend
Mother's decision had been a wise one. Although he had left St. Louis early in October, Tucson was not reached until February fourth. When his party had travelled as far as Las Cruces, New Mexico he wrote to Reverend Mother remarking, "The good Sisters destined for my mission were well-inspired not to leave with me; they would have had much to suffer in the long delays that I had to experience en route."16
Tucson jubilantly welcomed its first bishop on February 4, 1870, but it was with mixed sentiments of joy and sorrow that they noted the other members of his company. Although there was great satisfaction at the presence of the six young French missionaries, the absence of the eagerly awaited Sisters was keenly felt.
During the eleven months which Bishop Salpointe had spent on his European trip, Father F. Jouvenceau had finished the construction of the convent school. It had been financed by the voluntary contributions and labor of the impoverished inhabitants. It was a memorial to their desire for Christian education. It was the only school of any kind, Catholic or non-sectarian, in the entire state of Arizona. Its thick adobe walls and earthen floors had presented no problem to the eager builders, but the task of obtaining lumber to roof both this building and the long roofless church was a very real one.
Since the mountains from which the pine was obtained were eighty miles from Tucson, there was difficulty in obtaining wagons to haul the lumber down to the city. Consequently, the revengeful and destructive Apaches watchfully waited for the departure of the workmen so that they could burn the precious lumber and thus frustrate the plan of the white men. The only means of saving it was to have it transported a distance of twelve miles to Camp 1, Wallen where the soldiers of the United States Army would protect it until it could be moved down to Tucson.18 This was accomplished soon after.
Bishop Salpointe eagerly inspected the building and also another one intended for a boys' school located near the church. He was convinced by what he saw that Reverend Mother St. John could no longer refrain from sending the Sisters. In a letter dated February 17, 1870, he gave her a very detailed account of the plan of the convent, noted that it was "entirely furnished", and since the property was to be turned over to the community, inquired in whose name the transfer should be made. After this information had been carefully itemized he went on to say:
This letter was followed a week later by one containing the information that he was able to collect only eight hundred piastres from the people. He intimates that they are beginning to doubt that the Sisters will ever come, and are holding back until they actually arrive. Again he requests Reverend Mother to supplement the amount with whatever is lacking.20 This is a clear indication of the extreme poverty of the Bishop and of his priests. They rarely asked their people for help unless this was absolutely necessary.
The final letter relative to the departure of the Sisters was addressed to Reverend Mother St. John by Bishop Salpointe's Vicar General, Father Francis Jouvenceau. Its purpose was to notify her of the arrival of the money which would help with the "preliminary expenses"21and also to reiterate the Bishop's doubt that the sisters would ever come.
Meanwhile, at Carondelet and throughout all the houses of the Congregation, the Sisters had been enthusiastically conjecturing who, among the many volunteers, would be chosen for the new mission in the Far West. Arizona had so lately become a possession of the United States, and it was so definitely Spanish in tradition and custom that the proposed work was surrounded by an aura of romance and adventure not found in the more prosaic settlements of the East.
When the names of the chosen seven were made known, it was discovered that with the exception of one, this was to be for them a foreign mission. Sisters Emerentia Bonnefoy, Ambrosia Arnichaud, Euphrasia Suchet, Hyacinth Blanc, and Maxine Croisat were natives of France. From Moutiers they had volunteered for the American missions during the years 1857 to 1867. Several of them had been inspired by the burning desire to spend their lives in the service and civilization of the American Indian. The Arizona Mission offered an opportunity of realizing this ambition. Not one of these five French Sisters ever returned to the East. Each bore to the full her share of the struggles, privations, and unremitting labor necessary to institute the works of religion in the rude desert village of Tucson and at the end was laid to rest under its sunny skies. Sister Mary Martha Peters was a native of Ireland. She had received the habit at Carondelet on October 9, 1859 and had been professed on August 26, 1861. She was the housekeeper for the original band. After some years spent in the West she returned to St. Louis where she died in 1894 at the age of fifty-seven.
The seventh member of the group and the only native American, Sister Monica Corrigan, has a very interesting and colorful history. A native of Hemingford, Canada, Ann Taggert with her family emigrated to Kansas City, Missouri, then known as Westport Landing. In the course of time she became the wife of John Corrigan, a member of a wealthy and influential family which was famous for having introduced the street-car system into Kansas City. Widowed early in her married life, Ann Corrigan joined the community at Carondelet in 1867, being then twenty-four years old. She made her profession on December 8, 1869 and four months later started on the historic journey to Arizona. She was to spend sixty-three years as a Sister of St. Joseph--years packed with adventure and action. Her spirituality was that of Martha rather than of Mary. The very idea of human respect was foreign to her nature. She was as much at home begging alms in the rough mining camps of Arizona and Mexico, or settling gang wars in Kansas City as in the quiet halls of the convent. Perhaps her greatest claim to fame in relation to the story of the Church in Arizona was the faithful journal she kept of the arduous trek of the seven Sisters of St. Joseph from Carondelet to Tucson. It has been preserved in its entirety and is a definite contribution to the pioneer chapter of the history of the Catholic Church in America.
That the Sisters felt they were indeed setting out on a mission from which they would never return is expressed in her entry for the first day, April 20, 1870. In commenting on the first lap of the journey between St.Louis and Kansas City, she remarks:
By means of the Journal a vivid picture of the long, round-about trip to Tucson is revealed. Following Bishop Salpointe's advice, the Sisters traveled by the recently completed railroad to San Francisco, by boat to the ancient village of San Diego, and by covered wagon to Tucson. Reverend Mother St.John accompanied them as far west as Omaha, Nebraska, but from that point they were on their own. The trip from Omaha to San Francisco was made in five days. Sister Monica's account gives one a clear notion of the 19th century train accommodations and speed.
After spending three days with the Sisters of Mercy in San Francisco, the seven wayfarers took passage on the ocean steamer Arizola bound for San Diego, which was reached on May 4. In spite of seasickness suffered by several of the group, these few days on the ocean refreshed and strengthened them for the arduous weeks of desert travel which lay before them. Contrary to what they expected from Bishop Salpointe's itinerary, no priest guide awaited them at San Diego. After waiting in vain for four days the travelers decided to hire a private conveyance for the journey. Their route was to take them down into Lower California which was traversed in six days. In the entry for May 8, Sister Monica records a novel experience for nuns:
At noon we came to a cool shady place in which we rested. The ranch- man (a person who keeps refreshments, stable feed, etc., on the western plains), invited us to dinner. He offered us a good meal of all we could desire. There were several ranchmen there from the neighboring stations, but no women. There are few women in this country. After dinner they became very sociable. We retired to the stable where our driver and only protector was, and they followed. Some of them proposed marriage to us, saying we would do better by accepting the offer than by going on to Tucson, for we would all be massacred by the Indians. The simplicity and earnestness with which they spoke put indignation out of the question, as it was evident they meant no insult, but our good. They were all native Americans. For that afternoon we had amusement enough.23
Throughout the succeeding five days before they were once more within the confines of the United States possibly every type of physical discomfort was experienced by the travelers. Sister Monica notes on May 9th:
After having reached the foot of the mountain they continued on foot to the nearest ranch which they reached in a well-nigh exhausted condition. Instead of rest and refreshment, a humiliating experience was to add to their fatigue.
We were not only tired, but hungry, as we had scarcely anything to eat that day. We placed ourselves under the merciful protection of our Heavenly Father, our Blessed Lady, and St.Joseph as we were exposed to fearful dangers in that ugly place. We will never be able to tell our dear Sisters all the mortification and humiliations we had to endure there. It was nine o'clock before we could get a chance to make some tea; in the meantime we remained near our carriage--it was our only home. Mother felt much discouraged. She said, "If Reverend Mother knew where we were she would not go to bed this night."25
The extreme heat of the desert area of Lower California through which they passed can be gathered from the following:
Because of the intense heat, most of their traveling had to be done at night.
Their dramatic entrance into Arizona from Lower California can best be visualized through Sister Monica's account:
From this point until their entrance into Tucson thirteen days later, the Sisters traveled in comparative comfort and security. The principal reason for this was that they were met at Arizona City or Yuma by Father Francis Jouvenceau, Bishop Salpointe's vicar-general, who was equipped with a large, comfortable carriage, tents, plentiful provisions and even a boy to cook the meals. According to the Bishop's plan he should have accompanied them from San Diego but a delay in Reverend Mother's announcement of their coming had prevented this. While at Yuma the Sisters enjoyed the consolation of assisting at Holy Mass and receiving Holy Communion, the absence of which had added much to the trials of their journey thus far. Their greatest danger now lay in the possibility of an Indian attack since they were in Apache territory. Daily they passed recently made graves of persons who had been massacred by the Indians. Sister Monica gives expression to the sentiments of her companions in her entry for May 24:
At nine o'clock that night a party of sixteen soldiers rode up with the information that they had been sent to escort them the remaining seventy- five miles to Tucson. The following morning part of a welcoming escort sent on from the city met them and by noon they were joined by the remaining members. "There was great rejoicing among them; but as they could not speak either French or English, we did not understand them."31 Gaity marked the remainder of the day, but as night approached their mirth was changed into apprehension.
A more dramatic or more heart-warming reception than that demonstrated by the people of Tucson to the Sisters of St. Joseph on the evening of Ascension Day, 1870 cannot be found in the annals of the Church in America. Sister Monica's account of the event bears repetition:
After serving the weary sisters a refreshing meal the ladies departed leaving them in possession of their new home. St. Joseph's Convent, Tucson was now a reality.
Before considering the pioneer years of the Sisters of St. Joseph in Arizona it might be well to note the overland trek of two bands of reinforcements which were added to the original seven. Upon returning from a visit in Rome in October, 1873, Bishop Salpointe stopped at Carondelet to arrange with Reverend Mother for sending a second group of Sisters to his diocese. These were necessary because he was about to institute a school at the ancient mission of San Xavier, and was on his way to negotiate with government officials in Washington about this matter.
Sisters Lucretia Burns, Francesca Kelly and Mary Martha Dunne were chosen from among the volunteers and left Kansas City in company with the Bishop and three other gentlemen on December 1, 1873. The party traveled overland by way of Denver where the Sisters were given the traditional hospitality of the Sisters of Loretto. Bishop Salpointe was the guest of Bishop Macheboeuf who visited the Sisters daily and entertained them with his Arizona experiences. From Denver they were able to travel by train only as far as Kit Carson, Colorado. The remainder of the long overland journey to Tucson had to be made by stage and lasted from December thirteenth to January twenty-seventh. The stage is described as, "a Murphy double wagon, with bows covered with a gray blanket."34
Their plan was to proceed from Kit Carson to Trinidad in Southern Colorado by way of Raton Pass. They had not gone far when it was discovered that one of the horses was blind. This was the first of a long litany of casualties which befell them before they reached their destination. On December 13, they lost the trail in a snowstorm and had to spend the night in a sheep rancher's hut. The next night found them still lost and unable to find the road to Trinidad. It was spent in a deserted cabin. In order to keep from freezing to death,
During the course of the next day Trinidad was reached and the travelers were kindly received by the Sisters of Charity, among them Sister Blandina of At the End of the Santa Fe Trail fame.
The Christmas holidavs were spent with the Sisters of Loretto at Las Vegas, New Mexico from whence they proceeded to Santa Fe where for the third time on this memorable journey the Lorettines harbored the Sisters of St. Joseph. At Santa Fe the Bishop obtained from the Sisters of Loretto an old coach which they used for going to retreat and he bought a new team of horses to replace the worn-out animals used thus far.
They were met at Las Cruces, New Mexico by Father Antonio Jouvenceau who accompanied the Sisters on the last tap of the journey to Tucson, which was reached on January 27, 1874. It is not hard to visualize the joy with which the group at San Agustin's greeted their long-awaited sisters.
A third group was sent from Carondelet to reinforce the Arizona missionaries in the spring of 1876. Sisters Basil Morris, John Berchmans Hartrich, Mary Rose Doran, and Eutichiana Piccini left the motherhouse on Easter Monday, April 17,1876. They followed much the same route which the pioneers had taken six years earlier. Sister John Berchmans, the chronicler of the party, gives her impression of Denver's frontier cathedral:
After waxing eloquent upon the scenic loveliness and fertility of California, she makes this comparison:
Instead of making the laborious overland crossing of Lower California, this group continued on the ocean steamer Neroburn from San Francisco around Cape San Lucas into the Gulf of Lower California. The ship stopped at the ports of Mazatlan, La Paz and Guaymas.
The Sisters noted with interest the unusual customs of the people and the exotic spirit pervading these places. The mouth of the Colorado River was reached on Sunday morning, May 21. The passengers were transferred from the ocean steamer to a river boat which continued up the Colorado to Yuma, which was reached on Wednesday morning, May 24.
A welcoming group was on hand to greet the newcomers because the Sisters of St. Joseph had been established at Yuma since the previous year. Mutual excitement was exhibited by the new missionaries and the veterans--the former, at being sheltered once more in one of the houses of the Congregation; the latter, with news from their Sisters so far away in the States. Sister John Berchmans' impression of Yuma is not pre-possessing:
It took ten days of tedious travel by stage to traverse the three hundred miles between Yuma and Tucson. "The only houses on the way are the stations and these are generally twenty, thirty, or forty miles apart. At each of them we were obliged to fill our canteens with fresh water."39 But all the anxiety and pain of the fearful nights passed in the open, a prey to the elements and to wild animals, and days spent creeping along cactus bordered desert roads were forgotten at the welcome sight which greeted them five miles outside Tucson. There they were met by Father Antonio and three of the Sisters who accompanied the travelers to the convent where a joyous reunion took place.
CHAPTER IV REFERENCES
1 Howlett, op. cit., 212
2 Salpointe, op. cit., 257
3 Savage, op. cit., 121
4 The capital was moved from Prescott to Tucson in 1867. Phoenix became the permanent capital in 1889.
5 Original in Carondelet Archives.
6 Savage, op. cit., 113
7 Copy in Carondelet Archives.
8 Sister M. Lilliana Owens, S.L., THE HISTORY OF THE SISTERS OF LORETTO IN THE TRANS-MISSISSIPPI WEST (Ph.D. dissertation, Department of History, St. Louis University, St. Louis, Mo., 1935) 325
9 June 25, 1868. Original in the Carondelet Archives.
10 Salpointe, op. cit, 259
11 Ibid., 259
12 English original in Carondelet Archives
13 Salpointe. op. cit., 260
14 Bishop Salpointe to Reverend Mother St. John Facemaz, Clermont, France, August 19,1869. French original in Carondelet Archives.
15 Frank C. Lockwood, PIONEER DAYS IN ARIZONA, (New York: The Macmillan Co., 1932), 165
16 Letter dated Jan. 6,1870, Las Cruces, New New Mexico, from Bishop J.B. Salpointe to Reverend Mother St. John Facemaz. French original in Carondelet Archives.
17 Salpointe, op. cit., 253
18 Ibid., 254
19 Bishop Salpointe to Reverend Mother St. John, February 17, 1870, Tucson, Arizona. French original in Carondelet Archives.
20 Ibid., February 24, 1870. French original in Carondelet Archives.
21 Father Francis Jouvenceau to Reverend Mother St. John, Tucson, Arizona, March 1, 1870. French original in Carondelet Archives.
22A Sister Mary Monica Corrigan, JOURNAL OF THE SISTERS OF ST. JOSEPH ENROUTE TO ARIZONA, APRIL 20,1870 to MAY 26,1870. Original in the Los Angeles Archives.
23 Ibid., May 8
24 Ibid., May 9
25 Ibid., May 9
26 Ibid., May 10
27 Ibid., May 10
28 Ibid., May 11
29 Ibid., May 13
30 Ibid., May 24
31 Ibid., May 25
32 Ibid., May 25
33 Ibid., May 26
34 Anonymous account of the 1873 journey. Carondelet Archives.
36 Sister John Berchmans Hartrich, A JOURNAL CONTAINING A LITTLE DESCRIPTION OF OUR JOURNEY FROM CARONDELET TO TUCSON. April 17,1876 to june 8,1876.37 Ibid.
Continue with Chapter 5