Colorado Catholicism

By Thomas J. Noel

Matz: The Builder Bishop (1889-1917)

In Nicholas Chrysostom Matz, Machebeuf had received just the man he wanted as his coadjutor. "I am getting old, and there is work for two," Machebeuf wrote early in 1887, adding that Matz

was my choice from the very first. He is well liked by priests and people—a man of study, and easily the peer of any priest in Colorado or New Mexico. . . . He has the advantage of knowing English, French, German and Italian, and sufficient Spanish to treat with the Mexicans. My poor Mexicans will have a father in Father Matz. . . . It is true that Father Matz is young, but a young man is best for this young diocese, for he will have more energy to push forward the work for more churches, more schools, and for a more early realization of the new cathedral.
Machebeuf's prophecy for his successor proved accurate during Matz's twenty-eight-year reign as bishop of Denver. Despite financial problems compounded by the depression of 1893, as well as troubles with his priests that led him four times to offer his resignation to Rome, Bishop Matz became Denver's builder bishop. He dedicated dozens of Catholic schools, thirty-four new parishes, a successful seminary, a grand cathedral, and a spacious cemetery that serves the diocese to this day.

Like so many of his parishioners, Matz was an immigrant, born April 6, 1850, in Münster, France. Nicholas was the son of Antoine and Marie-Anne Boul Matz, who with their children came to the United States in 1868. The Matz family joined relatives who had settled in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Eighteen-year old Nicholas, who had studied at church schools in Münster and for three years at the Petit Seminarie in Finstingen, France, continued his studies in Cincinnati at Mount St.-Mary-of-the West Seminary. This seminary was visited by Bishop Mache-beuf on his 1869 eastern trip to recruit priests for Colorado. He found two volunteers: One was a young man who supposedly became horrified at stories that hungry Colorado Indians would scalp him, tie him to a tree, and treat him to a war dance before roasting him to death. That terrified young man subsequently left the seminary and became a farmer.

Machebeuf's other volunteer recruit was Nicholas Matz. He became Father Matz on a bright spring day, May 31, 1874, when Bishop Machebeuf ordained him at St. Mary Church in Denver. This capable young priest was Machebeuf's assistant pastor for the next three years.

In 1877, Bishop Machebeuf assigned Father Matz to one of his struggling mountain parishes, Our Lady of Lourdes at Georgetown. In Georgetown, an 8,519-foot high silver-mining city, Matz proved himself capable and popular. He built a $12,000 brick church, a rectory, a hospital, a convent, and a school, transforming what had been an impoverished, tiny chapel into a large and healthy parish plant.

In 1895, Matz was asked to deal with another problem parish—St. Ann's (Annunciation) in Denver, which had been destroyed by a fire. Matz served as pastor of Annunciation, living in humble quarters in the rear of the church until his consecration in St. Mary's Cathedral as bishop coadjutor, October 28, 1887, by Archbishop John Baptiste Salpointe, Lamy's successor in Santa Fe.

Matz looked and acted more like a bishop than had the scrawny, homely, Machebeuf. He stood 5 feet 11 inches tall, according to his passport. Photographs reveal a heavyset, erect carriage, ruddy complexion, and high forehead that gave him a benign appearance, which belied a steely inner determination to complete the work Machebeuf had begun.

Following the death of Machebeuf's vicar general, Jean Raverdy, Bishop Matz selected Henry Robinson as the second vicar general of the Denver diocese. Robinson, a second-generation Irish American, was one of the ablest priests to be recruited by Bishop Machebeuf. Machebeuf had persuaded Robinson to come to Colorado in 1869 while he was still a seminarian at Cape Giradeau, Missouri. After ordination in 1872, Father Robinson assisted at St. Mary's in Denver. Two years later, Machebeuf sent him to establish missions in Park, Chaffee, Summit, and Lake counties. In 1878, Robinson became the founding pastor of Leadville's large Annunciation Church. After his appointment as vicar general, Father Robinson moved from Leadville to Denver, where he followed Matz as pastor of St. Ann's (Annunciation) parish, building a beautiful church while simultaneously working as Bishop Matz's vicar general.

Whereas Machebeuf had run the diocese loosely and informally—acting on suggestions from Archbishop Lamy and Cardinal Gibbons—Matz saw the need for tighter organization, for separation of the bishop's personal and diocesan finances, and for clarification of the rights and responsibilities of priests and parishes. Matz, who took an authoritarian stance on these issues, consequently attracted criticism from some leading priests and laymen.

Religious sisters

In accordance with the decrees of the Third Plenary Baltimore Council of 1884, Bishop Matz asked every parish to open a parochial school. In these parish schools, religion was the principal subject and taught from the Baltimore Catechism, which had been drawn up at the 1884 council. At a time when many communities lacked adequate public schools, starting and maintaining a parochial school was no easy task for new and often struggling parishes. To staff these schools, Bishop Matz concentrated on bringing more nuns to Colorado.

Self-sacrifice and hardship characterized the lives of Colorado's pioneer nuns. Consider, for example, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet. This order, founded in 1650 at Le Puy, France, had sent sisters to Carondelet, a suburb of St. Louis, Missouri, in 1836 to do missionary work in the United States. In 1876, Bishop Machebeuf stopped at their Missouri motherhouse, imploring the sisters to help him with schools and hospitals in Central City, Georgetown, and Denver.

Three Sisters of St. Joseph reached the raucous mining town of Central City late in 1876. The high altitude left them gasping for breath as they climbed flights of rickety wooden stairs to the school and convent perched on a stony hillside. In winter, when the sun dropped behind the mountains by 4 o'clock in the afternoon, the sisters shivered. They had no salary, only what food and firewood people gave them. Yet somehow they persisted, eventually buying the school from the Diocese of Denver for $8,000. Despite all the hardships, and the grim specter of four sisters graves in Central's Catholic cemetery, the nuns kept St. Aloysius Academy open until 1917.

Some of the Sisters of St. Joseph ventured even deeper into the Rockies to open St. Joseph Hospital in Georgetown in 1880. Miners voluntarily contributed a dollar a month from their paychecks to support this desperately needed facility. This practice soon became standard in other mining districts with Catholic hospitals, including Breckenridge, Durango, Leadville, and Ouray. Even with the dollar-a-month contributions from miners, however, the sisters inevitably nursed hospital deficits as well as miners.

"Everyone depended on those Sisters of St. Joseph," recalled Veronica Elliott of Georgetown, adding that:

Those nifty nuns not only ran the Georgetown hospital but a parish school at Our Lady of Lourdes. After the 1893 silver crash, Georgetown was no longer a coming place. My father, Patrick Devaney, was a miner who took up collections to keep the hospital open. It was the only one in all of Clear Creek County. The sisters had to close the school in 1913 and the hospital in 1914, although Mother Lilly stayed on to teach piano and Sister Joseph kept the hospital open until it burned down in 1917.
Two tombstones in the tiny Silver Plume Cemetery above Georgetown commemorate the nuns efforts to civilize the mining towns. The graves are of two Sisters of St. Joseph, close friends who both died young and were buried side by side. One aging stone reads, "Sweet Jesus Rest. Sister Mary Philomena, born March 1, 1848; died Aug. 10, 1891, in the 22nd year of her religious life"; the other, "Sister M. Bonaventure, born March 18, 1867; died Oct. 29, 1892, in the fifth year of her religious life." "Our order wanted to move those two to Mt. Olivet Cemetery where the other sisters who served in Colorado lie," Sister Jarlath McManus, CSJ, recalled in 1987. "But the people of Silver Plume objected and promised to take care of the graves of those sisters who had taken such good care of the mountain mining town people."

In 1883, the first Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet arrived in Denver at midnight. A freak snowstorm had delayed their Union Pacific Railroad trip for hours. Not until 3 A.M. did they finally arrive at St. Patrick Church, where they were given mattresses on the floor of a room without heat, light, or provisions. The next morning, women in the parish dropped by to greet them and to leave off children of all ages for "the Sisters School," which was not yet built. Undaunted, the nuns opened classrooms in the church, where they slept in the basement. Seeming to thrive on such adversity, the sisters of St. Joseph, by 1900, had a convent and eleven sisters teaching 275 pupils at St. Patrick School.

The Sisters of Mercy from Omaha also responded to Bishop Matz's pleas for teaching nuns. This order had been founded in 1831 by Catherine McCauley, an Irish heiress, in Dublin, to care for the poor. Mother McCauley's fast growing order soon spread throughout the British Isles and to the United States. The Sisters of Mercy had initially been recruited by Bishop Machebeuf to build and staff Mercy hospitals in Denver and Durango, as well as St. Catherine Home in Denver. After seeing how cheerfully and capably they ran their hospitals, community leaders in Durango enlisted their efforts in education. They opened St. Columba (1882) and Sacred Heart (1903) schools in Durango; as well as tending to Catholic educational needs in Denver, Cripple Creek, and San Luis.

The Denver archdiocese has also relied on the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary from Dubuque, Iowa, who came to Colorado in 1892. These sisters settled in Boulder to staff Mount St. Gertrude Academy until its closing in 1968 and have taught at Sacred Heart of Jesus School in Boulder since 1916.

Benedictine sisters from Chicago came to Colorado, also, opening St. Gertrude School (1886-1890) in Breckenridge, which closed when the nuns became discouraged by the harsh climate and the fluctuating mining fortunes. The Benedictines persisted a little longer in Aspen, where they opened St. Mary School (1892-1910). Franciscan Daughters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary from Wheaton, Illinois, first came to Denver in 1888 to teach at St. Elizabeth parish school until 1917, when another order of Franciscan nuns took over. Accidentally, the Wheaton Franciscans at St. Elizabeth's also got into the orphanage business. On Christmas Eve, 1890, a young father brought his four motherless daughters to the Franciscan Convent at 10th and Champa streets. The Franciscans could not say no, and this unplanned orphanage soon outgrew their convent. In 1907, they purchased sixteen acres between West 26th and West 29th avenues on Osceola Street and constructed St. Clara Orphanage. The old St. Clara Orphanage building at 10th and Champa was converted to St. Rose Home for Working Girls. The new orphanage, the largest in Colorado when it opened in 1908, housed as many as forty nuns caring for as many as 300 children under the age of fourteen.

During the great blizzard of 1913, St. Clara Orphanage was rescued by heaven-sent elephants. Ruth Wiberg tells the story in Rediscovering Northwest Denver:

During what will always be called "Denver's Big Snow of 1913," St. Clara's Orphanage had run out of coal. With their usual knightly posture of rushing to the rescue, the Denver Post publishers sent wagonloads of coal. . . . Struggling up West 26th Avenue past the [Denver Post] circus grounds, the coal teams floundered in the deep drifts. The wagons would not move. The frustrated drivers plowed through the waist high snow to the circus and got permission to use the elephants.

The mammoth animals trumpeted and bellowed at the cold wet drifts about their tropics-bred knees, but, one behind each wagon, they put their trunks around the rear axles, lifting the wagons off the ground. Rearing and plunging, the horses had to pull or be run over by their own wagons. St. Clara's received their coal and the orphans were saved from the cold.

St. Clara Orphanage was demolished in 1967, when it was replaced by Francis Heights, a senior high-rise residence. The Wheaton Franciscans also opened Sacred Heart Orphanage (1903-1981) in Pueblo with the help of donations and publicity from Captain John J. Lambert, editor of the Pueblo Chieftan. Another order of Franciscans, the Sisters of St. Francis of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, operated St. Joseph Academy (1906-1920) and its successor, St. John the Baptist School, in Longmont, as well as other schools in various towns.

The Dominicans first came to Colorado to administer a new Denver parish named in honor of their founder—St. Dominic's at West 29th Avenue and Federal Boulevard. While Dominican fathers ran the church, the Dominican sisters of Sinsinawa, Wisconsin, opened St. Dominic's parish school in 1890. The Dominican sisters of Springfield, Illinois, in 1927, started Holy Rosary school in Denver's Globeville neighborhood, while the Dominicans from Sinsinawa opened in 1955, Sts. Peter and Paul in Wheat Ridge. Hundreds of now-forgotten nuns did saintly work in the Denver archdiocese over the years, but only one of them would be canonized.

Mother Cabrini

Coloradans like to claim Francesca Maria Cabrini as their own. So do many of the other places where she founded schools, hospitals, and orphanages, from New York to Nicaragua, from Liverpool to Los Angeles, from Paris to Rio de Janeiro, from Chicago to Grenada, from New Orleans to her birthplace near Lodi, in Italy. A flock of white doves came to rest on the home of Agostino and Stella Cabrini on July 15, 1850, the day their thirteenth and last child was born. Other legendary signs also suggested that the sickly little girl would become an energetic, world-traveling saint. As a child she created convents, dressing her dolls as nuns. She made little paper boats and filled them with violets, which she said were missionary flowers of faith. Locked church doors opened at her touch. At twenty-four, she began teaching orphans; at thirty, she founded the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart. She so impressed Pope Leo XIII by setting up a school in Rome that the Holy Father officially blessed her next endeavor—comforting Italian immigrants who were flocking to America by the millions. She would take sixty-seven trips in America and found sixty-seven institutions.

Her first voyage came in 1889 when she visited New York City's Little Italy, where she started an orphanage, a hospital, and West Park, the first American novitiate for her Missionary Sisters. Mother Cabrini's reputation as a miracle worker brought her appeals from all over the United States. Two pleas came from Father Mariano LePore of Denver's Mount Carmel parish and from Bishop Matz, urging her to come and work her magic among the Italians, one of the largest and poorest immigrant enclaves in the Mile High City. Mother Cabrini first came to Denver on October 24, 1902, blessing Mount Carmel parish with her gentle strength. Michael Notary, a leading Italian, loaned her his house at 34th and Navajo to use as a school, the first for Mount Carmel parish. (The large brick home is now a designated Denver landmark.) Notary's career typifies that of successful Italian immigrants. He came to Denver in 1889 as a produce peddler, opened successful grocery and liquor businesses, and died in 1935 a wealthy merchant and real estate man. The school opened on November 24, 1900, with the first floor converted to classrooms and the upstairs to a convent for the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart.

In 1904, Mother Cabrini and the Missionary Sisters purchased a large farm house and several acres of land at West 48th Avenue and Federal Boulevard in North Denver. The recycled farm opened in 1905 as the Queen of Heaven Orphanage for girls aged two to fifteen. Queen of Heaven soon reached its capacity of 160 orphans, and in 1920 a magnificent new buff brick orphanage opened its doors. This large, neoclassical structure graced the Denver skyline with an electrically illuminated statue of the Queen of Heaven atop the lofty tower. The orphanage was reorganized in 1965 as a private elementary boarding school for girls and renamed the Saint Cabrini Memorial Private School. In January 1957, the Queen of Heaven Orphanage sold sixteen of its forty-three lots to the Colorado Highway Department for construction of interstate highway 70. Twelve years later, the home and school closed and were demolished. Mother Cabrini became a naturalized citizen of the United States in 1909. While spending much of her time in Chicago and New York, she made several visits to Denver's Mount Carmel parish and Queen of Heaven Orphanage. She also toured mining towns, where many Italian immigrants worked ten or twelve hours a day underground. Defying superstitions against allowing women inside mines, she rode cage hoists down into the depths to bring a message of salvation: "My good brothers, we come down into the bowels of the earth to you in the name of Your Creator, He Who pines for your filial love."

On a 1912 visit to Denver, Mother Cabrini packed up her nuns for a picnic in the mountains. The captain at the firehouse on Tejon Street, if one of many North Denver folktales about Mother Cabrini is true, regularly took the sisters for such Sunday outings. When accused of using the fire department horses for these excursions, the chief supposedly replied, "As long as Mother Cabrini is with our fire horses, there never has been or never will be a fire in North Denver."

Upon reaching Mount Vernon Canyon, Mother Cabrini and some of the sisters climbed up the highest hill in sight. Overwhelmed with the splendid view of Denver and the Front Range, the sisters gathered white stones and arranged them in the shape of a heart to represent the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Inspired by the outing, Mother Cabrini somehow managed to buy the 900-acre hilltop site. She was warned there was no water but, according to legend, moved a rock to uncover a still-flowing stream of artesian water, which served the summer home for orphan girls that Mother Cabrini and the Missionary Sisters constructed.

In 1929, the spring was converted to a grotto, modeled after the Great Shrine of Lourdes in France, so all could come to sample the waters of Mother Cabrini. An anonymous donor contributed $1,000 for a life-sized marble statue of Mother Cabrini, a replica of her statue in St. Peter's in Rome. On July 11, 1954, the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart erected a $15,000, Italian-made, twenty-two-foot-high statue of their patron, the Sacred Heart of Jesus, atop Mount Vernon. The flood-lit statue commemorates Mother Cabrini, whose faith could move mountains. Rock gardens, outdoor stations of the cross, a chapel, and a carillon that fills the hills with the sound of music attract thousands of pilgrims each year to the mountaintop shrine, which is maintained by a convent of Mother Cabrini's sisters.

Mother Cabrini died in Chicago on December 22, 1917, at Columbus Hospital, which she had founded. After a lengthy investigation verified her miraculous work, she was canonized by Pope Pius XII on July 7, 1946. Her body lies at her principal shrine, Mother Cabrini High School in New York City. At the time of her death, she had founded seventy-five convents and recruited 3,000 women to the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart. In Colorado, this small, gentle nun with big, brown, unforgettable eyes is remembered in many parishes with an altar statue. Her shrine above Mount Vernon Canyon, now a favorite stop for travelers, also perpetuates the cherished memory of this world-famous saint who, at Bishop Matz's request, labored briefly but productively in the Denver diocese.

St. Thomas Seminary

While Bishop Matz excelled at building parochial schools, his greatest achievement may have been persuading the Vincentian fathers to open a seminary in Denver. Like Machebeuf, Matz chronically lacked priests. He brought five new orders into the diocese: the Dominicans (1890), the Redemptorists (1894), the Servites (1898), the Theatines (1906), and the Vincentians (1907), but still had to pay Eastern seminaries to educate priests for his understaffed diocese.

A few of Matz's problems with priests came because he was forced to accept any priest willing to serve in Colorado, so he received some rejects from other dioceses as well as priests in poor health who came for the climate cure. These "TB priests" began arriving as early as the 1870s, when Bishop Machebeuf had written to his brother, "I am as thin as ever, yet more vigorous than half of my young priests [who] come to Colorado for their health."

Some TB priests became outstanding clergymen after recovering in the high, dry, salubrious Colorado air. Frederick Bender, for example, was a German-born priest who had worked in Cincinnati before coming to Colorado. After recovering some strength, he built St. Mary Church in Colorado Springs in 1877, St. Elizabeth's in Denver in 1878, and St. Ignatius's in Pueblo in 1887. Father Bender, who never fully regained his health, retired to tour the Holy Land but was called back to establish Our Lady of Perpetual Help parish in Manitou Springs. In 1905, he was called out of retirement once again, this time to establish Holy Ghost Church in Denver. This "lunger," with five churches to his credit, proved to be an extraordinary parish builder.

Percy A. Phillips, a French Canadian priest, also came to Colorado for his health. Although Father Phillips remained sickly much of the time, he served in Denver as founding pastor of St. Joseph Redemptorist parish, chaplain of the Good Shepherd Home, and first rector of Immaculate Conception Cathedral. Father Phillips, who had beautiful penmanship, was employed by both Machebeuf and Matz as their private secretary. Bishop Matz appointed him the third vicar general of the diocese after Monsignor Henry Robinson died in 1916.

Bishop Matz yearned for the day when his diocese would have its own seminary. The answer to his prayers arrived in the person of John M. Martin, a Congregation-of-the-Mission priest. This order, commonly known as the Vincentians, had been founded in Paris in 1617 by St. Vincent de Paul. They had made St. Louis their headquarters in the United States and were looking, in 1906, for a Rocky Mountain region site for a seminary. Bishop Matz made various site suggestions to Father Martin and the Vincentians. The Miramount Castle in Manitou Springs was deemed too far from Denver, as was another possible location, the old home of the Jesuit College in Morrison. Finally, the Vincentians and the bishop agreed on a 59.5-acre tract of land on the outskirts of Southeast Denver, which the Vincentians bought for $15,218 on November 10, 1906. Temporary seminary offices and quarters were rented at 34 South Logan, 386 South Sherman, and 912 South Washington streets. The Saint Thomas Theological Seminary of Denver, Colorado, was incorporated on September 4, 1905, with provision that "the Diocesan Seminary of St. Thomas Aquinas" would "be erected by the Priests of the Mission, at their own expense in the city of Denver." Appropriately, the seminary was named for the great Catholic philosopher and patron of higher education, St. Thomas Aquinas.

Groundbreaking was celebrated in the fall of 1907, and a four-story, $65,000, red brick building officially opened a year later on September 29, 1908. Old Red Brick, as the building designed by Denver architect John J. Huddart has been dubbed, now stands out amid newer blond brick buildings.

Father Thomas Levan, the first rector, and four faculty members welcomed twelve students that autumn. Only one of these twelve "apostles" did not remain through ordination, but all twelve may have been disillusioned when they arrived at the seminary, a bleak sixteen-block tract of prairie. To the south lay largely undeveloped land broken only by the first buildings of the University of Denver and a cluster of homes and shops in the adjacent University Park neighborhood. The site looked like the Great American Desert, not like the alpine garden of Eden described in the first St. Thomas catalog:

The high, dry mountain air of Colorado, bracing and invigorating, [will be] a boon to the ecclesiastical student. . . . How very many young priests today enter their field of apostolic labor broken in health—not so much by undue application to the sufficiently arduous curriculum of studies as by reason of, possibly, the severe climate, and, generally, the uncongenial atmosphere in which they prosecuted their studies.
The single building housed students and faculty, chapel and classrooms, and a basement kitchen and dining room. St. Thomas offered a six-year program, divided into two years of philosophy and four of theology, with courses in philosophy, history of philosophy, canon law, church history, sacred scripture, Hebrew, theology, chant, cere-monies, liturgy, chemistry, and geology. Seminarians helped farm the huge site bounded by Steele and Monroe streets between Arizona and Florida avenues. They cultivated alfalfa and potatoes and tended to pigs and cattle as well as priestly studies. That the first major seminary of the region sprouted in Denver is significant. While Santa Fe was the initial archdiocese for the region, that city's failure to develop a major seminary, as well as Denver's rapid population growth, made Denver the hub for Rocky Mountain Catholicism.

Regis College (Sacred Heart)

Regis College, known as the College of the Sacred Heart until 1921, traces its roots back to the 1860s, when Colorado Territorial Governor William Gilpin and Bishop Machebeuf began trying to lure the Jesuits into Colorado, offering them land near Conejos in the San Luis Valley. Machebeuf's old friend and former supervisor, Archbishop Lamy of Santa Fe, likewise hoped to land the first Catholic college in the Southwest. Archbishop Lamy won this friendly rivalry when the Jesuits opened a college in Las Vegas, New Mexico, on November 5, 1877.

The Las Vegas college was founded and staffed by Italian Jesuits from Naples. By 1880, they had fifty men working in New Mexico and in three Colorado parishes: Our Lady of Guadalupe in Conejos; St. Ignatius in Pueblo; and Sacred Heart in Denver. Bishop Machebuef continued to cajole the Jesuits about establishing a Colorado college. Toward that end, Machebeuf, in 1883, purchased the Swiss Cottage, which was also known as the Evergreen Hotel. The seller was former Territorial Governor John Evans, president of the narrow gauge railroad to Morrison, who had built the forty-two-room, two-story, stone resort hotel in the foothills village of Morrison, sixteen miles southwest of Denver. Machebeuf deeded the property to the Jesuits with the provision that they open a college there. Dominic Pantanella, SJ, president of Las Vegas College, persuaded the general of the Jesuits to approve this arrangement. Much to the dismay of Las Vegas, the Jesuits moved their young college to Morrison.

Father Pantanella christened the new institution the College of the Sacred Heart and opened it on September 15, 1884, with a nine-man faculty he had recruited largely in Europe. Twenty-four students, aged seven to eighteen, enrolled that first year. Many of them were locals who must have been curious to see what the Jesuits would do with the hotel's billiard room and dancing pavillion. While the college catalog spoke of Latin and Greek, physics and philosophy, languages and the fine arts, the course work actually concentrated on basic bookkeeping, English, and penmanship. The school earned a good reputation and in its second year had sixty-seven applicants from thirteen states, but as the Jesuits no longer accepted elementary school pupils, they accepted only thirty-one. Academic achievement was rewarded with gold medals, including an annual prize from none other than James Cardinal Gibbons, archbishop of Baltimore and the great advocate of Catholic education.

Morrison, however, was thought to be too small and out of the way to serve as an adequate host city. If Sacred Heart were ever to become a real college, President Pantanella felt it must relocate in a sizable city. He made plans to move to Colorado Springs in 1887, only to be sharply reprimanded by Bishop Machebeuf. Machebeuf reminded the Jesuit that the Denver diocese had donated the Morrison property with certain stipulations. One of these was that Denver would have to be the next home for Sacred Heart, if it relocated.

The move to Denver was clinched on July 22, 1887. John Brisben Walker donated a forty-acre site at West 52nd Avenue and Lowell Boulevard. Walker, a real estate tycoon with two sons attending Sacred Heart in Morrison, reasoned that the Jesuit college would help him market residential lots owned by his Berkeley Farm and Cattle Company. Ten additional acres were donated by Lewis K. Perrin, a North Denver farmer and land developer. Although the Jesuits moved to the northwest Denver site in 1887, they continued to own and operate the Morrison property as a retreat villa until 1909, when they sold it for $7,500—to John Brisben Walker and his Colorado Resort Company.

Walker, who wanted a prestigious college building in his Berkeley town development, required that the Jesuits erect a structure "not less than 297 feet long, nor less than 60 feet in height, and to contain at least four floors, the walls of which shall be built of stone." President Pantanella borrowed $76,000 at 5 percent interest from Jesuit provinces in Ireland, Belgium, and elsewhere and broke ground on September 13, 1887. Edward Barry, a Jesuit scholastic trained in architecture, worked with Denver architects Alexander Cazin and Henry Dozier. They produced an impressive four-story mansard-roofed structure of pink sandstone and pinkish rhyolite, whose wooden trim was later painted pink. Although persistent legend has the structure completed in 100 days, it was not fully finished until a year later, when twenty Jesuits and one lay teacher took on 152 students.

The College of the Sacred Heart tried to protect its students from the evils in nearby Denver. Students were forbidden to leave the premises without "walking permits," a precaution continued until the 1930s. As both students and faculty, as well as all facilities were in the "Pink Palace," students had a hard time escaping "prison," as some of the more rebellious adolescents called the college.

Despite self-imposed isolation, the college made a favorable impression among judges called in to appraise student debates, and among audiences who saw the college drama club and chorus perform in downtown Denver at the Tabor Grand Opera House. Sacred Heart awarded its first four Bachelor of Arts degrees on June 23, 1890.

The Neapolitan Jesuits of New Mexico and Colorado weathered the depression of 1893, maintaining their hilltop campus on fees of $120 a semester for tuition, board, and lodging. The financial sacrifices of the Jesuit faculty and their devotion to learning enabled the College of the Sacred Heart to survive the 1890s depression and the lean first three decades of the twentieth century. These hard times undermined the nearby Presbyterian college, Westminster University, which had opened in 1892 with grand hopes of becoming the "Princeton of the West," but closed in 1917.

The Jesuits were determined that their college should survive all obstacles. One of the most bizarre ordeals was a 1913 court suit for $50,000 on the charge that former president Pantanella had "alienated the affections of the wife" of one Robert J. Lowery. Newspapers had a field day with these frivolous charges against the devout, eighty-three-year-old Jesuit, whose fine reputation was easily defended in Denver District Court. In 1912, the college constructed its second building, a gymnasium used for student assemblies and elocution contests as well as athletics. By 1920, the college tightened its academic requirements to meet regional accreditation standards, requiring four years of high school and four years of college studies for a Bachelor of Arts degree. Physical education was also stressed by the Jesuits, who insisted that students rise at 5:30 A.M. and try to shine for calisthenics. On Sundays, both faculty and students were allowed to sleep late—until 6 A.M.

When football first became popular in America during the 1890s, Sacred Heart discouraged it as "rough and uncouth." Instead, the college encouraged tennis, baseball, handball, and billiards. Not until 1924 was coach Thomas A. McNamara hired to give "the Brown and Gold" a football team that he hoped would transform Denver's Jesuit college into the "Notre Dame of the West." Athletics were not always followed by showers, because of the shortage of water. An artesian well supplied essential needs in the main building, which contained no bathtubs or showers. Finally, a small lake was dug out on the college's ninety-acre site. Although catalogs described it as a landscape feature and haven for boating, this lake served more prosaically for bathing.

After 1900, two prominent scholars brought acclaim to Sacred Heart. The college emerged as the regional center for seismographic studies after Armand W. Forstall, SJ, installed a seismographic machine in a basement room in 1909. Conrad Bilgery, SJ, put the college on the map for paleontological studies, attracting national attention in 1932, when he and some of his students excavated prehistoric bison and projectile points of the Clovis culture at the Dent site in Weld County.

In 1919, the Jesuit Province of Naples turned over its New Mexico-Colorado mission to the Jesuit Province of Missouri, who renamed Sacred Heart College as Regis College in 1921 in honor of St. John Francis Regis, a seventeenth-century French Jesuit. This name change may have been at least in part an attempt to defuse the rabid anti-Catholic sentiment of the 1920s: The name Regis, unlike Sacred Heart, was not obviously Catholic. Colorado's Catholic college, whose history is fully told by Harold L. Stansell, SJ, in his 1977 book, Regis: On the Crest of the West, had come of age.

Catholic Schools

Progress at Regis College and High School delighted Bishop Matz, a champion of Catholic schools. "Stand by your Catholic schools," the bishop urged in his May 19, 1892, pastoral letter on education:

Never begrudge the money you spend on the Catholic education of your children. It will all come back to you a hundred fold in countless blessings upon your children, who, reared in the faith of your fathers, will be your pride and glory on earth and your crown in heaven.
Bishop Matz sternly promulgated the Council of Baltimore's decree that parents, under pain of mortal sin, must send their children to Catholic schools if they were available. Furthermore, parents could be deprived of the sacraments for such a sin. Matz's dedication to Catholic schools led him to make a cathedral school, rather than a cathedral, his first priority upon becoming bishop in 1889. By the spring of 1890, he had completed the $81,000, three-story, brick and sandstone school at 1824 Logan Street, which was designed by Colorado's leading arch-itect, Frank E. Edbrooke. Shortly afterwards, Bishop Matz sold the old cathedral property at 15th and Stout streets to Winfield Scott Stratton, the Cripple Creek gold mining millionaire, for $175,000.

Cathedral School offered both an elementary and a high school curriculum, as well as a basement chapel that Matz designated as the procathedral. The Immaculate Conception Cathedral Association, which had been formed to build a new cathedral in 1880, would take thirty-two years to achieve its goal. After a 1901 visit to Rome and to his hometown of Münster, which boasted a splendid Gothic cathedral, Bishop Matz took a livelier interest in building. In 1902, a fifteen-day "Catholic Cathedral Building Fair" raised thousands of dollars that were sunk into Cripple Creek mining investments—and lost. Michael Callanan, rector of the procathedral and chief fund-raiser, lost still more by investing in glass-top caskets, a "sure fire" innovation in funeral rituals that failed to capture much of a market.

J.K. Mullen

Father McMenamin had no doubt about the layman who should spearhead the cathedral campaign. John Kernan Mullen was born in Ballinasloe, County Galway, Ireland, on June 11, 1847. Fleeing the potato famine, his family sailed to New York when J.K. was nine. Joining the westward push of America's nineteenth-century frontier migrations, the Mullen family moved to Illinois and then to Kansas before arriving in Denver in 1871.

J.K. had little formal schooling; at age fourteen he started out as an apprentice flour miller. All his life, when asked about his early training, he held up his hands, which were scarred and embedded with pieces of millstones. In Denver, J.K. applied for work at Charles R. Davis's flour mill, located at 8th and Curtis streets. Young Mullen was told there was no work. "I am not asking for pay," he told Mr. Davis. "I am only asking for a chance to work." "Well, if you want to work that bad," Davis replied, "you may begin tomorrow morning. . . . If we get along all right I will pay you board and room."

J.K. soon earned a line on Davis's payroll as a journeyman miller. He was a hard worker and a cheerful volunteer who proved his worth on cold winter mornings by wading through the mill ditch from the South Platte River to break up the ice. Mullen became Davis's head miller but was saving his money for the day in 1875 when he bought his own Star Mill. The Star, which J.K. first leased and later bought from John W. Smith, was one of Denver's oldest mills. Under Mullen's control, it evolved into the largest and most modern milling operation in the Rockies—the multimillion dollar Colorado Milling and Elevator Company, whose products included the still familiar Hungarian High Altitude Flour. Mullen not only expanded milling operations, he purchased wheat fields and grain elevators. In Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, Idaho, California, Utah, and Oregon, he built up a $5-million empire of 800 employees and ninety-one mills, elevators, and warehouses.

Mullen became a major philanthropist. He was a devout Catholic and a teetotaler who organized the St. Joseph Total Abstinence Society to combat alcoholism, a disease that plagued many of his countrymen. Mullen gave generously and coordinated the campaign to construct St. Leo Church, at the corner of 9th Street and West Colfax Avenue. He donated the site of his old house as well as money to construct St. Cajetan Church at 9th and Lawrence streets. Thus, he made it possible for both the Irish and the Hispanics to have parishes of their own.

Mullen's generosity became legendary. He gave funds to help Denver Mayor Robert W. Speer develop the Civic Center. After silver king Horace Tabor fell on hard times and died in debt, Mullen bought the mortgage on his Matchless Mine in Leadville to allow Tabor's widow, Baby Doe, to live there without fear of foreclosure. (The Matchless remained in Mullen family ownership until J. Kernan Weckbaugh, J.K. s grandson, helped establish it as a museum in 1953.) When Elitch Gardens floundered financially in 1916, Mullen bought the amusement park for $26,911 and later sold it to John Mulvihill with the proviso that Mrs. Elitch be allowed to live out her days there. Mullen's gifts enriched more than the Denver diocese. In 1925, he gave $500,000 to the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., to help build the J.K. Mullen Memorial Library. Mullen scholarships have for decades sent several promising Colorado students to the Catholic University every year.

As the first great leader of the Colorado laity, Mullen took a keen interest in church affairs. Many of his contributions to the Catholic Church were anonymous or unreported, but he probably gave the church at least $2 million during the course of his lifetime. As one of Colorado's shrewdest businessmen, he wanted a say in how his money was used.

The J.K. Mullen correspondence in Bishop Matz's papers at the archdiocesan archives preserves a vivid record of the emergence of lay leadership in what had been an authoritarian organization. At the request of Bishop Matz and Father McMenamin, Mullen became treasurer of the cathedral building committee. Furthermore, he helped persuade his fellow Catholic tycoons, mining men such as John F. Campion and J.J. Brown and bankers such as John C. Mitchell and Dennis Sheedy, to join the construction crusade.

Mullen tried to soften the ongoing hostility between the bishop and some of his Irish priests. As a layman with major business, social, and civic contacts with Protestants, Mullen also urged Bishop Matz to soften his militant Catholicism. For example, Bishop Matz, in his 1909 Easter Sunday sermon, made statements that led Mullen to send him a handwritten letter, saying in part:

I was dreadfully grieved this morning to read in the news that you made the statement that not one Protestant minister in one hundred believes in the Divinity of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. . . . God alone knows the innermost thoughts of a human mind and it is for the ministers themselves to say what their belief is. . . . Many of my best friends are among the Protestant clergy. . . . I could not in justice to myself and family stay on the Building Committee another day if I knew our Bishop was guilty of such intolerance and bigotry. So please deny it.
The bishop promptly and politely replied, refusing to retract his sermon. Mullen stayed with the cathedral project and maintained friendly relations with Matz as his May 17, 1914, letter reveals in its closing sentences and its final "Your sincere friend":

Thank you most heartedly for your great patience with me in the many years that has [sic] passed since you became a priest. . . .You it was that joined together in marriage myself and my wife in 1874 on Oct. 12. You baptized my children and have performed their marriage ceremonies.
J.K. and Catherine Smith Mullen had five daughters. The last, Anna, died at the age of four, but Ella, May, Katherine, and Edith grew to be young women who were enthusiastically courted. Mullen's daughters and sons-in-law—John Dower, Eugene Weckbaugh, James E. O'Connor, and Oscar Malo—followed his example and became generous patrons of the Denver diocese and its planned cathedral.

Mullen was the treasurer of the Catholic Cathedral Building Committee; O'Connor served as secretary. The building committee paid $28,500 for eight lots at the northeast corner of East Colfax Avenue and Logan Street in Denver's wealthiest neighborhood, Capitol Hill. Leon Coquard, a Detroit architect, designed a Gothic cathedral somewhat similar to the one in Bishop Matz's hometown of Münster. After Coquard grew ill, Denver architects Aaron Gove and Thomas F. Walsh were retained to finish the job. J.K. Mullen regularly inspected the site and sent reports to Bishop Matz, including his distressed letter of July 14, 1911:

The firm of Gove and Walsh have caused you and the Cathedral Association more trouble. . . .They took Mr. Coquard's plans [and] did not put a scratch or a line on the plans . . . we had friction with Gove & Walsh from the very first day that work was begun under them as architects. . . . Walsh never once went on top of the building until the day he went up on the tower. I myself begged him to go up with me. . . . I climbed the ladder . . . and Mr. Walsh didn t . . . and he didn t hesitate to say . . . that it was dangerous.
Apparently, Mullen risked not only his money but also his life in overseeing construction of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. No one, not even Matz or McMenamin, should have been prouder than Mullen on the day of dedication, October 27, 1912. This splendid piece of architecture, with its priceless stained glass and Carrara marble interior, is one of Denver's great monuments. Its twin Gothic spires rivaled the gold dome of the State Capitol for dominance of the city's skyline. Thanks in large part to J.K. Mullen and the laity he organized, Bishop Matz finally had an edifice to show the world that the Diocese of Denver had come of age.

J.K. Mullen

Father McMenamin had no doubt about the layman who should spearhead the cathedral campaign. John Kernan Mullen was born in Ballinasloe, County Galway, Ireland, on June 11, 1847. Fleeing the potato famine, his family sailed to New York when J.K. was nine. Joining the westward push of America's nineteenth-century frontier migrations, the Mullen family moved to Illinois and then to Kansas before arriving in Denver in 1871.

J.K. had little formal schooling; at age fourteen he started out as an apprentice flour miller. All his life, when asked about his early training, he held up his hands, which were scarred and embedded with pieces of millstones. In Denver, J.K. applied for work at Charles R. Davis's flour mill, located at 8th and Curtis streets. Young Mullen was told there was no work. "I am not asking for pay," he told Mr. Davis. "I am only asking for a chance to work." "Well, if you want to work that bad," Davis replied, "you may begin tomorrow morning. . . . If we get along all right I will pay you board and room."

J.K. soon earned a line on Davis's payroll as a journeyman miller. He was a hard worker and a cheerful volunteer who proved his worth on cold winter mornings by wading through the mill ditch from the South Platte River to break up the ice. Mullen became Davis's head miller but was saving his money for the day in 1875 when he bought his own Star Mill. The Star, which J.K. first leased and later bought from John W. Smith, was one of Denver's oldest mills. Under Mullen's control, it evolved into the largest and most modern milling operation in the Rockies—the multimillion dollar Colorado Milling and Elevator Company, whose products included the still familiar Hungarian High Altitude Flour. Mullen not only expanded milling operations, he purchased wheat fields and grain elevators. In Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, Idaho, California, Utah, and Oregon, he built up a $5-million empire of 800 employees and ninety-one mills, elevators, and warehouses.

Mullen became a major philanthropist. He was a devout Catholic and a teetotaler who organized the St. Joseph Total Abstinence Society to combat alcoholism, a disease that plagued many of his countrymen. Mullen gave generously and coordinated the campaign to construct St. Leo Church, at the corner of 9th Street and West Colfax Avenue. He donated the site of his old house as well as money to construct St. Cajetan Church at 9th and Lawrence streets. Thus, he made it possible for both the Irish and the Hispanics to have parishes of their own.

Mullen's generosity became legendary. He gave funds to help Denver Mayor Robert W. Speer develop the Civic Center. After silver king Horace Tabor fell on hard times and died in debt, Mullen bought the mortgage on his Matchless Mine in Leadville to allow Tabor's widow, Baby Doe, to live there without fear of foreclosure. (The Matchless remained in Mullen family ownership until J. Kernan Weckbaugh, J.K. s grandson, helped establish it as a museum in 1953.) When Elitch Gardens floundered financially in 1916, Mullen bought the amusement park for $26,911 and later sold it to John Mulvihill with the proviso that Mrs. Elitch be allowed to live out her days there. Mullen's gifts enriched more than the Denver diocese. In 1925, he gave $500,000 to the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., to help build the J.K. Mullen Memorial Library. Mullen scholarships have for decades sent several promising Colorado students to the Catholic University every year.

As the first great leader of the Colorado laity, Mullen took a keen interest in church affairs. Many of his contributions to the Catholic Church were anonymous or unreported, but he probably gave the church at least $2 million during the course of his lifetime. As one of Colorado's shrewdest businessmen, he wanted a say in how his money was used.

The J.K. Mullen correspondence in Bishop Matz's papers at the archdiocesan archives preserves a vivid record of the emergence of lay leadership in what had been an authoritarian organization. At the request of Bishop Matz and Father McMenamin, Mullen became treasurer of the cathedral building committee. Furthermore, he helped persuade his fellow Catholic tycoons, mining men such as John F. Campion and J.J. Brown and bankers such as John C. Mitchell and Dennis Sheedy, to join the construction crusade.

Mullen tried to soften the ongoing hostility between the bishop and some of his Irish priests. As a layman with major business, social, and civic contacts with Protestants, Mullen also urged Bishop Matz to soften his militant Catholicism. For example, Bishop Matz, in his 1909 Easter Sunday sermon, made statements that led Mullen to send him a handwritten letter, saying in part:

I was dreadfully grieved this morning to read in the news that you made the statement that not one Protestant minister in one hundred believes in the Divinity of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. . . . God alone knows the innermost thoughts of a human mind and it is for the ministers themselves to say what their belief is. . . . Many of my best friends are among the Protestant clergy. . . . I could not in justice to myself and family stay on the Building Committee another day if I knew our Bishop was guilty of such intolerance and bigotry. So please deny it.
The bishop promptly and politely replied, refusing to retract his sermon. Mullen stayed with the cathedral project and maintained friendly relations with Matz as his May 17, 1914, letter reveals in its closing sentences and its final "Your sincere friend":

Thank you most heartedly for your great patience with me in the many years that has [sic] passed since you became a priest. . . .You it was that joined together in marriage myself and my wife in 1874 on Oct. 12. You baptized my children and have performed their marriage ceremonies.
J.K. and Catherine Smith Mullen had five daughters. The last, Anna, died at the age of four, but Ella, May, Katherine, and Edith grew to be young women who were enthusiastically courted. Mullen's daughters and sons-in-law—John Dower, Eugene Weckbaugh, James E. O'Connor, and Oscar Malo—followed his example and became generous patrons of the Denver diocese and its planned cathedral.

Mullen was the treasurer of the Catholic Cathedral Building Committee; O'Connor served as secretary. The building committee paid $28,500 for eight lots at the northeast corner of East Colfax Avenue and Logan Street in Denver's wealthiest neighborhood, Capitol Hill. Leon Coquard, a Detroit architect, designed a Gothic cathedral somewhat similar to the one in Bishop Matz's hometown of Münster. After Coquard grew ill, Denver architects Aaron Gove and Thomas F. Walsh were retained to finish the job. J.K. Mullen regularly inspected the site and sent reports to Bishop Matz, including his distressed letter of July 14, 1911:

The firm of Gove and Walsh have caused you and the Cathedral Association more trouble. . . .They took Mr. Coquard's plans [and] did not put a scratch or a line on the plans . . . we had friction with Gove & Walsh from the very first day that work was begun under them as architects. . . . Walsh never once went on top of the building until the day he went up on the tower. I myself begged him to go up with me. . . . I climbed the ladder . . . and Mr. Walsh didn t . . . and he didn t hesitate to say . . . that it was dangerous.
Apparently, Mullen risked not only his money but also his life in overseeing construction of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. No one, not even Matz or McMenamin, should have been prouder than Mullen on the day of dedication, October 27, 1912. This splendid piece of architecture, with its priceless stained glass and Carrara marble interior, is one of Denver's great monuments. Its twin Gothic spires rivaled the gold dome of the State Capitol for dominance of the city's skyline. Thanks in large part to J.K. Mullen and the laity he organized, Bishop Matz finally had an edifice to show the world that the Diocese of Denver had come of age.

Fr. McMenamin and the media

While Mullen shied away from publicity, Father Mac courted it. During World War I, he emerged as one of the great public promoters of the war effort. Speaking on behalf of the Liberty Loan drive, he gave a rousing speech that brought 15,000 cheering listeners to their feet at the Denver Municipal Auditorium. Father Mac also played a starring role on the executive committee of the Mile High Chapter of the American Red Cross. He was known well among even non-Catholics and converted an estimated 100 people a year to Catholicism.

Father Mac's interest in newspaper publicity led him to purchase the puny Denver Catholic Register in 1910. A few years later, he hired a youngster by the name of Matthew Smith to put some life into the sheet. With Father Mac always looming large offstage—and in newspaper stories—Smith transformed the Register into one of the greatest success stories in the history of religious journalism.

Father Mac emerged as a radio personality during the 1920s, when he began the Christmas Eve Midnight Mass broadcasts from Immaculate Conception Cathedral. Denver's "radio priest" regularly appeared on station KOA, where he attacked communism, fascism, and the Ku Klux Klan. He launched a war on pornography in 1937 by compiling and distributing a list of questionable magazines, then urging other clergymen, Catholic and non-Catholic, to put pressure on any place where these magazines were sold. Many Protestants joined McMenamin's holy war. In his zeal, the monsignor sometimes personally inspected drugstore magazine racks and confiscated the "dirty stuff."

This colorful and controversial monsignor initiated formation of an ecumenical censorship committee and a Police Board of Morals to ban "objectionable" movies, books, and magazines in Denver. By May 12, 1938, Monsignor McMenamin could write to Bishop Vehr: "I am now in a position to dictate to the Police Department what magazines may or may not be sold." Monsignor McMenamin's campaign evolved into part of the nationwide Legion of Decency program. During the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s, Catholics were asked during Sunday Masses to take a pledge to avoid objectionable movies and other materials.

During decades of depression, war, and rapid social change, McMenamin became a noted public champion of traditional values. One of his best-received and often given speeches lambasted divorce and birth control. With his long white hair and purple robes flowing, the monsignor condemned those who "severed hallowed bonds by divorce or prostituted its sacred privileges by birth control. . . . Let us drag from the hearts of our citizens that cancer of divorce and race suicide, which, like a blind Sampson, would tear down the majestic temple of civilization."

McMenamin was less successful in his attack on President Franklin D. Roosevelt, whom he came to regard as a wicked left-winger. McMenamin's open criticism of the president and letters urging votes against Roosevelt finally drew a rebuke from Archbishop Vehr. In a November 5, 1940, letter to the monsignor, the archbishop urged him to stop trying "even indirectly to influence the freedom of the votes of the Sisters, which is their own."

Even if he occasionally grew overzealous in pursuing devils as he saw them, Monsignor McMenamin generally drew high praise from both Catholics and Protestants. After his death on July 27, 1947, at St. Joseph Hospital, he was eulogized by the regional director of the National Conference of Christians and Jews: "In the passing of Monsignor McMenamin, American Brotherhood lost one of its staunchest leaders." Monsignor Matthew Smith praised McMenamin in the February 24, 1949, Denver Catholic Register as "a builder, orator, leader, and educator [who] did more than any priest . . . for awakening the Catholic clergy and people to a realization of their potential powers."

Fr. Joseph P. Carrigan

Most Catholics and many other Coloradans saw Immaculate Conception Cathedral not only as McMenamin's, but also as Bishop Matz's finest achievement. Some of his priests, however, found fault with Matz's priorities. Underlying friction between the French-born bishop and his Irish-American priests deepened the feud.

Foremost among the bishop's critics was Joseph P. Carrigan. Born November 7, 1859, as the seventh child in an Irish-American family, Carrigan was ordained at St. Joseph Provincial Seminary in Troy, New York, in 1882. When Carrigan caught tuberculosis, he came West for the salubrious climate often prescribed for what was then America's deadliest disease. After doing good work at St. Mary's in Breckenridge and Annunciation parish in Denver, Carrigan was assigned to the struggling new parish of St. Patrick's in North Denver. St. Patrick's had a history of sickly and/or unpopular pastors, and also suffered when an early, uninsured church building was destroyed by fire. When Carrigan took over in 1885, the little church at 3233 Osage faced foreclosure because of a $9,000 debt. Father Carrigan transformed this problem parish into one of the strongest in the diocese. He built a parish school, established a parish library, and began a popular and successful effort to attract non-Catholics to the Church. His parishioners liked Father Carrigan and he liked them. Under his guidance, St. Patrick's not only flourished but also helped establish six other strong North Denver parishes.

Father Carrigan was an able, sincere, and attractive man, as was his bishop. Tragically, they did not always see eye to eye and were not shy about saying so publicly. A month after Matz succeeded to the bishopric of Denver, critical letters began appearing in the secular press. One critic declared in the August 12, 1889, Rocky Mountain News: "Irish priests have been ordered to outlying posts of the diocese, where a few jack rabbits can barely make a living." Even earlier, while Matz was coadjutor bishop, Father Michael J. Carmody, in a statement printed in the July 6, 1887, Denver Republican, declared: "I think Matz is unfitted by birth, training, and prejudice to be a proper spiritual director of the people of the vicariate."

Bishop Machebeuf had foreseen such criticism. In a June 14, 1887, letter to James Cardinal Gibbons, Machebeuf had confided: "Father Matz, although a very worthy man, may meet with some little opposition for not being an American or an Irishman, but I am confident that by his kindness, piety, prudence, and good sense he will overcome it and become very popular." Although ethnic tensions evidently underlay the conflict, the chronic economic difficulties following the depression of 1893 emerged as the major point of contention between the French bishop and a handful of Irish priests.

Bishop Matz became embroiled in a hot controversy with Father Carrigan in 1907, after Carrigan began building a new St. Patrick Church without consulting the bishop or the Diocesan Building Committee. Inspired by a tour of the Franciscan missions in California, Carrigan began erecting a mission-style church and rectory two blocks away from the old Romanesque structure. Bishop Matz ordered construction stopped, but Carrigan proceeded. The bishop, who was already at odds with Carrigan about diocesan financial affairs, retaliated by reassigning him to St. Ignatius parish in Pueblo.

Father Carrigan refused to leave St. Patrick's and enlisted the support of his parish board of trustees and the Ancient Order of Hibernians. The pastor of St. Patrick's refused even to respond to correspondence from the bishop, who on June 11, 1909, suspended him "from the exercise of all his sacerdotal faculties in the City of Denver, on account of grave disobedience." The case went before Denver district court judge Harry Carson Riddle, who ultimately decided that the Church, not civil courts, should settle the squabble.

Carrigan, in July 1907, issued a pamphlet titled Answer to Bishop Matz. It accused the bishop of, among other things, theft, lying, simony, abuse of power, and forgery; and further publicized the scandal. Carrigan's overstated attack discouraged many sympathizers, including J.K. Mullen, who called the pamphlet "horrid" and damaging to the Catholic community.

Bishop Matz, on November 24, 1909, sent a letter to every parish and ordered that it be read at Sunday Masses. This epistle declared that the "former pastor of St. Patrick's church in the city of Denver has incurred excommunication." Carrigan read the letter in his jammed church and then defended himself. The priest's defiance of his bishop attracted national press coverage, leading the apostolic delegate in Washington, Archbishop Diomede Falconio, to investigate. Mullen, who discussed the situation with his friend Father Carrigan, with Bishop Matz, and with Archbishop Falconio, helped to work out a compromise. That November, Father Carrigan agreed to take a new assignment, St. Stephen parish in Glenwood Springs, and Matz's excommunication decree was rescinded.

The Carrigan-Matz feud probably exacerbated the attacks on Bishop Matz by two mentally unbalanced priests, Michael Culkin and John Hay Cushing. Both became obsessed with a paranoid conviction that Matz was out to get the Irish. Cushing physically attacked Matz in Rome; Culkin threatened to shoot him in Colorado. Both clerics tried to stir up the press and politicians against Bishop Matz who, at one point, requested police protection. Finally, both priests were steered into retreat houses where their mental problems, compounded by alcoholism, could be treated.

Finances

Pecuniary problems centered on the Colorado Catholic Loan and Trust Association (CCLTA), which had been incorporated by Bishop Machebeuf, Father Matz, and three other priests on March 24, 1885, as an alternative to bankruptcy. The CCLTA, according to its articles of incorporation, was formed to take possession of Machebeuf's real estate and to use mortgages, leases, or sales to pay off Machebeuf's staggering debts that amounted, in 1885, to $81,720. Machebeuf's considerable real estate holdings were then estimated to be worth $135,900. Subsequent events, most notably the depression of 1893 and dramatic drop in Colorado real estate values, left the CCLTA with considerably reduced assets but the same substantial debts and interest payments.

Machebeuf's will, which was contested by many creditors including his family in France, further clouded a complex and gloomy fiscal picture. One of Bishop Matz's first steps was to sell, for $80,000, St. Vincent's Addition, the proposed hospital site on the east bank of the South Platte River between 41st and 47th avenues. Matz sank much of that money into building the Cathedral School. Father Carrigan and others objected strenuously that the money should have gone, instead, to pay off various debts. Bishop Matz thought it wiser to invest in educating future generations. Despite ongoing protest, Bishop Matz continued to use the CCLTA to help fund his ambitious building projects on many fronts. Creditors, including Bishop Machebeuf's nephew Leo, the son of Marius Machebeuf, finally took their case to a civil court. Denver district court judge Robert Lewis, on August 25, 1913, dissolved the CCLTA, using its remaining assets to pay off Leo Machebeuf.

Even Father Carrigan, a founding incorporator of the CCLTA, joined Bishop Matz, and practically everyone concerned in a sigh of relief: "Thank God, the whole thing is over." Matz, who had only three more years to live, would find them relatively trouble-free. Thomas J. Feely, in his detailed study of the conflict between the bishop and some of his priests, portrayed it as a conflict between a European bishop with a paternalistic and authoritarian approach and independent-minded American clergy. After his exhaustive study of the Matz-Carrigan conflict and the role of the CCLTA, Feely concluded:

Those in power almost feared that a clear victory by an underling would be a threat to the whole system of authority. The American concept in its real beauty would believe such a victory as a support to properly constituted authority.

The cemetery

Bishop Matz had troubles even with the dead. Denver's Catholic cemetery has, over the years, pitted the Church against the city, and critics such as Father Carrigan against the bishop. The story began in 1859, when General William H. Larimer, Jr., who had founded Denver a year earlier, established Mt. Prospect Cemetery on the hill now crowned by Cheesman Park and the Denver Botanic Gardens.

Undertaker John J. Walley took over this unkempt boot hill in 1863, when Larimer went back East. Bishop Machebeuf purchased forty acres of Mt. Prospect Cemetery from Walley for $200 on August 27, 1865, for use as a Catholic burial section. He named it Calvary Cemetery, but some called it Mt. Calvary. As Walley did not have clear title to the land, Machebeuf had to repurchase the forty acres from the city in 1873. When the city took over Mt. Prospect, renaming it City Cemetery. In deference to the well-kept Catholic section, the city sold the land to Machebeuf for the same price it had paid the federal government—$1.25 an acre. Thirteen years later, Bishop Machebeuf sold the southern half of his forty acres, for $1,000 an acre, to Samuel B. Morgan, a real estate developer who turned the site into one of the most expensive residential districts in the city, Morgan's Addition.

After seeing Bishop Machebeuf make $20,000 on the site and then watching Morgan make even more on what had been municipal land, city officials brought suit against the bishop and the developer. Not until 1903, years after Machebeuf and Morgan were in their graves, did the U.S. Supreme Court uphold their transaction.

Mt. Calvary and the Jewish cemetery on the eastern edge of the Catholic section were well kept, but to the west, waterless and fenceless City Cemetery became a haven for pranksters and grazing animals, as well as for prairie dogs, owls, and rattlesnakes. This eyesore of a boneyard offered little comfort to mourners and became a fertile source of complaints to City Hall. Finally, the city announced a solution in 1890: Interested parties were told that City Cemetery was condemned, and they had ninety days to remove their dead from what was to become Cheesman Park.

Bishop Matz and many Catholics, who believed that graves should not be disturbed until the final resurrection, protested. At Bishop Matz's request, the city deferred its condemnation of the Calvary section of City Cemetery until 1891. Father Raverdy had administered Calvary until the 1880s when Edward P. McGovern, a leading Catholic undertaker, was made superintendent. McGovern installed irrigation and landscaping in 1887, and the diocese sold lots for $5 to $40 while maintaining a free section for paupers.

McGovern was also hired by the city to remove bodies from City Cemetery to Riverside Cemetery. As McGovern and his eighteen employees began exhuming bodies and placing them in new coffins, the macabre spectacle attracted curiosity seekers. This mass reburial came to resemble a "graveyard party," according to the Rocky Mountain News of March 16, 1893: "Capitol Hill now has a new craze to kill the idle hours of the day, the old city cemetery has more visitors the past few days than ever before in its history." The sight, added the Denver Republican, on March 17, 1893, was "repulsive enough to please any ghoul. The old burying place looks like the scene of a premature resurrection."

As corpses were moved out of the area, the city put pressure on Bishop Matz. Despite advice from Father Carrigan and others, Matz decided to convert Bishop Machebeuf's ranch in Jefferson County into a new diocesan cemetery. Critics contended that the ranch should either be used for the industrial home and school planned by Machebeuf or sold to help settle Machebeuf's debts.

The 320-acre ranch had been purchased by Machebeuf for $1,365. He soon added another 120 acres that Father Raverdy had purchased in 1864 for $280. Machebeuf hoped someday to use the land for an industrial school and home for orphan boys. In the meantime, the bishop used it to raise wheat that he sold to the miller J.K. Mullen.

Plans for Machebeuf's ranch changed after the city condemned Calvary Cemetery. Bishop Matz and fathers Carrigan, Guida, Koch, Howlett, Malone, Murphy, and Robinson incorporated the "Mount Olivet Cemetery Association" on August 21, 1891. The site included all of the 440 acres that had been purchased from the Federal Land Office during the 1860s.

In a pastoral letter dated December 19, 1891, Bishop Matz announced that the old Calvary Cemetery had been condemned by the city. Catholics henceforward should bury their dead at Mt. Olivet, a cemetery on Bishop Machebeuf's "magnificent ranch eight miles from the city." Bishop Matz added that this new burial ground was so far outside Denver that the city "will never encroach upon the ground chosen" so "our dead could lie undisturbed until the Archangel's trumpet shall awaken them for judgment." "The Union Pacific Railroad," Matz assured his flock,

passes within fifty feet of our main entrance. The company agrees to build a funeral car and furnish up a special train for funerals. They will build a beautiful depot near the cemetery and take our funerals at the very reasonable rate of 50 for each person for the round trip.
After spending $23,000 to create a cemetery park, Bishop Matz consecrated Mt. Olivet on September 24, 1892: "We now solemenly declare Mount Olivet to be and remain the only cemetery for Catholics in Denver." Non-Catholics could also be buried at Mt. Olivet, but only Catholic religious services were permissible on the grounds. Five hundred folks, brought out by a special excursion train, celebrated the grand opening of the new graveyard park. In defiance of the bishop, some Catholics, including many Irish people, continued to use Calvary, where so many of their dead already lay. Though the bishop and the city officially closed it to further burials in 1892, Irish folklore has it that more bodies were nocturnally interred to join their relatives and friends there. The Burial Journal for Calvary confirms burials in the "closed" cemetery as late as 1908.

About 8,000 bodies slumbered in the silent city of the dead known as Calvary. However, a mass migration of the dead to Mt. Olivet began after July 4, 1892, when Elizabeth Kelly of Annunciation parish became the first burial at Mt. Olivet. Hundreds of corpses were transplanted in 1913 alone. In 1935, Horace A.W. Tabor was moved from Calvary to Mt. Olivet to join his beloved Baby Doe. Mt. Olivet boomed over the years. Its subterranean population has now climbed to over 100,000. While Mt. Olivet grew, Calvary sank. Louisa Ward Arps, the late Denver historian, described its demise in Cemetery to Conservatory:

The fence that once surrounded the sacred ground was broken and children would short-cut across the plots. Even without water, for years the lilacs and snowballs and iris would bloom for the children to take home to their mothers, and gradually the prairie flowers returned—the sand lilies and yuccas and cactus. As late as 1931 the two Kerr boys built an elaborate two-story house in one of the huge cottonwoods that graced the northwest corner of the cemetery. For their own uses, the children gathered bones, and hinges or handles or locks from coffins, and even, with great effort, took home some of the smaller headstones . . . on summer evenings, picnickers grilled steaks on pieces of iron fences that once surrounded family plots, laid between two tombstones.
Not until 1950 did Archbishop Vehr sell the old Calvary site to the city of Denver for $80,000, with the city agreeing to remove the 6,000 bodies estimated to remain. In subsequent years, the city converted the site to the Denver Botanic Gardens. Whenever new gardens and structures were installed there, groundbreakers frequently unearthed reminders that this was part of Denver's first cemetery. Meanwhile, Mt. Olivet has grown from a 100-acre cemetery to a beautifully landscaped and maintained 800-acre site. In 1981, the Archdiocese of Denver opened a mortuary at Mt. Olivet, despite the protests of some morticians, promising to provide complete and reasonably priced services.

Fr. Thomas Malone

Bishop Matz's administration of Mt. Olivet Cemetery and the rest of Machebeuf's estate raised the eyebrows of Thomas Malone, editor of the Colorado Catholic. This newspaper, the first Catholic journal in Colorado, had been started in November 1884 by John J. Quinn, rector of the procathedral. J.K. Mullen and Charles D. McPhee, a wealthy Catholic lumber baron, bankrolled this pioneer Catholic paper. When Father Quinn left Denver in 1886, the editorship passed to Patrick F. Carr, who replaced Quinn as rector of the procathedral.

In 1890, Father Carr turned the Colorado Catholic over to Thomas Malone, pastor of St. Joseph Redemptorist parish and William A. O'Ryan, pastor at St. Leo's. Shortly afterwards, Malone bought out his partner. O'Ryan, an erudite and prolific writer, launched another Denver Catholic newspaper in 1894, the Celtic Cross, but it died the following year.

Meanwhile, Malone ran into trouble when he fused the accounts of St. Joseph parish and the Colorado Catholic in 1892. After analyzing the parish financial statements, Bishop Matz determined that Malone still had not accounted for $12,000 owed to St. Joseph's. The dickering continued with Malone claiming he was being harassed, and Matz alleging that he wanted "justice, nothing more or less."

Ultimately, the bishop insisted that Malone choose between serving St. Joseph parish and editing the Colorado Catholic. Malone decided to retain the paper and resign his pastorship. Bishop Matz replaced Malone at St. Joseph's with the Redemptorist order who operate it to this day.

After leaving parish work, Malone resumed his criticism of Matz in editorials. As the attacks became more vicious concerning Matz's money management, Archbishop Francesco Satolli, the Vatican delegate, fired off a letter to Malone reminding him: "What is required for a Catholic newspaper is not only its conformity with the doctrine of the Holy See, but also uniform respect, deference, and submission to the bishops, and especially to one's own."

This apparently quieted Malone for a while, but he unsheathed his pen once again in 1895, prompting Matz to retaliate with a scathing pastoral letter to be read in all of Denver's parish churches. It said in part:

We have . . . exposed the libelous insinuations of the editor of the Colorado Catholic, [which] proves furthermore, that a newspaper which does admit into its columns such vile slanders as the ones we have exposed . . . is not fit to enter a Catholic home.
While anything but an official diocesan paper, the Colorado Catholic made for lively reading. Malone, a well-educated, well-heeled sophisticate, had come to Colorado in 1886 for his health. He was chummy with the likes of J.K. Mullen and David Moffat, and maintained memberships in the exclusive Denver Club and Denver Country Club. Malone took on not only his own bishop but both major political parties by endorsing the Populist party during the 1890s.

Malone further riled Matz by using the Colorado Catholic to advocate a minority view within the Church—a view championed by Archbishop John Ireland of Minneapolis—that Catholic children should go to public schools, provided they attend Mass before the school day began and receive Catholic religious lessons after the secular school day ended.

Malone became a public figure in Colorado whose views were sought and quoted. He wrote and published two books, Colorado and Its Queenly Capital (1900) and The Idea Persistent (1916). Father Malone continued to issue the Colorado Catholic as his personal, private newspaper until 1899, when he sold it for $8,000 to the Inter-Mountain Catholic, which was published in Salt Lake City. The Inter-Mountain Catholic thereafter devoted a section of stories and columns to Colorado. In 1939, it would become the Inter-Mountain Register, one of the many regional editions published by the national Register in Denver. Malone continued to be a public figure, a writer, and a speaker until his death in Denver, on January 12, 1935.

Denver Catholic Register

Malone's journalistic rebellion left Matz determined that the diocese must have an official newspaper. On August 11, 1905, he sanctioned the first issue of the Denver Catholic Register. Eight years later, this weekly emerged from relative obscurity after Matz recruited a new editor, a young, red-headed youngster from Altoona, Pennsylvania, named Matthew J. Smith. Bishop Matz, who once complained that the Colorado Catholic "well-nigh destroyed my authority in this diocese," was happier with the Denver Catholic Register. In his June 23, 1912, Lenten pastoral letter, "On the Catholic Press," Bishop Matz declared that:

Our daily papers are reeking with scandal, murder, arson, marital infidelities, divorce suits, dynamite outrages, strikes and labor riots. . . . Invest in several good Catholic publications and thus assist in the creation of a first-class Catholic press. . . . Here in Colorado, we have an excellent paper, the Catholic Register, well edited, brimful of Catholic News from all over the country, and more especially Colorado.

Bishop Matz and the labor movement

Bishop Matz was a devout man given to study, meditation and writing out his thoughts. The archdiocesan archives contain two boxes of his handwritten notebooks, sermons, and meditations. The subjects of his reflections range widely, from "The Reasonableness of Faith" and "The Sorrowful & Mother" to "Christianity & Progress."

He thought about, prayed over, and put to paper his opinions about many things under the sun. In a time of dramatic social change and potential class conflict, Bishop Matz took strong, public stands along conservative, traditional lines. When wealthy and influential laymen such as J.K. Mullen and Dennis Sheedy asked Matz to sanction marriages of their daughters with non-Catholics, Matz firmly said, "No!" When militant labor leaders, struggling against dangerous working conditions and wages of $2 or $2.50 for a ten-or twelve-hour day, asked Matz for support, he had the same answer for them.

James Cardinal Gibbons, the archbishop of Baltimore, officially endorsed the Knights of Labor, a pioneer labor union, in his famous 1887 defense of the rights of labor. Pope Leo XII, in his celebrated 1891 encyclical, Rerum Novarum, and other writings likewise defended the rights of working men, including their right to unionize. This liberal new view was slow to be accepted in the remote, conservative Diocese of Denver. Indeed, Bishop Matz joined the fight against Colorado's largest and most radical union, the Western Federation of Miners (WFM). Matz, like many other conservative churchmen, equated the labor movement with socialism, which the church had denounced.

The WFM, founded by striking miners in a Butte, Montana, jail cell in 1893, moved its headquarters to Denver in 1900. William D. "Big Bill" Haywood, a huge bulldog of a man, emerged as the WFM's treasurer, editor of its Miners Magazine, and star agitator. In the WFM's struggle to gain wages of no less than $3 for an eight-hour day, it made enemies that included the bishop of Denver.

Addressing the labor issue at the turn of the century, Bishop Matz declared:

The church stands ready now to solve the later day problem of labor. . . .When labor oversteps the bounds of legitimate action, however, the church places the ban upon it. This also applies to organizations of capital combined to exercise unjust privileges.
The 1903 WFM strike against mine and smelter owners escalated into a bitter and murderous labor war. Big Bill Haywood declared that socialism was the only cure for a corrupt Colorado capitalism. Bishop Matz, in response, titled his 1903 Lenten pastoral letter "Socialism not the Solution of the Social Problem. Christianity alone can successfully solve it." The bishop reasoned:

Labor organizations . . . not only have nothing to gain, but everything to lose by espousing the cause of socialism, which will make them the arm of the revolution socialism is contemplating. If they succeed, they will reduce labor to a condition of dependency equal to slavery; if they fail, they will abandon these poor unfortunate dupes to the civil power, while they themselves will try to escape, leaving the laborer in the lurch. . . . Idaho Springs and Globeville, Cripple Creek and Telluride, can furnish you with illustrations. If these are the fruits produced by socialism, you will have to agree with me that the tree is rotten.
In the towns Matz mentioned, the Colorado State Militia had successfully crushed the WFM, deporting strikers and ransacking union offices. Governor James B. Peabody and his adjutant general, Sherman Bell, announced they intended "to do up this damned anarchistic federation." They gained a major ally in Bishop Matz, who told his flock "to choose between the Western Federation and your church."

Haywood thereupon denounced the bishop as an "ecclesiastical parasite" and a "brazen and palpable liar." Opposed by both the Church and the state, the WFM lost the 1903-1904 strike, the bitterest in Colorado history, and died shortly afterwards. Once the radical WFM had faded, Bishop Matz seemed to soften his stand on the labor movement. Speaking in the coal mining town of Louisville, where he dedicated a parochial school in 1905, Matz assured a Boulder County gathering that "the church would always defend the rights of the laboring man."

The episcopal residence campaign

Not until his final years did Bishop Matz begin to find some of the peace and respect sadly lacking during his first twenty years as bishop of Denver. The campaign begun by his sometimes fractious priests to build an episcopal residence reflected this happier turn of events. Matz for years had lived simply at the Home of the Good Shepherd, a residence he shared with an ever growing number of homeless and wayward girls.

In 1904, the diocese undertook a drive to build an episcopal residence. Opposition from a few priests and widespread complaints of parish poverty squelched the plan to assess each parish in Colorado 12 percent of its income. This embarrassing situation was ended by Verner Z. Reed, a wealthy Catholic layman enriched by Cripple Creek mining and Denver real estate. Reed donated the cost—about $12,000—of building an episcopal residence at 1536 Logan Street, just behind the new cathedral. The site had previously been occupied by the residence of David H. Coover. Coover, a physician who was not happy about having a cathedral built next door, had refused to sell his land to the Cathedral Building Committee. As a result, Immaculate Conception Cathedral had to be built out to the East Colfax Avenue sidewalk, with no room for landscaping at the entry. Once the cathedral construction began, however, Coover changed his mind and sold his site, which was purchased with parish contributions.

Mrs. J.K. Mullen and Mrs. John F. Campion hosted a reception for the bishop at his new home. The public was invited to this gala, which the Rocky Mountain News of September 25, 1904, called "the social function par excellence this week."

The bishop's maiden sister, Elizabeth, continued to serve him as a housekeeper, as she had for almost forty years. She saw him through the dark days and joined him for the joyous events of 1912. The day after the cathedral was dedicated, John Cardinal Farley of New York and Archbishop J.B. Pitival of Santa Fe stayed on to help the diocese celebrate Matz's twentieth-fifth anniversary as bishop. Matz was presented with a magnificent Carrara marble bishop's throne for the cathedral.

For Matz, who had struggled to build Catholic schools, the most meaningful part of the jubilee may have been the gift of Catholic school children. Dressed in their finest white suits and dresses, the youngsters presented him with flowers and a poem:

Dear Bishop, today while so many
Wait to greet you with eloquence rare,
We, the children, will claim just a moment
of this glorious feast, as our share.

We bring you this tribute of flowers.
Each one tells of reverence and love
And of fervent prayers offered for you
To our Heavenly Father above.

The troubles of the 1890s seemed far away during those glorious October celebrations. Then, overwhelmed by debts and criticism from his priests, Matz had repeatedly tried to resign. The beleaguered bishop was tortured by self-doubt, as well as by the doubts of some of his priests and laity. He had even stood in the pulpit of his own cathedral to announce his resignation. But Rome always said no. Rumors flew that Matz would be reassigned to Mexico or, in 1899, replace the resigning bishop of Fort Wayne, Indiana. To his credit, Matz endured, guiding the diocese through its worst financial ordeal and through priestly insurrections that no other Denver prelate would have to suffer.

His last days

In 1913, Bishop Matz prepared for a final visit to Rome. Aboard an ocean liner headed for Europe, he fell on a flight of deck stairs, breaking his knee cap. He never recovered fully and spent his time in Italy lying in a hospital, rather than making the hoped for visit with Pope Pius X. With the outbreak of World War I, Matz headed for home, arriving in Denver with his leg in a plaster cast.

While saying Mass in his new cathedral on October 3, 1915, the bishop tripped over a rug, reinjuring his knee. Shortly afterwards, he suffered a nervous breakdown. He retreated to St. Elizabeth Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, for treatment and rest, then returned to Denver grateful for the concern and prayers of his diocese.

In 1915, Bishop Matz suffered a series of strokes but continued his duties as long as possible. The bishop's chief aides, monsignors Richard Brady and Percy Phillips, his vicar general, handled many of his administrative tasks.

Matz, who had begun his administration as Machebeuf's coadjutor bishop, requested a coadjutor of his own in August 1916. He suggested to Rome the man he wanted—Bishop J. Henry Tihen of Lincoln, Nebraska—who had impressed many with his sermon at Immaculate Conception Cathedral in 1912. Rome would act favorably but too late to help Bishop Matz during his lifetime.

In 1917, the bishop became seriously ill and was taken to St. Anthony's Hospital. Elizabeth Matz was always with him. His other sister, Mary Mayers of Connersville, Indiana, was also by Matz's side when he died, August 9, 1917, at 8:15 in the morning. During his last hours he told a visitor, "Tell the priests that I am the enemy of none."

Matz's unhappy, troubled reign left him a humble man. In his will, he expressed no grandiose plans, only simple directions for a modest funeral—but with the same author-itarian air that had alienated some of his priests: "I demand a plain wooden coffin, a plain, simple funeral (no funeral sermon shall be preached), a small stone or marble slab . . . bearing the inscription, Here repose the remains of N.C. Matz, Bishop of Denver. Pray for him."

The great bells of Matz's beloved new cathedral tolled his death. At the Solemn Mass in the cathedral no funeral sermon was preached, but Bishop Tihen ascended the pulpit after the last gospel to announce the appointment of Monsignor Phillips, the vicar general, as administrator of the diocese. Then he read the brief burial request from Bishop Matz's will with the admonition, "Pray for him."

Over 150 motorists joined the funeral procession and hundreds of others took the train or streetcar to Mt. Olivet to honor their bishop. They may have been startled by the simplicity of the inscription on the granite cross at the head of the vault: "Rt. Rev. N.C. Matz, Bishop of Denver, Born April 6, 1850: Died August 9, 1917. Pray for me."

Even Matz's final wish was carried out not quite as he had ordered. That had been the story of his life. But despite all his troubles, St. Thomas Seminary and Immaculate Conception Cathedral stand today as perhaps the two most majestic architectural achievements of the Denver archdiocese. They are grand monuments to the builder bishop who insisted on the simplest of gravestones.

During his twenty-eight years as bishop, the number of Colorado Catholics tripled to an estimated 113,000 in 1917. The number of priests also tripled, to 179 by 1917. While Bishop Machebeuf had brought the Benedictines, the Franciscans, and Jesuits into the diocese, Bishop Matz greatly relieved the shortage of priests by introducing the Domin-icans (1889), the Redemptorists (1894), the Servites (1898), the Theatines (1906), and the Vincentians (1907). The builder bishop was particularly interested in building Catholic schools. The Provincial Council of Baltimore, in 1884 had prescribed a parochial school for every parish—a goal Matz struggled to meet. The number of children in Catholic schools jumped from 3,000 in 1889 to 7,700. Eight new orders of nuns were introduced to Colorado during the Matz era to help operate schools, hospitals, and charitable endeavors.

Despite much dissent and even open rebellion, Matz had transformed a financially struggling diocese into a solid one. Although his hard-nosed crackdown on priests and his pecuniary problems made his administration uncomfortable for some, particularly himself, he was widely eulogized.

Gene Fowler, the noted author and bon vivant who ultimately converted to Catholicism, covered the funeral for The Denver Post of August 13, 1917:

On his finger [was] the bishop's ring, symbol of the church of which he was a pillar. At his side a staff of gold. On his lips the smile of peace everlasting. . . . It was the funeral of a churchman, a service such as might well touch the hearts of the listeners no matter their creed or station. . . . Little children, garbed in white, black sashes extending from their shoulders to their waists . . . said good-by to the only father they have known since babyhood. For they are orphans, taken care of by the Catholic orphanges of the city. . . . [H]e gathered them to his bosom in the past and they remembered and loved him.
The Denver Times joined in the general praise for Bishop Matz after his death, expressing support he lacked during his lifetime:

A man of determination, courage, and simplicity of life, Bishop Matz succeeded in all he undertook. Rising at 5 and retiring at 9, shunning all social festivities and attending to his office with the same zeal and piety with which he served as an altar boy in his native town of Muenster, he led an ideal life. Traveling almost constantly through his diocese. . . . he watched over his people.

Copyright © 1989 The Archdiocese of Denver