Tihen: Time of Trial (1917-1931)
Bishop J. Henry Tihen served the shortest term as bishop of Denver; yet this great orator guided the Church through two of its most severe trialsthe challenge of the Ku Klux Klan and the beginning of America's Great Depression. These twin trials threatened to shred society into economic, ethnic, and religious factions.
While Bishop Matz had ignored the anti-Catholic crusade of the American Protective Association during the 1890s, Bishop Tihen felt that the Church had to defend itself against the Klan, an organization powerful enough to elect its members mayor of Denver, governor of Colorado, and U.S. senators. Through the resistance of the Denver Catholic Register, the diocese helped to end this nightmare of the 1920s.
The Great Depression that began in 1929 and the deeper problems of poverty and unequal distribution of wealth were also addressed by the Church during the Tihen years. Catholic Charities, subsequently reorganized as Catholic Community Services, became one of the largest and most effective arms of the diocese.
When John Henry Tihen was selected by Pope Benedict XV as the third bishop of Denver on August 6, 1917, few expected that the bishop "with a smile like the Colorado sunshine" would face a time of trial. The toughest times seemed to be over for the diocese: The rift between Bishop Matz and some of his priests was healing, and the fiscal chaos at the turn of the century had been resolved with the help of the laity. Colorado Catholics were learning to support their Church. J.K. Mullen and many other generous souls had enabled the diocese to complete a majestic cathedral as well as first-rate churches, schools, a home for nurses, and a home for the aged.
Tihen seemed just the man to bring Colorado Catholicism into its golden age. Unlike Machebeuf and Matz, he was American-born, the son of Herman B. and Angela (Bruns) Tihen, immigrants from Hanover, Germany. Their son was born in a farmhouse in Oldenburg, Indiana, on July 14, 1861. Soon afterwards, Tihen's family moved to Jefferson City, Missouri, where he was raised on the family farm.
The Tihens soon realized that this personable, bright boy was destined for college. He packed his bags and boarded the train for St. Benedict College in Atchison, Kansas. After graduating with a liberal arts degree in 1881, he entered St. Francis Seminary in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and was ordained April 26, 1886, for the Archdiocese of St. Louis. After three years as assistant pastor at St. John parish in St. Louis, Tihen went to work for the Diocese of Wichita, Kansas, where he was made chancellor and then vicar general. On July 6, 1911, he was consecrated bishop of Lincoln, Nebraska.
Colorado Catholics knew of Tihen as bishop of a neighboring diocese and as an orator. Tihen knew and loved the history of the Church and delighted in sharing it with Catholic and non-Catholic audiences, who welcomed his powerful pipe organ voice. After his initial 1907 tour, when he delivered sixty lectures in thirty days, he joined William Jennings Bryan and other distinguished Americans as a favorite attraction on the national Chautauqua lecture circuit.
Monsignor Thomas P. Barry, a young Irish priest brought to America to serve the Diocese of Denver, recalled in a 1986 interview:
Bishop Tihen was a stately bishop, a walking example of kindness. He would take in any priest, give him work and play pinochle with himBishop Tihen was a great lover of pinochle. He was a German prince of the church who never forgot a face. He would tap us youngsters on the head and say, "Boy, you ll make it."Unlike his predecessors, Tihen was noted as a broadminded socializer, a man who welcomed most modern contraptions such as automobiles and radios. Tihen loved many things in life, ranging from Notre Dame University football to motor tours of the Colorado Rockies. His musical taste, however, remained traditional. Of jazz, Tihen declared that the poet Dante would "undoubtedly have put the writers of it in his inferno and would have made their everlasting punishment the forcible listening of their own compositions."
Whereas European-born Machebeuf and Matz had been wary of liberal and secular trends in the American Church, Tihen was far more comfortable with non-Catholics, with secular society, and with liberal causes such as women's suffrage and the labor movement. By approaching even the touchiest problems with a smile and an open mind, Bishop Tihen gained many new friends for the Diocese of Denver.
His early days in Denver
Tihen's smile was especially radiant at his installation as bishop of Denver on November 28, 1917, according to an eyewitness, Monsignor Gregory Smith. Monsignor Smith recalled the bishop well:
Tihen was sent here to straighten out Matz's problems and did. His first priority was straightening out a fractious clergy. He was a young man's bishop who put his trust in the next generationin the healthy classes of new seminarians he brought to St. Thomas Seminary. He ordered that any Denver diocesan student had to study at St. Thomas. If the man could not pay his way, Tihen would.Tihen arrived in Denver in the middle of World War I. As the son of German immigrants who led a Church filled with many foreign-born people, Tihen headed off bigots who charged that Colorado Catholics were "un-American" and disloyal to the United States in its war on Germany and her allies. Bishop Tihen became an enthusiastic supporter of Liberty Loan bonds and of the National Catholic War Council, which was renamed the National Catholic Welfare Council after the war. Pupils in Catholic schools were organized as the U.S. Boys Working Reserve and the Children's Red Cross Campaign. He required every Catholic school to fly the American flag. In recognition of the Church's support for the U.S. war effort, Denver Mayor William F.R. Mills appointed Bishop Tihen a delegate to the Mid-Continent Congress for a League of Nations, which met in St. Louis in February 1919.
In 1921, Bishop Tihen made a pilgrimage to Rome, where some still remembered the embarrassing financial problems of bishops Machebeuf and Matz. To improve Denver's reputation, Bishop Tihen presented a $5,000 gift to Pope Benedict XV. Colorado Catholics vicariously shared Bishop Tihen's grand tour of Europe through his travel letters published in the Denver Catholic Register. Among American bishops, Tihen was one of the firstif not the firstto address his flock by radio, a practice he initiated with his August 29, 1922, sermon, "Love Your Neighbor."
An enthusiastic reception persuaded Tihen to begin radio broadcasts of solemn high masses from the cathedral. The bishop also considered establishing a diocesan radio station but decided to focus instead on the Denver Catholic Register, which was fast gaining readers and respectability during the 1920s.
Tihen healed the rift between Irish Catholics and the chancery by his strong support of Irish groups such as the St. Patrick's Catholic Mutual Benevolent Society of Denver, which had been organized on March 17, 1884. J.K. Mullen served as the founding president of this all-male lay group organized to do "works of charity and benevolence," to encourage "Christian education," and to "further elevate our social and moral standard in this community." In order to "bring out some of the latent Irish talent that is supposed to exist in Denver," reported the Rocky Mountain News on April 9, 1884, the society planned to sponsor literary meetings, reading rooms, debates, lectures, and band performances, as well as St. Patrick's Day festivities.
The late Most Reverend Hubert Michael Newell, retired bishop of Cheyenne, recalled after Tihen's death: "Bishop Tihen was a brilliant speaker who employed flawless English. He loved to hold a pontifical mass on St. Patrick's Day and preach on St. Patrick on St. Patrick's Day."
Bishop Tihen also joined the Ancient Order of Hibernians (AOH), which had organized a Denver unit in 1889. Members of this Catholic fraternity supported Irish independence, aided the Queen of Heaven Orphanage, and tried to live up to their mottoFriendship, Unity, and Christian Fellowship. Tihen represented the Denver AOH at the 1919 national convention in San Francisco. "Though not of Irish birth," declared a grateful Hibernian, "he is a better Irishman than most of us Irish." (The AOH Denver membership peaked around 1900 with over 200 dues payers, before fading in the 1930s and dying. It was not reestablished in Denver until 1977.) The bishop also worked ecumenically with Protestants and Jews. Setting an example for Catholics, among whom there were anti-semitic elements, he supported the National Jewish Consumptive Relief Society. Tihen endorsed construction of the B nai Brith Infirmary in 1922, donated $100, served on a publicity committee, and spoke at the dedication of this hospital on the National Consumptive Relief Society grounds on West Colfax Avenue.
Bishop Tihen emerged as a convivial public figure. Upon his arrival in Colorado in 1917, the diocesan clergy gave him a black sedan, an 8-cylinder Cole. Tihen accepted the car, on the joking condition that he not be asked to leave Colorado in it, but relied on his horse, Black King. F.G. McCarthy, a Pueblo mortician, gave the horse and a buggy to Bishop Tihen in the spring of 1918 with the assurance, "I am sure automobiles will be plebeian after riding behind King."
Bishop Tihen kept Black King at the Denver Omnibus and Cab Company stables at East 18th Avenue and Pearl Street. Tihen delighted in buggy rides behind Black King until the magnificent creature died on January15, 1923. The bishop wrote to the blacksmith: "I have owned five horses in my lifeall good ones but the best of these was easily King. I want no more because his equal cannot be found. If all men filled their part in life's drama as well as King did his part it would be a better world." Not learning to drive automobiles was a gentleman's privilege in those days, and the horse-loving bishop never did. Priests and seminarians drove him about in the car they had given him. For his visitations throughout the diocese, Tihen took the train.
Bishop Tihen's papers in the archdiocesan archives include numerous invitations to join or address non-Catholic organizations. In 1924, the peak year of Ku Klux Klan activity, he was recruited as a speaker by the Denver Chamber of Commerce. Tihen also took part in Colorado Education Week and in U.S. Constitution celebrations, joined the Colorado Historical Society, and encouraged formation of scout troops in Catholic parishes. His ecumenism helped defuse the rabid anti-Catholicism of the 1920s. This wave of bigotry culminated in the Immigration Act of 1924, which discriminated against Eastern and Southern Europeans, who were often Catholic peoples. To publicize the Church's stand on these matters, Bishop Tihen supported the Catholic press and enabled the Denver Catholic Register to emerge as a national system of newspapers, rivaled in popularity and prominence only by the Our Sunday Visitor magazine.
The Denver Catholic Register
When launched on August 11, 1905, the Catholic Register neither hoped for nor received much attention. Although the Catholic population of Colorado had passed the 100,000 mark, Bishop Matz had complained in his 1912 pastoral letter, "On The Catholic Press," that the Register had only "five thousand bona fide subscribers who pay for their paper."
The obscurity and small circulation of the Register began to change in 1913 with the arrival of Matthew John Willfred Smith. One of six children of an Irish immigrant, he was born in Altoona, Pennsylvania, on June 9, 1892. At age twenty-one, Matthew was sent to Colorado by his father. "My father," Smith wrote in his memoirs, "had a dread of tuberculosis for his children because my mother had died at 41 of it." The widower, working as a shopman for the Pennsylvania Railroad, saved money to move his family one by one to Colorado.
To help with the expense of moving, Matt found work as telegraph editor on the Pueblo Chieftan, the leading newspaper of Southern Colorado but left a few months later for Denver, where he looked up another former Pennsylvanian, Monsignor Hugh L. McMenamin, the rector of the cathedral. The priest sent Matt to Aunt Sue Coughlin's boarding house at 1626 Washington Street and offered him work on the Denver Catholic Register.
At that time, the Register was privately owned, with the principle stockholder being Father McMenamin. Matt, who had four years experience with the Altoona Tribune as well as the brief stint with the Pueblo Chieftan, jumped at the offer. McMenamin was struggling to keep the Register alive; the paper was $5,000 in debt. He gave Smith $20 a week and an old Oliver typewriter with a nonstandard keyboard. Matt became the entire editorial staff of the weekly as well as McMenamin's secretary. Only after the cub reporter proved himself did Father McMenamin promote him to editor in October 1913, buying him a secondhand $25 Underwood typewriter with a standard keyboard. The Register office consisted of a large room, shared with the Daily Record-Stockman, a livestock journal, in the Western Newspaper Union Building, 1824 Curtis Street.
As editor, Smith's first move was to ask Bishop Matz to make the Register the official organ of the diocese. Matz, still harboring painful memories of how Father Malone had used the Colorado Catholic to attack the bishop and his programs, agreed on the condition that Father McMenamin review everything that went into the "official organ."
Borrowing some ideas from Colorado's best-selling daily, The Denver Post, Smith transformed the Register with banner headlines, photos, and lively lead paragraphs that promptly explained who, what, when, where, why, and how. He set up a system whereby each parish had a correspondent, but he carefully edited their contributions. He abhorred wordiness and misspellingand being scooped. He would exclude from the front page any correspondent who gave the story to another publication first. Some of the rules for Catholic journalism in those days, Matthew Smith wrote later in his memoirs, were:
"With a rip and a roar," Smith confessed, "I helped change all that. . . . Believe it or not there were both priests and laics in those days who did not think a Catholic paper was pious enough if people read it." Smith started saying no to priests who wanted him to print their sermons and theological treatises.
"The turning point in Catholic press history," according to Smith, was when the National Catholic News Service was formed in 1919. By then, Smith had moved the Register out of the one room office it shared with the Record-Stockman and set up his own presses and offices at 1929 Champa Street.
In 1921, Bishop Tihen bought the Register for $5,000 from the Catholic Publishing Company, whose principal owner was McMenamin. By that time, Smith had entered St. Thomas Seminary, but Bishop Tihen gave him free reign at the paper and arranged with his teachers to let him off each Tuesday to work on the diocesan weekly.
After Matt was ordained June 10, 1923, Bishop Tihen urged him to devote most of his time to the Register. He also served as chaplain for St. Rose Residence at 11th and Curtis streets, where he lived for the rest of his life. Smith was a small man, 5-feet-4-inches tall and never weighing more than 160 pounds. He always wore priestly garba high Roman collar, black sateen shirt, black trousers, and black Fedora. A long-time assistant, Paul H. Hallett, described Smith in Witness to Permanence: Reflections of a Catholic Journalist as an authoritarian editor who expected his Register stylebook to be followed as closely as the ten commandments. He had a "rock-ribbed Catholicity," revering the pope and clergy, not "contradicting ageless doctrine, celebrating heretics and dissidents, [and] sensationalizing the clowns of the clergy."
Father Smith recruited his younger brothers to help him transform the Register into a significant sheet. Seventy years later, Gregory Smith, who came west in 1914, recalled the adventure:
Denver was beautiful. Beautiful. So unlike industrial cities such as Altoona where there was little effort to build parks, boulevards and special lighting. I was sixteen when I came out and took the elevatorit was free thento the top of the Daniels & Fisher Tower. From the top, I studied Denver with its tree lined parkways leading to parks. The air was so clear and the mountains stood out beautifully. Denver was a dream city to us."Matt helped put me through St. Thomas Seminary before he went himself," Greg Smith added, "paying my $250 a year tuition and also helped the rest of our miserably poor family rent a home at 817 East 17th Avenue." Young Hubert Smith also worked on the Register, acting as the business manager. Greg never held a formal position on the staff until he became vice president of the Register corporation in the late 1940s but says that he spent much time as an informal consultant. Thomas, the oldest brother, also worked in the business office and a sister, Julia, read proof.
In 1927, Matt launched a national edition and sent a star salesman, Leo "Team of Wild Horses" Connelly, on the road. Leo approached dioceses across the country with a deal they could not resist: Their local news would be "page one" with national news filling out the paper. The diocese could buy their special Register edition for a penny a copy and sell it for a nickel. While Father Smith and his crew in Denver did all the work, the dioceses and parishes would be making most of the money. In 1927, the Register, now a network of papers, moved into its new, custom-designed building at 938 Bannock Street. Smith equipped his new office and printing plant with the web press of the old Denver Express, a Scripps-Howard newspaper that had been acquired by the Rocky Mountain News in 1926.
The Register floated a $45,000 bond issue, backed by Bishop Tihen and the diocese, to pay for the elegant new plant. Behind the mission-style fa ade lay a two-story office building and factory-like press room, the proud showcase of the diocese which owned its own newspaper at a time when most diocesan organs were privately owned.
By 1928, editor Smith had boosted the newspaper's Colorado circulation to 7,000, while also building up a 15,000 circulation for the National Register. One of the paper's selling points was Father Smith's counterattack on the Ku Klux Klan.
The Ku Klux Klan
The hooded nightmare for Colorado Catholics began in 1921 when William Joseph Simmons, imperial wizard of the Klan, visited Denver. Simmons had founded his reincarnation of the 1870s Southern organization in 1915; however, Simmons and his followers were less concerned about blacks than about Catholics and Jews. In secret sessions at the Brown Palace Hotel, Simmons recruited local leaders for what was first called the "Denver Doers Club."
The star Colorado recruit, the man who would make the "Kolorado Klan" second in power and per-capita membership only to the Indiana Klan, was John Galen Locke. A short, fat, 250-pounder, Locke had charismatic leadership qualities. Although he was a homeopathic physician spurned by both the Denver and the Colorado medical societies, Klansmen respected him as "Doctor." After his elevation to grand dragon of the Colorado Klan, membership climbed quickly; by 1924, an estimated 17,000 Denverites (25,000 across the state) had joined.
According to historian Robert Alan Goldberg, in Hooded Empire: The Ku Klux Klan in Colorado, membership appealed to "joiners" seeking friends and status, and to the law-and-order element concerned about bootlegging and sexual promiscuity. The Klan even appealed to some progressives who believed its propaganda about improving the American way of life. Patriots were attracted by the Klan's cry of "100% Americanism." Locke used his powerful, clandestine organization to swing political elections. William E. Sweet, a progressive governor, had objected to the Klan's use of the Denver Municipal Auditorium. Bishop Tihen sent Governor Sweet a letter dated January 29, 1923, thanking him for protesting "the use of the Denver auditorium by an anti-Catholic and un-American Society, thus giving it civic recognition in Denver." Governor Sweet replied to "My Dear Bishop": "I appreciate more than I can tell you the action of the Catholic priests in approval of my protest." Governor Sweet, in an August 8, 1924, address at the Denver Municipal Auditorium, declared himself "unreservedly opposed" to the Klan's efforts "to secure political power by capitalizing [on] religious prejudice and race hatred. . . . If we follow the advice of the Ku Klux Klan, we would soon emulate the merchant who hangs out the placard, I am 200 percent American. I hate everybody." The governor further denounced the Klan, notorious for its burning crosses, for changing "the symbol of love, tolerance, good will and mercy" into "the symbol of hatred, intolerance and persecution."
While Bishop Tihen and the Catholic Church savored Sweet's attack on the Klan, the hooded empire sought revenge. In 1924, they backed the gubernatorial candidacy of an obscure Denver district judge, Clarence F. Morley, who was the "klokan"chief investigatorof the Denver "klavern" or chapter. Morley received the Republican nomination and was elected; so was Rice Means, a Denver KKK member running for the U.S. Senate. A year earlier, another Klan member, Benjamin F. Stapleton, had been elected mayor of Denver.
Before an audience of cheering Klansmen, Morley was sworn in on January 13, 1925. In his inaugural address, he proposed a state law outlawing use of sacramental wine (thereby prohibiting Catholic Masses) and creation of a woman's reformatory as an alternative to the "sinister" Home of the Good Shepherd. Neither proposal materialized as law. The sacramental wine bill never left committeethe Episcopal bishop of Colorado, Protestants, Jews, Catholics, and even the Women's Christian Temperance Union testified against it. Only two Klan-sponsored proposals became law: the operation or ownership of a still became a felony; all schools were required to fly the American flag. Priestsor ministerscould continue the use of wine allowed by the "Sacramental Permit," a card issued each year by the Colorado secretary of state. Flustered Klan legislators killed their own bill to allow students to leave school every day for religion classes after Catholics and Jews endorsed the proposal. Morley was more successful in making Klan political appointments, including 200 additional prohibition agents, a move that enabled him to pay off political debts and give jobs to unemployed Klansmen.
Colorado's 126,000 Catholics became "public enemy number one" for the KKK. Whereas Jews and blacks were concentrated in Denver, "mackerel snappers" provided a highly visible statewide target. The long-festering Catholic school issue, which pitted many champions of public schools against the strong Catholic school stance of the hier-archy, became a particularly heated issue. Klansmen attacked Catholic schools on the grounds that they taught loyalty to the pope rather than American patriotism and instilled in Catholic children a "paganistic creed with its worship of the Virgin Mary, dead saints, images, bones and other relics."
To counter Klan propaganda, Bishop Tihen issued a statement in March 1924 that explained that the Church, by educating 11,466 children in 1923, had saved Colorado taxpayers $957,754.98. Serious discussion of closing all Catholic schools led most to agree that this would put an impossible burden on tax-supported public schools.
The Protestant Herald, a short-lived Denver KKK newspaper, began to attack Catholic teachers in public schools: "If our public schools are not good enough for little Catholic kiddies to attend," declared the Herald on November 20, 1924, "then they are not good enough for Catholic teachers to teach in." In some school districts, Catholic teachers could not find a job.
The Klan attack on the Church was weakened by the ambivalent attitude of Grand Dragon Locke. By most accounts, he was not personally anti-Catholic but only used the bigotry of others to recruit members and increase his own power. Locke, it was widely noted, employed a Catholic nurse, housekeeper, and secretary, and treated Catholic patients. When KKK members suggested he discharge all Catholics employees, he told them it was his business, not theirs.
Nevertheless, many of Locke's followers did all they could to discredit the Church. They brought such alledged "ex-nuns" as Mary Angel to Denver, where she delivered sixty lectures, many in Protestant churches. Mary Angel's public confessions, according to Denver's Register of May 28, 1924, were "utter foulness. . . . It was the vomit not of the red light district, but of hell's depths." Her tales encouraged a few "pygmy-minded legislators," reported Monsignor Gregory Smith, to introduce a Convent Inspection Bill that allowed authorities to go in and inspect convents at any hour of the day or night.
In Canon City, the 1926 opening of Holy Cross Abbey by the Benedictines also aroused Klan attacks. By blasting the abbey as a proposed summer home for the pope and by denouncing Catholics as the "criminal element," Canon City Klansmen helped recruit members for what became one of the largest and strongest klaverns in Colorado.
When hot-headed Klansmen suggested that Immaculate Conception Cathedral be dynamited, Grand Dragon Locke restrained them, saying the Church would only spend the insurance to build a larger cathedral. Bishop Tihen, who never lost his composure and humor, heard this story and jokingly commented: "There are one or two churches we would like to get rid of. Why not recommend these architectural scarecrows to the Klan crowd."
The Knights of Columbus, however, took the Ku Klux Klan very seriously, particularly after Klansmen kidnapped one of their members, Patrick Walker. Walker was taken, on October 27, 1923, to a spot near Riverside Cemetery and pistol-whipped. Fort Collins-area Klansmen circulated fake copies of the Knights of Columbus's oath and condemned them as "the oily knights of the Pope's militia." Father Matthew Smith, who led the fight against the Klan in the pages of the Register, also attracted its wrath. Years later, Smith reported in his memoirs that he had been told the Klan had spied on him: "They can t find a single instance where you chased a woman. Neither can they prove you a boozer. They think you're too damn clean."
Father Smith, however, remained wary. On several occasions motorists yelled at him and tried to hit him on his daily walk from St. Rose Residence to the Register offices. Two other times, women summoned him to their rooms for spiritual guidance, hoping to trap him in a scandalous situation.
Gano Senter's popular restaurant at 1547 Champa Street posted a large sign in the window: "Fish served every dayexcept Friday." Senter's Kool Kozy Kafe and other KKK businesses sold cigars labeled "CYANA," an acronym for "Catholics, You Are Not Americans." More damage was done by Senter and his fellow Klansmen when they organized a boycott of Catholic businesses. Even this, however, was not very effective, according to Monsignor Smith. In the February 5, 1948, Register, he recalled:
We Catholics, on the whole, suffered little from the Klan, although great harm was planned against us. The Negroes of Denver, on the other hand, suffered much . . . because Klan committees went from door to door demanding that businessmen drop colored employees.Although the damage, in retrospect, may appear minor, at the time the Klan terrified many Catholics, as well as Jews and blacks. Crosses were burned at Monday night rallies on South Table Mountain, on Ruby Hill, and on Pikes Peak on April 1, 1924. Unknown persons also ingnited a cross near Carroll Hall on the Regis College campus where, according to Judge John J. Dunn, "the Jesuits held the boys back inside or they would have torn those Kluxers apart." Crosses were also reportedly burned in front of St. Dominic Church, St. Ignatius Loyola Church, Loretto Heights College, and, if rumors can be believed, other Catholic churches in Denver.
In Durango, according to historian Duane A. Smith in Rocky Mountain Boom Town, William Kipp, pastor at St. Columba s, grew alarmed when the Klan threatened to burn down the church, school, and convent as well as Mercy Hospital across the street. Father Kipp bought a double-barreled shotgun, which he brandished during a Sunday sermon, saying that "if he needed to, he would use it." In Boulder, the Rocky Mountain American, a Klan newspaper, took frequent potshots at Catholics, including this poem in its April 24, 1925, edition:
I would rather be a KlansmanThe card parties, carnivals, and raffles with which many parishes supported their churches, schools, and social programs were attacked by the Klan as immoral gambling. One result was a letter from the Denver manager of safety and excise, a Klansman named Reuben Hershey, to Bishop Tihen, telling him that "congregations under your jurisdiction" must "absolutely discontinue in the future" all "raffles, enterprises or games of chance." Catholics experienced a wide range of subtle discrimination. At the University of Denver, Catholic girls, finding themselves not welcome at existing sororities, established their own, Theta Phi Alpha, which, according to one member, soon developed a reputation for having the most beautiful girls on campus. This inspired fraternities to forget all about the KKK inspired boycott, and soon sororities also changed their discriminatory policies. Theta Phi Alpha disbanded.
Discrimination on many fronts, covert and overt, convinced the feisty, red-headed editor of the Register to take on the Klan. "A stock argument I heard over and over again," Smith recalled, "was Give them enough rope and they will hang themselves . But they did not hang themselves. They had to be fought." Bishop Tihen concurred but told Smith that satire "is the most powerful sword that men can use."
Father Smith used both ridicule and expos s. Governor Morley was called a "pigmy Nero"; the April 9, 1925, edition questioned how much Locke "as grand dragon is making off each man or woman who saves the nation by buying a nightshirt for $16." On July 3, 1924, the Register published a list of over 2,400 alleged Denver Klansmen. Although not endorsing any candidates, the Register identified pro-KKK and anti-KKK candidates for its readers just before the 1925 spring city election.
Neither the fierce editorials of Father Smith nor the good humored patience of Bishop Tihen stopped the Klan, but they did hang themselves. Locke's greed for power and profits soon created rifts within the invisible empire. In 1925, only a few years after being elected as a Klan candidate, Mayor Stapleton denounced the KKK. Both Governor Morley and Senator Means failed to receive renominations by the Republican party, which abruptly ended its brief and embarrassing affair with the KKK. Morley left Denver for Indianapolis, where he and four partners formed a brokerage firm. In 1937, ex-governor Morley was accused of mail fraud, of taking money for securities he failed to deliver. He was sentenced to five years in the federal penitentiary at Leavenworth, Kansas.
John Galen Locke also found himself in trouble. The Internal Revenue Service, noting that he had failed to report any income between 1913 and 1924, began an investigation. Locke refused to produce his financial records, as ordered by U.S. district court judge J. Foster Symes, and was jailed in Denver for ten days. The national KKK was also curious about Locke's share of the Klan membership and uniform fees, which amounted to $300,000 in 1924. On June 30, 1925, Imperial Wizard Hiram W. Evans forced him to resign. Locke subsequently formed the Minute Men of America but never regained his following or his power. By 1926, the Ku Klux Klan nightmare in Colorado was largely over, though freelance bigots continue to invoke its name to this day.
Why so many Coloradans briefly accepted the Klan and its rabid anti-Catholicism remains a puzzle. However, the broadminded, ecumenical, and community-oriented administration of Bishop Tihen, epitomized by his support of the Charity Organization Society, probably won the Church many non-Catholic allies in the struggle with the "Invisible Empire."
Since its founding in 1887, Denver's premier welfare institution was the Charity Organization Society, (COS), a nondenominational umbrella organization attempting to coordinate charitable endeavors in the Mile High City. Monsignor William O Ryan, one of the founders, apparently introduced the idea. O Ryan, an Irishman who came to Colorado for the climate cure, had become interested in a novel approach to charities used in Liverpool, England. There, a loosely organized financial federation coordinated fund raising and distribution of funds to a variety of eleemosynary groups.
Under the COS plan, citizens would be approached only once a year by the one umbrella charity, whose professional and respected board would then decide how much should go to each institution. Although Denverites claim to have invented the idea of an umbrella charity, Buffalo, New York, had organized the first in the United States in 1877, and Indianapolis had followed suit before Denver joined the movement.
Monsignor O'Ryan, an intellectual who spearheaded the Catholic ecumenical movement in Colorado, discussed the idea of a single, interdenominational charity with Reverend Myron Reed, Denver's leading Congregational minister, and with Dean H. Martyn Hart, of St. John's Episcopal cathedral. Francis Wisehart Jacobs, a noted Jewish philanthropist, Rabbi William S. Freidman of Temple Emanuel, and Father Patrick F. Carr also helped establish the COS, which quickly came to dominate private charitable work. The society, as President James S. Pershing explained in the first annual report in 1889, was intended to save the general public and the business community from being "repeatedly and perhaps annoyingly solicited" and to spare the would-be giver the task of having to "determine for himself (often a difficult and embarrassing task) how he should apportion to the various charities."
Denver's COS raised $21,700 to fund ten charities in 1888; these included the Good Shepherd home and St. Vincent Orphan Asylum. Reverend Thomas Uzzell, a Methodist minister who operated the People s Tabernacle on Denver's skid row, congratulated the society at its 1889 meeting in the Tabor Grand Opera House:
We have driven all the beggars off the street, all the organ grinders. You can hardly find one. The humbugs have been found out. Some of them arrested and imprisoned and you businessmen owe a credit to this association for what they have done in regard to this matter.The silver panic and depression of 1893 led to reduced contributions while greatly increasing the number of indigents. In 1894, contributions fell to around $10,000 and would not pass the $30,000 mark until 1906. The COS survived by turning to less expensive projects, such as community gardens that were tended by and fed unemployed families.
Guy T. Justis, a social worker, was hired in 1917 to bring the Denver effort out of the doldrums. Justis proved to be an administrative dynamo who transformed an amateurish assortment of do-gooders into a professional outfit. Renamed the Denver Community Chest in 1923, it raised and distributed $649,000 to forty-five agencies. The Mile High United Way, as it would be called after 1957, remains the major charitable organization in Denver. Bishop Tihen endorsed the Community Chest program, of which Monsignor O Ryan continued to be a mainstay until his death in 1940. The bishop, in a characteristic show of support, wrote to the Community Chest in 1923: "We are greatly interested in the campaign and shall gladly extend our help to make it successful." Despite pressing needs of Catholic charitable groups, Bishop Tihen authorized Community Chest collections in each parish. Furthermore, he acted on the organization's complaints that Mother Cabrini's Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart continued to beg in the streets despite generous allotments from the Community Chest for the Queen of Heaven Orphanage.
Borrowing an idea from the Community Chest program, Bishop Tihen decided to place all the Catholic charities under one central office. From the day Father Machebeuf arrived in Denver in 1860, the church had been involved in charitable endeavors, including the St. Vincent de Paul Society (1878), the Sacred Heart Aid Society (1881), and the Catholic Library Association (1884).
In 1927, Catholic Charities opened a two-room office in the Railroad Building at 1515 Larimer Street. To head this tiny office, Bishop Tihen appointed, on February 1, 1927, a young, tuberculosis-stricken priest, John R. Mulroy. Mulroy had come to Colorado as a scrawny health-seeker in 1917. He could devote only half time to Catholic Charities as he also served as pastor of St. Rose of Lima and then Holy Ghost parishes.
Father Mulroy described the early days in "Catholic Charities on the Wider Front, 1927-1951": "We began with six months paid rent, a borrowed social worker, a secretary paid each two weeks if we had the money, a volunteer Vincentian, some old clothes, some meal and lodging tickets and a part-time priest director." Few expected much of this part-time tubercular priest, but Father Mulroy fooled nearly everyone. He regained his health, became robust and energetic, and transformed the feeble Catholic Charities into one of the strongest programs of the diocese.
"Mulroy was a marvel," according to Monsignor Greg Smith:
He came here with a strange maladytuberculosis of the eye-and never completely recovered. He was a quiet but determined crusader who pushed for public health reforms as well as public welfare, even if it meant inspecting toilets personallywhich he did in Catholic schools. When he came here he found little in the way of welfare. Even the Community Chest program was feeble. He helped change all that. He interested the newly formed National Council of Catholic Women, who were casting about for a cause, in providing funding and volunteers for Catholic Charities. Mulroy was a thorough administrator and an easy smiler who worked well with Catholics and non-Catholics alike.Father Mulroy knew where to look for helpto J.K. and Catherine Mullen. Catherine Smith Mullen was an active member and supporter of the Sacred Heart Aid Society, a founder of the Needlework Guild, and a founder of St. Joseph Hospital Baby Annex, which cared for homeless infants. The Mullens also contributed generously to the St. Vincent de Paul Society of Denver, which, under the zealous leadership of Edward A. Qualkenbush, operated a workingman's club and shelter homes, besides arranging foster homes for unwanted babies and children.
Other assistance came from the Knights of Columbus, who undertook an annual minstrel show at the Denver Municipal Auditorium to support Catholic Charities, which by 1931 was receiving $7,000 a year from them. This men's group also staged a "Silver Dollar Carnival" to raise money for the work of the St. Vincent de Paul Society.
Bishop Tihen and Catholic Charities gave strong support to the working class and the union movement. During the bitter, bloody Denver Tramway Company strike of 1920, Bishop Tihen spoke at the Denver Auditorium on behalf of the rights of labor. When a wealthy Catholic capitalist criticized the bishop for encouraging unions, Tihen responded that he would always be on the side of labor. Demonstrating his support for the working class, he often visited Denver's Catholic Workingmen's Club to chat and play pinochle. When J.K. Mullen announced his plans to erect a home "for the aged poor who of all are the most abandoned," Bishop Matz praised the plan as "an object lesson on the charity of Catholics."
In September 1913, Mullen bought a ten-acre tract between West 28th and 29th avenues, stretching from Lowell Boulevard to Newton Street, from Hiram G. Wolfe, a nursery man and realtor who lived on the site. Mullen called the location Denver's "most beautiful" hilltop, "with some of the finest trees in the city." Mullen and Bishop Matz recruited the Little Sisters of the Poor from their Palatine, Illinois, motherhouse to run their home for the elderly. This order of nuns, founded by Jeanne Jugan in 1839 in France, strove to follow her admonition: "To have compassion is no longer to pay attention to self. To be attentive to others, and to look on them as one would on oneself. . . . Never forget, never forget, the poor are Our Lord."
The Little Sisters of the Poor, who take joy in their mission of tending the sick and dying, worked with Mullen and Denver architect Harry James Manning to design a four-story complex for patients and nuns, with boarding rooms, health clinics, a dining room, library, recreation rooms, and a chapel.
Construction began in December 1916, and a year later four Little Sisters moved into the laundry building to supervise construction and prepare for the first residents, who were admitted in April 1918. Bishop Tihen formally dedicated the Mullen Home (also known as Sacred Heart Home) on September 1, 1918. This fine brick structure, executed in a neoclassical style, accommodated 150 indigent elderly men and women, regardless of their religious background. They received loving twenty-four-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week care from the Little Sisters, who aspired only to become the "Humble Servants of the Poor."
During Bishop Tihen's time, the diocese began establishing community centers, one of the Progressive era's prescriptions for poor inner city neighborhoods. These community centers offered diverse and varied assistance, which might include job training, education classes, recreational facilities, and counseling as well as food, shelter, clothing, and health clinics.
Denver's first Catholic community center was the Garfield Center at 1085 Yuma Street, which offered catechetical classes as well as welfare services. Garfield Center opened in 1923 and was replaced during the 1930s with the Vail Community Center. St. Cajetan Clinic and Community Center, one of many Catholic Charities financed by J.K. Mullen, opened in 1925 at 8th and Curtis streets, the site where Mullen had first found work fifty-four years earlier at the Excelsior Mill. In 1934, St. Cajetan Clinic was renamed the Ave Maria Clinic. It served as an outpatient department for Denver's three Catholic hospitals and soon outgrew its old storefront. It moved into the basement of St. Cajetan Church where 4,000 to 5,000 people a year received clinical attention.
Little Flower Community Center opened in 1928 in a house at 2809 Larimer Street that the Denver Diocesan Council of Catholic Women (DDCCW) transformed into a clinic, school, and library for the neighborhood. The DDCCW, a local council of the National Council of Catholic Women, was formed on September 25, 1925. Ella M. Weckbaugh, a daughter of J.K. Mullen, was the founding president, and Father Mulroy the spiritual director of this group that was to support Catholic Charities.
The DDCCW, which had its office in room 504 of the Railroad Building on Larimer Street, used its center to assist migrant laborers in Colorado. In its 1929 Report on Mexican Welfare, the DDCCW found that some 9,000 Spanish-speaking people wintered in Denver. "The beet workers plight," according to the DDCCW, was commonly their failure "through no fault of their own to complete their contract" to work in Colorado's sugar beet fields. This "left many families destitute," and "many in addition to this, are in debt for their summer's provisions." Great Western and other sugar beet companies had given these people free rides to Colorado from Mexico or New Mexico in the spring but saw no need to take them back home after the beets were harvested. If migrants did not fulfill all terms of their contracts and stay on the job to the last day, they could lose all their pay.
For these poor migrants, the center offered classes in sewing, darning, music, folk dancing, and English, and served hot lunches. Sisters of Loretto taught catechism and other classes for girls, while Jesuits instructed boys. By 1940, the Little Flower Community Center had expanded its operations, moving into the two adjacent buildings. After landlords refused to make necessary improvements, the diocese purchased the buildings in the 1940s.
The center, by the 1950s, was offering over 6,000 lunches a year; classes in crafts, tap dancing, candle dipping, and woodcraft as well as baseball, football, and basketball programs; and day care for children. Neighborhood patrons of the center also used it for baptisms and weddings. The United Farm Workers, a group trying to organize and upgrade the lives of migrant workers, was given free office space upstairs at Little Flower, a center of hope for many peoples and causes ever since its opening.
St. Anthony Neighborhood House was established in 1930 along the lines of the settlement houses made famous by social workers such as Jane Addams, founder of Chicago's Hull House. This clinic and neighborhood house at 3638 Osage Street catered to the surrounding Italian neighborhood, offering health care, a library, and classes in catechism, music, art, and domestic science. It apparently merged, during the 1940s, with the Little Flower Community Center. Vail Community Center opened in 1937 at 1904 West 12th Avenue in the South Platte River bottoms. John F. Vail, a wealthy Catholic businessman dealing in investments and real estate, and his wife financed the center, which served primarily a Hispanic population until it was washed away by the 1965 Platte River flood.
In 1906, Mrs. Verner Z. (Mary Dean) Reed had established a day nursery and social center in Denver's Five Points neighborhood with the idea of allowing poor mothers, including many blacks, Hispanics, and Orientals, to work or go to school. When her daughter, Margery, died in 1925, Mrs. Reed set up a $600,000 endowment to convert the old nursery into a model day care center at 1128 28th Street. The $450,000 Margery Reed Mayo Nursery, dedicated on January 4, 1944, by Archbishop Vehr and staffed by the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati, still provides child day care for needy and working parents.
The Dominican Sisters of the Sick Poor opened, in 1923, a convent in a large old house at 2501 Gaylord Street. The order, founded in New York City by an Irish immigrant, Mary Walsh, sent sisters from their Mariandale headquarters in Ossining, New York, to Denver at the request of Bishop Tihen. After settling into the old boarding house at 25th and Gaylord, they began visiting the mentally and physically ill. By the 1930s, these Dominicans were making over 2,000 home visits a year.
"We are still making home visits," Sister Marie Therese McGath reported in 1987:
Now we are a certified home health care agency. We still give priority to the poor, to those who cannot pay. Once we had six sisters here. Now we're down to four but have thirty to forty wonderful volunteers who help us to care for anyone who asks for our help, regardless of race, creed, color, class, or language. We ve been doing that ever since 1923 when Mother Hyacinth McGuire started our order here in Denver.In the years to come, other Catholic community centers would be established, including Denver's Holy Ghost Youth Center (1947-present) and the Fox Street Neighborhood Center, operated at 2930 Fox Street from 1948 to 1953.
Outdoor recreation and summer camping for children also became a goal of Catholic Charities. Back in 1916, Joseph J. Bosetti had established the first diocesan summer camp, on the eastern edge of Rocky Mountain National Park. Father Bosetti, who had spent much time mountaineering in the Alps of his native Italy, was camping on the spot when a fiery meteor fell from the sky one August night. Bosetti regarded this as a message from heaven and obtained permission from William McPhee, a wealthy Catholic lumberman who owned the site, to convert 160 acres into a summer camp and St. William's Lodge for his choir boys at Immaculate Conception Cathedral.
In 1934, Bosetti persuaded the Malos to donate $90,000 to build the main lodge and another $15,000 for the camp's beautiful stone chapel. It was christened St. Catherine Chapel in honor of Mrs. Malo s mother, Catherine Smith Mullen, and in honor of St. Catherine of Siena. With the Malo's generous donationsultimately over $175,000Bosetti also built a first-rate camp.Thousands of boys, aged ten to eighteen, have enjoyed the camp and expeditions into the adjacent park. Many seminarians from St. Thomas's have served as camp counselors at St. Malo, where Cathedral parish boys were admitted free while boys from other parishes were charged $7 a week. Monsignor Bosetti was followed as director of Camp St. Malo by Monsignor Richard Heister (1952-1969), who reminisced in 1988: "Oh boy! It was a great camp. We often went hiking, including midnight hikes with flashlights up Twin Sisters Peak, trying to reach the summit in time for a sunrise Mass." Monsignor Heister was succeeded by fathers John Anderson (1969-1970), Robert Jerrard (1970-1985), and Charles Scott (1986-1988).
Over the years, the camp came to include dormitories, stables, employees housing, athletic fields, an archery range, and a swimming pond. In 1984, it closed for major renovation and additions, including a large new lodge and conference center, reopening in 1987 with over $5 million in improvements and a new namethe St. Malo Conference Center. The pioneer structure, St. William's Lodge, had been replaced by a larger, modern complex, and at a spot where Monsignor Bosetti and his boys once had camped and cooked out sits an elegant new restaurantBosetti's.
Another Catholic summer camp origi-nated with the old resort of Cassells on the South Platte River. The resort had been launched as a stop along the Denver, South Park & Pacific Railroad by David N. Cassells, the agent there, in the 1880s. In 1930, J.K. Mullen's son-in-law, John L. Dower, and his wife, purchased the place, located 8.3 miles west of Bailey, from Cassells estate and gave it to Catholic Charities as a summer camp for underprivileged boys and girls between the ages of eight and fifteen. By 1931, the freshly rechristened Camp Santa Maria was offering three-week summer sessions, during which youngsters slept in the old Cassells hotel.
The landmark atop the hill behind the camp, a fifty-five-foot statue of Christ the King donated in 1933 by the Dowers, is supposedly second in height only to the famous statue of Christ in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Although the old hotel and Cassells-Dower summer house have been demolished, Camp Santa Maria still delights young summer visitors to this mountain retreat along the upper South Platte River. Since the 1950s, the Mary Mullen Dower Benevolent Corporation has leased Camp Santa Maria to Catholic Community Services, which offers not only children's summer camping but also retreats and autumn camping for senior citizens.
Catholic Charities came to play a larger role after the stock market crash of 1929. At first, Coloradans thought themselves immune to the "eastern" economic collapse, but by 1933, Westerners too were experiencing 33 percent unemployment and the toughest times since 1893. Catholic Charities, which had begun receiving Community Chest funding in 1929, struggled to relieve poverty and suffering. Father Mulroy termed the new Community Chest funding of Catholic institutions good evidence that his two-year-old Catholic Charities had become "vigorous enough and had demonstrated a necessary and progressive social work program."
Social justice emerged as an underlying goal of Catholic Charities in an economically troubled society. From 1928 to 1936, the diocese and Catholic Charities joined in the annual Catholic Conference on Industrial Problems and pushed concepts such as humane working conditions, living wage, profit sharing, credit unions, and curbs on child labor.
Father Mulroy was appointed in 1932 to the State Welfare Institutions Board by Governor William H. Adams. Mulroy could also take pride in the appointments of Herbert Fairall, a prominent Catholic businessman on the Catholic Charities Board, as chair of the Colorado Emergency Relief Association and first president of the newly created Colorado Department of Public Welfare. The Church was playing a larger role in improving the lives of all Coloradans. Catholic Charities moved into a new home, the George C. Schleier mansion at the southwest corner of East 17th Avenue and Grant Street, in 1930. Rachael Schleier had donated the huge Queen Ann residence to Bishop Tihen for use as the office of Catholic Charities. As Father Mulroy's small office could scarcely fill even one floor of the three-story mansion, it also became the new office of the diocesan superintendent of Catholic schools. The Schleier mansion, Father Mulroy exulted, "is a far cry from the two rooms in the Railroad Building on Larimer Street" where Catholic Charities had opened on February 1, 1927.
Meanwhile, Bishop Tihen was not forgetting that minds also need nourishment. Monsignor William H. Jones provides the best detailed documented account of Tihen's life and works in The History of Catholic Education in the State of Colorado, which includes this summary of Tihen's accomplishments:
The number of parish schools was advanced from thirty-one to forty-nine. . . . Forty-four churches were dedicated; Loretto Heights College, three hospitals, an orphanage, and a home for the aged were established; the office of the Catholic Charities of Denver was organized; a most ambitious and effective Catholic press program was started; the number of priests was increased from 174 to 229; and the Catholic population of the State was strengthened by approximately 25,000.The opening of Loretto Heights College was the greatest educational thrust of the Tihen years. The Sisters of Loretto had been pondering, ever since the 1880s, opening a college to complement their highly successful high school, St. Mary's Academy. In 1890, the sisters paid B.M. Morse $18,250 for a forty-five-acre hilltop in Southwest Denver, and on September 21, 1890, Mother Pancratia Bonfils and the sisters and pupils of St. Mary's Academy laid the cornerstone for Loretto Heights. The magnificent red sandstone school building, a $350,000 six-story structure, was designed by Denver's premier architect, Frank E. Edbrooke. The central tower, which rises ten stories above the five- foot-thick stone foundations, commands the skyline of Southwest Denver.
Loretto Heights opened its doors on November 2, 1891, to fifty-one secondary school students taught by twenty Sisters of Loretto. Two years later, the silver panic and prolonged depression almost closed the school. Both paying pupils and potential benefactors seemed to disappear, but Mother Praxedes Carty was able to persuade the mortgage holders, Northwestern Mutual and Penn Life insurance companies, not to foreclose.
Thomas H. Malone, editor of the Colorado Catholic, thought Loretto Heights' isolation was one problem, and in 1898 he, with some fellow investors, built a streetcar line from South Broadway west on Hampden Avenue to serve both the Heights and Fort Logan. Three years later, the Fort Logan and Loretto Heights Street Railway Company was dissolved shortly after Father Malone ran a notice in the Denver Times of March 29, 1901, offering to donate, in order to get tax relief, the firm's entire rolling stocktwo streetcars and four horsesto the Arapahoe County Commissioners. Slowly, Loretto Heights established itself as an academy for young ladies. When prosperity returned in the 1910s, the nuns decided to expand the program. In September 1918, Loretto Heights Collegethe region's first Catholic women's collegeopened its doors. Four students enrolled for courses taught by both the Sisters of Loretto and by priests from St. Thomas Seminary. In June 1921, Mary Hayden became the first graduate of the new college. The college's role in the development of Southwest Denver inspired the Post Office, in 1986, to name its new station there Loretto. The college added a chapel and connecting arcade in 1911 and an auditorium in 1915, both handsome structures designed by the original architect, Frank Edbrooke.
The North Central Association recognized Loretto Heights as a degree-granting college in 1925. Bishop Tihen spearheaded a 1928 campaign to build Pancratia Hall, a new building devoted solely to the high school. Completed in 1930, the high school structure was named for Sister Mary Pancratia Bonfils, long-time principal of St. Mary's Academy and founding superior of Loretto Heights. The large, $950,000 library was named for a generous benefactor, May Bonfils Stanton, as was the $1,550,000 performing arts center. In 1941, the high school was closed and Pancratia Hall converted to a dormitory for what emerged as the only fully accredited senior college for women in Colorado, Wyoming, and New Mexico.
Loretto Heights, at last, had achieved the dream of its foundressMother Mary Pancratia Bonfils. She was the daughter of a prominent St. Louis physician, Francis S. Bonfils and a first cousin of Frederick G. Bonfils, the cofounder and long-time editor and publisher of The Denver Post. At age fifteen, she entered the novitiate of the Sisters of Loretto, the first order of nuns founded in the United States. After training at the Kentucky motherhouse, she was recruited by Bishop Machebeuf who brought her to St. Mary's Academy in Denver in 1868. After a thrilling stagecoach ride, the young nun first encountered Indians. Courageously, she offered them food, as she recalled later:
Oh! How I trembled when I first walked out to those fierce looking fellows. But I swallowed my fears and showed them I was their friend. And don t you know I really believe some of those painted fellows began to love me. They often gave me presents made by their own hands.Sister Pancratia was appointed mother superior at St. Mary's in 1882. She oversaw construction of a fine new brick structure on the old St. Mary's campus at 15th and California streets and made St. Mary's the rival of any of Denver's other private schools, including Miss Wolcott's School and Wolfe Hall. In the 1890s, Mother Pancratia purchased land and, in 1911, opened a new home for St. Mary's on Pennsylvania Street in Capitol Hill. With great vision and faith, she also bought a forty-five-acre hilltop in the southwestern outskirts of Denver, where, in 1891, she opened Loretto Heights Academy. Mother Pancratia dreamed of the day when the Sisters of Loretto would conduct a Catholic women's college. Before she could realize this goal, she died on October 12, 1915, in St. Joseph Hospital. She had told her sisters, "I am now on the threshold of eternity, but I would like to do God's will, to work for Denver still." Her sisters carried out her wishes. In 1941, Loretto Heights dedicated Pancratia Hall to the remarkable nun who had done more than anyone to bring Catholic education to the ladies of Colorado.
The KKK attack on Catholic schools helped to rally Catholics around the educational role of the Church. "You build churches in vain," Bishop Tihen declared, according to the Denver Catholic Register of September 2, 1920, "unless you build schools with them." In 1924, during the zenith of Klan power, Bishop Tihen dedicated five new parish schoolsPresentation, St. John the Evangelist (later renamed Good Shepherd), and St. Philomena elementary schools, St. Francis de Sales High School in Denver, and Corpus Christi Elementary School in Colorado Springs. In response to Klan criticism, patriotism was emphasized as part of the Catholic school curriculum. American flags were installed outside schools and also in each classroom, where the pledge of allegiance became a daily practice. Catholic schools strove to improve their academic offerings, introducing science courses and replacing the old Spencerian penmanship classes with the new Palmer method.
Athletics and physical fitness became a more important part of the school day during the 1920s. At the urging of Monsignor McMenamin of Cathedral parish, a high school parochial league athletic program was begun in 1926. The following year, the Oscar Malos donated $30,000 to build the Oscar L. Malo, Jr., Memorial Gym at Cathedral High School. This gym would be used by various Catholic high schools not only for gymnastics, basketball, and other indoor sports but also as a theater. The home team, the Cathedral "Blue Jays," led the way in parochial league athletics. Cathedral High School, which moved into a new $190,000 school and convent complex in the fall of 1920, attracted students from all over the city.
Monsignor McMenamin promoted not only scholarship and athletics but "Christian Conduct." In a letter to parents, he warned that, among other things, "Pupils of the Cathedral High School may not attend dances or parties of any kind without permission of the school authorities. The first offense of profane or indecent language by any pupil will be followed by dismissal."
While Colorado Springs, Denver, Boulder, Pueblo, Leadville, Trinidad, Canon City, Sterling, and Walsenburg had Catholic high schools by the 1920s, many smaller towns lacked even Catholic elementary schools. To help rectify this situation, Bishop Tihen, in 1930, asked the diocesan mission director, Father Gregory Smith, to organize religious vacation schools. Father Smith established a diocesan chapter of the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine and opened its prototype summer school program in his own parish, St. Mary's in Littleton.
In the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine summer school program, students attended four week-long sessions for four hours a day. Religion classes were complimented with recreation and lessons in history, health, and home economics. Within a year, twenty-two summer school programs were launched. Nuns, priests, and seminarians conducted the classes. Of the 846 nuns working in the diocese in 1930, 347 volunteered for summer school assignments. Most of them cheerfully accepted the work despite the fact that they received, if anything, only $25 to $40 a month (compared with the $190 a month paid at the time by Denver public schools). Two seminarians, Ray Newell and Walt Canavan, listed weekly expenses of $10.28 in their July 6, 1930 report to Monsignor Gregory Smith and added, "Tell the bishop we are first at the church every morning. This is due to various reasons, but principally because we sleep in the pews during the night!"
Despite the sacrifices Catholic education required of parents, as well as religious, enrollment in all Catholic educational institutions in Colorado had climbed to 12,633 by 1931. The number of parish schools increased from thirty-one to forty-nine between 1917, when Bishop Tihen was installed, and 1931, when he retired. Among the many new schools were Loretto Heights College, the Cathedral High School, and the Holy Cross Benedictine Abbey School in Canon City.
Bishop Tihen also concerned himself with Catholic students at non-Catholic colleges and universities. He arranged with Henry A. Buchtel, chancellor at the University of Denver, for Catholic Masses to be held in the chapel. Tihen helped found or strengthen Catholic Newman Clubs at the Colorado School of Mines in Golden, at the University of Colorado in Boulder, at the Colorado State Teachers College in Greeley, and at the Colorado State Agricultural College in Fort Collins.
St. Thomas Seminary
The development of St. Thomas Seminary and of a native-born Colorado clergy was probably the goal closest to Bishop Tihen's heart. He spearheaded the evolution of St. Thomas's from a farm with one old red building, into a complex containing a chapel, a kitchen, a refrectory, a philosophy building, and living quarters. Between 1924 and 1926, Bishop Tihen raised $600,000 for the seminary.
Patrick Cardinal Hayes, archbishop of New York, dedicated the new philosophy building on October 17, 1926. This elegant Renaissance revival structure by Jacques Benedict featured the Tihen Memorial Tower, a 138-foot-high landmark. Sculptor Enrico Licari cast twelve-foot-high angels to adorn the four corners of the square tower. Along with other religious ornaments, the seals of great European and American seminaries were imbedded in the façade.
St. Thomas Seminary Chapel, one of the most exquisite ecclesiastical edifices in the Rockies, was constructed next to the Tihen Tower in 1930. Architect Jacques Benedict used over 200 different shapes, sizes, and colors of brick in this Renaissance revival masterpiece. Arabesque patterns in pearl, gold, and red enhance the terrazzo floor; eighty-five arched windows of various sizes including seventeen from the world-renowned stained glass studios of Franz Meyer in Munich. The Botticino marble altar, a $15,000 gift of Paul Mayo, was hand-carved in Italy from eighth-century designs.
Seminary studies, as well as buildings, were upgraded. The seminary, which prided itself upon having Matt Smith as a graduate, claimed to be the first in the country to offer journalism courses. Courses were also added in church administration as well as in academic fields. From five priest professors and fifteen seminarians in 1917, the seminary grew to thirteen faculty and ninety-five students by 1931.
Bishop Tihen pleaded with every parish for seminary funding and used every resource at his command to promote what he called the "heavenly mission" of making St. Thomas's "an institution that shall do God's work in the West." Consequently, St. Thomas's emerged in the late 1920s as a degree-granting college, licensed to award Bachelor and Master of Arts degrees. Thanks to the seminary's work, Colorado began producing most of its own priests.
His last days
Bishop Tihen resigned at the age of 69 on January 2, 1931. In September, he quietly left Denver to take up residence at St. Francis Hospital in Wichita, where he once had worked as a young priest. He continued to use his wonderful voice for preaching until serious illness silenced him in March 1938. His death came on January 14, 1940. On a bitter cold but sunny January 18, he was interred in the Gallagher Memorial Chapel at Mt. Olivet Cemetery. Tihen's successor, Bishop Urban J. Vehr, was on hand as Tihen was laid to rest beside Machebeuf and Matz.
Vehr summarized the accomplishments of Denver's third bishop in his Funeral Mass sermon at Immaculate Conception Cathedral:
The mitred figure of Bishop Tihen, cold and still in death, the third Bishop of Denver lying in state in his Cathedral church [deserves] public appreciation. Bishop Tihen viewed with considerable pride the building of St. Thomas Seminary, without a doubt one of our most important diocesan assets . . . for the inspiration of native vocations. . . . The centralized Catholic Charities was organized by him and under his direction. . . . I prize highly the cordial relations and good will that have existed between officials of religion and civil government [established] by my revered predecessor [and his] development of projects of civic interest that promised well for the common good.