Professing that this is his last book (amidst a treasury of 173 volumes), Msgr. Francis Weber, the former columnist for The Tidings and archdiocesan archivist, shares the memories of 21 notable church leaders he has known --- briefly or otherwise --- in “Some Memories of the Catholic Hierarchy.”
The esteemed historian and now Archivist Emeritus includes both world famous cardinals and lesser known bishops (all now deceased) whom he deems offer an illustrious spiritual life that instills emulation. His quite “voluminous” personal letters serve as acute observations of the characteristics of Catholic pioneers.
Part One offers tantalizing tidbits on 17 bishops, archbishops and cardinals born from 1871 to 1925. Some were Los Angeles prelates, and a few he only met once, but for all he offers noteworthy insights. Of Cardinal Amleto Cicognani, apostolic delegate to the U.S. (1938-55), Msgr. Weber writes: “He went out of his way to accommodate a young priest who had no idea how the channels flowed in the Tiber.”
Cardinal James Francis McIntyre is portrayed as an executive capable of building schools and churches, but also a close friend of Dorothy Day. Other famous personages include Cardinal Josef Mindszenty, Archbishop Fulton Sheen and Cardinal Timothy Manning. Each of their stories contains significant examples of little known facts that only a historian could recount.
Part Two profiles four members of the California hierarchy who contributed famously to the Golden State --- and of whom Msgr. Weber says that while he did not have a personal relationship with them, he is known as being “personally involved in disinterring all of them”: Bishops Thaddeus Amat, Eugene O’Connell and Francis Mora, and Archbishop Joseph Sadoc Alemany. The stories of their eventual transfers, and Msgr. Weber’s own trials in arranging the disinterments, are remarkable.
Appendices in the last section of the handsomely designed 124-page book include treatises on Pope John XXIII (whom he met in 1962); Pope Paul VI (he met him when he was just an archbishop in 1958); Auxiliary Bishop John Ward (“Just look at his life if you want to know what being a priest is all about”) and Pope John Paul II who visited Los Angeles in 1987 and was an honored guest at San Fernando Mission. (Msgr. Weber also had the privilege in 1989 to tour the Eternal City and attend Mass with the Holy Father in his private chapel.)
The 80-year-old, Indiana-born author-priest --- who in 2009 celebrated his golden jubilee of priesthood --- has for more than 30 years administered Mission San Fernando, Rey de Espana, which is also the site for the Archdiocesan Archives that he has successfully organized. If, indeed, this is his “last” book, it is certainly one worth having.
To purchase a copy ($35), write to the Saint Francis Historical Society, 15151 San Fernando Mission Blvd., Mission Hills, CA 91345.