As I pulled my car into the darkened Sacred Hearts cemetery earlier this week, I noticed something remarkable. The cemetery was dotted by lights, even in the depths of winter darkness. So I felt right at home, as I had come to place a candle at the grave of my mother, Mary K. Hanneman.
Mom left us at 11:49 p.m. on Dec. 26, 2018. That moment remains forever suspended in time for me. Her final moment reminded me in many ways of the birth of my three children. As soon as they entered the world, there was a moment before the first breath; a moment of anticipation. Time stopped and eternity intervened. This was so similar for the end of Mom’s life. With her last breath drawn and exhaled, there was also tremendous anticipation. Time stopped. Only I didn’t get to see her first moment in eternity. Although I knew it by faith.
Mom was a woman of great Catholic faith. She always arrived early at Saturday 5 p.m. Mass at Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary Catholic Church in order to pray the Rosary. She was always in touch with her prayer life. On any occasions that one of us needed extra prayers, Mom was on the phone to the good sisters at the Sacred Hearts convent. Much grace flowed from those prayers — great examples of persevering faith. In her final weeks and days, Mom knew where she was going. The night she died she sat up in bed and looked off into the distance with a look of wonderment. She knew. She saw.
We waited more than an hour at the beginning of a new day for her death to be officially declared. That could not be done until a hospice nurse arrived to check for a pulse. After she recorded the legal time of death (as inaccurate as it was), the nurse related some of her experiences at the bedsides of dying patients. She talked of the bodies of the recently deceased giving off smells. At first I thought of something unpleasant, but she quickly clarified these were good scents, like roses.
As I pondered that notion, I looked around Mom’s small room at the Brookdale care center. I felt for a moment like someone unseen walked past me. I smelled a scent that I cannot accurately describe. It was not roses, or flowers at all. It was the most pure, clean scent I ever experienced. The closest descriptor would be a citrus smell. I looked around the room and in the hall to see if someone was using a cleaning chemical. Nothing. Then it was gone. I remarked to the nurse about it. “Did you smell that?” I said. I tried to describe it. “You see!” she replied. Then just as quickly as it left, the scent returned. It was powerful and amazingly present. I felt there was something well beyond a mere olfactory manifestation at work. What is that?
After perhaps five minutes of this scent permeating the room, it disappeared. Gone with no lingering trace. I was quite struck by it all; unsure if I had imagined it. Over the coming days and weeks, I pondered the experience. Could the presence of angels leave a heavenly scent behind? I’d often read about the bodies of saints giving off what is called the odor of sanctity, but this was typically a floral smell. I searched the internet, but could not find anything that described what happened in Mom’s room that night.
I turned to my friend Steve Ray, a Catholic filmmaker, author and great teacher of the faith. He did not hesitate. “God gives graces to those who love him,” he wrote. “It seems like a great grace was bestowed on you in the death of both of your parents.”
Steve recalled my description of my Dad’s death in my 2010 book, The Journey Home.How even after Dad died and was silent, he returned long enough to mouth the word “love” three times. I never thought I would have another experience so profound. Until Mom left us. It was so very different, but just as impactful. Mom’s final gift.
It took me a full year to be able to write about it. I knew it would be impossible to accurately describe what happened. What words could convey the depth of what I experienced? Surely writing about it would be almost a disservice, since words on a computer screen simply would not suffice. But it seems a gift like that should be shared, so I do my best in writing this post.
I thought about all of this as I placed the battery-powered candle at the graveside. I asked Mom and Dad to pray for me and my family. I looked around the darkened cemetery again and was impressed with the flickering of candles and the glow of lighted wreaths at the graves of dozens of souls. “Look at all of these lights in the world, still with us,” I thought. As I walked back to my car, I said a prayer of thanks for the lives of everyone buried there, amid my hope they are all with Christ in Heaven.
Just before I pulled away, I turned back to look at Mom and Dad’s headstone.
It was just a little light, but how it overcame the darkness. •
SUN PRAIRIE, Wisconsin — After a journey of 114 years along a path that remains shrouded in mystery, the ornate gold chalice used by a young priest at his first Holy Mass has come back to his home parish just in time for Christmas.
Henry Joseph Kraus, who was known as Otto, was 22 years old when he said his first Mass at Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary Catholic Church on Sept. 7, 1905. He was ordained to the priesthood four days earlier by Archbishop Sebastian G. Messmer at St. Augustine Catholic Church in Milwaukee.
Parishioners at Sacred Hearts gifted Kraus with a gold chalice, which held the Precious Blood at the Solemn High Mass said by the newly ordained Father Kraus. Along the outside of the foot of the chalice, the inscription reads: “In Memory of My First Mass September 7, 1905 — Presented by Sacred Hearts Congregation, Sun Prairie, Wis.”
Some 114 years andthree months later, the chalice was held up next to the rectory Christmas tree by Msgr. Duane Moellenberndt,pastor of Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary. “It’s a wonderful gift to the parish,” he said, reflecting on how such a precious, blessed artifact made its way back to Sun Prairie. “It’s a marvelous gift.”
Otto Kraus studied for the priesthood at St. Francis de Sales Seminary near Milwaukee, under its longtime rector, Msgr. Joseph Rainer. He went to the seminary just before the turn of the 20th century from his family’s 115-acre farm a few miles east of Sacred Hearts church. His parents, Engelbert and Emma Kraus, eventually sent two sons into the priesthood.
Otto was the only priest ordained in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee on Sunday, Sept. 3, 1905. The following Thursday, the new Fr. Kraus celebrated Solemn High Mass at Sacred Hearts, using the inscribed gold chalice to hold the Precious Blood of Christ.
The chalice has engraved and extruded details on the foot, stem and node. The bowl has an engraved band halfway down from the lip. The foot of the chalice is hexagonal with slightly in-curved sides. The top of the foot features debossed images of vegetation. The foot is inscribed, but not with Fr. Kraus’ name; something that later presented a challenge in determining its original owner.
Atop the first-Mass remembrance cards given out that day were two scriptural references: “By the grace of God I am what I am” (1 Cor. 15:10), and “A priest forever” (Psalm 110:4). The bottom of the card read, “I will sacrifice to thee O Lord the sacrifice of praise” (Psalm 115:17).
The Mass was just the joyous occasion the parish badly needed, coming just weeks after the sudden death of its longtime pastor, Rev. Alouis J. Kuehne. Father Kuehne, 48, had led the Sun Prairie parish since 1880. Otto Kraus served as sub-deacon for Kuehne’s Solemn Requiem Mass on Aug. 16, 1905. Also assisting at the Mass was Aloysius M. Gmeinder, a parishioner who lived on the farm immediately south of the Kraus property. Gmeinder was a year behind Kraus at St. Francis Seminary.
Moellenberndt said the current practice is for a seminarian to receive the chalice for his first Mass from family. “I don’t know if it was true in those years, but when I was ordained, typically your parents gave you the chalice,” he said. “So it’s important not only because of what it’s used for, but also because normally it’s your parents or your family that gives you the chalice that you use for your first Mass.”
Father Kraus’ first assignment was at Holy Trinity Catholic Church, one of the oldest parishes in Milwaukee. After 18 months, he was named pastor of St. George Catholic Church near Sheboygan Falls, Wis. It’s not clear exactly how long his pastorate lasted, but ill health forced Fr. Kraus into a very early retirement. By mid-1910, he was back home on the family farm near Sun Prairie.
For nearly two decades, Fr. Kraus lived with his mother. After his father died in 1912, the family moved to Sun Prairie, settling in a home just a few blocks from Sacred Hearts. Monsignor Moellenberndt said it’s possible Fr. Kraus celebrated Masses at his home parish during those years, a practice followed by other retired priests over the decades.
After Fr. Kraus’ mother died in October 1926, he moved to Oshkosh, Wis., and became a resident at Alexian Brothers Hospital. That is where he died on Jan. 17, 1929. He was just 46. His younger brother, Rev. Aloysius P. Kraus, sang the Solemn Requiem Mass at Sacred Hearts on Jan. 21, 1929. Aloysius was ordained to the priesthood in 1912 and was pastor at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Waupun, Wis., at the time of his brother’s death. Father Otto suffered from goiter, an enlargement of the thyroid gland at the base of the neck, according to Mary Gehrmann, a longtime Sacred Hearts parishioner and grand-niece of the Krauses.
Monsignor Moellenberndt said it’s anyone’s guess what became of the chalice after Father Kraus’ death. In 2019, it was discovered in one of 40 boxes of materials donated to the Green Bay Diocesan Museum, located some 125 miles northeast of Sun Prairie. A museum staff member noticed the inscription on the chalice and contacted Sacred Hearts. Since there was no name with the inscription, they had to do some sleuthing. With help from the archives at the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, Moellenberndt determined that Fr. Otto Kraus was the owner of the chalice. Sacred Hearts parishioners Gary and Julia Hanson drove to Green Bay and brought the chalice back to Sun Prairie.
“The archivist in Green Bay said she’s happy that we found the priest that it belonged to and doubly happy that it has found its way back home,” Moellenberndt said. “So it’s wonderful to have it back, because this is where it came from. There’s that historical connection to the parish.”
Moellenberndt said once the chalice is polished, it will again be used in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. That could be the first time the chalice has been a part of Mass at Sacred Hearts since that 1905 Thursday when a brand new priest spoke these words and elevated it before the crucifix: Hæc quotiescúmque fecéritis in mei memóriam faciétis — “As often as ye shall do these things ye shall do them in memory of Me.”
(This story appeared on the Catholic World Report magazine web site on Dec. 24, 2019. The author’s family has been a part of Sacred Hearts parish since the early 1970s. His mother, Mary K. Hanneman, taught at Sacred Hearts school for nearly three decades.)
I heard the answering machine pick up a call in my office. Normally they are hangups or some robo-call, but I sensed this was different. I strained to hear what the woman was saying. It was clear it was something I needed to attend to, so I played back the message.
The caller was the owner of Suburban Studio in Sun Prairie, a portrait photography business that has been around for a long time. She had noticed my Mom’s obituary recently and realized she had a large, framed portrait of my late father from when he was mayor of Sun Prairie. The portrait hung in the studio for years as a sample of their work. She was calling to see if I would like it.
I contacted her right away and made arrangements to pick up the portrait. She did not charge for the 16×20 inch print (although I did buy the frame it was in). When I stopped at the studio the next day to pick it up, I was really taken aback. Not just by the size of the portrait, but the look of it. This was similar to the photo we used in Dad’s obituary in April 2007, but it was different. I stared at the image. Dad seemed so close and alive; almost as if he was about to speak. The studio owner agreed, saying the image had something about it. You almost sense the person is there in the room.
I kept racking my brain trying to think where I’d seen this photo before. Then it struck me. Dad used this photo in his literature when he ran for re-election in 2005. I vaguely recalled seeing his brochure back then and thinking this photo had a different quality.
I rarely believe in coincidences, so I chalk up this whole encounter to Divine Providence. It reminded me of the time I was sitting at my desk in my home office in Mount Pleasant in the early evening. I dozed off and was in and out in one of those semi-conscious sleep states. I was jolted awake though, by the sound of my father’s voice.
Hello? Are you there? Yes, it’s me. I’m still alive!
I sat upright and looked around the room. Where was his voice coming from? Dad kept talking and I recognized it as part of an oral history interview I did with him in November 2006. While we were recording in Dad’s room at St. Mary’s Hospital in Madison, he received a call on the cell phone from his brother, Donn (1926-2014). I have no idea how this recording started playing on my computer while I was half-asleep. My tears flowed freely though, as it seemed Dad was really speaking to me from Heaven. I will never forget that moment.
Listen to a portion of the oral history interview I did with Dad while he was being treated for lung cancer:
Now I have this beautiful portrait, a gift from Louise Floyd at Suburban Studio. I look at Dad’s expression and it, too, speaks to me. Funny, it seems to say just about the same thing as the recording from my computer. “I’m still here, son. I am alive!”
UPDATE!!This will be a little hard to explain, but it brought more tears to my eyes. Yesterday I was at St. Mary of Pine Bluff Catholic Church shooting photographs. The main thing I photographed was the gold monstrance that holds the Blessed Sacrament for exposition and adoration. See my photo below. That holds the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus under the appearance of bread. When I was doing closeups, I kept noticing reflected colors in the glass of the monstrance. So I lined up my camera and shot a bunch of images. Later I sent one to Father Richard Heilman and told him to look at the reflection. I thought it looked like a veiled woman in blue.
When Fr. Heilman looked at that photo earlier today, not long before I published the first version of this article, he saw the reflection of a man in a suit and tie with glasses. When Father later read my post and saw Dad’s portrait, he said, “THAT’S THE MAN I SAW!” I saw the Blessed Virgin and he saw this very photo of my father. Let that sink in. What a blessed day this has been!
This homily was delivered on Jan. 5, 2019, during the Mass of Christian Burial for Mary K. Hanneman. Below the homily is a video of Msgr. Moellenberndt and the Rite of Committal at Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary Catholic Cemetery. Msgr. Duane also gave a wonderful homily at the funeral Mass for David D. Hanneman in April 2007.
By Monsignor Duane Moellenberndt
A sick man turned to his doctor as he was preparing to leave the examination room and said, “Doctor, I am afraid to die.Tell me what lies on the other side.”Very quietly, the doctor said, “I don’t know…”“You don’t know?You are a Christian man and don’t know what’s on the other side?” the man said to the doctor.The doctor was holding the handle of the door; on the other side came a sound of scratching and whining and so the doctor opened the door.A dog sprang into the room and leaped on the doctor with an eager show of gladness.Turning to the patient, the doctor said, “Did you notice my dog?He didn’t know what was on the other side of the door.He knew nothing except that his master was here.And when the door opened, he sprang in without fear.I know little of what is on the other side of death.However, I do know one thing…I know my Master is there and that is enough.”
I think Mary who certainly loved dogs most especially her companion of 10 years Chewy would relate to this story.In the nursing home Mary even had treats in her room for dogs that would be brought to visit patients. As a woman of faith, I believe that when the door opened to eternity for Mary on December 26th that Mary believed with all her heart that her Master Jesus Christ would be on the other side.Our faith promises this to be true.How happy Mary must now be to live in the Presence of the Lord reunited with Dave and all those who preceded her into eternity.The Gospel I just proclaimed was Mary’s favorite.In fact, she called it her “Confirmation of Faith.”The Gospel began, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God…All things came to be through him.”It is this Eternal Word, this eternal God whom Mary met face to face on the 26th of December.What an awesome encounter. Joe wrote that Mary in her final earthly hour opened her eyes.She lifted her head, looked at something.Mary tried to speak.Mary had a sense of awe on her face.Mary we did believe at that point glimpse heaven—she was entering eternity.Certainly after the last difficult years it was time for Mary to find peace, health and eternal happiness.Thus we believe has happened for Mary.As the Book of Ecclesiastes our first reading said, “There is an appointed time for everything…a time to be born, and a time to die.”
Mary loved to sit in the driveway on a lawn chair or sit on her front porch just talking to people as they went by the family home that Mary so loved.She loved the visits of the mailman who stopped to see Chewy each day.It gave Mary an opportunity to talk with the mailman.Yes, Mary loved people and interacting with people.We can only imagine her joy in all the new people she is encountering in eternity.The Book of Ecclesiastes said, “There is an appointed time for everything and a time for every affair under the heavens….A time to be silent, and a time to speak.”Mary knew the importance of speaking and being with people.People gravitated to Mary because they knew she genuinely had an interest in them and their lives.That is why every visitor was always welcomed to her home with a bit of tea and bread or some other treat.Mary made people feel welcome.
Caring for the family was a joy of Mary’s life.She showed her love for family in so many ways be that the great birthday meals or special Christmas mornings.Isn’t it interesting it was on the day after Christmas that Mary died? When the nurse told Mary that it was almost Christmas, Mary simply smiled and said, “I love Christmas.”She was here in this life for Christmas but then entered eternity.In this Christmas season we believe Mary is with the Lord. In this Christmas Season we celebrate Mary’s Mass of Christian Burial.The Gospel said, “And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.”Mary believed Jesus Christ the Word of God always dwelt with her in this life and now Mary dwells with the Lord in eternity. How joyous must be Christmas in heaven.
Mary had a fun side.She even one year with a couple of family members toilet-papered a neighbor’s yard on Christmas Eve.She so loved colorful tennis shoes.Perhaps that is why she enjoyed the Silver Sneakers exercise group so much.Her trip to Ireland with her three sisters was a joy for all of them.Yes, Mary enjoyed life and now we believe that joy is multiplied many times over in eternity.How happy Mary must be. As Ecclesiastes said, “There is an appointed time for everything….A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.”
Mary enjoyed cooking and baking.She always had a sit down dinner.She enjoyed having people at her home to play cards.Mary didn’t play cards much but it gave her an opportunity to prepare dinner.Mary was a gardener.One of her special treats was her homemade jam that was always present to be enjoyed.St. Paul wrote to the Romans in our second reading, “Hope does not disappoint.”Mary was a woman of hope—hope in the promises of the Lord, hope in other people.It was that hope that led Mary to always think of others before herself.Mary was all about doing for family and friends to bring them happiness.I am sure from eternity Mary will continue to pray for us.Pray for Mary that she pass quickly from Purgatory to the fullness of life with God in heaven.
Mary was first and foremost an educator. Reading was a passion of hers.Mary was a full-time reading specialist here at Sacred Hearts School.Her career in our school lasted for almost three decades.As Joe wrote, “She opened the world of books to many hundreds of children.”After retirement Mary continued to tutor students several days a week.Mary set high standards for her own children and the children she taught.However, she didn’t ask anyone else to do something she herself wouldn’t do.However, now this wonderful Irish grandmother has completed her journey.May she receive the reward of her well-lived life.As St. Paul wrote to the Romans, “The love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
On behalf of the Catholic Community of Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, we offer to you our sympathy and prayers.We have remembered you in our Masses and prayers these last days and so we will in the days ahead.There is a little reflection that goes as follows, “A builder built a temple.He wrought it with grace and skill; pillars and arches all fashioned to work his will.Men said, as they saw its beauty, ‘It shall never know decay.Great is thy skill, O builder:Thy fame shall endure forever.’ A teacher built a temple with loving and infinite care, planning each arch with patience, laying each stone with prayer.None praised her unceasing efforts, none knew of her wondrous plan; for the temple the teacher built was unseen by the eyes of man.Gone is the builder’s temple, crumbled into dust; low lies each stately pillar, food for consuming rust.But the temple the teacher built will last while the ages roll.For that beautiful unseen temple is a child’s immortal soul.”Touching hundreds of “immortal souls” is what Mary did with her life as a teacher.May she rest in peace.In the words of our Holy Gospel, “And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth.”
“…The time of my departure is at hand. I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the Faith. From now on the Crown of Righteousness awaits me, which the Lord, the Just Judge, will award to me on that day…”— 2 Timothy 4: 6-8
Suddenly, the world will never, ever be the same.
Mary K. Hanneman stepped gently into eternity Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2018, after a long struggle with vascular dementia and congestive heart failure. Our Blessed Lord summoned his precious daughter, my mother, at 11:50 p.m. from her home at Brookdale Senior Living. She was 86 years 2 months and 5 days young. Mary was a loving wife, mother, grandmother and longtime Catholic school teacher in Sun Prairie, where she has lived since 1965.
Mary Katherine Mulqueen was born in Cudahy, Wisconsin, on Oct. 21, 1932 — the seventh of 11 children of Earl J. Mulqueen Sr. and the former Margaret Madonna Dailey. On Aug. 9, 1958, she married David Dion Hanneman at St. Veronica Catholic Church in Milwaukee, beginning a more than 49-year marriage. He preceded her in death on April 14, 2007. He was 74.
For Mary, every day was a good day to teach. She had the heart of an educator, the discipline and courage of a gunnery sergeant and, under it all, the strong yet soft heart of an Irish grandmother. Above the entrance to her kitchen hung a sign that read Failte, — an Irish welcome. Over the years, countless relatives, friends and strangers were welcomed within those walls to incredible cooking, good cheer and, very likely, a game or two of sheepshead, Kings in the Corner or cribbage.
“The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.”
― William Arthur Ward.
Like most things in the Hanneman family, good teaching started at home. Mary’s kitchen table was just as likely to serve up arithmetic flash cards and sentence diagrams as it did Thanksgiving turkeys or chocolate chip cookies. She imparted many life lessons in her kitchen, from the academic (long division and phonics) to the culinary (corned beef with cabbage, lasagna and state-fair-quality bread and cinnamon rolls). Through the chaos and bustle of the annual Thanksgiving dinner, we came to appreciate the gift of family — warts and all.
Mary’s academic career began at St. Frederick’s Catholic School in Cudahy and St. Mary’s Academy in St. Francis, from which she graduated high school in 1950. After a brief postsecondary discernment at the suburban Franciscan convent, she took courses at Cardinal Stritch College and Marquette University. She studied reading literacy for elementary students for two years in Madison. Mary began practice teaching in the Catholic Schools in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. She eventually became a full-time teacher in the newly built 17-room St. Veronica Catholic School on East Norwich Avenue in Milwaukee.
After their marriage in 1958, Mary and Dave moved to Grand Rapids, Michigan, where he held a job with E.R. Squibb & Co. She paused her teaching career to start and raise a family that came to include two boys and two girls. As a doctorate-level domestic engineer, she honed her skills wrangling hungry toddlers through the bedlam of birthday parties, sewing costumes, darning socks and hosting couples’ bridge. She set high standards for her children and expected them to reach even higher. Especially at school. She modeled her own saintly mother’s family virtuosity with things like bunny-shaped birthday cakes topped with coconut flakes and jellybeans. Or trips to Devil’s Lake and Storybook Gardens with four children in tow.
Mary learned her lessons well from “Ma,” Margaret M. Mulqueen. Her mother went out of her way to make family events special for her husband Earl, who lost both of his parents young and was denied most of childhood’s delectations. “Every year, we always celebrated Christmas. My mother made Christmas really special,” Mary said in an oral-history interview with granddaughter Ruby in 2009. “But especially his birthday. He never had a birthday cake growing up. Isn’t that sad? And yet grew up to be such a nice man.”
In 1965 Mary and Dave built their dream home in Sun Prairie’s then-new Royal Oaks neighborhood. Seventeen stately oak trees towered over the property. Much love went into building and maintaining the family homestead that stayed in the Hanneman family for 53 years. She spent those years caring for her family with special birthday meals, wonderful Christmas mornings and a thrifty way with money that allowed her and Dave to put four children through Madison Edgewood High School.
In 1980, Mary resumed her teaching career at Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary Catholic School. She started as a substitute, but before long was a full-time reading specialist. She helped along the students who otherwise would fall behind. It was her passion to teach reading, and she opened the world of books to many hundreds of children. Students came to Mrs. Hanneman for extra help in reading, math and other subjects. She sent them back with the skills and desire to learn. Her career at Sacred Hearts stretched nearly three decades. Even after retirement, Mary tutored students several days a week for many years.
When her husband was dying of cancer in 2006 and 2007, she helped make his last wish come true. The couple donated four sections of beautiful stained-glass windows back to St. Mary’s Hospital in Madison, where they were incorporated into the design of a new wing of the hospital that opened in 2007.
Her penultimate lessons were largely delivered in the silence of advancing dementia, which eventually crippled her ability to thinkclearly and communicate verbally. Yet she showed patience in this frustrating infirmity. If she could not form the words to say what was on her mind, she sighed deeply and simply said, “Oh, dear.” As illness struck its blows through a heart attack and repeated cardiac events, she rallied time and again to regain strength and show a smile. When hospice nurse Heidi leaned close and told Mary it was almost Christmas, she smiled and said, “I love Christmas.”
Mary’s final and lasting lesson was delivered over days of speechless suffering. Her body conspired to drain her energy. Yet she trusted. She lay still. She prayed. During her final hour, she opened her eyes, lifted her head and looked intently — at something. She tried to speak, but words were not needed. The look of awe on her face explained it all: she had a glimpse of Heaven. All things wouldsoon be new. That realization was reflected on her face. It was her final gift. She spoke in deeds what words could not say:
My work here is complete. My struggles were never in vain. Even in my brokenness, my trials fit in His design and served His redemptive plans. Watch! Hold fast to your Catholic faith — and you will one day follow me.
Mary is survived by her children: David (Lisa) Hanneman of Naperville, Ill., Joe Hanneman of Sun Prairie, Margret Mary of DeForest, Amy Bozza of Woodstock, Ill.; and special niece, Laura (Doug) Curzon of New Berlin, Wis. She is further survived by nine grandchildren: Abby, Maggie and Charlie Hanneman; Stevie, Samantha and Ruby Hanneman; and Justin, Kyle and Claire Bozza. She leaves two sisters, Ruth (Tom) McShane and Joan (Dick) Haske, both of Cudahy; a sister-in-law, Elaine Hanneman of Minneapolis; and brother-in-law Gordon Wellman of Sun Prairie. She was preceded in death by her husband, her parents and eight brothers and sisters.
A visitation will be held from 10:00 a.m. until 11:45 a.m. on Saturday, Jan. 5, 2019 at Tuschen-Newcomer Funeral Home, 302 Columbus St., Sun Prairie. The Mass of Christian Burial will be held at noon Saturday, Jan. 5 at Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary Catholic Church, 227 Columbus St., Sun Prairie. Monsignor Duane Moellenberndt will preside. Burial will be at Sacred Hearts Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, memorials are suggested to the Sacred Hearts School Endowment Fund, 221 Columbus St., Sun Prairie, WI 53590.
Jane Hanneman’s 3rd Birthday October 1958
David D. and Mary K. Hanneman, wedding day 1958
Mary K. Hanneman feeds son David Carl Hanneman in Grand Rapids, Mich.
Mary K. Hanneman with daughter Margret Mary, 1967.
Mary with daughter Amy Jo, 1969.
Hanneman Family portrait for the St. Albert’s parish directory.
Family trip to Ormond Beach, Fla.
The 1975 Mulqueen family reunion in Cudahy.
Mary and Dave with son Joe, Dec. 1, 1990.
David D., David C. and Mary Hanneman at Amy Hanneman Bozza’s wedding.
Grandma Mary holding new granddaughter Ruby, 1999. Samantha Hanneman is at left; Abby Hanneman is at right.
David D. and Mary K. Hanneman at their Sun Prairie home.
A great photo! Mary’s birthday in 2014.
Mary with her little buddy, Chewie.
Mary’s birthday 2017.
Mary’s birthday 2017.
Looking over a recently discovered photo from her 1958 engagement party.
Son Joe hold’s Mary’s hand on the day she was born to eternal life.
“Man’s days are like those of grass; like a flower of the field he blooms; the wind sweeps over him and he is gone, and his place knows him no more.”
—Psalm 103:15, from the St. Michael church bulletin, Feb. 22, 1998
By Joseph M. Hanneman MADISON, Wis. — Sheriff’s investigators are exploring the possibility that the man who brutally murdered Father Alfred J. Kunz in March 1998 is dead, and they are urging the public to come forward with tips and clues needed to break the case and solve one of the most vexing killings in Wisconsin history.
After a 20-year investigation involving more than 50 detectives and thousands of interviews, the Dane County Sheriff’s Office has “multiple” persons of interest in the murder of the traditionalist Catholic priest. Dane County Sheriff David J. Mahoney said investigators believe it’s possible the killer himself is dead. This has added urgency to law enforcement appeals for the public to come forward with more information.
“We have to look at the possibility that the person responsible, or others who might have been aware, are dead,” Mahoney said in an interview with Catholic World Report. “If that’s the case, we’ll never solve it unless somebody comes forth with evidence.”
Father Kunz, 67, was found with his throat slashed on the morning of March 4, 1998, in a hallway of St. Michael School in the rural enclave of Dane, about 15 miles northwest of Madison. He died from blood loss suffered when his carotid artery was cut during a brief but ferocious struggle with his killer. The massive murder investigation is the most extensive in Dane County history, but has yet to yield an arrest or assignment of blame.
“Where we’re at today, we have multiple people of interest, where 12 years ago we were concentrating our efforts on one individual,” Mahoney said in an extensive interview at the Dane County Public Safety Building. “We have multiple individuals who we would consider to be persons of interest, who either have motive or had a pattern of practices, maybe in the area of burglaries. We’ve looked at this as a crime of passion, we’ve looked at this as being a crime of opportunity — a burglary that was interrupted.”
New leads developed in the case over the past year have expanded the list of persons of interest. This development comes as one of the early persons of interest, a former St. Michael teacher who found Kunz’s body, has now been cleared of involvement in the crime. Mahoney wants members of the public who might have information to take a fresh look at memories from 1998 and in the years after. Investigators are hoping someone comes forward with information that can tip the case to a solution.
“Over the years, some of our witnesses and people with knowledge have died, and with them goes the information,” Mahoney said. “That’s one of the reasons we pushed more information out on the 20th anniversary. If there were family members of people who passed (away), or friends or associates or even somebody who heard something, we want to try to try to bring them out into the open at this point. Before we lose more people.”
Father Kunz was a sign of contradiction; a tradition-minded priest in the shadow of the liberal state capital. He was a 20th century fidei defensor, upholding Catholic teachings amid a sea of post-Vatican-II modernism. He preached the truth, no matter how unpopular. A sharp critic of homosexual corruption in the Church, he worked at the highest levels to expose priestly pederasty in rectories and chanceries. He saw the coming storm of sexual-abuse allegations that would swamp the Church years later and lead to more than $3.3 billion in victim settlements and attorney fees in the United States alone. “You will find no justice in the Church today,” he told a friend not long before his death. He worried the pederasty scandals would destroy the diocesan priesthood.
His celebration of the Usus Antiquior, or the Traditional Latin Mass, drew congregants from three states. Even though he also celebrated the NovusOrdo Mass, some locals left for other churches. Kunz had a soft pastoral touch and a generous heart. He fixed up old cars and provided them to his cash-strapped teachers. He took no salary. His sister sent him boxes of socks when his became worn. He ran successful fish-fry fundraising dinners to support his parish and school. A typical day for Kunz started at 5:30 a.m. and didn’t end until well after midnight. In between, he was a whirlwind of activity at church, in school, at diocesan offices in Madison, at hospitals and among his parishioners. His sudden, violent death left a trail of tears that still flows 20 years later.
Kunz was last seen alive about 10 p.m. on March 3, 1998, when his friend, Father Charles C. Fiore, dropped him off at St. Michael’s. The pair just took part in a recording session in Monroe for the “Our Catholic Family” radio program that aired on Sunday mornings across southern Wisconsin. Kunz fixed himself some dinner at the rectory and spoke by phone with another priest at 10:23 p.m. He then retired to his sparse one-room office that doubled as living quarters in the adjacent school. Police believe Kunz encountered his killer shortly after. His body was found the next morning, face down in a pool of blood at the foot of a statue of St. Michael the Archangel. Kunz was barefoot, dressed in dark slacks and a white T-shirt.
There were no signs of forced entry, so the killer gained access without leaving evidence behind, had a key or was let in by Father Kunz. Police said the attack was sudden and unexpected. Kunz, a Golden Gloves boxer in his youth, put up quite a fight and might have gained the upper hand on the suspect before being knocked to his knees by a blow from a weapon, Mahoney said. His throat was then cut with some kind of sharp-edge instrument, severing the artery that carries blood to the brain. No weapons were recovered.
Police believe the killer was a man, who might have been familiar with Kunz and St. Michael parish. While an FBI profile suggested the killer might have had an argument or altercation with Kunz in the 72 hours before the murder, Mahoney said it is possible the priest simply interrupted a burglary. The killer was likely shocked by the amount of blood that flowed when he cut Kunz’s throat. When he escaped from the school, the murderer was covered in blood and bearing noticeable injuries to his face, Mahoney said. Based on the wounds on Kunz’s hands, police believe the priest landed serious blows to the head of his attacker. An autopsy photo released by the sheriff’s office in 2018 shows Kunz’s right hand with major bruising along the index finger, bruises on three of the four knuckles and several small puncture-type wounds across the back of the hand.
“Father Kunz did engage physically with his murderer,” Mahoney said. “We believe whomever was in fact involved probably had some significant facial injuries and probably was visibly injured.” The assailant would have “looked like he had been beaten up,” Mahoney said. “Father Kunz had hand injuries. He knew how to land a punch.”
Profilers said the killer did not go to St. Michael’s that night intending to kill Kunz. Investigators believe the killer felt regret afterward. He went home with clothing soaked in blood that he would seek to wash or destroy. Family or friends would have noticed facial injuries. The suspect might have missed work the next day. The killer could have used a favorite hunting knife, box cutter or other instrument that he then discarded. Friends or co-workers could have noticed he no longer carried the cutting instrument and that he had a story for what happened to it. In the weeks, months and years afterward, the person could have had mental health issues, or struggled with alcohol abuse, police said.
Could something as simple as a burglary be the answer in this case? Kunz’s office was burglarized in 1994. The priest’s late-night routine was predictable, a fact that could be crucial if a burglar was watching the property. Kunz was security conscious and the school doors were always locked at night, friends said. Some collection money went missing in the weeks before the murder, police said. It was not unusual for bags of Sunday collection money to sit at the church, undeposited, sometimes for weeks. Large amounts of money had been moved between parish accounts in the months before the murder, and some large checks were cut, police said.
Early in the investigation, detectives questioned two men with ties to Kunz who were involved in burglaries. Jeffrey L. Maas of Pewaukee, Wis., pilfered statues, chalices, candles, books and artifacts from churches in five Wisconsin counties, police said. He was convicted in 1999 of four misdemeanor and five felony counts of theft and receiving stolen property. Robert M. Pulvermacher of Dane was arrested shortly after the Kunz murder and later sentenced to nearly four years in prison for burglary. He escaped from a prison work camp in December 1998. While on the lam, he attacked a local constable and wrestled his gun away, police said. During a massive search of central Wisconsin, a deputy confronted and disarmed Pulvermacher. He was sentenced to 11 years in prison on escape-related charges. Investigators concluded the men were not involved in the priest’s murder. The burglary motive, however, remains an active focus.
The Kunz homicide was the first in the village of Dane since March 1971, when William C. Chambers shot and killed his 22-year-old son, Kenneth D. Chambers, during a long-simmering family feud. The father fired three bullets into the heart, brain and lungs of his son. He was later acquitted of first-degree murder. Kenneth Chambers was a member of St. Michael Catholic Church. Father Kunz officiated at his funeral Mass on March 13, 1971.
For years, Father Alfred Kunz said the Traditional Latin Mass at St. Michael Catholic Church in the village of Dane, northwest of Madison. On Saturday, 20 years after the priest was brutally murdered in the adjoining parish school, a Solemn Requiem Mass was said for his soul at St. Mary of Pine Bluff Catholic Church.
Several dozen people attended the Latin Requiem Mass for Fr. Kunz, held in the beautiful St. Mary church west of Madison. It had every bit of the sacred reverence that Kunz brought to the Latin Masses he celebrated at St. Michael’s in Dane. Standing in stark contrast to the beauty of the incense, bells and Gregorian chant was the fact that Fr. Kunz’s killer has not been brought to justice.
Father John Zuhlsdorf reminded those in attendance that a Requiem Mass is not a celebration of life, but a funeral Mass for the souls of the dead. He urged the faithful to think of their own deaths, and to pray that they not die without benefit of the sacraments, including anointing of the sick. Dying without the sacraments, known as an “unprovided death,” is a truly frightful thing, Zuhlsdorf said. He prayed that God would admit Fr. Kunz into the Beatific Vision of Heaven. (The photo atop this article shows Fr. Zuhlsdorf blessing the catafalque, which serves as a stand-in for the casket in Requiem Masses where the body of the deceased is not present.)
In the narthex of St. Mary’s stood an easel with a framed photograph of Fr. Kunz, inscribed with the words Ecce Agnus Dei, “Behold the Lamb of God.” It was a testament to Kunz’s 42 years of service as a Catholic priest in Cassville, Waunakee, Monroe and the village of Dane. It also spoke of the wounds left behind by such a violent death, perpetrated on a holy man dedicated to serving others.
On March 4, 1998, Kunz’s body was discovered in a school hallway by a teacher arriving for the workday. Kunz’s throat had been cut, causing him to bleed to death from a severed carotid artery. The edged weapon used to cut his throat was never found. Police said the killer might have discarded a knife or weapon that was a treasured possession; something he carried every day. Kunz’s body was found face down, at the foot of a statue of St. Michael the Archangel.
The ensuing investigation is said to be the most expansive, and expensive, in Dane County history. Yet no arrests have been made. On the 20th anniversary of Kunz’s murder, the Dane County Sheriff’s Department has begun releasing new details on the case in hopes someone will come forward with a tip that could break the case open. The department started posting details to a Facebook page set up in Fr. Kunz’s name. Some of the posts were written in first person, as if Fr. Kunz were speaking. After a few days, Facebook removed the page and all related content, with no explanation.
Father Kunz was last heard from at 10:23 p.m. on March 3, 1998, when he made a telephone call to a priest friend. Earlier that evening, Kunz attended the taping of a radio program, “Our Catholic Family,” with his friend, Fr. Charles Fiore. After being dropped off at St. Michael’s about 10 p.m., Kunz eventually returned to his living quarters in the school. The perpetrator, laying in wait, might have gained access through a window in Kunz’s apartment. Police said Kunz defended himself and tried to fend off the attack. Kunz was a former Golden Gloves boxer, in good physical shape despite his 67 years. Here is how the sheriff’s department described what happened:
Inside the school hallway, upon inserting my key into the lock of my private quarters and opening the door, it was then that the killer made his move. I saw and confronted the killer; I wasn’t afraid of him. He attacked, but we both landed some punches. The killer then attacked me with a weapon, and then pulled out a knife. I was knocked to my knees, and the killer then slashed my neck, which caused the fatal loss of blood.
On March 3, 1998, someone in the St. Michael school office overheard Fr. Kunz having a heated phone conversation, the sheriff’s department said. Kunz told the caller he could not see them that day. “Furthermore, I don’t think we have anything else to talk about,” Kunz said.
A criminal profile of the murderer suggested he not only knew Fr. Kunz, he was likely familiar with the layout of the church and the school. A former FBI profiler said the killer was most likely surprised by the amount of blood that resulted from the attack. The perpetrator left the school that night covered in blood. He might have been in an altered state of mind that night, and has lived in with regret, and denial, ever since. Details of the crime indicated a “very strong personal motive,” according to then Dane County Sheriff Gary Hamblin.
The sheriff’s department said large amounts of parish money had been moved from account to account prior to the murder. Some “very large checks” were also cut. The week before the murder, collection money was missing from the St. Michael’s sacristy. Four months before the murder, Fr. Kunz told a friend: “Please, please pray for me.”
The murder case exposed biases and hostility in the media and community against the Traditional Latin Mass that Kunz so loved and revered. The TLM is the Catholic liturgy as it has been celebrated for millennia. Fr. Kunz regularly said the Latin Mass, although he also celebrated the Novus Ordo, or new order of the Mass, promulgated by Pope Paul VI in 1969. Catholics from around Wisconsin, Iowa and Illinois drove to St. Michael’s in Dane to participate in the 10 a.m. Sunday Latin Masses offered by Fr. Kunz. This was years before Pope Benedict XVI issued his motu proprio Summorum Pontificum, which stated priests around the world can offer the Latin Mass without permission from a bishop.
One investigator remarked in 1999 that “people have described Kunz’s followers as cult-like.” This attitude smears traditional-minded Catholics and suggests they are followers of a priest instead of Jesus Christ in his Catholic Church. Latin Mass participants were described in media stories as “extremely conservative,” even rigid or at the fringe of Catholic life. Prior to Vatican II in the 1960s, the Latin Mass was simply Catholic, celebrated in the same way around the world. A profile of the Kunz case published in Las Vegas Weekly magazine in 2002 said the Latin Mass “seems to a visiting outsider like a postcard from some musty, long-forgotten time.”
From Devout Catholic Family
Alfred J. Kunz was born on April 15, 1930 in Dodgeville, Wisconsin. He was one of eight children of Alfred J. and Helen T. Kunz. His father emigrated from Switzerland in 1914. His mother was born in Michigan, although her parents came to America from Baden and Württemberg, Germany. Alfred Kunz Sr. was a cheesemaker. He established his own business, the Fairview Cheese Factory, near Stitzer in the Town of Liberty. The Kunz family was devoutly Catholic, attending daily Mass at St. Mary’s in Fennimore. The senior Kunz died on March 3, 1965, exactly 33 years before the attack that ended his son’s life. Mrs. Kunz died in January 1993 at age 98.
A young Alfred heard a calling to the priesthood after suffering a nearly fatal bout of appendicitis at age 10. As he regained consciousness from surgery, he told his mother, “I want to be a priest.” In 1944, Fr. Kunz entered Pontifical College Josephinum in Worthington, Ohio, for a 12-year course of study. At the time, it was the only seminary in the United States under direct supervision of the Vatican. In November 1950, Kunz was featured in an essay in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, pictured serving Mass for Msgr. Gilbert Schmenck, procurator of Pontifical College. Kunz was ordained a priest at Pontifical College upon his graduation on May 26, 1956. According to his cemetery monument, he also held a canon law degree. He said his first Mass on June 3, 1956 at St. Mary Catholic Church in Fennimore. Fr. Kunz served at parishes in Cassville and Waunakee before becoming assistant pastor at St. Victor’s Catholic Church in Monroe. In June 1967, Bishop Cletus O’Donnell named him pastor of St. Michael’s in the village of Dane.
On a very stormy day in April 1965, Fr. Kunz had a brush with death just outside Monroe. As he was leaving town in his automobile, a tornado blew across the road, spinning his car around. When the winds had passed, Fr. Kunz’s car was pointed back toward Monroe. “I saw the light,” he told The Milwaukee Journal, “so I returned.” The storms that day did damage across a wide swath of southern Wisconsin.
Fr. Kunz became known as a faithful and tireless defender of the truth of the Catholic faith. This in and of itself would have been unremarkable in another period of history when modernism didn’t have such a hold on an increasingly secular society. He was a vocal opponent of abortion and promoter of the sanctity of human life from conception until natural death. He once held a funeral for an aborted child at St. Michael’s, burying the baby at the foot of a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary. He preached the truth about the sinful vice of sodomy and spoke against no-fault divorce. His introduction of the Latin Mass at St. Michael’s rankled some people, even though the Novus Ordo Mass was offered as well. He said Mass for the school children every weekday. Three times a week those 8 a.m. Masses were in Latin.
Fr. Kunz worked hard to ensure that St. Michael’s Catholic Church was rebuilt in the 1970s after it was destroyed by fire. He handled maintenance tasks at the church and school, and even mowed the grass at the cemetery. He took no parish salary and drove a well worn Volkswagen in order to save money. His presence at monthly fish fry fund-raisers was almost legendary. He slaved in the hot kitchen to make sure enough food was available to serve all comers.
The case of Fr. Kunz has at times been dominated by conspiracy theories and harsh assessments of the murdered priest. Because he was an exorcist, some contend Kunz was killed by Luciferians, or someone under Satan’s influence. The sheriff’s department contends Fr. Kunz had “intimate” relationships with women in his parish, although it has never provided details or indicated the source of this information. One former St. Michael parishioner questioned by the sheriff’s department said she felt Fr. Kunz’s name was dragged through the mud with such unsubstantiated allegations.
In a social media dispatch on the case, the sheriff’s department said, “Father Kunz taught that sending children to public school was a mortal sin. Father Kunz didn’t like his teachers socializing with the parishioners. Could someone have disagreed with Father Kunz’s views?” There was no source information offered on the claim that Fr. Kunz taught that going to public school was a mortal sin. The department also said Fr. Kunz was viewed as “very controlling; he had disbanded the church council and didn’t have a finance committee.” Police now say former St. Michael Catholic School Principal Maureen O’Leary was uncooperative during the investigation, even though she and Fr. Kunz were close. O’Leary suggested that the Dane County Sheriff’s Department should call off the the investigation and mark it “unsolved,” police said. “Could something she knew have been a motive for the killer?” the sheriff’s department asked on Facebook March 7, 2018.
Kunz’s friend Fr. Fiore was an early critic of sexual abuse committed by Catholic clergy and covered up by U.S. bishops. Fr. Kunz was a canon-law adviser to The Roman Catholic Faithful, a now-defunct nonprofit group dedicated to exposing sexual misconduct among priests and bishops. Because of this, some believe Kunz might have been killed to keep him from identifying priests or bishops who sexually abused boys or teenagers. Kunz was said to be helping Fiore prepare a report on sexual abuse by clergy, for delivery to Pope John Paul II. Father Malachi Martin said he believed Kunz’s killing was a “deliberate attempt by those who hated what he represented and what he was doing, to silence and disable him permanently.”
A tribute written on the 10th anniversary of his murder described Fr. Kunz as “completely faithful to Christ and the sacraments.” Written by Toby Westerman of Tradition in Action, the tribute continued:
“Like Christ the High Priest, he poured himself out for the love of God and the good of souls. In the words of his close friend and one of the founders of the pro-life movement in the United States, the late Fr. Charles Fiore, ‘in the end Fr. Kunz even poured out his own blood for Jesus and His flock.’ “
An appearance Fr. Kunz made at a public memorial service in 1967 seems in retrospect almost prophetic. Kunz was among five clergy members who spoke words of comfort at Juda High School for nine seniors killed when a plane crashed into the motel where they were staying on a class trip. More than 1,500 people attended the service in the Green County community, located between Monroe and Brodhead. Fr. Kunz spoke of the hope for the Christian dead, reading words from St. Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians.
“We who live, who survive to the Lord’s coming, will in no way have an advantage over those who have fallen asleep. …The dead in Christ will first rise.”
At the conclusion of the March 3, 2018 Solemn Requiem Mass for Fr. Kunz, the faithful spilled into the narthex of St. Mary’s. They shared memories of Father Al, and wondered aloud if his murder will ever be solved. They spoke most of his love for the Traditional Latin Mass, and how his work helped lay the foundation for traditional Masses now said at St. Mary and other parishes across Wisconsin. Father Al would have been very much at home here in Pine Bluff. On this sunny March day in 2018, in fact, he was at home. ♦
—This article was updated at 9:07 p.m. and 11:26 a.m. CST March 7, 2018, 11:00 a.m. CST March 6, 2018, and at 9:35 p.m. CST March 4, 2018, with new case details from the Dane County Sheriff’s Department.
Anyone with information on the murder of Fr. Kunz should contact the Dane County Sheriff’s Department tips line, 608-284-6900, or via email, email@example.com. The department set up a Facebook page in Fr. Kunz’s name, but Facebook has removed the page. The Fr. Kunz Twitter page is still being used by the department to share information on the case. Use the hashtag #whokilledfatherkunz.
It was just after daybreak on a Saturday when Father M.W. Gibson climbed to the spire of St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Racine, Wisconsin. In a bold sign that faith and patriotism go hand in hand, he hoisted an American flag onto the spire, where it waved in the breeze for all to see. It was April 20, 1861 and the War of the Rebellion had just broken out. Father Gibson wanted to remind area Catholics what was at stake in defending the country’s sovereignty.
Later that same day, a crowd of 1,000 people gathered in Racine’s Market Square (now called Monument Square) and marched north across the Root River to St. Patrick’s. They sought to thank Father Gibson for his patriotic statement. Gibson implored the crowd to recall that the country for which their forefathers lived and died was calling to them. The time had come, he said, to answer that call.
This true story is from a ceremony I wrote for the Knights of Columbus in 2009 to honor the American flag and those who have died defending it.
“Let us commit to always honor our flag and protect it. Protect it from enemies without – and within – who seek to diminish its honor, lower its stature or desecrate it in protest.”
Those words were used in a ceremony providing a reverent retirement by fire for American flags that were no longer fit for service. On this Independence Day, they also offer a look at how previous generations viewed the United States and the symbol of its freedom. We quoted the stirring words of Father Raymond Mahoney, who as chaplain of the Racine Knights of Columbus penned a poem in May 1920 honoring the American flag:
“Heaven itself is unfurling the flag of the land we love, and I hear Columbia telling her children the story of how the flag came to be”
In the blood that they gave for the cause of right A thousand true martyrs lay And the angel that tends on hero souls Came down at the close of day To gather them in, and to carry them Before the Lord of all Then as over their forms she kindly stooped Her snow white wings let fall
On the ground that their blood had incarnadined And it left on them a stain And she feared that the Master would chide her When she came to His presence again Because on those wings once so undefiled Now glowed that crimson stain
But as she passed on through the evening skies The souls to her bosom clung She tore from the skies a bit of the blue And over her shoulders flung That azure so deep, that was star begemmed In thought perhaps it might When she came to the throne of the Master, hide The stain of blood from sight
So she lay at his feet those hero souls And bent low with wings outspread And he saw that those wings were star sprinkled blue, and white, and bloody red He asked what it meant, why the wings were stained In fear the angel said “Oh, the red is the blood that theses heroes spilled The blue is Your own fair sky And with it I have sought to hide the stain Lest it displease Your eye”
“The stain on your wings,” he answered her “Is truly a blessed one And is always the mark of a crimson tide That for liberty has run
“For it tells of service and sacrifice Of a life and a death or right And the blue speaks of hope, the white as truth Sends forth a welcome light To gleam for mankind as for travelers beams The building star of night
“Spread out your wings o’er the universe That all who behold may see The flag that speaks of love, truth and hope The virtues that make men free”
You can watch the entire flag retirement ceremony below.
More than 15,000 Catholic soldiers, along with friends and relatives, took part in a May 1918 field Mass at Camp Dix at which they heard the president of Fordham University declare the Allies would win World War I because “God wills it.”
I don’t recall exactly where I obtained my photo of this incredible event. Nor do I know how the photo was captured. The panoramic view made for a photo print that is easily 3 feet wide. It stretches from the Knights of Columbus hospitality hall all the way to the end of the crowd.
Held on the parade grounds of Camp Dix, N.J., the Mass was read by Father Patrick J. Hayes, who would later become a cardinal and archbishop of New York. Mass included a patriotic sermon by Rev. Dr. Joseph A. Mulry S.J. of Fordham University. “Dr. Mulry assailed the slacker who uses religion as a cloak for his cowardice,” wrote The New York Times. “He declared it was not only the country that is calling the men of the fighting nations, but God also.”
“We must not enjoy a dishonorable peace,” Mulry said. “Go forth, Christian men, to aid the boys who are in the trenches. They are holding them for you. Victory will come. God wills it.”
Mulry had long supported the Allied war against Germany. At a Knights of Columbus field Mass in May 1915, Mulry said 20 million Catholic men were prepared to back President Woodrow Wilson should the United States join the war. His sermon stressed the idea of a patriotic Catholic, something that was often under attack by Protestants.
“The Catholic of today puts into the state not the wavering intellectual culture of Athens, not the physical splendor of Rome, nor the deadly energies fostered by materialistic evolution,” Mulry said. “Not the ungodly tendencies of modern mechanical idealists, but the undying strength featured by the brotherhood of man and the fatherhood of God.”
“If the crisis were to come today, the Knights of Columbus would be the first to rally to the flag,” The New York Times wrote, quoting Mulry. While he gets his religion from Rome, Mulry told the gathering, “the Catholic soldier will lay down his life for his country and as he clasps the cross in his hands, his heart blood will ebb for faith, for country and for God.”
The Knights of Columbus put its young men up to fight, but that was only part of the expansive, unprecedented war work carried out by the K of C locally and abroad between 1917 and 1921. The Order pledged an initial $1 million to establish a war relief fund. The money helped establish a vast network of more than 300 war relief centers in the U.S. and across combat zones in Europe. These Knights of Columbus “huts” offered a place to unwind, but also supplied soldiers with scarce creature comforts like chocolates, cigarettes, candies and hot chocolate. (The large K of C hut at Camp Dix is visible at left in the panoramic photo.) Soldiers from many countries and religious denominations came to know the K of C emblem as a welcome sight. Each K of C war center hung a prominent sign for all to see: “Everyone Welcome. Everything Free.” The nickname “Casey” became synonymous with the Knights of Columbus staff at the relief centers. A typical soldier’s response upon meeting a K of C worker was, “Hello, Casey. Have you got any chocolates and doughnuts?”
Father Mulry attempted twice to retire from his job at Fordham so he might go to France and enter war work. On the third attempt in 1919, he did retire from his post at Fordham. He was so anxious to go overseas that he offered to pay $5,000 a year toward the salary of his successor. He died in Philadelphia in August 1921 at age 47 after a long illness.Two of his brothers were also priests. His other brother, Thomas M. Mulry, was a bank president, philanthropist and 1912 winner of the Laetare Medal from the University of Notre Dame.
Sadly, Father Mulry’s patriotism isn’t always remembered fondly. Fordham University’s archivist in 2014 described Mulry as “sort of a warmonger” whose speeches did not sound like those of a Catholic priest. The patriotic fervor in his talks, she contended, “was all for image.” This modern attitude fails to appreciate the deeply held patriotic views of many priests during World War I. Men like Father Raymond Mahoney, former pastor of St. Rose Catholic Church in Racine, Wisconsin. Father Mahoney was known for his patriotic sermons, including a memorable talk on liberty and the American flag. That will be the subject of a forthcoming article.
It seems every year the politically correct trot out a growing list of indictments against the great explorer Christopher Columbus. As we observe Columbus Day in the United States this October 12, some will claim Columbus was an oppressor. Others will wrongfully accuse him of racism. To get a real sense of why Columbus is under constant attack, remember that while he was a great explorer, he was first and foremost a faithful Catholic.
Some of the greatest minds in the history of the Church and the have spoken eloquently about the meaning of Columbus and his discovery of the New World in October 1492.
Father John M. Naughtin, who served as Wisconsin state chaplain of the Knights of Columbus in the opening years of the 20th century, preached an eloquent sermon on Columbus on October 16, 1910 at St. Rose Catholic Church in Racine. Naughtin’s audience at that 8 a.m. Mass was a large gathering of Racine Knights of Columbus and their families. (See below for the full text.)
“The very name Christopher is symbolic of the man’s character and deeds — Christopher mean- ing ‘Christ bearer’ — a messenger of peace,” Naughtin said. “Our great patron was a messenger bringing the knowledge of Christ from the old world to the new. What better name could God have selected for the man who was to do so much good for the universe?”
Pope Leo XIII issued an encyclical, Quarto Abeunte Saeculo, on the 400th anniversary of Landing Day. The Holy Father said this of Columbus: “The greatness of his mind and heart can be compared to but few in the history of humanity.”
The late Father John Hardon, S.J., an expert on Columbus, said the Genoa native “was the instrument of extraordinary grace.” “It is one thing to say that Columbus discovered America,” Hardon said in 1992 on the 500th anniversary of Columbus’ discovery of the New World. “It is something else to realize that he opened the door to the most phenomenal spread of Christianity since the time of St. Paul.”
Hardon said Columbus’s “phenomenal career on earth was a heroic response to a sublime vocation. He was the destined herald of the true faith to half of the human race.”
Let’s remember this year to celebrate the real Columbus and ignore the nattering of the revisionists.
Homily of Rev. John M. Naughtin, October 16, 1910:
In the annals of history and tradition, no man stands forth more prominently than the man whose deeds we are commemorating today. For although Columbus has been dead about four hundred years, he is just beginning to be appreciated now. Only the infinite knowledge of God himself can grasp the meaning of the work of Columbus.
Think of what this western world has developed into since Columbus’s time — the home of millions and the homes of millions yet to come — all the work of a simple, practical Catholic man, Christopher Columbus, the Genoese. A man who was not understood in his own country; who many times did not have enough to eat. Italy would not have him; it jeered at him and practically turned him out to find in Spain a welcoming hand and the substantial aid that made his great work possible.
America owes a tremendous debt of gratitude to Spain. We are told of the deeds of the Caesars, of Napoleon and of Wellington, but all these figures were simply national — striving for one country, but Columbus is a worldwide character; he worked that the whole world might benefit from his deeds.
The very name Christopher is symbolic of the man’s character and deed: Christopher meaning ‘Christ-bearer’ — a messenger of peace. Our great patron was a messenger bringing the knowledge of Christ from the old world to the new. What better name could God have selected for the man who was to do so much good for the universe? In his youth, Columbus often sat by the seashore and wondered where and whence the great white winged ships came from. No doubt some had been on trips to the Holy Land and the Sepulchre and to follow in their footsteps became his one desire and that one thought dominated his life.
Columbus did not belong to the 20th century class of explorers; he did not seek for material gain, but his great Catholic heart was filled with an overwhelming charity and love of God. He founded a home for people from every part of this world’s surface—for all colors, all races and conditions of men. His first act, upon reaching land, true, to his faith, was to fall upon his knees in devotion, dedicating this new world to the Almighty God. He did not crave acres of this new country, but rather that to the souls of these strangers might be brought the knowledge of God. Columbus was great — there have been none greater — but Columbus the Catholic was still greater. It was his faith which gave him the strength and the courage to undergo the trials of his explorations; to undergo, as Christ had undergone, the misrepresentations, the calumnies, the backbiting of his enemies and even to his returning to Spain in shackles after his wonderful trip which resulted in the discovery of a new land.
It is a good thing in this world of ours to have some model. The model we, the Knights of Columbus, have to imitate was, to be sure, a mere man, but great enough and powerful enough to do as God willed. The name Knights of Columbus is very appropriate—the word “knight” typifying everything that is admirable in a man, embracing all the manly qualities and this coupled with the name Columbus, has a wonderful significance.
Even as the attention of the stranger entering New York harbor is arrested by the Statue of Liberty towering for hundreds of feet and standing for the freedom of the new land, so does the greatness of Columbus tower im- measurably above that statue so that the whole world may gaze upon him, and gazing upon him, do him honor.