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Thirty Years of Street Preaching: Vincentian Motor Missions, 1934–1965

  • Douglas J. Slawson (a1)

Extract

Known in the United States as the Vincentian Fathers, the Congregation of the Mission is a religious community founded during the early seventeenth century by the French priest Vincent de Paul for the purpose of revitalizing religious life in rural areas through the preaching of parish missions. Such missions began with a sermon on repentance that urged people to make a general confession of all their past sins. The priests continued with a protracted catechesis that lasted for several weeks to several months. In time, Vincent de Paul realized the futility of pumping new life into a parish only to leave it in the hands of an inept or lax pastor. So the Vincentians began establishing seminaries to educate and prepare good priests. Thus parish missions and the training of clergy became the two cardinal tasks of that community.

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1. Coste, Pierre C.M. The Life and Works of Saint Vincent de Paul, 3 vols., trans. Leonard, Joseph C.M. (Brooklyn, 1987), 1:60159, 243267, 2:170192, 3:2064; Poole, Stafford C.M., A History of the Congregation of the Mission, 1625–1843 (Santa Barbara, 1973), pp. 128, 79101; Slawson, Douglas J., “Vincent de Paul's Discernment of His Own Vocation and That of the Congregation of the Mission,” Vincentian Heritage 10 (Sept. 1989): 125.

2. Editorial Staff, “A Survey of American Vincentian History: 1815–1987,” in The American Vincentians: A Popular History of the Congregation of the Mission in the United States, 1815–1987, Rybolt, John E., Slawson, Douglas J. et al. , eds. (Brooklyn, 1988), pp. 595; Poole, Stafford C.M. “The Founding of Missouri's First College, Saint Mary's of the Barrens, 1815–1818,” Missouri Historical Review 65 (1970): 121; Poole, Stafford C.M., “Ad Cleri Disciplinam: The Vincentian Seminary Apostolate in the United States,” in American Vincentians, pp. 97150; Stafford Poole, C.M., “The Educational Apostolate: Colleges, Universities, and Secondary Schools,” in ibid., pp. 291–346; Douglas J. Slawson, “‘To Bring Glad Tidings to the Poor’: Vincentian Parish Missions in the United States,” in ibid., pp. 163–227; John E. Rybolt, C.M., “Parish Apostolate: New Opportunities in the Local Church,” in ibid., pp. 229–289.

3. Kauffman, Christopher J., Faith and Fraternalism: The History of the Knights of Columbus, 1882–1982 (New York, 1982), p. 170 (see also pp. 169178); Higham, John, Strangers in the Land: Patterns of American Nativism, 1860–1925 (New York, 1975), pp. 178182; Myers, Gustavus, History of Bigotry in the United States, ed. and rev. Christman, Henry M. (New York, 1960), pp. 192199, 211213.

4. The amendment is presented in full in “A Burning Shame!America 11 (1914): 328.

5. Higham, , Strangers in the Land, pp. 194298; Dumenil, Lynn, Freemasonry and American Culture, 1880–1930 (Princeton, 1984), pp. 120126; The Peril of Public Schools,” New Age 26 (1918): 450; “Is the Parochial School the Place for Patriotism?” ibid. 28 (1920): 69–70; Chalmers, David M., Hooded Americanism: The History of the Ku Klux Klan (New York, 1976), pp. 2833, 6667, 7374, 7879, 110114, 284285; Craig Wade, Wyn, The Fiery Cross: The Ku Klux Klan in America (New York, 1987), pp. 179184; Jackson, Kenneth T., The Ku Klux Klan in the City, 1915–1930 (New York, 1967), pp. 1821. In addition to the Klan and the Masons, the Evangelical Protestant Society, organized in New York City in 1922 by Protestant ministers, warned of a papal conspiracy to undermine the public school system. In the same year, the National Patriotic Council, an offshoot of the Evangelical Society, adopted a policy close to that of the Scottish Rite (New York Times, 6 Apr. 1922; San Francisco Monitor, 5 Aug. 1922). In Michigan the Public School Defense League carried on a drive for compulsory public education from 1918 through 1924, while 100 percenters in Nebraska did likewise. See Martin, Frank T., “The Michigan School Controversy” (M.A. thesis, Catholic University of America, 1949); Mark Pies, Timothy, “The Parochial School Campaigns in Michigan, 1920–1924: The Lutheran and Catholic Involvement,” Catholic Historical Review 72 (1986): 222238; Zabel, Orville, God and Caesar in Nebraska: A Study of the Legal Relationship of Church and State, 1854–1954 (Lincoln, Neb., 1955), pp. 135137.

6. Holsinger, Paul M., “The Oregon School Bill Controversy, 1922–1925,” Pacific Historical Review 37 (1968): 327341; Jorgenson, Lloyd, “The Oregon School Law of 1922: Passage and Sequel,” Catholic Historical Review 54 (1968): 455466; Thomas J. Shelley, “The Oregon School Case and the National Catholic Welfare Conference,” ibid. 75 (1989): 439–457; Tyack, David B., “The Perils of Pluralism: The Background of the Pierce Case,” American Historical Review 74 (1968): 7498; Slawson, Douglas J., “The Attitudes and Activities of American Catholics Regarding the Proposals to Establish a Federal Department of Education Between World War I and the Great Depression” (Ph.D. diss., Catholic University of America, Washington, 1981).

7. Higham, , Strangers in the Land, p. 181.

8. Moore, Edmund A., A Catholic Runs for President: The Campaign of 1928 (New York, 1956); Lichtman, Allan J., Prejudice and the Old Politics: The Presidential Election of 1928 (Chapel Hill, N.C., 1979).

9. McKenna, Patrick C.M., “The Catholic Motor Missions of Missouri,” Vincentian Heritage 7 (1986): 102103; Chalmers, , Hooded Americanism, pp. 135137; Jackson, , Klan in the City, pp. 163164; Myers, , History of Bigotry, pp. 257, 267268.

10. Lester Fallon, C.M., undated [ca. 1938], untitled manuscript beginning “It was in Bristow,” DeAndreis-Rosati Memorial Archive (hereafter cited DRMA), Saint Mary's Seminary, Motor Mission files; Leven, Stephen A., Go Tell It in the Streets: An Autobiography by Bishop Stephen A. Leven (Edmond, Okla., 1984), pp. 2327; McKenna, , “Motor Missions,” p. 104; John, E.Rybolt, C. M., “Works of Devotion, Evangelization and Service,” American Vincentians, pp. 417418; Ward, Maisie, Unfinished Business (New York, 1964), pp. 8195, 254; Sheed, Frank, The Church and I (New York, 1974), pp. 4153. Street preaching was not the only method of dispelling prejudice. The Catholic Laymen's Association of Georgia scoured the press for misrepresentations of the faith in order to set the record straight. So successful was the movement in that state that the National Catholic Welfare Council, an organization founded in 1919 to counterbalance the influence of the Federal Council of Churches, sought without success to foster the movement nationwide. See Felicitas, Powers R.S.M., “Prejudice, Journalism, and the Catholic Laymen's Association of Georgia,” U.S. Catholic Historian 8 (1989): 201212; Slawson, Douglas J., The Foundation and First Decade of the National Catholic Welfare Council (Washington, 1992), p. 76. Not all Catholic street preaching aimed at allaying bigotry. David Goldstein and Martha Avery organized the Catholic Truth Guild, later renamed the Catholic Campaigners for Christ, and stumped on street corners about the bearing of Catholicism on contemporary issues and events. See Campbell, Debra, “‘I Can't Imagine Our Lady on an Outdoor Platform’: Women in the Catholic Street Propaganda Movement,” U.S. Catholic Historian 3 (1983): 103114; idem, A Catholic Salvation Army: David Goldstein, Pioneer Lay Evangelist,” Church History: Studies in Christianity and Culture 52 (1983): 322332; idem, David Goldstein and the Rise of the Catholic Campaigners for Christ,” Catholic Historical Review 72 (1986): 3350.

11. Fallon, “It was in Bristow,” DRMA, Motor Mission files (the quotation is from here); Leven, , Go Tell It in the Streets, pp. 2835; McKenna, , “Motor Missions,” p. 104.

12. Our Motor Missionaires,” De Andrein 5 (June 1935): 2; McIntyre, Joseph C.M., “Our Pulpit is the Street,” The Vincentian 13 (1935): 232 (the quotation is from here); McKenna, , “Motor Missions,” pp. 104109.

13. [Motor Mission] Statistics, 1934–1942, DRMA, Motor Mission files, “Our Motor Missionaires,” p. 2; McIntyre, , “Our Pulpit Is the Street,” p. 232 (the quotation is from here); McKenna, , “Motor Missions,” pp. 105109, 112.

14. Motor Missions Receive New Impetus,” De Andrein 6 (02 1936): 3.

15. [Motor Mission] Statistics, 1934–1942, DRMA, Motor Mission files; “Motor Missions Receive New Impetus,” p. 3; McKenna, , “Motor Missions,” p. 113.

16. [Motor Mission] Statistics, 1934–1942, DRMA, Motor Mission files; Motor Mission News,” De Andrein 7 (05 1937): 4; “The Motor Missions,” ibid. 8 (Oct. 1937): 1; Chalmers, , Hooded Americanism, pp. 126134, 137138; Jackson, , Klan in the City, pp. 215231; Noell, Thomas, Colorado Catholicism and the Archdiocese of Denver, 1857–1989 (Boulder, Col., 1989), pp. 97103.

17. [Motor Mission] Statistics, 1934–1942, DRMA, Motor Mission files; Motor Missions,” De Andrein 9 (June 1939): 2; “Motor Missions This Summer,” ibid. 10 (Nov. 1939): 1, 4; McKenna, , “Motor Missions,” p. 114; Schmiedeler, Edgar, O.S.B., “Motor Missions, 1940,” Homiletic and Pastoral Review 41 (1941): 393395, and “Trailing the Trailer-Chapels,” ibid. 42 (1941): 240–242, 244.

18. Leven, , Go Tell It in the Streets, pp. 5361; Schmiedeler, Edgar O.S.B. “Motor Missions,” Homiletic and Pastoral Review 38 (1938): 585588; idem, “Motor Missions, 1940,” ibid., pp. 388–400; idem, “Trailing the Trailer-Chapels,” ibid., pp. 237–248; idem, Churches-on-Wheels,” Homiletic and Pastoral Review 40 (1940): 362, 366372; idem, “Little Motor Mission Rationing,” ibid., pp. 502–516; Campbell, , “Catholic Campaigners for Christ,” p. 48; Kauffman, Christopher J., Mission to Rural America: The Story of W. Howard Bishop, Founder of Glenmary (New York, 1991), pp. 150153, 167168, 170172; Campbell, Debra, “Part-Time Female Evangelists of the Thirties and Forties: The Rosary College Catholic Evidence Guild,” U.S. Catholic Historian 5 (1986): 371383.

19. Catholic Motor Mission Report, Van Buren, Mo., 1943, DRMA, Motor Mission files: Buren, Van; Good News: From the Street Preachers (1938), DRMA, Provincial files: Motor Missions; Fischer, James, C.M. “In Omnem Terrain Exivit Sonus Eorum,” De Andrein 13 (Nov. 1942): 3 (the quotation is from here); Schmiedeler, , “Motor Missions,” pp. 582583; McKenna, , “Motor Missions,” pp. 115116.

20. “The Motor Missions,” De Andrein 8 (Oct. 1937): 3 (the quotation about medicine men is from here); Fallon, “It was in Bristow,” DRMA, Motor Mission files (the quotation by the sheriff is from here); McIntyre, , “Our Pulpit Is the Street,” p. 233; Successful Street Preaching,” De Andrein, 7 (Nov. 1936): 1 (recounts an identical situation involving a sheriff but quotes him as follows: “Ya cain't tell what these yar ignorant people from the hills might do”); Good News: From the Street Preachers (1938) , DRMA, Provincial files: Motor Missions; Lefevre, Philip C.M., Gieselman, Richard C.M., and North, Orlis C.M., A Motor Mission Manual (Perryville, Mo., 1949), pp. vivii (a copy is in DRMA, Motor Mission files).

21. “Motor Missions,” De Andrein 3 (Oct. 1937): 3.

22. Ibid.; Good News: From the Street Preachers (1938), DRMA, Provincial files: Motor Missions.

23. “Motor Missions,” De Andrein 3 (Oct. 1937): 3; Fallon, “It was in Bristow,” DRMA, Motor Mission files; Gieselman, Lefevre, and North, , Motor Mission Manual, p. vi.

24. “Motor Missions,” De Andrein 3 (Oct.1937): 3; Good News: From the Street Preachers (1938) , DRMA, Provincial files: Motor Missions (the quotation is from here); Schmiedeler, , “Motor Missions,” pp. 582583; McKenna, , “Motor Missions,” p. 107.

25. Gieselman, Lefevre, and North, , Motor Mission Manual, pp. 2324.

26. Ibid., pp. xii, 29–30; Good News: From the Street Preachers (1938), DRMA, Provincial files: Motor Missions.

27. Gieselman, Lefevre, and North, , Motor Mission Manual, pp. 3134.

28. “Motor Mission News,” De Andrein 7 (May 1937): 4; McKenna, , “Motor Missions,” pp. 123124. In addition to the chapel trailer, Vincentian missioners acquired, in 1941, from the archdiocese of Saint Louis the Blessed Phillipine Duchesne Chapel Car, a converted delivery truck with a rear platform and a portable altar.

29. Good News: From the Street Preachers (1938) , DRMA, Provincial files: Motor Missions; McIntyre, , “Our Pulpit Is the Street,” p. 234; Catholic Motor Mission Report, Van Buren, Mo., 1943, DRMA, Motor Mission files: Van Buren; Catholic Motor Mission Report, Hawk Point, Mo., 1945, DRMA, Motor Mission files: Hawk Point; Schmiedeler, , “Motor Missions,” p. 583. All quotations are from the reports on the Van Buren and Hawk Point missions. Missioners recorded verbatim all questions in the box.

30. Good News: From the Street Preachers (1938) , DRMA, Provincial files: Motor Missions; Stephen Ganel to Vincentian students at summer camp, Feast of Blessed Justin [de Jacobis], [31 July 1946], DRMA, Motor Mission files (the quotation is from here).

31. Good News: From the Street Preachers (1938), DRMA, Provincial files: Motor Missions (the first quotation is from here) ; Fisher, , “In Omnem Terram,” p. 3 (the second quotation is from here); Schmiedeler, , “Motor Missions,” pp. 583585.

32. Fischer, , “In Omnem Terram,” p. 3 (the first two quotations are from here); Catholic Motor Mission Report, Hawk Point, Mo., 1946, DRMA, Motor Mission files: Hawk Point (the final quotation is from here); Schmiedeler, , “Motor Missions,” pp. 583584.

33. Good News: From the Street Preachers, (1938) , DRMA, Provincial files: Motor Missions; Motor Missions This Summer,” De Andrein 10 (Nov. 1939): 4; Fischer, , “In Omnem Terram,” p. 3 (the quotation is from here); Schmiedeler, , “Motor Missions,” p. 583, and “Churches-on-Wheels,” pp. 365366.

34. Catholic Motor Mission Report, Van Buren, Mo., 1943, DRMA, Motor Mission files: Van Buren; Catholic Motor Mission Reports, Hawk Point, Mo., 1945 and 1946, DRMA, Motor Mission files: Hawk Point; [Motor Mission] Statistics, 1934–1942, DRMA, Motor Mission files.

35. “Motor Missions This Summer,” De Andrein 10(Nov. 1939): 4.

36. McKenna, , “Motor Missions,” pp. 115116.

37. Edward Riley, CM., to Robert Brennan, C.M., 2 Aug. 1943, DRMA, Motor Mission files; Catholic Motor Mission Report, Van Buren, Mo., 1943, DRMA, Motor Mission files: Van Buren.

38. “Correspondence Courses,” De Andrein 7 (Apr. 1937): 1, 3; “Postal Religion Has Grown Up,” ibid. 11 (Feb. 1941): 1, 3; “Twenty Thousand Letters,” ibid. 18 (Mar. 1948): 1–2; Lester, J.Fallon, C. M., “Converts by Mail,” HomiLetic and Pastoral Review 40 (1940): 733740; Rybolt, , “Works of Devotion, Evangelization and Service,” pp. 421424.

39. Lefevre, , Gieselman, , and North, , Motor Mission Manual, pp. iii (the first quotation is from here); “Convert America by Street Preaching,” De Andrein 12 (Nov. 1941): 3 (the second quotation is from here); Rev. R. B. Schuler to Joseph Lilly, C.M., 21 Sept. 1941, DRMA, Provincial Papers: Home Missions.

40. Fischer, , “In Omnem Terram,” p. 6.

41. On the Home Missioners, see Kauffman, Mission to Rural America.

42. [Motor Mission] Statistics, 1934–1942 (a document that actually covers the period through 1949), DRMA, Motor Mission files; Motor Missions Visit New Territory, De Andrein 15 (Oct. 1944): 4; “Panem Frangere Parvulis,” ibid. 16 (Oct. 1945): 5–6; “Motor Missions for Texas: Father Patrick O'Brien Explains Present Difficulties and Hopes for Future,” ibid. 13 (June 1943): 6; McKenna, , “Motor Missions,” pp. 124128.

43. O'Brien, John A., The White Harvest: A Symposium on Methods of Making Converts (New York, 1928), Winning Converts: A Symposium on Methods of Convert Making for Priests and Lay People (New York, 1948), and Recent Developments in Convert Work,” American Ecclesiastical Review 119 (07 1948): 111; Dolan, Jay, The American Catholic Experience: A History from Colonial Times to the Present (Garden City, N.Y., 1985), pp. 349352.

44. [Motor Mission] Statistics, 1934–1942, DRMA, Motor Mission files; “The Thirteenth Year of Street Preaching,” De Andrein 19 (Oct. 1948): 4; “Into the Highways and Byways!!!” ibid. 20 (Oct. 1949): 4; “Alabama Confreres Conduct Motor Missions,” Heri Hodie 23 (Sept. 1951): 1 and 4 (this magazine was the Eastern Province counterpart of the De Andrein); “Saint Mary's Mission Celebrates fiftieth Anniversary,” ibid. 33 (Dec. 1960): 4.

45. Minutes of the Provincial Council, 20 Feb. and 9 Apr. 1952, Office of the Midwest Province of Vincentians, Saint Louis, Mo.; Oscar Miller, C.M., Summary of Report for the Summer Season [of Motor Missions] of 1957, DRMA, Provincial files: Motor Missions. The reasons for North's removal were supplied by his friend, Reverend Edward Danagher, who was stationed in the same house at the time (interview, Los Angeles, 7 Dec. 1991). For a similar power struggle involving Stakelum and the director of another Vincentian apostolate, see Slawson, , “To Bring Glad Tidings to the Poor,” pp. 216217.

46. Report on Towns Where Motor Missions Have Been Given in the New Diocese of Springfield—Cape Girardeau, [1935–1956], DRMA, Motor Mission files; Report on Towns where Motor Missions Have Been Given in the Archdiocese of Saint Louis (Boundaries of 1955), [1935–1956], DRMA, Motor Mission files.

47. Miller, Summary of Report for the Summer Season of 1957, 20 Apr. 1958, DRMA, Provincial files: Motor Missions (the quotation is from here); interview with Oscar Miller, New Orleans, 16 Oct. 1984. It is interesting to note that Leven, too, attributed the end of his street-preaching career to television and air conditioning (Go Tell It in the Streets, p. 60).

48. Danagher to the author, 22 Oct. 1992.

49. Miller, Summary of Report for the Summer Season of 1957, 20 Apr. 1958, DRMA Provincial files: Motor Missions.

50. Interview with Miller, New Orleans, 16 Oct. 1984; Fischer to Miller, 29 Jan. 1964, DRMA, Motor Mission files; Report [on Motor Missions] for the Summer of 1964, 7 June to 22 Aug., DRMA, Provincial files: Motor Missions.

51. Leonard Chambers to Miller, 1 May 1965, DRMA, Motor Mission files; Miller to Chambers, 6 May 1965, copy, DRMA, Motor Mission files; Miller to Bishop Ignatius Strecker, 6 May 1965, copy, DRMA, Motor Mission files; Miller to Vincent Kaiser, C.M., 11 May 1965, copy, DRMA, Motor Mission files; interview with Miller, New Orleans, 16 Oct. 1984.

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