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His Eminence of Los Angeles: James Francis Cardinal McIntyre

His Eminence of Los Angeles: James Francis Cardinal McIntyre

by Francis J. Weber

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McNally & Loftin, Publishers
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Chapter One

1. The Early Years

Like John Carroll of Baltimore, the nation's proto bishop, J. Francis A. McIntyre came from a Gaelic parentage who had the good sense to seek their fortunes in America rather than in France or England. His father, James F. McIntyre was one of the two sons born to Patrick and Ann (Keenan) McIntyre, on October 12, 1859, in New York City. Coming from a family long associated with breeding and raising of horses, James joined the New York Police Department where he spent many years as a mounted officer along the bridle path surrounding Central Park. Later in life, after a fall partially incapacitated him, he entered a business venture which contracted for cutting a railroad right-of-way through the mountains of northern New York State.

Margaret or "Molly" Pelley was born in Ireland, on November 4, 1860, a daughter of John and Mary (Brennan) Pelley, a farming family in Kiltorma, Ballinasloe. With her two sisters, Hanna and Teresa, she emigrated from County Galway, in the later 1870s, under the auspices of the Irish Catholic Benevolent Union. Finding ready-made clothes unavailable in the United States, Molly studied dress-designing and pattern making at Lord & Taylor and then, with her elder sister, Hanna, opened a small dress-making shop. There the two sisters not only engaged in general sewing and repair work, but also made the ordinary and special clothing of the ladies for whom they worked.

Following their marriage, James and Molly located in mid-Manhattan, not far from Central Park, where Molly quickly acquired a reputation in the neighborhood as agifted seamstress. The McIntyres were living in a modest flat at 28th Street and Third Avenue, in the east mid-town district, when James Francis was born on June 25, 1886. On the following July 11th, the McIntyres took their infant son across the street to Saint Stephen's Church, where he was baptized by Father James Barry, one of the parochial curates.

Theirs was a closely-knit parish. Father Edward McGlynn, who occupied the pastorale during those years, was an electrifying speaker and a widely known personality whose sermons and observations were always delivered to a crowded congregation. A staunch ally of the self-made economist, Henry George, McGlynn held views considered quite unconventional for a Catholic clergyman. The single tax crusade somehow found its way into most of his homilies and figured into at least two suspensions from Archbishop Michael A. Corrigan. The popular but controversial priest was finally removed from the pastorate, on January 14, 1887, but not before achieving national recognition.

In addition to the decided religious atmosphere permeating the McIntyre home, young Frank "imbibed the finest Catholic traditions of (the) community." He and his younger brother, John, accompanied their parents to Sunday Mass, Lenten devotions and other seasonal services at the local church. Every night the family gathered for prayers around a picture of the Sacred Heart and during October and May they recited the rosary together. The well-thumbed books on their shelves were predominately religious in theme. Frank served Mass, from the time he was ten years old, at Saint Laurence O'Toole Church, at 84th Street and Park Avenue and Saint Francis de Sales on 96th Street.

Discipline was strict at home. Frank's infrequent punishments usually consisted of some kind of deprivation, rather than corporal spanking. Always an avid reader, he carefully poured over the five volumes of Horatio Alger which was the first gift he recalled receiving from his mother. For recreation, he played with the neighboring youngsters at Central Park or on one of the vacant lots then abounding in Manhattan.

The cost of a Catholic education was beyond the family's means, so Frank and John attended the elementary school, operated by the New York Board of Education, on 77th Street, between Lexington and Third Avenue. He later transferred to P.S. #70, on 75th Street, an institution widely known because of the prominence of its principal, George White. Frank graduated in 1899.

Always a healthy youngster, except for astigmatism, he wore corrective lenses from the time he was six years old. He fortunately avoided most childhood diseases and had never been hospitalized until after his arrival in California. Family resources were adequate, but there were no funds for such luxuries as traveling, and it was seldom that Frank wandered far from home. On a few rare occasions, he visited relatives on Staten Island.

Molly died quite suddenly at the family residence, 109 East 75th Street, during an operation for mastoiditis, on November 7, 1896. Not long afterwards, Mary Hannon, the daughter of Molly's sister Hannah, assumed the housekeeping chores at the McIntyre home. In 1903, following her marriage to Robert Conley, Mary invited Frank and John to join them in their new home on Saint Nicholas Avenue at 130th Street, near Manhattanville College. Mrs. Conley subsequently recalled Frank as "a serious-minded ... shy boy.

The elder McIntyre's health began deteriorating soon after Molly's death. Though a stalwart man, he contracted tuberculosis and, by the time Frank had graduated from Grammar School, his father had become an invalid and remained so for the final decade of his life. Whatever thoughts Frank had about his own future were put aside in order to provide for his father.

His earlier part-time employment in a laundry and grocery store proved inadequate, so young Frank, at thirteen, with his visored cap, short pants, coat and black leggings, found work as an errand boy or "runner" for the New York Curb Exchange. The "curb" market of 1899 was an unofficial gathering, at Broad Street and Exchange Place, where a hundred or so men traded unlisted stocks of incorporated companies. Those who initiated the curb market were people of character, honesty and integrity, and their transactions of securities were made orally and then confirmed by memorandum between the respective traders. The whole operation lasted from dawn to dusk, every working day of the year, without interruption for hail, snow, rain or shine. Fascinated by the activity, McIntyre apprenticed himself to David Pfeiffer for a weekly salary of $3. His position called for roaming around the crowds, watching the fluctuation of prices on the boards and then reporting back changes as fast as they occurred. It was a challenging task for a teenager and one which demanded a cool and very clear head. Only a person with a talent for figures could have persevered at such a pace. Here, as in later life, "responsibility and enterprise were the fabric" of McIntyre's boyhood.

In January, 1902, after two and a half years with Mr. Pfeiffer, during which time he gained a first-hand knowledge of the market, McIntyre acquired a position as a switchboard operator for the H.L. Horton and Company. He attended classes at Harlem Evening School, where he studied stenography, mathematics and accounting, becoming an experienced practitioner of the Munson method of shorthand, an all but extinct variant of the venerable Pitman System. After a few months with H.L. Horton and Company, he was advanced to the position of personal secretary to John G. O'Keeffe, a partner in the firm and a man highly-respected by his peers for his financial acumen.

Frank McIntyre continued evening classes for three more years at New York City College, and for one year at Columbia University in Morningside Heights. An avid listener, he also attended whatever lectures were being offered in the New York area by leading economists of the time. Meanwhile, from Robert Conley, an attorney who specialized in real estate law, McIntyre obtained a thorough foundation in equities and property values which proved immensely useful to his other interests. During most of his thirteen years with H.L. Horton and Company, McIntyre also managed the personal affairs of Mr. O'Keeffe. So highly was he esteemed by his employer, that from 1910 onwards, he had O'Keeffe's power of attorney. Another young associate during those years was Thomas Welch, an accountant. He and McIntyre became life-long friends.

Astute observer that he was, McIntyre learned a great deal from the panic of 1907, which was the result of over speculation and the struggle between trust companies with inadequate reserves and the more rigidly-regulated commercial banks. As McIntyre noted in later years, the panic had the positive effect of bringing about the passage of the Federal Reserve act of 1913.

By the time of his father's death, on January 28, 1915, Frank McIntyre was office manager at H.L. Horton and Company. He had arrived at the turning point of his career, for only a few days earlier, the one-time "runner" had been offered a partnership in the very same firm where he began as an office boy. It was a coveted position and one which would have added a percentage of the profits to his salary. At twenty-nine, already an accredited stenographer and accountant, McIntyre was an acknowledged expert on the stock market and a key executive in a prominent brokerage firm. As one writer later observed about the offer, "few men would have had the courage to resist such a glittering temptation."

However, with the termination of his familial responsibilities, Frank was free at last to follow his own inclinations and they were anything but commercial. One newspaper later wrote that "the same sterling qualities that were carving a comfortable niche in the business world, Almighty God claimed for His own service."

Though he probably knew nothing of it at the time, another New Yorker of Irish parentage had faced a similar decision just a hundred years earlier. When John McCloskey's father died, an attractive position awaited in a brokerage firm and the "good life" was there for the taking. Fortunately, John McCloskey and Frank McIntyre opted for the Church, and both eventually achieved membership in the Sacred College, McCloskey as the nation's first cardinal, McIntyre as its twelfth. There was nearly a century and much history between those two "eminent" men, but they shared the one ideal that characterizes all great personages - service to others.

While twenty-eight years of his life as a layman were in the best traditions of the Horatio Alger image, the motivation for the next stage was of a higher realm. From his earliest years he had made it a point to hear the outstanding guest speakers at New York's Church of Our Lady of Lourdes, among whom were the Vaughn brothers and Robert Hugh Benson. Three clerical friends, Fathers John J. Corbett, S.J., Edward A. Crowley and Thomas J. Keenan were also influential forces in young McIntyre's life. He also maintained contacts with various ecclesial organizations, including the Catholic Summer School of America, at Cliff Haven.

McIntyre's initial priestly aspirations were toward the foreign missions. Early in 1915, he journeyed to Ossining for an interview with Fathers James Anthony Walsh and Thomas Frederick Price, the founders of Maryknoll. It was a friendly and encouraging encounter, though there was some hesitancy expressed because of McIntyre's age. Father Walsh routinely contacted the newly-appointed Chancellor for the Archdiocese of New York, Msgr. John J. Dunn, for a recommendation. Personally unfamiliar with the applicant, the monsignor asked John G. O'Keeffe for particulars. Mr. O'Keeffe never disclosed the details of his response, but almost immediately, McIntyre was summoned by the Chancellor and asked if he would be interested in studying for the ministry in the Archdiocese on New York. The surprised young man was amenable, noting that the particular affiliation was secondary to his primary desire for priesthood.

So it was that in the fall of 1915, McIntyre entered Cathedral College, at Madison Avenue and 51st Street. The institution, until 1914 under the presidency of Auxiliary Bishop Patrick J. Hayes, had served as preparatory seminary for the Archdiocese of New York since 1903. McIntyre's schedule was slightly different from the other seniors. His deficiencies in the classics required several outside courses, including night lessons in Latin from an elderly Jesuit at Saint Francis Xavier High School.

One of his schoolmates, John M. Fearns, recalled that McIntyre was an ideal student in every way. Eleven years older than his peers, he was an accomplished and mature individual for whom the house rule was inviolable. The routine at the college was strict in those times. The school day generally began at 8 o'clock with Mass attendance at Saint Patrick's Cathedral or a designated parochial church. Morning prayers and assembly followed at 8:40 and classes commenced at 9 o'clock. On three days each week, there were seven periods, ending at 3:30; on one day there were six and, on Saturdays, there was a study hall from 4 to 5. Thursday was free. Besides breaking the week as nearly as possible into halves, with a day of rest in between, Thursdays provided students with opportunities for utilizing the cultural assets of the city. The proximity of the college to Saint Patrick's Cathedral facilitated the compulsory participation expected of the students in the liturgical life of the archdiocese. Seminarians were encouraged to take part in all major functions and to be on hand at specified Masses on Sundays and holy days of the year. Once committed, McIntyre never hesitated in his vocation. Unlike many of his younger confreres, Frank was "all doubted out" by the time he entered the seminary.

McIntyre was able to complete the graduation requirements within a single year and was among the sixty students presented with diplomas by John Cardinal Farley, at Aeolin Hall, on June 15, 1916. His Eminence spoke highly about the largest class in the institution's history, observing that "it would be hard to find anywhere a body of more manly, clean-cut, athletic-looking young men."

During the ensuing vacation period, McIntyre was "drafted" by the chancellor, Msgr. Dunn, to modernize and update the antiquated accounting system then being used in the Chancery Office. That assignment at the chancery, which was then located on the ground floor of Cathedral College, occupied McIntyre's time for the rest of his seminary days, during the summer, and on holiday recesses.

After a two-week delay in inaugurating the fall term because of an influenza epidemic, Frank McIntyre entered Saint Joseph's Seminary at Dunwoodie, in Yonkers, in October 1916. The archdiocesan faculty, composed of professors supportive of the Thomistic revival introduced by Pope Leo XIII, represented a marked improvement over the intellectually stagnated faculties that staffed many such schools at the turn of the century. McIntyre had known one of the professors at Dunwoodie, Father John J. Mitty, since the days when the friendly priest came to his parish church for Sunday Masses. Not long after McIntyre's arrival at the seminary, Father Mitty joined the war effort as a chaplain for the United States Army.

The transition to seminary life was not difficult for Frank. The self-discipline of the business world served well in an institution then operating on the reduced staples of war time. The 227 clerical aspirants at Dunwoodie in 1916 wore the cassock or soutane in chapel, at class and for other routine activities. Practically every hour of the day was regulated, from 5:30 in the morning until ten at night. By the standards of those times, the horarium was definite, complete, and balanced. Brother Paul James Francis, one of the Graymoor friars who entered the Church in 1908, observed that the Dunwoodie of those times was a "happy and contented place" where students were "wholesome, contented and devout in a natural way without being sanctimonious."

The institution was then under the direction of Msgr. John P. Chidwick, the famed chaplain of the battleship Maine. Chidwick regarded the seminary as a kind of ecclesial Annapolis and operated the institution on a military basis which gave supreme priority to spiritualities. The Ignatian method was used in the retreats given by the Jesuits of the New York province. Though not an academician himself, Chidwick insisted on a firm, academic training for his students. There was great emphasis on character formation and "not surprisingly, the attributes of a priest frequently stressed in eulogies or testimonials were courage, heroism, patriotism, discipline, obedience, and loyalty to the `corps'." The New York seminarians were trained to be cultured gentlemen - orthodox in doctrine, careful in speech, literate in tastes and courteous in demeanor. Undoubtedly Chidwicks's impact on the parish priests ordained between 1910 and 1923, when the pastoral condition of the diocese was never better, became a part of the folklore passed on to the seminarians of a later generation."

As a seminarian, Frank McIntyre took a special interest in the literary society which encouraged the reading of current books. Students had their own apologetics society which met on Sunday mornings. Practice questions provided by the Paulist Fathers were sprung on participants as a stimulant to a deeper and more expressive knowledge of Christian doctrine. Generally, McIntyre was a good student, though he struggled considerably with the Latin texts then used for dogmatic and moral theology. Despite retention of a slight speech impairment, aggravated by a malformed palate, he enjoyed the rector's weekly homiletics sessions and profited greatly from the various comments submitted by fellow students about gestures, delivery and composition.

In 1918-1919, the great influenza epidemic struck Dunwoodie. About 125 students were affected, half of whom developed pneumonia. Happily McIntyre was spared. Having lived an austere existence before entering the seminary, Frank was better adapted than many of his confreres to the spartan lifestyle at Dunwoodie, where the temperature in the rooms often fell as low as thirty-eight degrees.

Among McIntyre's closest friends were George Ehardt, also a late-comer to the seminary and John P. McClafferty, a Fordham graduate with a quick mind and keen sense of humor. A classmate who roomed next door, Patrick A. O'Boyle, a "carpetbagger" from Scranton, later became Archbishop of Washington, D.C. To these and others of his peers, McIntyre was known as "Slats" because of his gangling frame.

Frank held various student positions during his time at Dunwoodie. He was manager of the bookstore for two years, an especially demanding job since a fair portion of the books had to be acquired from war-ravaged Europe. One positive feature of that assignment was the privilege of having a private room in the crowded seminary. It was subsequently reported that "Frank McIntyre's classmates long remembered his devotion to daily duties, his aversion to the breaking of the rule, his intense interests in the affairs of the Church." The recreation periods that sent others to the playing fields would generally find McIntyre seated beneath one of the large trees on the grounds, transcribing his daily lectures into notebooks.

Residence requirements were strict. On Wednesday afternoons, students could leave the grounds for group walks, provided they were attired in clerical collars. On rare occasions, the deacons assisted in local churches and hospitals, but otherwise, it was a rarity for them to leave Dunwoodie, except for vacations at Christmas, Easter, and summertime.

The alumni of Dunwoodie set a remarkable record of fidelity to their vocation and they served the Church well in many capacities as pastors, teachers, military chaplains and a wide variety of other roles. The seminary historian, while noting that most graduates of Dunwoodie were proud to have survived the ordeal of their training, felt that McIntyre and his contemporaries "were shortchanged intellectually and spiritually," a sentiment not shared by the two future cardinals who graduated in the class of 1921.

Though the complete course of studies at Dunwoodie stretched over six academic years, McIntyre was able to fulfill all requirements in five, and early in April, 1921, he mailed out invitations to his ordination, which was scheduled for May 21st, at Saint Patrick's Cathedral.

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Copyright © 1997 President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved.

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