On the advice of a friend, I picked up a library book with the fearsome title “Dagger John,” by John Loughery. I was soon exposed to a history of the bias and hatred toward the poor, penniless and unemployed immigrants who had brought their Catholic faith with them from their varied ethnic homelands to 1840s New York. They had no idea of the rejection they were about to face from nativist non-Catholic bigots who felt threatened by the invaders. The result was that the unfortunate newcomers were penned into blighted areas of the city where unemployment, hunger, alcoholism, hopelessness and violence had become a way of life.
Out of this stewpot of human degradation, there suddenly appeared a savior who would free them from the strictures of spiritual and secular imprisonment. The man, Archbishop John Hughes, one of their own who would not only take care of their spiritual needs but would cross over from the ecclesiastical to the political world to get much needed funds to build Catholic schools, churches and orphanages. He would introduce to the world the potential of a whole host of new citizenry with their spiritual and work ethic that would enrich the caliber of American culture. Despite brickbats and threats from the nativist hate merchants, the contentious John Hughes stood tall and was never deterred from his mission. Alas, he was called home for his just rewards in 1864 leaving behind a new face of Catholicism to illuminate the darkest corners of America.
His two regrets: He departed this world without seeing the completion of his beloved St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Secondly, the failure to be crowned with a crimson cap designating him as a prince of the Church, Cardinal John Hughes.