Today's D&C includes a story about His Excellency Bernard McQuiad, the first Bishop of Rochester. Written by Bob Marcotte, the article was inspired by a display at Sacred Heart Cathedral commemorating the 100th anniversary of the bishop's death.
McQuaid was the first bishop of the Rochester diocese, serving from 1868 until his death in 1909, "an enormous length of time," notes the Rev. Joseph McCaffrey, who prepared the display. When McQuaid arrived here from a post in New Jersey, the diocese encompassed eight counties, 54,000 Catholics, 35 parishes, 14 parochial schools and 39 priests.
When he died, the diocese had increased to 12 counties, 120,000 Catholics, 93 parishes, 53 parochial schools and 158 priests.
Two religious orders — the Sisters of Mercy and of St. Joseph — had increased from 10 and 12 sisters, respectively, to 98 and 417.
In addition, McQuaid established St. Bernard's Seminary and Holy Sepulchre Cemetery.
Marcotte reports that McQuaid was "a national spokesman who was fiercely partisan in his advocacy of Catholic education." Citing the work of diocesan historian Rev. Robert McNamara, Marcotte adds,
The parochial schools were his "greatest glory." Orphaned at 8, McQuaid was "deeply grateful" for the Catholic elementary education he received at a church-run orphanage in Manhattan, and was "strongly desirous of extending the same benefit to the thousands of Catholic youngsters who at that time had no such opportunity," McNamara writes. And so McQuaid became prominent in the vanguard of the American parochial school movement. Indeed, in 1890, Rochester was "outranked only by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and the Diocese of Newark in the proportion of parishes blessed with their own schools."
McQuaid's arguments on behalf of public funding of Catholic schools went like this: Catholic conscience dictated that children attend schools where they could receive instruction in their faith. Since the public schools at that time were either Protestant or secularist in their leanings, Catholic parents had a right to maintain their own state-approved schools. Moreover, McQuaid believed the state should pay for this parochial school education, as long as children were receiving appropriate training in secular subjects — especially since Catholic parents were already paying taxes to support the public schools.
While parochial schools may have been Bishop McQuaid's "greatest glory," Bishop Clark and his administration view them as not much more than a financial drain that needs to be held in check. The bishop and his staff would of course deny this, but their actions and inactions in recent years - what they have done and what they have failed to do, in the words of the Confiteor - tell a different story.
According to the print edition of the D&C, the "Rochester's Bishop McQuaid" display at Sacred Heart can be viewed daily, 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., through February 24.