Sunday, June 19, 2011

Chicago's "King of Canaryville and the Stockyards" -Father Maurice Dorney





Illinois Progressive History chose to ignore Col. James Mulligan, Senator for three States James Shields, the only Union general to defeat Stonewall Jackson in the field, and the most energetic, brilliant and courageous activist of the 19th century, Father Maurice Dorney founder of St. Gabriel's Parish in Canaryville and the King of the Stockyards when labor first got its legs.

Catholics are given scrutiny only when causing scandal or smearing people as racists, bigots, and deviants. Read Huffington Post and the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun Times for a daily litany of priest scandals, or loggerheads with Gay bullies and Planned Parenthood.

Mother Cabrini is being ignored and soon will be about as memorable as the man for whom Shields Ave. and Shields Elementary is named.

The St. Vincent DePaul Society, Misericordia, Mercy Home for Boys, Little Brothers of the Poor, and Poor Clares, have no homosexually rooted or abortion friendly parallels. Only when a nun gushes for abortion, or a priest preaches for the ordination of women will a media profile make nice with the nomenclature of Catholic. There are some Catholics who make a Progressive smile and they are generally elected officials.

Justice icons tend to be lesbian activists of the 19th Century like Jane Addams and Frances Willard, which is nice but much too exclusive. Don't you think? No?

Well, let's take a look at the life of Fr. Maurice Dorney, shall we?

Maurice Dorney was born in 1851 at Springfield, Massachusetts. His father, John, left his home at Longhur near Limerick, Ireland, in 1846 as the plight of the Irish was about to worsen. Taking work in Troy, New York, John met Mary Toomey there and made her his wife. From Troy to Springfield to Chicago, John Dorney's work as a lumber inspector landed him a job with the Illinois Central railroad. The family moved into a home along Cottage Grove Avenue and 25th Street on Chicago's Southside. His elementary school days were spent at Mosely School and St. Patrick's Academy, the Christian Brothers academy near Adams and Des Plaines. His university education took place at the University of St. Mary of the Lake under the tutelage of Father James J. McGovern. Maurice enrolled in Our Lady of Angels Seminary at Suspension Bridge (Niagara), New York, in 1867. He concluded his seminary studies in 1870 at the Catholic Theological Seminary (St. Mary's) in Baltimore, Maryland. Bishop Foley conferred the priesthood upon him at St. James Church on Prairie Avenue in Chicago, January 27, 1874. In his youth Maurice had knelt before the tabernacle in this very church as an altar server.

The first parish to receive Father Dorney's ministrations was St. John the Evangelist in Chicago. He served as assistant to Reverend John Waldron, a venerated veteran of the chaotic, early formative years of the diocese.

At this time Chicago was rebuilding from the Great Conflagration of '71. St. John's parish, having been effected by the fire, as was most of the city, was home to many of the rebuilders of the city. Father Dorney's dynamic presence proved inspirational to these survivors to maintain the "I Will" spirit born of the great fire.

Bishop Foley knew full well the measure of man he had assigned to the church at Lockport. Father Eustace's departure to St. Louis was probably directly or indirectly related to the aftermath surrounding Bishop Duggan's mental illness. St. Dennis needed a strong, progress-minded pastor: "The importance of this charge [St. Dennis] can best be understood by the realization of the fact that at the time the scope of this 'parish' embraced the territory extending from the city limits of Chicago to those of Joliet." [Charles Ffrench. Biographical History of the American Irish in Chicago. Chicago. p.799] Laboring at St. Dennis and the Illinois and Michigan Canal missions provided Father Dorney with a contrasting outlook to the one he developed while growing up within the city.


His most definitive call was to occur next. On the 11th of April 1880, by appointment of Vicar-General John McMullen, Father Dorney established living quarters at the Transit House, a lodging building. Hiecome St. Gabriel parish. From these quarters Father Dorney charted the construction of a temporary wooden church to be built on part of twenty lots purchased on Sherman Street. From this landmark point Father Maurice Dorney would build the legends new home was near the bustling Union Stockyards in the town of Lake, just outside the Chicago limits. The yards, which would soon become synonymous with Chicago, were located in an area known as 'Canaryville'. Wild pigs that roamed the area as scavengers were referred to as 'canaries' - hence the affectionate nickname. At the Transit House, a rented room served as a chapel for the growing congregation that would b he became associated with. He was to become "The King of the Stockyards".

His interest in the temporal well being of his fellows led to a crusade for temperance and against the proliferation of saloons throughout the residential areas of St. Gabriel parish. By skillfully presenting his impassioned plea, Father Dorney inspired others across the Archdiocese to adopt the cause of sensibility in relation to alcohol. Over forty saloons filled the area between 40th Street and 45th Street along Halsted Street. Father Dorney's persuasive powers can be gauged by the reaction of tavern owners in his parish. When Father Dorney proposed that all saloons be closed during hours that a weeklong mission for men was taking place, local saloon keepers 'Gambler' Jim O'Leary and R.M. Donkin were in concert. Said Donkin: "You can say for me that whatever Father Dorney wants he can have." 'Gambler' Jim O'Leary concurred: "We always do what Father Dorney wants us to do down here." His lectures on temperance such as one that took place in 1896 at Annunciation Church were in the spirit of Father Matthew and were a precursor to the larger Prohibition Movement that occurred at the beginning of the 20th century.

Father Dorney's excellence in elocution won the admiration of employers and employees at the burgeoning meat packing houses. He was able to act as a broker for jobs at the yards. Immigrants and people out of work petitioned Father Dorney for assistance in securing work in the packing plants and meat industry. In days before organized labor at the yards, he would mediate strikes and disagreements, going down to the 'killing floor' if need be.


Father Dorney's influence was felt as much at city hall and corporate board rooms as it was within the church walls. In fact, at one time his influence had an impact on houses of parliament across the sea. The politics surrounding agitation for Irish home rule brought Father Maurice Dorney into the international spotlight. Father Dorney met with Charles Parnell, organizer of the Irish Home Rule Party, in the British House of Commons at a time in 1889 when Parnell was under fire on many fronts. Richard Pigott, publisher of the newspaper, "The Irishman", and not sympathetic to the Home Rule Party, submitted a forged letter to the London Times slandering Parnell. In the letter, Pigott had insinuated that Parnell was a co-conspirator in the 1882 murder at Dublin's Phoenix Park of Lord Frederick Cavendish, the Irish Secretary appointed by England, and Thomas Henry Burke, the Undersecretary. This assassination had been carried out by a secret society referred to as the "Invincibles". Through papers received from the president of the Irish National league of America, Alexander Sullivan, and its onetime treasurer, Patrick Egan, Father Dorney aided in the exoneration of charges of terrorist activity brought against Parnell by Pigott.

Father Dorney had a long association with an Irish-American organization called the Clan Na Gael, also known as the" United Brotherhood". "In age it dated back to 1869, its cardinal objections being to establish in Ireland an Irish republic, to bring about fraternal feelings among Irishmen in the United States, and generally assist in the elevation of the Irish race."[Henry M. Hunt. The Crime of the Century. 1889. Chicago] His association with the quasi-secret organization was quite controversial for in many parts of the country clergy were discouraging their flock from joining the group. He was considered an insider in the highest levels of the organization having attended the 1881 Chicago convention as a delegate. His close association with Alexander Sullivan, one-third of an inner realm known as the "Triangle", would lead to friction with the church hierarchy, the press and the judicial system. Alexander Sullivan, a lawyer and a journalist, was the head of the American division of Clan Na Gael. He founded the Irish National League of America, an umbrella organization which united the majority of Irish fraternal and self-help organizations in America. During what was termed by the press as the " Trial of the Century" Father Dorney was subpoenaed to give testimony relating to Doctor Patrick Cronin's [another Clan Na Gael insider] murder and the suspected plot involved in the murder. Father Dorney received criticism in the press due to Sullivan's alleged role in the murder. Dr. Cronin had opposed Sullivan within and without the organization on various issues. A Tribune article in June of 1889 suggested that Archbishop Feehan "send Father Dorney to a quiet country parish where he could give no further scandal."

By actively venturing into the political area Father Dorney was a harbinger of the activism that the Church in the later 20th century has become associated with. His strong sense of ethnic pride and commitment to civic progress brought accolades to him from some and criticism from others.

The value of knowledge and education did not escape Father Dorney. Parents were encouraged by him to send their children to complete their education. From his experience, the road to success led away from the 'towpath' of the canal and the 'killing floor' of the stockyards. He concentrated large amounts of energy and money into schools at St. Gabriel. By his own example he provided inspiration to his flock by returning to school at fifty years of age receiving a degree in law. In addition, he was afrequent contributor to the Chicago Catholic newspaper, the Catholic Home.

He also provided guidance to the Archdiocese in evaluating students for the priesthood. Along with former St. Dennis pastor John Mackin and a few others, Father Dorney participated on a panel in charge of reviewing candidates for ordination. The St. Dennis 'stamp of approval' was on many of the priests chosen for the Archdiocese in the late 1800's.

On March 15, 1914, after a short illness, Father Maurice J. Dorney departed this life at 63 years of age. Archbishop James E. Quigley celebrated the final Mass attended by Father Dorney.


The silver-tongued orator was rightfully eulogized by the Bishop of Rockford, the Right Reverend P.J. Muldoon, at what was described in the 'New World', the diocesan paper, as "one of the most impressive funeral services ever witnessed by Chicago..." Every funeral limosine within the city of Chicago was utilized in the procession. In attendance were the families of the captains of the packinghouse industry - the Armour's, the Swift's and the Morris's, Chicago's politicians led by Chicago's Mayor Harrison and legions of parishioners, citizens of the city and Father Dorney's two sisters. "From the announcement of his death to the funeral on Wednesday, flags flew at half-staff over the International Amphitheater and the big plants of the yards. In tribute to Father Dorney, on the day of the funeral the stockyard companies suspended business for five minutes." [St. Gabriel: 1880-1980 (parish centennial publication).


Jane Addams has a nice stretch of highway and more pedestals than the Pantheon for serving bologna sandwiches and presenting Aristophanes to starving Italian, Greek and Jewish kids for only a penny, while Alderman Johnny Power put their Dad's to work.

Let's try and remember that Diversity should include breeders and folks who think its wrong to kill a baby.

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