Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Fr. Patrick H. Callanan: 1895 Centurry Souvenir Medal Found a Priest Rememberd

Last summer an antique dealer struck gold while browsing wares in Miamitown, Ohio. During a routine excursion through the local flea market, Terri Ziepfel came across an item in the discounted pile, a plastic holder with two careworn inserts. The inserts caught her eye: an ornate tintype of St. Francis adjacent to an elegant typesetting of the Prayer of St. Francis. Content with the purchase, she was astonished to later discover a wonderfully crafted gold medal tucked away behind the tintype.

Intrigued by the compelling treasure, Ziepfel kept it in her wallet for nearly six months until deciding to learn who the enigmatic priest was. The decorative script emblazoned across the medal was a clue for where she could start: ‘Souvenir of 15th Anniversary of my Ordination to the Holy Priesthood, Rev. P.H. Callanan.’

Zeipfel located a blog posting I had written on Fr. Patrick H. Callanan, a former St. Mary's, Foxboro pastor (1885-1890). After reading the essay she forwarded the medal along to me writing, "I want this historical honor to find its way home."

1885 Picture

 Fr. Callanan was born on February 4, 1856 in New York City, the son of Irish Immigrants, Michael and Catherine Callanan, natives of County Cork. In September 1870, at the age of 14 he entered Boston College and was a member of the first graduating class in 1877.  He earned both a bachelor’s and a master of arts and was the first "College Historian". Later that year, he entered St. Joseph’s Seminary in Troy, New York and on December 18, 1880 he became the first Boston College graduate to be ordained a priest. In March 1885, at the age of 29, he became the youngest priest and the first Boston College alumnus to be appointed a pastor in the Archdiocese of Boston.

Fr. Callanan's first pastorate was St. Mary's in Foxboro. It was a very challenging task to say the least. But his accomplishment in Foxboro was an early demonstration of many future pastoral successes. The twenty-five year old parish in Foxboro was broken in spirit. It was also one of the financially poorest in the archdiocese due to two previous churches destroyed by fire. The church building at the time of his assignment was described as "barn-like." On the occasion of his 10th anniversary of ordination, Fr. Callanan remarked to his parishioners, "I found you six years ago a disunited, a discontented, and forgive me for saying it, a rather luke-warm people, and I found you without a church, fit to be called a house of God. I look on you tonight a happy, united, and practical Christian people, with a church worthy of your faith, worthy of your generosity, worthy of being called a house of God." 
1887 Foxboro Reporter

Leaving Foxboro in 1890, Fr.  Callanan was appointed pastor of St. John’s in Newton Lower Falls. In 1906 he established the mission of St. Paul’s in Wellesley Hills and in May 1912, he was assigned pastor of St. Peter’s in Cambridge. He remained here for the rest of his life. In 1927, the year Boston College first graduates reached their golden jubilee; Father Callanan was awarded an honorary doctor of laws. At the time of his death, on October 29, 1933, Rev. Dr. Patrick H. Callanan was the oldest living Boston College graduate.

Truly, Fr. Callanan was one of most remarkable pastors to serve St. Mary's parish, the town, and the Archdiocese of Boston. The finding of its way home of the medal offers a historical window to view and celebrate our collective community history and the life of a noteworthy Catholic priest.

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1885 St. Marys

1890 Remodeled Curch

1905 at 15th Ordination

1877 BC First Graduating Class Callanan back row far right

Tin Type Behind which medal was found

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

A Humble Hero: (Ret.) Chief Master Sgt. Peter S. Harding

This Veteran's Day, 2014 I honor my brother-in-law. 

I have known Peter for the forty-six years I have been with his sister, Donna. Yet if I add up all the time I have spent with him, it would be less than a week. This is due simply to the fact that he spent thirty years deployed in service to his country and has retired far from my home in Massachusetts. However, his career is remarkable and I desire honor his selfless exemplary service.

I’d like to begin by listing the military decorations Peter earned over the course of his career: three Distinguished Flying Crosses, the Bronze Star, the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, four Air Force Meritorious Service Medals, five Air Medals, the Joint Service Commendation Medal, and two Air Force Commendation Medals. He logged over 2,500 hours of flying time and completed over 400 parachute jumps.

Peter is a 1965 graduate of Foxboro High School and entered the Air Force in 1966. He was trained as a para-rescueman – a combat rescue and survival specialist earning Navy Diver qualifications, Army parachutist training, medical training and combat tactics.

Soon after training Peter was stationed in Thailand for a year, from where he flew helicopter rescue missions into North Vietnam to retrieve downed American pilots. During his second year-long tour in Thailand, he was involved in the evacuation of Saigon and the recovery of the crew of the cargo vessel Mayaguez, captured and held hostage by Cambodian forces on the island of Ko Tang. His parachute team was one of the first military units placed on alert to rescue U. S. personnel taken hostage in Iran. He was later deployed with a nine-man para-rescue team at the onset of problems with Iraq and was a key planner of the initial air assault against the Iraqi air defenses and follow-on rescue operations through the entire Gulf War. In the final years of his career, Peter was involved with astronaut rescue operations and was selected to work with NASA engineers to develop and evaluate escape vehicle design options for the U.S. Space station.

Significantly, in August of 1974 Peter returned home to walk his sister, Donna, down the aisle on our wedding day. He will always be a hero, and just as importantly to us, a loving uncle and great-uncle to our children and grand-children.... and to me, the big brother I never had growing up.

Thank you, Peter.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Mata Hari Executed as Spy Oct. 15, 1917

Margaretha Geertruida "Margreet" Zelle MacLeod (7 August 1876 – 15 October 1917), better known by the stage name Mata Hari, was from the Netherlands, She was an exotic dancer and courtesan who was convicted of being a spy[1] and executed by firing squad in France under charges of espionage for Germany during World War I

With the outbreak of World War I, Mata Hari's cross-border liaisons with German political and military figures came to the attention of the French secret police and she was placed under surveillance. Brought in for questioning, the French reportedly induced her to travel to neutral Spain in order to develop relationships with the German naval and army attaches in Madrid and report any intelligence back to Paris. In the murky world of the spy, however, the French suspected her of being a double agent. In February 1917 Mata Hari returned to Paris and immediately arrested; charged with being a German spy. 

Her trial in July revealed some damning evidence that the dancer was unable to adequately explain. She was convicted and sentenced to death. In the early-morning hours of October 15, 1917 Mata Hari was awakened and taken by car from her Paris prison cell to an army barracks on the city's outskirts where she was to meet her fate


Mata Hari at arrest

Mata Hari performing in 1905

Mata Hari in 1906, wearing only a bra and jewellery.

Short History Massachusetts Death by Electric Chair

Recently and over the past several years there have been too many stories reported of botched death penalty executions. In 1898, Massachusetts was the third state to employ the electric chair to carry of court ordered death sentences. Actually, Massachusetts was one of the first states to carry out the death penalty in colonial times but has since changed its approach. In early times, hanging was the primary method of execution. 

Some defendants in the 1600's were executed for religious affiliations. Mary Dyer was just one of the people executed for affiliating with the Quaker religion and there were dozens of individuals, both male and female, executed for witchcraft. In 1900, Massachusetts installed an electric chair to be used in death penalty cases. 

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Electrocution was the most common form of execution in the Commonwealth until capital punishment was abolished in 1984. After the death penalty was ruled unconstitutional in the state, governors, including Mitt Romney, have tried to reinstate the death penalty. Attempts thus far have been unsuccessful.

When a criminal is to be electrocuted, their head and legs are shaved. Their eyebrows and facial hair may also be trimmed off to reduce the odds of the prisoner catching fire. Once the prisoner is fastened into the chair, a sponge dipped in saline solution is laid on top of their head to encourage conductivity. 

A single electrode is affixed to their head, and another is connected to one of their legs to complete the closed circuit. The prisoner receives two jolts of current: the length and intensity is dependent on the person’s physical condition. Generally, the first surge of approximately 2,000 volts lasts for as many as 15 seconds. This usually causes unconsciousness and halts the victim’s pulse. 

Next, the voltage is turned down. At this point, the prisoner’s body reaches up to 138°F, and the uninterrupted electric current causes irrevocable damage to his or her internal organs. The electric current burns the prisoner’s skin, forcing prison employees to peel the dead skin from the electrodes.

After close to 50 years of use, the state finally put the electric chair to rest along with the death penalty. The State of Massachusetts’ final use of capital punishment was documented in 1947.

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