219 East Washington Avenue
Santa Ana, California
June 1, 1950
Dear Mother and All:
These are the first hours which I have had for the past week to sit down and tell you of my sad journey to Benecia. I know that you will want to know the events of our journey and the consolation which comes in the knowledge of the hundreds of prayers and Masses for Father Leo which were expressed to Father John, Father Joe, and myself.
I first received the shocking news of Father Leo's death on Wednesday morning, May 24th, when we received a telegram from Father John, who had been notified by Father Gainor in Denver and also by the Provincial of the Dominicans, Father Benjamin Blank, O.P. I called Father Blank in San Francisco later that morning and he advised me of the arrangements for the Solemn Requiem High Mass which was celebrated by Bishop Hunt at the Cathedral at Salt Lake on Thursday morning. Father Blank also told me of the funeral arrangements and Mass on Saturday morning at Benecia. I later talked to Father Halloran at Williston and told him of the funeral arrangements although the Provincial had later notified him also.
I left Santa Ana on Thursday morning and arrived it the St. Dominic's Priory in Benecia on Friday afternoon about 2:30. Father Albert Muller, O.P., the Pastor, had gone to Sacramento to meet the train and accompany the body to Benecia, but I met Father Gabriel Knauff, and Father Olsen, who had known Father Leo for many years, and they advised me that Bishop Hunt and two priests were arriving at Benecia about three o'clock. About three o'clock, Father Muller arrived and as we went to meet him, he was accompanied by Father Halloran and Father Joe. Father Halloran had flown from Great Falls and met Father Joe at Salt Lake. Monsignor Cawley from Grand Junction and Father Joe had come to Salt Lake for the Requiem Mass at Salt Lake Cathedral.
The Fathers at St. Dominic's in Benecia extended us every courtesy and arranged for all three of us to stay at the Rectory. We had about an hour's visit before the body arrived to lie in state in the Church until the funeral Mass on Saturday morning. After the blessings, Father Halloran lead us in the recitation of the rosary. After supper, the Dominicans began arriving from all the Priories in the San Francisco Bay region, and at 7:45 the Dominican office of the Dead was recited by thirty priests. The Osbourne, Wright, and Hiemgartner families were present also as well as many of the parishioners.
On Saturday mornings Father Halloran and Father Joe celebrated Masses in the Church and we each took turns in prayers and rosaries until the hour of the funeral Mass at 10:00 o'clock. Father Blank, the Provincial, celebrated the Solemn Requiem Funeral Mass, and Father August Nasselli of Pittsburg and Father Edward Sanguinetti of Vallejo were the Deacons. Father Nasselli gave the eulogy. Father Halloran and Father Joe were the Chaplains for Bishop Hunt at the Mass. At the Cemetery, Father Halloran read the burial prayers. The Novice Choirs from Ross and Oakland chanted the Requiem Mass and there were forty priests present in the Sanctuary, in addition to Bishop Hunt of Salt Lake.
It is difficult to express in words the hundreds of expressions of condolences which we received from Bishop Hunt and the other priests who knew Father Leo, but it is probably best expressed in the eulogies of Bishop Hunt at the Mass in Salt Lake and of Father Nasselli at Benecia. "He died performing an act of Christian Charity. All of his life he had spent in helping others. God called him to his eternal reward as he stepped to help a poor man."
In your own resignation to the Will of God in the loss of your priest-son, there is the eternal consolation of our Faith which was so in evidence at the funeral. It is difficult to lock sorrow in your heart, but grief seems to be carried away with the prayers and Masses of so many and the Dominican Family of Priests who were present at the Recitation of the Office of the Dead and for the Requiem Mass will ask God to relieve the worldly grief which comes at a time such as this. May God Grant Father Leo the Eternal Happiness of Heaven.
Father Halloran, Father Joe and I drove from Benecia across the Bay to Ross to the Immaculate Conception Novitiate, after we had a visit with the Osbournes and Wrights in Vallejo. We had a visit with Father John Walsh and some of the brothers and novices. Father Joe, of course, was most interested in inspecting the buildings and grounds of the Novitiate, as they have a new building and have made many improvements since he was there.
We had a fish dinner at Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco and then drove to the College of St. Albert in Oakland, and we were again invited to share the Hospitality of the Dominicans for the night. We met many of the younger priests who were at Oakland when Father Joe was a student. We were especially shown every courtesy by Brother Leonard, a lay brother who was at Ross and Oakland when Father Joe was there and who took his solemn vows when Father Leo was Prior at Ross. He is really a saint.
The Fathers celebrated Mass in the College Chapel on Sunday morning and it was especially inspiring to Father Joe to have the privilege of saying Mass at the High Altar, on Pentecost Sunday. He also read the Matins and Lauds with the priests and novices in the Dominican exercises. We drove to Pittsburg Sunday afternoon to attend the Dedication of the new St. Peter the Martyr School, and again met many of the Dominicans who were there. Archbishop Mitty gave the Dedicatory address.
We accepted the hospitality of the Wrights in Oakland for a fine Sunday dinner and returned to the College to stay Sunday night. After the Masses on Monday morning, we drove to Oakland, where Father Halloran made reservations to take the train to Portland that night, and latter visited St. Dominic's Church and visited with many of the priests. After Father Halloran left, Father Joe and I drove to Madera, California, and after a good night's rest, continued on Tuesday to Santa Ana where we arrived Tuesday afternoon. Father Joe celebrated the 8 o'clock Mass at our St. Joseph's Church. It was the third Anniversary of his Ordination and Billee and I and the children were privileged to receive the Holy Eucharist from his hands. Wednesday afternoon, May 31st, Father Joe, Billee and I visited with Mr. and Mrs. Poole in Pasadena, and spent about an hour at the Junior Seminary with Terrence and Michael, who were finishing their examinations and the school year. At 8:45 last night, Wednesday, Father Joe took the plane for Grand Junction and he was home by midnight, just a week from the day he started.
While the occasion of the visit of Father Halloran and Father Joe was in the midst of our family sorrow in Father Leo's death, I know that the details which I have outlined of the past week, will bring you a measure of consolation. For me, it was a spiritual pilgrimage which had a profound meaning of our purpose in this life -- to know God, to love Him, and to be everlastingly happy with Him in Eternity. The prayers and sacrifices of your life have been directed to God so that each of your sons might fulfill that destiny. May God grant those of us remaining the grace of the same happy death as Francis and Father Leo.
Your loving son,