Michael O'Reilly, Obituary/Death NoticePorter County obituaries and death notices . . . .

Michael O'Reilly

Death of Rev. Michael O'Reilly, Pastor of St. Paul's Church, Valparaiso
The Remains Followed to Their Temporary Resting place By the Largest Funeral Cortege Even Seen In Our City

"Father O'Reilly is dying!"

"What! Then the grandest man that ever trod the streets of Valparaiso is leaving us."

The above was uttered by a prominent attorney on learning of Father O'Reilly's approaching death. In those few words he voiced the opinion of thousands, for truly Father O'Reilly has earned the title.

Dead! Did you say? No it cannot be! Dead? Father O'Reilly, dead? He who has lead us by the hand when toddling infants -- who guided our footsteps, and brushed away our tears -- who taught us "Our Father" and "I believe in God" -- who plead with our fathers and our mothers to send us to school -- who spent many an hour explaining the mysteries of our latin, -- and who was our Father, our teacher and our friend? You tell me he is dead?

Do you realize the awful meaning? Gone! Forever! -- No, not forever. Gone before, to wait beyond for those who loved his teachings and obyed them. Gone, to meet his 'Father' and receive the blessing: "Well done, thou good and faithful servant."

Yes, Father O'Reilly is dead. For some time past -- in fact for the last year he has been gradually failing, and the dullest mind could not fail to see that the end was rapidly approaching. Suddenly a change came. He was himself once more. Then came the awful blow. The vigorous mind, the strong body, and the extraordinary will-power of him who pushed onward from a penniless lad at Castle Garden in 1848, to the position of Pastor of St. Paul's -- as he filled it -- all were palsied by one fell blow. Swift it came, and relentlessly it clung, until Death in triumph snapped the life-cord, and the weary pain-racked body laid down to rest.

Father Reilly has been suffering the past two years from insomnia, southern malaria, and rheumatism, which culminated in paralysis. Owing to enfeebled health he was unable to celebrate High Mass during the past year. But on the Sunday before he died he seemed much better. The old fire returned in his eye; the old eloquence came back, the same vigourous man that was known in former years, mounted th altar and celebrated high mass. He delivered a powerful sermon, couched in almost prophetic language. The congregation was surprised, glad, and hopeful. The venerable priest went home, ate heartily tralked pleasantly, and appeared in the best of spirits. In this condition he remained until Monday night at 7 o'clock. About 15 minutes previous to that time, he complained of dizziness in his head. A few minutes after he fell to the floor, prostrated with hemorhage of the brain. He immediately lost the use of his vocal powers, and from that fatal moment never uttered a word. In this state he remained until Wednesday morning between 3 and 4 o'clock, when a second hemorhage took place, and from that time he slowly lost consciousness, and sank, until Thursday evening at 5:46, when he breathed his last.

Around the death bed were gathered, the Sisters of Providence, Father O'Reilly's sister, Mrs. Watson, his nieces Miss Lizzie Fox, Mrs. P. Fox, Mollie Watson, and W. Bennett. In the background were his students, Frank Morgan, John Quinlan and W. Quinlan. Bending over him was his friend Father Kroll, of Chesterton, who had been with him during the fatal sickness. He died almost without a struggle.

During his sickness Father O'Reilly was visited by Bishop Dwenger, and Father Bremmer, O'Leary, Moench, Sullivan, Meissner and Bleckman. All that medical skill could accomplish was done to bring back consciousness, but it was of no avail. As soon as his death was announced the entire population of Valparaiso, and indeed, of many towns outside mourned his loss. The mayor of Valparaiso issued a proclamation, requesting the closing of the business houses of that town during the funeral, which was universally observed. People of all denominations spoke in tones of sorrow, and sentiments of respect for the dead priest. His death was recognized as a blow to all.

The body was laid out by loving hands, in a handsome coffin, dressed in the apparel of his calling, to await the hour when it sould be returned to earth. Saturday, August the 6th was the day appointed for the funeral. At 10 o'clock Solemn Pontifical Reqium was celebrated in St. Pauls, the Right Rev. Bishop Dwenger, assisted by Father Bremmer. Father Oechtering and O'Leary, acted as Deacon and Sub-Deacon, Father Dinnen, master of ceremonies; Frank Moran, Thurifier, J. and W. Quinlan, acolytes; and W. Murphy, as cross bearer. The services were indeed solemn, grand, and fitting for the occasion. Bishop Dwenger, in the midst of the services then delivered the following tribute to the dead priest.

"These words of the lamenting of the Isrealites when that great priest Judas Machabeus had fallen in battle, have brought to mind to-day, the sad occasion that assembles us her together. The strong man, the strong powerful priest has fallen -- fallen at his post when he was working for the children of Isreal, working for the Church of the living God. When you were assembled last Sunday, when you heard for the last time his words addressed to his congregation so dear to him, none of you thought it would be the last time; none of you, I dare say, thought that in the short space of one week we would be here to bestow the last marks of respect on what remains of our dear Father O'Reilly. I was told that on the contrary you were astonished that your pastor showed again all the vigor of his youthful days; that his weakness and sickness with which he seemed to be afflicted for over a year had left him. You were all under the illusion you had fair hope that Father O'Reilly was enjoying better health than he had for a long time. He spoke to you, he showed himself your pastor, and the very next day without any premonitory warning, or any one apprehending any immediate danger, he at once was stricken down. He feels dizzy. I received immediately a dispatch that he had received a paralytic stroke, and in less than two hours I received another dispatch that he was in great danger. As it was impossible for me to go, the Vicar General and his dear friend -- a child to him -- Father O'Leary went to him. I visited him the next day. Priests surrounded him. We hoped he had consciousness. I told him that I would say mass for him. I thought at least he could realize, that he understood though his tongue was paralyzed; he was speechless, and he who so often had preached to you on the undertainty of life was struck down suddenly himself; he who so often admonished you on your death bed. You may not be able to make as plainful confession which you think you will make when you are dying. Our good Father O'Reilly could not speak, -- he could only make his confession to God. He could only receive the absolution of the church; he could only receive Extreme Unction. The lips which had so often pronounced the words of consectation they could not receive on the death bed the Body of our Lord, because his tongue was too much paralyzed. Thus is life. Thus the uncertainty in our lives. We flatter ourselves so often what great and wonderful things we will do as a preparation for that awful entrance into eternity; how many things we will provide, how many good actions we will do before hand.

My dear friends, our life must be a preparation, our whole life, because the last moments when the faculties of our minds are weakening, it is not then that we can change the course of our whole life. It is not then we can repair the errors of a life time. It is not then, in a few minutes, that we can do what should have been performed during the years of life that passed. We have every reason to think, in fact I am almost sure, that our good Father O'Reilly apprehended the danger that did strike him; that he feared, that he partly expected it, and what is more reasonable than to say that he fully prepared for it. I know that his attention was called to it; that his broken down health, his feeling that everything threatened the danger that did not befall him. I really trust and hope, in fact I feel absolutely certain that he prepared himself for it, and death though it came suddenly did not come unexpectedly. Though death and the last fatal sickness came when none of us apprehended it, did not find him unprepared. It is indeed a sad thing to see the dear pastor of Valparaiso, one who has labored twenty-five years, -- long years, hard and faithful in your midst -- it is indeed a sad thing to-day to see the dear pastor dead. I am certain you feel all as if you had lost a father, a friend, a brother. I need not speak in detail to you of these twenty-five years of his life. When he was strong and vigorous his whole aim was to become a priest of the living God. When he taught school, when he tried to prepare himself for the priesthood amidst privations, by hard work, hard labor, and had but one aim -- to become a priest of the living God. When ordained nearly twenty-five years ago he came in your midst. I will not speak to you how he found this congregation, how few you were at that time. You know better than I do how Father O'Reilly has worked and labored to bring up this congregation. You all know what a large district he had, and how every week he had two of three stations where he would go to teach catechism and administer the sacraments; where he would try to have the commencement of the congregation, where he would try to have a church. You know that often in this way he labored not only here in Valparaiso, but from year to year, every week, two or three times, he was at different places to teach catechism, to see the scattered people and administer to them the salvation religion. No work was too much for him. He was eminently a working priest of God. He did not cease working for Christ. You may not understand what this missionary work implies, how hard it is; often day and night in the depth of winter to attend the distant sick and perhaps return from a difficult and laborious sick call, to be called out again. To work nearly every day, then to find no rest at night. You may not understand what work and labor that implies. I can appreciate; I have done it myself; I have passed through it myself. Very often our people do not understand how hard it is to be a priest. Men to whom the world offer a life of ease and plenty sacrifice everything for God, and God alone. What prospects have we in the world? In worldly pursuits we could live a life of ease; we could have friends if we wanted to do anything. There is the constant labor: Sundays on the mission, week-days in the schools. Then the constant labor watching over this family and over that family. The constant anxiety to try to save that poor young man on the brink of ruin. There is the constant labor of saving such and such a soul. There are privations day and night, and what often is our recompense. It is well-known that priest of God can need nothing better than his Master. If they have slandered Christ they will slander the priest; if they have persecuted Christ they will persecute the priest. If there are any of those who have misinterpreted the word of God, the priest himself must expect nothing else than there will always be some who will misinterpret him; some who will complain, some who will abuse him. Though he be a Son of God they will accuse him. He will persecuted like his master. I don't say that all do it. I don't say our good faithful Catholics do that. You have learned to appreciate the labor of the departed pastor. He always desired to remain here. When I, shortly, or at least not very long after my appointment, I offered him the congregation of St. Mary's at Lafayette, after the death of Father Hamilton, he begged of me, "Bishop, please let me remain with my people at Valparaiso. I know the people. They know me. I love them. I feel like a father to all of them. Please let me remain in their misdt." I yielded; I told him I would if he desired. "I do with all my heart!" said he, "I desire to remain with my people in Valparaiso." He has remained in you midst and you know his faitful labors, especially with regard to Catholic education; his hard labors to have good Catholic schools in your midst. Many friends of Father O'Reilly may differ in that sentiment, but my dear brethren, if we are born to God and to heaven, we must know God when we commence our journey; we must know our religion in our youth. My dear brethren, for our soul's salvation we must know in our youth the danger, we must be prepared; in other words religious education, religious duties, religious means are necessary. When the soldier enters upon the battle field it is too late then to drill him in the use of arms; he must know how to use them before. You good pastor was full of zeal with regard to Catholic education. It was he who asked me to have the statistics of our schools in this diocese gathered and printed, and desired that we make a regular diocesan board of it. For years he worked faithfully, no labor was too much for him here in his congregation, in the diocese, for the sake of Catholic education. You know how readily he surrounded himself with children from the country to prepare them for the sacraments, finding a place for them often in his own house, or with some of the Catholic families, or with the sisters to prepare them for the sacraments. He was the pastor who led some of his young men to the very altar of priesthood. Two good, worthy priests raised by Father O'Reilly have preceded him into eternity. One is here assisting at the altar assisting at the Mass. Some of the young men encouraged by Father O'Reilly, I hope, will yet say their first mass, and when they hold up the unbloddy sacrifice of the new law they will not forget their dear father, their departed friend. Father O'Reilly was a stern man and at the same time what interest did he take in the youth, in the young people, and there is one thing I hope you will never forget. -- the lesson he gave you, the training he gave you, expecially to the young men. I hope they will never forget their dear Father O'Reilly who worked sso hard for them, took their salvation, their welfare so much to hear. The good pastor worked faithfully.

The priests that are assembled here though not as numerous as if it were in the middle of the week, for all these priests you see here will have to travel until mid-night to be back again tomorrow at their posts. These priests of the diocese have lost indeed in Father O'Reilly a true, generous brother priest. All will bear testimony to this. He was truly full of that brotherly feeling towards the brother priests of the diocese and with his whole heart and soul he worked for that beautiful unity that exists among the priests in the diocese regardless of any nationality, that beautiful unity, that beautiful harmony, that is the pride of my diocese and my job.

Father O'Reilly labored for them. He commenced this beautiful temple, beautiful but unfortunate for the very reason that it broke down his health. He may not have complained to you, but he acknowledged that he felt so heavy, so broken down. It was with the greatest difficulty that he could rouse himself to ahy exertion, to any labor. It was nearly a year and a half ago that he first told me that he felt that his strength was weakening, that he did not feel as well as formerly. He succumbed to the labor. Though our dear Father O'Reilly has gone to rest, -- to eternal rest as we sincerely hope, -- his labors remain here, his monument the work of his labors I hope, will be a credit to the Catholic congregation of Valparaiso. I know that it shall always be my joy, my consolation to visit this congregation, what I consider the work of our dear Father O'Reilly. His work is done. He is gone to eternal rest. We can only pray that if there should be any defect, any negligence, any human weakness, not fully atoned for that God may look down in His infinite mercy upon our dear departed brother. How faithfully he worked. How many drops of honest perspiration dropped from his brow.Though his tongue was nearly paralyzed at last how often he taught you the catechism,how often he instructed the people in their work. Do not forget your pastor; do not forget your departed priest. Show that he has not labored in vain in your midst these twenty-five years, hard work, hard labor.

I can now only offer the sacrifice of the Mass. I can only now unite again in that prayer of the Church, "Eternaol rest give to him O Lord and may Divine light shine upon him."

The vast church was filled to the utmost, there were but few dry eyes within its walls. After the services were brought to a close, the funeral train formed, and started for the Catholic cemetery. In it were thirty priests and 130 carriages. At the grave the last ceremonies were performed by the Bishop and soon after, the grave of Father O'Reilly was filled.

The remains of Father O'Reilly will rest in a vault under the altar of the church which he has built, and the whole will serve as fitting movement to his memory. This would have been done at the time of the funeral, but the mason work could not be finished in time, and it was decided to place the body in the cemetery until such time as the vault can be gotten fully ready.

From the "History of Porter County," we learn that Michael O'Reilly is a native of Clonmellon, Westmeath Co., Ireland, and was born January 29th, 1834. His father, John O'Reilly, a steward on Ross Mead, for Capt. Robinson, of the Royal Navy, was married in 1833, to Ann Bennett, and to this union were born one son and three daughters, of whom our subject and two sisters are still living. John O'Reilly died when Michael was but seven years of age. His mother again marrying. Michael began life's battle on his own responsibility, and up to the age of 13, made his home with an uncle, aiding him in his duties as a saleman of timber. In 1846 he joined one of the secret rebel clubs denounced by the Government, and was, in consequence, advised to seek refuge in America. In 1848 he came over alone, and made his way to the home of an uncle in Utica, N. Y., and for a number of years was engaged in various pursuits in Oneida and Genesse Counties. He saved his earnings, sent over for his two sisters, and at 16 began going to school. When unable to attend, his strong inclination for study led him to read all books of value that came in his way, and he thus acquired a good prepatory education. At 17, he began teaching in the winters, and with the money thus earned entered Oberlin College, (Ohio) where he remained until his Junior year. He then entered Notre Dame University at South Bend, studied mental philosophy and other branches pertaining to a classical course, and then entered St. Mary's Seminary at Cincinnati, went through a thorough theological course and was admitted to the priesthood. He was assigned to Fort Wayne Diocese, and a short time after came to Valparaiso and took charge of the Catholic congregation, then numbering fifty or sixty families, with a debt of about $4,000, and with neither house nor school. The above shows the struggles of the man before he took charge of the Valparaiso congregation. We will in a brief way take up the thread, and show what he accomplished since. He was ordained December 25th, 1862, and on Jan. 6, 1863, preached his fist sermon in Valparaiso. Hs first effort was to straighten out the church matters, which were left in a bad state by his predecessor. The church was repaired, a large brick school house built, a pastoral residence secured, a new cemetery bought, a bell put in a neat bellfry, the order of "Sisters of Providence" established and buildings erected for them; a handsome church organ put I the church and last -- and greatest of all, the imposing church which now serves as his monument. Besides all this work, at home, Father O'Reilly for many years had charge the missions at Hebron, Koutts, Wanatah, Hanna, Chesterton, Union Mills, Westville, Hobart, and Berry Lake. He erected Catholic churches at Chesterton, Westville, Hobart, and Koutts. The amount accomplished by him is wonderful. But his latest undertaking proved too great for even him. In 1877 he conceived the idea of building a church for his congregation which could be used by future generations. Accordingly he began a series of monthly collections, etc., and on Oct. 7, 1883 this idea has so far progressed that the corner stone was laid to a magnificant structure. On Oct. 1886 the building was dedicated to God, and the church. Father O'Reilly intended the cost to be about $45,000, but as is usually the case, the actual cost will overrun, about $5,000. In its building he used the greatest economy, The timbers were brought in the tree. Everything about the construction was supervised by him, and the worry and overwork this caused him contributed in a great measure to his death. He live to see the great undertaking completed.

THE INNER LIFE OF FATHER O'REILLY is the most interesting. He has one of the biggest, kindest, and tender hearts that ever beat. Always ready to relieve distress, he many times seriously put himself out by his generosity. In the early days the writer has known of instances where this noble priest was booted out on the railroad in winter to sweep the snow out of the wretched cabin of a sick member, saw wood to keep the fire going, and bring food and medicine. He has walked the streets of Valparaiso, cane in hand, and acted the parts of police and father to his people. He turned his house into an orphan asylum, and raised and educated a large family of young men, and sent them out into the world prepared for it. He has trained and sent out from his flock more young men for the priesthood than any other priest in the Diocese. Many young men of today owe their start in life to him, and the writer is one of them. Space prevents us from saying more. Our humble pen can illy do the subject justice, and to his biographer we leave the task of discovering and publishing the thousands of noble acts done by him. Discover - we say - yes. Father O'Reilly never did a good deed and then advertised it. Those whom he befriended alone know what he did.

At present a successor to Father O'Reilly has not been selected. Until one is slected Father Kroll of Chesterton, will take charge of the church. After Father O'Reilly's death, Bishop Dwenger offered the place to Father Kroll, but he respectifully declined. He was strongly urged to take the place. In conversation with Father Kroll Tuesday, he said:

"Not, it is not true that I have accepted charge of St. Paul's. Yes, I was offered the charge, but under existing circumstances I do not want it. Unless I could get my terms, I should not take the church unless commanded to do so by the Bishop, and at least the interest for two years provided for. All floating indebtedness placed under one head and secured, and my time to raise the money. Otherwise I would rather he would get some one else."

Father Kroll will take charge of the until such time as the Bishop makes permanent arrangements. Father Kroll assures us that he has no desire to leave Chesterton. While we would regret to see him go, yet we cannot help but feel that Bishop Dwenger has recognized the ability of Chesterton's pastor, and that he is urged to take so important a charge is a high compliment to him.

Newspaper: The Tribune
Date of Publication: August 11, 1887
Volume Number: 4
Issue Number: 19
Page: 1
Column(s): 5-8

Key to Newspaper Publication Locations:
    Newspapers Published in Chesterton, Porter County, Indiana
                Chesterton Tribune
                The Tribune
                Westchester Tribune

    Newspapers Published in Valparaiso, Porter County, Indiana
                Porter County Vidette
                Practical Observer
                Valparaiso Practical Observer
                Vidette and Republic
                Western Ranger

The obituaries and death notices appearing on this website have been transcribed exactly as they were originally published in the newspaper. Please note that we do not provide photocopies or digital scans of obituaries and death notices appearing on this website.

Obituary/death notice transcribed by Steven R. Shook


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