Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Like an oriental prince

Today in the Paulist Necrology (which is recited each morning at Morning Prayer), Fr. Elias Younan is remembered. To date he has been the only member of the Society from India. That, of course, might change next August, if yours truly makes it to First Promises. Here are the paragraphs from the Necrology.
On December 12, 1913, Father Elias Hyacinthe Younan, CSP, died in New York at the age of 64 after 34 years as a Paulist priest. Born in Calcutta, India on August 16, 1849, he was the son of Syrian Catholics, educated by Belgian Jesuits in India and Europe, and ordained a Jesuit priest in 1879. While visiting the United States, he decided upon a missionary career and was professed a Paulist priest in 1894.

An immensely popular speaker with looks "like an oriental prince," Father Younan specialized in winning back wayward and disillusioned Catholics. Although mostly working out of New York, he was appointed the first Superior in Winchester, Tennesse in 1900, remaining only one year before returning to the wider mission circuit. In that one year in the rural South, however, he gave 14 Catholic missions, 15 non-Catholic missions, 20 retreats, heard 20,000 confessions and brought 400 people back to the Church. His most famous mission was at Salt Lake City in 1899, when 5,000 people crammed into the Mormon Tabernacle Church to hear Father Younan speak during a terrific thunderstorm. When the lights went out, he continued speaking and made an enormous impression on the crowd. 44 people in the hall converted to Catholicism, including 12 Mormons and a Mormon elder. He retired from the missions around 1919 and lived full-time at 59th Street. [In New York at the Paulist mother house.]

One of the most famous Paulist missionaries, Father Younan was remembered by friends as a gentle, kind man who won over converts through love, not fear. Walter Elliott, CSP, [one of Fr. Hecker's loyal disciples and the author of the first life of the founder] described his friend well: "I heard him preach many sermons, and especially was I impressed, as I know very many who heard him and were impressed, by the great truth of God's tenderness and mercy. From all his preaching there went forth a certain atmosphere that was sweet, that was gentle to poor sinners ... Father Younan as a preacher, then, was of that gentler kind, which saves more souls in the long run than a man of hard and striking manner." (Emphasis, comments, added)
Wow. Also Jesuit educated. Also worked in the South. Hmm. I wonder if 20,000 confessions are heard in a year in the United States overall nowadays, let alone the rural South! And, as I was told at breakfast this morning, I'm expected to beat the record of 44 conversions on the spot. Oy.

They don't make 'em nowadays like they used to, eh? :-)

2 comments:

assiniboine said...

So it is not a matter of the 21st century only that there are Catholic missionaries to North America from India!

I went into an aboriginal craft centre last time I was in my home town in Canada to pick up a pair of snuggly moccasins for a Tamil friend here in Australia who was finding the cold (!) winter nights rather difficult. And explained to the nice Assiniboine gal at the counter who they were for: she said, "Really! You know, the priest of our parish is from India -- there just aren't any priests to be had from Canada so we have to import them from overseas!" I wondered where in India he might be from; she had no idea; I asked what his name was; answer -- "Oh I cannot possibly tell you: it is far too long for anyone to get their head around!" Ah...Tamil...

Gashwin said...

Definitely Tamil! :-)