A Mount Alumni’s Blessed Donation

by Nathaniel Lee Rush Bentz

I have been an intern here for the Fall 2019 semester and I have discovered one of—if not the—most fascinating artifacts I have processed so far. This artifact is a large, metal crucifix with its very own metal plaque stating, “This crucifix was blessed by Pope Paul VI and donated to Providence Hospital [located in Washington, D.C.] by Monsignor Hugh Phillips September 14, 1975.” Having the responsibility to handle and process such an artifact is unbelievable. The weight of the situation is both physical and figurative because this piece is entirely made from brass and copper, making it very heavy, and the fact that a Pope blessed it—let alone interacted with it—makes this processing a rare opportunity for myself.

The donor, Monsignor High Phillips, is an important figure to this artifact in a different respect; he has a strong affiliation to Mount St. Mary’s University, at which I am a Senior student. Monsignor Phillips was a student at the grade school located on the Mount’s campus.  He spent his high school, college, and seminary years on campus and eventually becoming the school’s President—back when Mount St. Mary’s University was titled Mount St. Mary’s College—from 1967 to 1971. Before his presidency, he was a leading figure in maintaining Mount Saint Mary’s famous Grotto of Lourdes as its Director between the years 1958 and 2001. This honor of processing an artifact from a fellow member of the Mount community is astounding, especially given his accomplishments. What was fascinating with regards to Monsignor Phillips’ life is that he was born in the very same Washington, D.C. Providence Hospital that was gifted his donation of this blessed crucifix.

Having a fellow member of the Mount involved with the history of this artifact is one honor, but knowing that this very artifact is affiliated with a Pope as well is another amazing honor. I am not a very religious person, but I can recognize the authority, responsibilities, and image the Pope has to Catholics around the world, especially at Mount Saint Mary’s University. Moreover, getting the opportunity to interact with a blessed artifact is, what I would consider, a unique opportunity of the Daughters’ archive.

Besides the history behind the crucifix, physically speaking, this crucifix breaks norms compared to the other artifacts I have processed in the previous months of this fall semester. The dimensions of this piece deny it to be placed in its own box (for the time being), and it is incredibly heavy. To be extra careful, I find it safer and easier to transport the crucifix and the plaque by cart than carrying it by hand. The length of this crucifix is also large in comparison to other processed artifacts, standing at a height of two-and-a-half feet! The sheer size of this artifact makes a grand statement on its own, which makes this piece even more fascinating. My captivation goes for the crucifix’s aesthetic as well. It is beautifully crafted, likely out of brass and copper, on both the cross and the representation of Christ.

To read further about Monsignor Hugh Phillips, click the link below…

http://www.emmitsburg.net/grotto/father_jack/2004/phillips.htm

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Digital Exhibitions Up Now

For those who cannot make it Emmitsburg for our exhibits, we have completed digital online versions of them for your convenience, education, and enjoyment! Go to https://docapsl.omeka.net/ and tell us what you think!

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The U.S. Frigate ‘Macedonian’

This past Sunday was the annual Pilgrimage for the Sea Services at the Seton Shrine, where the midshipmen of Annapolis are invited to a special service at the altar of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, the patron saint of the U.S. Sea Services.  Just in the nick of time, the Archives worked with a conservator to bring out a special item for display during the service – the ship’s log of the U.S. Frigate Macedonian, upon which her son William served from 1818-1821.  The ship had originally been the British ship Macedonian before succumbing in battle to the United States Navy during the War of 1812.  It was rebuilt from its damage in Newport, Rhode Island and set off for North Africa in 1815 to serve in the Barbary conflicts.  During William’s service, the ship provided aid and protection along the Pacific coast of North, Central, and South America.  While William served his country on this voyage, his mother left this world for the next.

The ship’s log was kept by John Lithgow, and includes the names of those who served on the ship, its dimensions, and day-by-day log of its actions.  It also contains full drawings and illuminations.

The binding of the book had entirely deteriorated.  Evidently, some repairs had been attempted in the past, as some pages did not open the whole way due to misplaced glues and adhesives, and the remnants of a brittle, destructive tape covered the spine of the book.

When these tapes were (very carefully) removed, the conservationist made an interesting discovery – an old label to the book.  Using a magnifying glass, we can make out a few spare words (“Does this say ‘Ocean’”?), but we fear some of this information has simply been obliterated by time.  Can you make out anything that we can’t?

Naval logs provide valuable information for military history, geographers, historians, and genealogists.  In addition, within the last decade, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has been utilizing naval logbooks to study environmental conditions of the oceans in the past.  The largest holder of naval logs in the United States are the national archives locations in Washington, DC and College Park, MD.  They have digitized many of their log books, and they are available online.

For more information, see:

https://www.archives.gov/research/military/logbooks/navy

https://www.archives.gov/research/military/logbooks/old-weather.html

https://www.history.navy.mil/research/library/research-guides/inventory-naval-records-collection-office-naval-records-library.html

In addition to William’s service on the Macedonian, her other son Richard served on the USS Cyane, upon which he passed away in 1823 while off the Mediterranean coast of North Africa.  He was buried at sea.  William then served on the same ship as his late brother for three years before receiving his commission as a Lieutenant on the Sloop of War Hornet tracking pirates in the West Indies.  He resigned his commission in 1834 after nearly 17 years of service.

The USS Macedonian which William Seton served on should NOT be confused with the second USS Macedonian which served in the Civil War.

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