From the book, “Sixtieth Anniversary of the Dedication of Most Holy Name Church, Troy Hill”
Among the death notices recorded in the Church Register, we find the following: “Reverendus D. Suitbertus G. Mollinger, per annos 24 rector ecclesiae Sanctissimi Nominis Jesu in Troy Hill, natus die 29 Maji 1830 Mechlinae in Belgia, sacerdos ordinatus die 30 Aprilis 1859, obiit die 15Junii 1892. R.i.p.”
“Reverend Suitbert G. Mollinger, for 24 years the rector of the Church of the Most Holy Name of Jesus at Troy Hill, was born May 29, 1830, at Mechlin, in Belgium, ordained priest April 30, 1859, died June 15, 1892. R.i.p.”
Father Mollinger was a man of renown whose fame spread far into the land. From distant points clients came to him and to his wonderful chapel; the attraction of his name and work drew the attention of thousands. I should deem it extremely difficult to summarize in a brief description all the salient features of his priestly life, and shall content myself by quoting for the most part from the historical works of the late Monsignor Lambing who was personally acquainted with this priest and who deemed him entitled to a somewhat lengthy notice in his book. I shall begin by the use of direct quotation and indicate by the parenthesis any insertions of my own.
“Father Mollinger was, in many respects, a remarkable man; and as such was differently regarded and judged by different persons. His father was a Protestant, and at the time of his birth, is said to have been prime minister to the King of Holland; though he was born in Mechlin, Belgium, April 1, 1830 (May 29, 1830, according to the Death Record cited above). The position occupied by his father is sufficient [to] guarantee that every opportunity was afforded him of securing a liberal education. Besides the ordinary branches which he would be expected to study, he devoted himself also to that of medicine. His entire course was made in the Old World (at Amsterdam, in Italy, probably Naples, and at Ghent). Little is known of his early life, and he is said to have come to America when he was about 28 years of age. But from what is known of his subsequent career, it is almost certain that he must have come at an earlier day, as it is certain that he studied in at least one institution of learning in this country, and that he applied to at least three different religious orders or congregations for admission, and spent some time in one of them, before he determined to devote himself to the sacred ministry in the ranks of the secular clergy. At length, he applied to Bishop Young of Erie and was received and ordained by him, although the date of his ordination is not preserved in the archives of that diocese. I have, however, before me the copy of the faculties of that diocese granted to him, and presumably the first he received, which is dated April 30, 1859; and which could fix his ordination, if not on that day, at least a very short time before it, both on account of the scarcity of priests at that time, and also because Bishop Young was not a man to let another under him rest long on his oars.
“Father Mollinger’s first mission was at Brookville, the county seat of Jefferson County; and he made this the headquarters of his missionary districts as long as he remained in the diocese. The home congregation was not large, but it had a considerable number of out-missions, both in farming districts and at the little blast furnaces which at that time dotted this and the adjacent counties… At length, he determined to withdraw from the Diocese of Erie, a resolution which he carried into effect about the end of 1864, as it would appear when he entered the Diocese of Pittsburgh.
“The first mission of Father Mollinger in the Diocese of Pittsburgh was Wexford, a country village on the ‘old Franklin Road.’… He was named the first resident Pastor, with the additional care of Perrysville. Here (Perrysville) he undertook the building of a church, the cornerstone of which was laid by Bishop Domenec, July 4, 1866, and the dedication took place on the 6th of October of the same year when the little brick edifice was placed under the invocation of St. Teresa. After laboring in this field till June 1868, Father Mollinger was transferred to the Church of the Holy Name of Jesus, Troy Hill, which was destined to be the scene of his most noted activity, and the place from which his name and fame spread over the greater part of this country and Canada…
“The chapel (of Saint Anthony) became a [center] of attraction from far and near; and even before the building of the chapel, Troy Hill and Father Mollinger were well known. It was not unusual for persons to come hundreds, and in some instances, thousands of miles to Saint Anthony Chapel, and more especially on his feast, when they could be counted by the thousands; while on other days hundreds of visitors were not uncommon. It would he difficult to form a correct opinion of the occurrences in and near this chapel, and no opinion will be ventured, although I am free to confess that I, in common with many others, both clerical and lay, was not a great admirer of all that transpired on Troy Hill. That extraordinary cures were effected is beyond doubt, but just by what agency they were effected I leave it to others to determine. They are simply matters of fact, and, like all such matters, I must stand or fall according to the strength or the weakness of the evidence on which they actually or presumably rest. There is, of course, no doubt that Omnipotence can and does work miracles when, where and by whatever means it sees fit to employ; but it is equally true that people often attribute to supernatural intervention that which is no more than the result of natural causes that are only imperfectly understood. External objects and ceremonies work on our faith, our imagination, our credulity, our will and heart; and it is very often difficult, and for the ordinary mind, impossible to determine just where to draw the line.
“Father Mollinger made, as we have seen, a course more or less complete in medicine, and had a fair knowledge of [diseases] and their more common remedies; and being a man of enthusiasm, impulse and determination, his manner would naturally have an influence on those who placed themselves under his direction. He was also a man of very strong faith, and he firmly believed that miracles should he performed in our day as they were in apostolic times. But in treating those who appealed to him he very often, and generally, mingled the natural with the supernatural. It was his custom to inquire carefully into each individual case, bless the afflicted either with or without a relic, require them to visit the chapel a number of mornings, commonly three, recite some prayers, and if non-Catholics, to abstain from meat on Fridays; and to these he would add some medicines to he used according to direction.
“As a matter of course, persons visiting the chapel would make offerings; and some of these visitors, being wealthy, frequently made very liberal donations. For this reason, it was commonly supposed that the good priest was very rich, not a few placing his wealth as high as three million dollars. Doubtless he received a large amount of money, but he spent large amounts for reliquaries and the other expenses of getting his collection together; that he bought lots and built his residence at his own expense, and no one knows all the other use he made of much of his means in the interests of charity and religion. But when he died, many were anxious to learn the extent of his fortune, and it was found that the highest estimate ventured by those who were in a position to know best, did not place it at more than $75,000; and it is doubtful if it reached more than half that sum when a full settlement was made.
“During his whole priestly career, Father Mollinger was a most indefatigable laborer in the cause of religion, and as he advanced in years he began to feel the effects of his early toils and privations. While his field of labor was constantly taxing his energies more and more, his health was beginning to decline, although the energy that had nerved him during life was loath to yield. But after a brief illness, he was called from earth on Wednesday, June 15, 1892, in the 63rd year of his age and the 34th of his priesthood.
“Father Mollinger was nearly six feet tall, strongly built, but somewhat heavier in later years; his countenance indicated [a] great force of character, and his disposition was impulsive and would ill brook opposition. The long heavy beard which he wore was calculated to add to the impression which his size and appearance would naturally make on the people who thronged to his chapel. He went little among his brethren in the sacred ministry, but those who visited him found him ever ready to manifest the true spirit of his high calling." (“Foundation Stones of a Great Diocese,” by Rev. A. A. Lambing.)
If this description of the life and activities of our first Pastor were to stand alone, it might appear that little else was accomplished by him other than receiving the pilgrims and clients to the chapel, but the pages of this book record his deeds and accomplishments for the church and parish, and we have seen that he was by no means a man of sentiment only, but a man of action, awake to every phase in the life of a busy Pastor. He never allowed [being] obliterated from his mind that he was the shepherd of the little flock and that his first duties were to those entrusted to his priestly care. The death that came to him all too prematurely was due to the fact that he literally exhausted himself.
For years, he suffered from some affliction of the abdominal viscera but never let it interfere with his activities until at length he succumbed. It was on the Feast of St. Anthony, June 13, 1892, when the final blow struck him. He offered Holy Mass early in the morning in order to receive [afterward] the concourse of pilgrims which was unusually large on account of the formal opening of the remodeled and renovated chapel. His strength began to fail before the morning was well spent, and during the course of the afternoon, he was forced to bed. His physician made a thorough diagnosis of the case and concluded that the only possible hope for life and recovery lay in a surgical operation. The emergency was performed in his own chamber, but the malady was beyond cure. Father Mollinger died two days later, June 15, 1892. and was buried on Saturday, June 17th. His remains rest in the Most Holy Name Cemetery, Reserve Township.
May he rest in peace.