Roads to Rome: Maria Longworth Storer (1849-1932)

Roads to Rome: Maria Longworth Storer (1849-1932) November 3, 2010

Maria Longworth Storer (1849-1932) came from a wealthy family in Cincinnati. In 1871 she founded the city’s still-running May Festival. A skilled pottery painter, she founded the famous Rookwood Pottery in 1880. Her husband Bellamy Storer was a Congressman from Ohio and served as U.S. ambassador to Belgium and Austria. In 1896 the Storers became Catholics through the influence of Minnesota Archbishop John Ireland. They later lobbied in Rome to have Ireland a cardinal, albeit unsuccessfully. She wrote an account of her conversion for the 1909 anthology Some Roads to Rome.

My parents, Mr. Joseph Long-worth (my father), and my mother (who was a daughter of Dr. Landon Cabell Rives, of Virginia) were both communicants of the Protestant Episcopal Church in Cincinnati, to which town my grandfather, Nicholas Longworth, had come in the year 1805.

I was brought up and confirmed in the Episcopal Church, and we belonged to the ” High Church ” school. I retained always the faith of that Church, but as I grew older, the service did not satisfy me. I thought that I could read and pray better at home, and attendance on Sunday to hear the service and sermon seemed entirely unnecessary. It seemed to me something like going simply to a lecture-room which was interesting or dull according to the preacher.

I liked the Religious Orders of the Catholic Church and gave habitually to Catholic charities because I knew that the money would go directly to the poor.

I began to think seriously of the Catholic faith and religion only after a summer spent in Brittany, where the chaplain of a convent where we were staying, preached a sermon on the Holy Eucharist. I had never understood that Sacrament before.

The next year, October, 1891, we went to live in Washington, my husband having been elected to Congress. The day after our arrival, I drove out to the Catholic University to hear Bishop Keane lecture upon the Encyclical of Pope Leo on Labor. I was so impressed that I got all the Encyclicals of the late Pope and read them with deep interest.

A few weeks later, Mr. Storer and I went to High Mass at St. Augustine’s Church, simply to hear the music. A prelate, who was a stranger to us, preached a sermon on the dignity of labor and the duties of Catholics, which we considered the best sermon we had ever listened to. On inquiring the name of the preacher, we were told that he was Archbishop Ireland of St. Paul.

In Advent of the same year, I went to hear Bishop Keane preach a series of sermons. On Christmas day, I suddenly decided to write to the Bishop and ask for some Catholic books. He very kindly sent me some, which I studied with much profit to myself. On June 26, 1892, I received conditional baptism, and Confirmation from Bishop Keane at the Catholic University.

My daughter, Miss Margaret Rives Nichols had attended a history class during the winter taught by Father Daugherty, S.J., Vice-Rector of Georgetown University. She was received into the Church at Georgetown in April, 1892, two months before my reception. She married three years later the Marquis de Chambrun, a great-great-grandson of Lafayette. They live in France.

Mr. Storer was interested in the Church after my conversion. We hired a house at Westport on Lake Champlain for the summer of 1896. There we saw nearly every day the priest of the parish, Father F. X. Lachance, one of the most devoted servants of the Lord whom I have ever known; who drove eighteen miles and back, fasting every Sunday, in order to serve the Church at Elizabethtown as well as Westport. All the non-Catholics of Westport were devoted to Father Lachance, for he had changed a rather lawless population into respectable and law-abiding citizens.

I think the sight of such a life, and acquaintance with this priest, gave Mr. Storer the final human impulse: for Father Lachance gave him conditional baptism at the little Westport church before we left, in September, 1896. Mr. Storer was confirmed by Archbishop Elder in October of the same year.

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