Bernard Westhoven, C.P., Elizabeth Connelly Westhoven, Father William Westhoven, graveside memories, Holy Cross Province (1895-1990), Joseph Westhoven, Julian Joseph Westhoven, Little Paul Westhoven, Mother Mary, St. Joseph, St. Patrick's Cemetery Providence Ohio, stories unfold and told by gravestones
It’s so intriguing when you stop and take a look at your life, and reflect over the years. The cycle of life sure becomes crystal clear as the years go by, doesn’t it? One day we wake up and we’ve become our parents. Yesterday never seems that far away, but time does not lie. Our mind, on the other hand, will create its own way of telling time.
We live and grow, then our children live and grow, then their children live and grow. Memories are made, stories are told and life goes on. I love to reminisce with old friends, and family members that I haven’t seen in years. We don’t live in the past, we just remember the past. Life – what’s it all about? Haven’t we all had rather deep conversations on this subject, and tried to figure it all out? All I know is…
With the Grace Of God, One Day At A Time
After all, what more can we do? We can reflect, and we can hope, plan and dream, but what’s most important of all is to live now, today.
When Lee and I were in Ohio, visiting a very old cemetery in search of some of Lee’s relative’s grave sites, we came across a rather sad story told by the engraved details on the grave stones. The story goes like this. Elizabeth and Joseph Westhoven married and had two sons. Sadly enough both sons died at very young ages. Little Paul, the first born, lived 1890 to 1896. It was 12 years after the death of their first son before they would have another child. Julian Joseph then entered the world – born April 5, 1908 and died 12 days after his 2nd birthday on April 17, 1910. The father Joseph lived another 27 years after the death of Julian. He was born 1869, and died 1937. Elizabeth, the mother, lived 44 years after the death of her 2nd son, Julian & 17 years after the death of her husband, Joseph – she was born 1870 and died 1954.
Could they have had other sons, or daughters that are still alive today? Was Little Paul really their first born? Was Julian their 2nd born? The mystery mesmerized us. Lee researched Ancestry.com and found a post from a lady who is searching for Bernard E. Westhoven, born 1893, son of Joseph Westhoven and Elizabeth (Connelly – her maiden name). This tells us that they did have another son! The postings about the Westhovens go on with many responses & stories from descendants, putting together one by one the pieces of the story which was only partly told to us that day at St. Patrick’s Cemetery.
To our amazement, we found yet another son from Joseph and Elizabeth, William Westhoven, born September 2nd, 1895 (one year before Little Paul died), and he died in 1990. His story is fascinating and one that touched many lives in other parts of the world. Here’s a rather interesting article on William, who was ordained a priest in 1923:
Father William Westhoven, C.P., Holy Cross Province (1895-1990)
[January 14 , 1990]
Born September 2, 1895 in Liberty Center, Ohio, he was the son of Joseph Westhoven and Elizabeth Connolly. After schooling in Liberty Center he went to St. Joseph’s College, Renssalear, Indiana operated by the Society of the Precious Blood. After completing the two year course he returned to his home area to become a teacher. While teaching in the area the local pastor asked him to drive two Passionist missionaries who were giving a parish mission. One was Father Harold Purcell, C.P. who eventually founded Sign Magazine. The other was Father Henry Miller, C.P. The pastor asked Bill Westhoven if he could help the two priests find a place where they could preach to non-Catholics. No one was open to the idea, but finally an old hall was found. It was during that experience that he began to contemplate religious life. He professed his vows on February 20, 1917 and was ordained on December 22, 1923. His class consisted of sixteen priests. Volunteers were asked to go to China and Father Westhoven was one of four chosen. He spent twenty-five years in China. He was superior of the mission in Hunan when the three priests were killed in April 1929 and one priest died of typhoid. In the early 1950s he returned from China after house arrest by the Communists and solitary confinement. During this time he relied a great deal upon his devotion to the Blessed Mother. Some days he said around 25 rosaries in order to keep up his sanity. He also kept up a great devotion to St. Joseph as well and this was most meaningful for him when he was released on the feast of St. Joseph-March 19. Upon his return to Detroit, Michigan he became a popular speaker in parishes and Knights of Columbus. In the process he almost exhausted himself. He would get very emotional during a lecture and had a strong desire to go back. For one year he was a retreat master at the Detroit retreat house when the monastery was being used for that ministry. When he preached you could hear his voice throughout the entire monastery. He then moved to Sierra Madre, California where it is reported that he preached 792 sermons in one year. The next year he was back in Detroit as retreat director. After four years in that capacity he spent two years giving retreats in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Philippines, Japan and Korea. His last years were spent in Detroit and then Daneo Hall in Chicago, Illinois.
Wow, now that’s an EYE-OPENING biography! That man truly lived a purpose filled life. And to think that all this information poured forth to Lee & I, from a gentle walk on a fall day, in an old cemetery. Any significance? Is it that by chance Father William Westhoven’s devotion to St. Joseph mirrors a similar devotion by Lee and I, who met through the divine intervention of St. Joseph, on March 19th. Also, I hold a strong and personal dedication and devotion to Mother Mary. They are both stories for another time.
When life is over, there’s only so much that can go on a grave stone. The story that Lee and I deduced that day at St. Patrick’s was perhaps not ‘wrong,’ but was definitely incomplete. There was and is so much more to the lives of Elizabeth and Joseph that can truly only be told by descendants, and stories passed down & told over the years, as well as the Passionist’s Monastery where Father William Westhoven’s journal resides to this day.
Be happy, healthy and take one day at a time. Take the gift of life, and with each new day make a difference in your life and the life of others. The ME-gan lifestyle is about living! We can’t live if we are not healthy & happy. Take control of your life, and start living.
Have a blessed Sunday – Enjoy those you love!