The Second Annual Catholic Congress: Essays and Papers
Milwaukee, Wisconsin, October 12, 13, 14, 1926
New York: The Catholic Congress Committee, 1926.Transcribed by Wayne Kempton
 Address of Welcome
THE RT. REV. WILLIAM WALTER WEBB, D.D, LL.D.
Bishop of Milwaukee
IT gives me the greatest pleasure to greet the Catholic Congress here in Milwaukee. It seems fitting that it should meet here in a diocese so associated with the Catholic Movement; the diocese of Bishop Kemper, first Missionary Bishop of the Episcopal Church; where the first associated mission was started under him with Breck, Adams and Hobart; the diocese where De Koven spent his whole ministry, part at Nashotah, where he started his school, then at Delafield, then at Racine, where his body lies in the midst of the college buildings he so loved.
The little church of St. John Chrysostom, Delafield, contains the first stone altar and the first rood screen erected in any Episcopal church. The cloth of gold altar cloth still in use and in good condition is probably the earliest vestment of its kind in the country. Dr. Adams, one of the greatest Catholic scholars the Church has had, fought out the issue of Baptismal Regeneration, and a popular book, Mercy for Babes, had a wide circulation and influence. His Christian Science was the first book on Moral Theology written in the English Church after the days of Jeremy Taylor.
The little old Blue House at Nashotah is a monument of, I believe, the first attempt at a religious order for men in the English Church after the Reformation. There has [44/45] been a weekly Mass since October 14, 1842, offered on some altar at Nashotah. If it is not the earliest weekly Mass, the parish in Ashtabula and St. Peter's, Philadelphia, contesting the claim, it was begun in the same year. For many years the Sacrament has been reserved in the chapel at Nashotah as well as in the Cathedral.
I will never forget the first Anglo-Catholic Congress in London. I had the privilege of presiding at two sessions and also at one of the sessions of the second Congress. It was interesting to compare the two Congresses, and also the anniversary meeting held last summer in London. The atmosphere of the first Congress was marked with the feeling of surprise and astonishment at the numbers, the enthusiasm and the evident strength of the Catholic Movement. Neither people nor clergy seem to have realized it. Certainly the bishops had not. I was interested and amused at the remarks and criticisms I heard at Lambeth right after the Congress. I think somewhat the same surprise and realization of strength was noticeable in the atmosphere of the Priests' Convention in Philadelphia.
By the time of the Second Congress in London it was evident that the Catholic Movement had, to a large extent, conquered England; that it was something that had to be reckoned with; that it had spread over England because, as Dean Inge put it, "It had a religion and it had a program." It was also evident that it had many of the foremost scholars in England on its side. It was manifest it could not be looked upon as a movement largely given up to women or men of a mystical turn of mind, but that there was a very intellectual and robust side to it. That there was a tremendous spirit of self-sacrifice was shown in the great missionary offering taken up at both Congresses and especially at the first, when all sorts of things, not only money, but jewels, watches and things of great [45/46] sentimental value were given in the collections, not only at Albert Hall, but at various services held in connection with the Congress. The enormous crowds at the final meetings at Southwark Cathedral and St. Martin's, crowding London Bridge and blocking the streets in one case, filling the northern part of the Trafalgar Square in the other, were signs of the popular interest and devotion. I had the privilege of preaching to the crowd outside of Southwark Cathedral to prevent their singing hymns and so drowning out the service in the Cathedral. I never expect to have such an audience again.
The influence of Bishop Weston of Zanzibar over the Second Congress, his intense humility, devotion and spirituality will never be forgotten by those of us who were there. He stood as the embodiment of the Movement, its spirituality, its devotion to our Lord and self-sacrifice.
The committee of the Congress showed great wisdom and statesmanship in their choice of subjects for the Anniversary Meeting, Housing and a Living Wage. They emphasized the fact that the Catholic Movement was not merely interested in theological questions, as they are usually called, but in the most practical questions affecting human beings in their every-day lives, in questions of social service.
It is planned to hold another Congress in London next year, July 3d to the 10th. The sub-title of the Congress will be The Holy Eucharist. I met with the chairman, Fr. Head, and the secretary of the committee last summer, and they asked me to do all that I could to interest American Catholics, and especially the clergy, in this Congress, and get them to plan to attend it if possible. It will be worth the pilgrimage to London, I am sure.
Here in this country the Movement, although strong and more far-reaching than many of us realize, has not [46/47] yet the hold it has in England, but it has the same future if there is at all the same devotion, self-sacrifice and strong defense of the faith once delivered to the saints.
One other thing I want to take this opportunity of saying, both to priests and people. There is a grave danger in these days of organization that we become absorbed in serving tables, committees, commissions, boards, convocations. Conventions are increasing at a terrible rate. Bishops and clergy are getting to do their work from office chairs. The pastoral relationship is being forgotten and I firmly believe that some of the disquieting facts connected with the statistics of the Church are due to this. We are in danger of thinking more about dollars than souls. We are forgetting our own spiritual lives, prayers and communions, or the spiritual work we ought to be doing for other souls. We are like Martha—"Careful and troubled about many things," and we are apt to forget the one thing that is needful.
Let us put first things first. A deep personal love of our Blessed Lord, penitence, self-sacrifice, humility, a love for our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, priests who want to offer the Divine Sacrifice and the people who want to be present and receive as often as possible with proper dispositions of body and soul; a love and devotion to His mystical body, the Church, which will lead to a real missionary zeal, and to self-sacrifice in work, money and devotion.
May God the Holy Spirit guide us in this Congress, that we may learn more about the Faith and be led to show forth in our lives the truth and the lessons we have been taught.