In Memory of Mrs. Catherine Cooper

Bishop Thomas J. Tobin

Mrs. Catherine Cooper was my great-great-grandmother on my father’s side. She lived from 1810 to 1901 spending all of her life in and around the little town of Loretto in the Allegheny Mountains of Central Pennsylvania. Her major claim to fame is that she was baptized and married by the famous “Prince Gallitzen,” Father Demetrius Gallitzen, who eschewed his Russian nobility and enormous wealth to come to America as a missionary priest, spending forty years evangelizing the yet unsettled region.

In doing some family research recently, I was re-introduced to the life of Catherine Cooper and I was particularly impressed by her obituary published in the local paper. It read, in part:

The life of Mrs. Catherine Cooper deserves more than passing notice . . . Few have lived so universally beloved and respected as Mrs. Catherine Cooper, or died so lamented by all. Her piety, charity and faithful devotion to duty will make her memory a blessing to those who mourn her, but who mourn only as they who hope for a blessed reunion hereafter.

What a beautiful tribute! In reading it, one primary thought came to mind.

And that is how blessed I am to have had faithful Catholics as my ancestors. Catherine Cooper was obviously involved in the life of the Church and received the grace of the sacraments from a holy and heroic priest. I have in my possession the well-used Bible that belonged to my great-grandfather, also Thomas Tobin. When my grandfather Michael Tobin died, his obituary mentioned that he was a member of the Knights of Columbus and the Knights of St. George. And certainly my parents were steady, faithful, practicing Catholics, committed to handing on the faith to their four children.

I can’t help but wonder how much of our Catholic Faith will be passed on to new generations of Catholics today. So many middle-aged and young Catholics have marginalized God, abandoned the faith and dropped-out of the Church. The priceless heritage of our Catholic Faith is being lost right before our eyes. Where are the Catherine Coopers of our age? How many of our obituaries will say that “our piety, charity and faithful devotion to duty will make our memory a blessing to those who mourn us?”

Rest in peace, Mrs. Catherine Cooper. And thank you.

Something to think about: What adjectives will be used in your obituary to describe you?