My mother-in-law, Marie, kept a treasure box. Buried deep in the attic of her home I found an old Whitman’s candy box, and inside the box was a treasure trove of Holy Cards. Holy Cards that she had received as gifts, as rewards for good behavior, and some she just saved because they were pretty. In amongst these treasures from the 1930s, I found a different sort of card. This card lacked the pretty coloration of the rest of the collection. Turning it over I was amazed and delighted to discover that it was a card that had belonged to Marie’s grandmother, Elizabeth Bradley Campbell who had passed away in September 1900 at the age of 43, leaving a husband and eight children behind. A son Stephen had died of pneumonia just three years before in 1897.
The back of the card stated that Mrs. Lizzie Campbell was a member of the St. Joseph’s Union. This was her certificate of membership, “…having paid 25 cents, [approximately $6.80 in today’s money] the Annual Subscription for the ‘Homeless Child,’ is a Member of St. Joseph’s Union until March 1, 1898.”
The card goes on to state: “The object of this Union is the protection of homeless and destitute children, and the spiritual and temporal welfare of all subscribers to the ‘Homeless Child.’ His Holiness, Pope Leo XIII on the 27th day of February, 1883, graciously granted exclusively and for ever to the Members of St. Joseph’s Union (established by Father Drumgoole in the year 1876) and Indulgence of 400 days to Members who recite twice a day, the following prayer…”
Who was Father Drumgoole, and what WAS St. Joseph’s Union? Setting out on a websearch, I was surprised at how much information could be found about Fr. Drumgoole. While not all sites mentioned St. Joseph’s Union, it was clear that he was the patron for homeless news boys in New York City. This site is I feel is particularly good for background information: HistoryBuff.com, and to read the full life story of Fr. Drumgoole, this book published in 1954 looks to be an easy read: Children’s Shepherd, The Story of John Christopher Drumgoole.
The goal of the St. Joseph’s Union was to raise awareness and money throughout the United States and the world. This small card is evidence that this goal was achieved. The Campbells lived on a farm just outside of the small town of Hilbert, Calumet Co., Wisconsin, and attended church in Hilbert, where the Rev. Father Rhode was pastor. I would love to understand how he promoted the society to his predominately German congregation.