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cisco alone maintaining nearly half that number. Exclusive of the money expended in the purchase of land and the erection of the requisite buildings, which in many cases were effected by our forefathers in the faith, the annual amount raised for the support of the orphan asylums by the Catholic body must be something like a million and a half of dollars.
The question of the best means of caring for this large body of helpless ones whom Providence has committed to our trust, and fitting them to earn their own support hereafter, so as to grow up creditably to their faith and their country, is one of no small moment; but it has not apparently been studied in all its aspects or treated as a whole by any one in authority.
In old communities where there is little change, as in Catholic Canada, the general sympathy for children left orphans leads to their being adopted by some of the kind-hearted neighbors who knew the parents; and there orphan asylums are scarcely known. Even in cases of epidemics, where numbers of orphans are at once thrown on the charity of the faithful at large, as at Montreal after the ship fever, no asylum was needed, although the orphans and their parents were strangers just landed in the country. At a single appeal from the late venerable Archbishop Bourget every orphan was received and cared for.
With our constantly changing and moving population in most parts of the United States, such a system of adoption is impossible as a general practice, although there is scarcely a parish where this is not done to a greater or less extent. Orphan asylums are generally diocesan institutions, and seldom have accommodations or resources to enable them to receive all who apply. There is sometimes considerable delay when it is undertaken to place an orphan in an asylum, and the clergyman who seeks to obtain admission for the child of deceased members of his parish often finds it easier to secure them a home among his own people, and under his own eye, than to await the action of a distant Board. But this cannot always be done.
Asylums are therefore necessary, and their number increases steadily. There is rarely a case where an asylum has been opened and been abandoned for want of orphans to be received, or of support from the generous sympathy of the Catholic public. The asylums for Catholic orphans in this country are conducted by religious, and therefore at a minimum expense compared to those with paid superintendents, matrons, assistants, and the like. A small number of boys' asylums are under the care of Brothers of the Christian Schools or other similar congregations; but most of the asylums are conducted by Sisters, the Sisters of Charity being con
spicuous, as they were the first to undertake this charitable work in our country.
In the immigrant population, diseases acquired on shipboard or resulting from the change of diet, climate, and mode of living, as well as those entailed as a penalty for indiscretion or dissipation, carry off many adults, leaving their families helpless. Where children are born here, the same causes very often make them weakly in constitution, with a tendency to disease. Overwork in the parents in their early struggles often leaves its history in their early death and in feeble children. These classes contribute largely in their proportion of orphans, and those presented for admission to asylums are consequently cases that no life insurance company would regard as good risks. The orphans are therefore more liable than a similar number of children taken at random from the community to a variety of diseases and infirmities. They are generally children of parents weakened in constitution and short in tenure of life. Contagious diseases are apt to spread among them, and, when they once acquire entrance, are difficult to banish from such establishments. Other causes also tend to perpetuate rather than overcome weakness. The order and system maintained gives the inmates less opportunity for exercise and the hardening of the constitution by outdoor employment or amusement that the children would have enjoyed if their parents had lived. Secluded from the world, not even mingling with other children at school, or on the errands on which the children of the poor are constantly sent, these orphans, tenderly cared for and watched over, grow up simple, unsuspicious, ignorant of the world and of the ordinary affairs of life. It is not easy even to give them the ideas of homework that would be acquired by children brought up in the strictest home seclusion. They are thus necessarily inclined to be less robust in body, and liable to be beguiled when they pass from the care of the good Sisters and are exposed to the temptations of the world.
From time to time, as they grow up, orphans are bound out, or placed out, for the old system of apprenticeship is virtually extinct in this country. Then their connection with the asylum virtually ends. The good Sisters are taken up with new-comers; the parishes from which the orphans came have lost sight of them; the associations, often more nominal than real, which manage asylum affairs, assume no further care. Even where attempt is made to follow them up for a time, all trace is soon lost. What becomes of the orphans? There is no place to which they can turn as a home, no place for counsel, sympathy or protection ; the asylum cannot take them in again, the Sisters may compassionate many a case and make some exertion, but as a member of a community a Sister
cannot act independently, and can rarely enter into the difficulties of particular cases.
As the average stay of an orphan in an asylum is apparently about six years, every time that term ends twenty thousand Catholic orphans pass out of the asylums into the great busy world, virtually lost sight of by the great-hearted Catholic soul of our people. It does seem that some intermediate institution between the asylum and the world is needed to fit them more practically for the life on which they must enter, and to be a refuge from the world in case of necessity.
In New York city this want has been felt, and an establishment has been founded at some distance from the city where, under the charge of Brothers of the Christian Schools, orphan boys who show an aptitude for any kind of mechanical work learn trades or are instructed practically in farm work so as to fit them to succeed either as mechanics or farmers. The results of the experiment have thus far proved satisfactory, and the boys having acquired some practical knowledge are, of course, more readily taken by employers. This prepares them, indeed, for this one avenue in the future, but does not meet all the cases that occur, or even the majority of them.
As business is now carried on, few mechanics take apprentices, or are permitted by trades' unions to take any, and very few boys or girls are inclined to bind themselves to learn any trade. The factories offer a market for less skilled labor, and quicker returns in wages; boys and girls in great numbers seek employment in them in preference to the slow method of learning a trade. In our large cities at night-fall girls and boys, from the age of twelve years upward, are seen pouring out of tall buildings where manufacturing of various kinds is carried on. The orphan placed at service or to learn a trade sees those of like age thus employed, and eagerly longs to adopt the same course. The temptation is strong, and they easily drift into it, leaving of course the person with whom they had been placed, either surreptitiously or in anger, under either alternative giving no clue by which to trace their future doings. After getting employment they find a boarding-house where they can, and are without any kindly oversight or control.
It is for these, especially the girls, that it seems some species of Home ought to be provided. An establishment under a firm but gentle superintendent to maintain order and system, that would afford board and lodging for the orphans, aid them to obtain employment, advise them as to associates, the proper expenditure of their wages, encourage economy, and check extravagance, would undoubtedly save hundreds. A love of their religion and fidelity in its practice could be more easily kept up. Those awaiting em
ployment might take part in some kind of work, which would help to pay for their temporary board. The charity of Catholics would be called upon to pay only the expense of the management, and that incurred for those orphans who were received in sickness or in distress. A list of those who year by year leave each Catholic asylum and are transmitted to the Home would help to identify any one applying for admission and save the institution from imposition. The orphans going out into the world would thus feel that they had a home.
Some Catholic may yet introduce a species of charity common in Southern Europe, but as yet unknown here, and that is the practice of establishing a fund, the income of which is given each year as dowries to girls about to marry who can show the best record for industry, virtuous life, and faithful discharge of religious duties. Such a fund for our orphan girls would be a most happy thought, whether connected with an asylum or such a Home as is here suggested.
One of the greatest practical experiments with orphans was that carried out by the present Cardinal Lavigerie soon after he became Bishop of Algiers. Pestilence had swept away thousands of Arabs, and the place was full of orphans. Bishop Lavigerie adopted several hundred of these unfortunate children. He secured a tract of fertile land and placed the children, according to sex, under communities of Brothers and Sisters. As the children grew up they were taught farm work, and some trade, practiced in the country, especially those required in country parts. As they came of age these orphans were encouraged to intermarry, and each young orphan couple received lands, larger for farming and grazing, smaller where the young fellow had a trade, and required only a garden plot and fruit trees. In this way a village of Christian Arabs has been established, entirely free from Mohammedan associations, self supporting, thriving, religious, and happy. The case is one deserving of study, as its lessons may be put in practice in regard to orphans, or to Indian children.
The scheme of Catholic colonization which, under the energetic impulse of Bishops Ireland, O'Connor, Spalding, and others, has attained such magnitude, offers another solution to the question of the best means of advancing the interests of orphan children. As a general rule, an orphan child will do better in a family than in an asylum, except in its earliest years. Now, in these Catholic colonies, boys and girls will not be a burthen, but a needed help, where it is almost impossible to obtain-and what is more, to retain-persons for menial or rural work, either girls for household duties or men for farming labor. If colonies were formed with a direct view to the employment of orphans, it would be well indeed; but it does
not seem that any such step is needed. As these colonies actually are, the Catholic farmers would, doubtless, be only too happy to receive girls who could be trained to household work, who would learn to cook, wash, milk, churn, tend the poultry, and act as nurses to younger children; and boys to aid in all the chores of the house and farm till they could follow the plough and manage horses. These children, being under the eye of the pastor of the settlement, would attend the parochial and Sunday school, and be saved from all temptations against their faith. Their knowledge of the country and the mode of obtaining a livelihood would stand them in stead, and on coming of age they would be prepared to take up lands for themselves, and be able to manage them. Where they were taken into the houses of those who practiced any trade, they would become similarly fitted. Boys showing a readiness at figures and writing would make their way to clerkships, and develop the qualities of business men. The Catholic colonist and the orphan would alike be gainers.
Acting, too, on the plan of the Boland farm, it may be wise to establish a Boys' Asylum near some large city, with competent men to instruct the orphans in market gardening. This is an industry which no Americans seem inclined to undertake, but to which many Germans, Hollanders, and Belgians are thoroughly trained. Their market gardens are found near all large cities on the Atlantic coast, at least from Portland to St. Augustine. Success depends on constant care of each crop of vegetables, and the employment of means to insure the earliest possible vegetables for the market, at, of course, prices much higher than can be obtained when the full crop arrives. An asylum where the boys could be thus trained would have the advantage of being able to furnish a large number to gather small fruits for market. Boys thus trained would always be sure to gain a livelihood, for the competition hitherto has been very slight in this department of industry.
Nor does any reason suggest itself why a Sisterhood should not undertake the cultivation of flowers on a large scale, with extensive greenhouses, training orphan girls to the business. The demand for flowers increases steadily, and the amount of money expended every year in flowers for decoration at festivals, balls, private parties, weddings, funerals, the adornment of churches, and the like, amounts to millions. A convent even of cloistered nuns might well have gardens and conservatories of fine and desirable flowers. There is nothing in the culture and care of flowers that seems incongruous with their secluded and pious life. Still less could any one object to orphan girls being trained under Sisters to this branch of industry. It would enable many girls afterwards to