Danger in Denver

Mother Cabrini rushed to the hospital as soon as she heard Fr. Lepore was shot. According to early reports, a man named Giuseppe Sorice entered Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, began an argument with the pastor over a game of cards, then fired three rounds. Fr. Lepore wrested the gun away and fired a single shot in return. Later it was claimed a third man was the shooter and that Sorice was Fr. Lepore’s godfather.

But whatever the truth was, Fr. Lepore and Giuseppe Sorice carried it with them to their graves. Both died that night.

Distress and Division

Denver was in grief… and in an uproar. What would happen to Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church now that they had no Italian pastor? A group from the province of Potenza had recently built their own church, St. Rocco’s. They wanted nothing to do with Mount Carmel, where the Missionary Sisters had opened a school the year before. Instead, the Potenza faction was eager for St. Rocco’s to become the Italian parish.

Tempers ran high. Bishop Matz temporarily assigned an elderly priest, Fr. Guida, to Mount Carmel. But Fr. Guida had to travel a long distance to get there, so he took a room in town.

Unfortunately, it was in the home of someone originally from Potenza.

Threats are Made

The situation – people from Potenza vs. Italians from other parts of Italy, St. Rocco’s vs. Mount Carmel — horrified the Missionary Sisters, who were caught in the middle. In their Memorie they reported, “We cannot remember the number of times there was whispered in our ears: ‘Your life is not secure if you go to St. Rocco’s.’”

Mother Cabrini unfortunately had to tend to business in Los Angeles, and asked the Sisters to stay in close communication with her.  They gladly agreed.

Violence Erupts

Nicholas Chrysostom Matz

Three months after the murder, Bishop Matz headed to St. Rocco’s to bless the church and name it as the Italian parish. His journey was interrupted by an angry mob “armed with clubs, hatchets and pieces of wood” and his carriage was turned back.

Violence between the competing factions ensued.  As police struggled to control the crowd outside Mount Carmel School, inside the Missionary Sisters made a heroic attempt to teach the terrified children about the love of Christ.

Mother Cabrini Steps In

“Invest yourself with a very wide mantle of charity, a mantle twice the size of your cloak,” Mother Cabrini once wrote to the Sisters, “and you will see that you can establish peace everywhere.”

Even from a distance, she was able to calm the waters. While in Colorado Springs she spoke with Fr. Tommaso Moreschini, a Servite priest she had known in Chicago. She convinced him to consider taking over the pastoral care at Mount Carmel. Then she returned to Denver to meet with Bishop Matz.  She assured the bishop that calm could and would be restored.

He believed her. Our Lady of Mount Carmel was turned over to the Servites, and slowly, slowly, with an abundance of grace and the example of charity the Sisters provided, peace was restored.

“You must use charity. With charity you will conquer all obstacles and establish peace in the community.” 
~ St. Frances Cabrini

Thanks to St. Frances Cabrini Shrine Newsletter for this article

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