When we started talking about having the house on the summer tour, I told Matt we needed to fill in the missing pieces of the priests who lived in the house. Although they were the longest residents (40 years) nobody seemed to know for sure who they were. We were told they were Oblate priests but that doesn’t narrow down the search much. I did some research and decided the most likely answer was they were from the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate. It seemed strange that an order of missionary priests would have a home in Toledo at that time.
I went to their website: oblatesusa.org and learned this:
- The Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate serve poor and needy people in the United States and more than 60 countries around the world.
- Today nearly 4,000 Missionary Oblates are ministering in some of the world’s most difficult missions, reaching out to serve those most in need.
- Saint Eugene De Mazenod was born into an aristocratic French family in 1782. The French Revolution forced his family into exile. In 1807, he had a profound religious experience, and he committed himself to Christ and the Church. As a young priest Eugene was appalled by the condition of the Church in southern France. The poor were being neglected. In response, Eugene gathered around him a small group of priests and began to preach directly to the poor. Eventually this small band became the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate.
- By the time of his death on May 21, 1861 the congregation he founded had grown to 415 priests and brothers in seven countries. On December 3, 1995 Pope John Paul II formally declared Eugene De Mazenod a saint.
Matt called the headquarters in Texas and was told all records for the order were kept by their archivist in Washington DC. Matt was given the contact information for Sister Ann Diehl CSJ. She told him she had never heard of there being a mission house in Toledo but she would look into it.
The next day she sent us an email with these details. Apparently she was intrigued and excited to have learned something new.
- The house on Robinwood was originally purchased by the Oblates to use as a “Mission House” – a home base for priests who travelled around giving parish missions and various retreats. Besides the “missionaries” who travelled about, several priests lived there who did pastoral work, mainly chaplaincies, in the Diocese of Toledo. This provided a lot of variety in the community. In addition, the house had many visitors from around the country and around the world, including more traditional “missionaries” from other countries.
- Giving parish missions to help revitalize the religious life of the people was the primary purpose for which the Oblates were founded in 1816, following the devastation of the French Revolution. But they also served the other religious needs of the areas they were in.
- Until very recently it was customary in every Oblate community to maintain a “Codex Historicus” to record significant events in the community. She included some of those pages for us.
- By the mid-70’s most of the works the Oblates had been doing in Toledo had been phased out, including, apparently, the Mission Band.
- In April of 1977 there were only three Oblates left in the diocese, and the Robinwood house was too large and too expensive for three to maintain, so it was decided they would look for an apartment and sell the house. (They moved to an apartment across the street in Ann Manor directly below the one where Matt’s parents now live.)
- Apparently a realtor they had hired (Michael Murray) to help them sell the house liked it so well he bought it himself. The next year the last three Oblates were reassigned out of the diocese.
She also included this article from what I believe is The Catholic Chronicle 3/11/1938.
We also now have this bill of sale from the 1938 purchase. Knowing the Oblates purchase included the contents of the home gives mere credence to the story that after leaving The Toledo Club very late one evening, Mr. Bell came into the house after he had sold it to the Oblates and woke the priests playing the piano and singing. The piano would have been familiar as it had been his previously and rumor has it his late night serenades were a common occurrence when he lived here.
So we now know a little more about our home. I’m not sure how the history of the Oblates had been lost when they were here such a long time and it hasn’t been that long since they left. Sister Ann sent several other things as well. I will post more soon. We have enjoyed learning more about the house’s story.
One thought on “Another History Lesson”
As an avid amateur historic preservationist and history buff, my daughter (a U.T. archivist) and I found this story fascinating; we look forward to touring the house at this year’s festival! How fortunate you are to have found, not only this beautiful property, but the story behind some of its more interesting residents, and thank you for preserving one of Toledo’s treasures; Godspeed!