Bishop John Timon was born in Conewago, Pa., and grew up in Baltimore. After a financial crisis wiped out his family’s wealth he was determined to join the priesthood, entering St. Mary of the Barrens seminary in 1823. He was ordained a deacon, and then a priest, in 1825.
He continued teaching at The Barrens until 1847. He went to Galveston, Texas, in 1838 to report on the state of the Church, which he found in poor condition. In 1840, he was sent back to Texas to reorganize the church. Appointed bishop of the new Diocese of Buffalo in 1847, he spent the remaining 20 years of his life building the Church there.
Beginning with 16 priests for 16 counties, he immediately began to build churches and establish schools. One of his first concerns was the need for more priests. This, and his friendship with Nicholas Devereux, a Utica, N.Y., businessman and philanthropist, started the chain of events that resulted in St. Bonaventure University. A trip to Rome in 1854 allowed him to visit the Minister General of the Order of Friars Minor, the Most Rev. Venantius of Celano. The result was an agreement (Jan. 4, 1855) establishing the Franciscan community in the Northeastern United States.
Nicholas Devereux immigrated from County Wexford, Ireland, in 1806. He arrived in New York City, or so the story goes, with 3 gold sovereigns in his pocket. Immediately after coming ashore he attended Mass and placed one of those sovereigns in the collection basket in thanks for his safe journey.
In 1814, he went to work for his brother John C. Devereux in Utica. He made the acquaintance of Dr. Benjamin Butler on a stagecoach ride travelling to New York for business. He married Butler’s eldest daughter, Mary Dolbear Butler, Nov. 28, 1817. They had six children.
Nicholas Devereux was successful in business, becoming a trustee and the only agent west of Albany for the New York Life and Trust Company. He was involved in railroading, director of the Utica Water Works and of the Steam Woolen Mills of Utica. Along with his brother, he started the first bank in Utica, ultimately chartered as the Utica Savings Bank in 1839. With his profits from these enterprises he was able to purchase 417,967 acres in western New York in 1835. The land included much of the present Cattaraugus, Allegany and Wyoming counties.
The Devereuxes were known for their generosity. They helped establish the first Catholic church in upstate New York (Utica) and another in Connecticut, founded an orphanage, and printed copies of the New Testament to distribute to Catholics in the region. Devereux was also one of the founders of the American College in Rome.
In Western New York, the couple worked with Bishop Timon, their son John C. Devereux and others to found a missionary and benevolent society (1848). They helped to build St. Philip Neri Church in Ellicottville (1851) and worked to bring Franciscans to the area (1855). With the arrival of Fr. Pamphilus and his associates, the St. Francis Missionary and Benevolent Society was created to replace the former organization.
Devereux promised the Franciscans 200 acres and $5,000 to provide space for their mission and to build a monastery. After his unexpected death in 1855, nearly 5,000 people participated in his funeral. Though he had not arranged his will to reflect his promises to the Franciscans, Mary and her children kept those promises, transferring the property to the Society on June 10, 1856. Mary Devereux continued as an active member of the Board of the Society through its last meeting in 1880. After her death the Society was dissolved and the property deeded to the College June 13, 1882.
Born John Paul Pietrobattista, Fr. Pamphilo da Magliano became a Franciscan at age 16. He was ordained on Dec. 18, 1846, awarded the title Lector Generalis at age 18 and taught at St. Isidores’s College in Rome before coming to America in June 1855.
Fr. Pamphilo watched over the establishment of St. Bonaventure as the first building was erected and classes began. On March 1, 1861, Fr. Pamphilo went to the Diocese of Buffalo to establish a Custody of Order; that April the Minister General named him Custos of the Province. Until giving up the Guardianship of the Franciscan community in 1864, he held these positions: Custos of the province, president of the college and seminary, guardian of the religious community, and pastor of the parish churches in Allegany and Olean. Fr. Pamphilo returned to Rome in 1867, where he published a number of church and Franciscan histories.
In the 12 years Fr. Pamphilo spent in America, he established monasteries in Allegany, Buffalo, New York City, and Winsted, Conn., for the Custody of the Immaculate Conception. He established temporary missions in Towanda and Dushore, Pa. and in Houston, Texas. In Allegany, he established St. Bonaventure’s College and Seminary and St. Elizabeth’s Academy. He founded Congregations of the Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis in Allegany and in Joliet, Ill. He also supervised 22 new mission churches.
(Profiles are courtesy of University Archives)