Biography of Rev. Father Paul M. Ponziglione
Rev. Father Paul M. Ponziglione, one of the most famous Catholic missionaries of Southern Kansas and what was, in his time, Indian Territory –particularly among the Osage Indians of the Southwest–was born in Piedmont, Italy, February 11, 1818. He was of noble descent on both sides of the house, but, as he was wont to express it, his greatest pride was that he belonged to “the noble family of Adam,” His education was obtained in several Jesuit institutions of Italy, the College of Nobles at Turin conferring upon him the degree of Bachelor of Arts. But the pomp of the Italian court had no fascinations for young Paul, and in 1839 he entered the novitiate of the Society of Jesus at Chieri, near Turin. The year 1848 found him connected with the Jesuit College in Genoz and during the revolution of that year, with other priests, he was transported to Sardinis and serionsly wounded by a mob. He finally escaped to Modena, and soon after, under holy orders, embarked from Havre for New York. The general of the Jesuit Socisty had already assigned him to missionary work in Missouri.
Father Pouziglione spent two years in Missouri and Kentucky, engaged in missionary work, and in March, 1851, accompanied by Bishop Miege, left St. Louis for his far western mission. While his home was to be at Osage Mission, and his particular charge, the Osages, his labors extended from Fremont Peak, Wyoming, to Fort Sill, Indian Territory. During the first twenty years of Father Paul’s life among the Osages they remained in Southeastern Kansas. The particular scope of his work extended from Cherokee County north to Miami County, thence to Fort Larned, Pawnee County, and on through the counties along the southern state line back to the home mission. He was the first to spread the gospel in thirty of the present counties of the state included in the circuit mentioned. He also penetrated the wild regions of the Indian Territory, establishing missionary stations at the Indian agencies and military posts as far south as Fort Sill, near the Texas line. Thus the selfsacrificing father, starting from the mother church at Osage Mission, within forty years established 180 Catholie missions, eighty-seven of which were in Southern Kansas and twenty-one in the Indian Territory. In 1870 the Osages withdrew forever from Kansas into the Indian Territory, but Father Paul never relaxed his watchfulness over his red children. That beautiful edifice in Osage Mission, known as St. Francis Church, and the most imposing ediflee of its kind in the state with the exception of the Leavenworth cathedral, is one of the most imposing memorials in stone which stand as evidences of his snergy and devotion poured out with unstinted measure to the missionary cause of the Catholic Church. It was dedicated in 1884.
On February 27, 1889, Father Ponziglione celebrated his golden jubilee at Osage Mission, the occasion being the fiftieth anniversary of his admission into the Jesuit Society. Numerous notables of the church and many thousands of people were present. In the spring of that year he was called to the Crow Reservation in Montana, and in 1891 became historian of St. Ignatius’ College, Chicago. While identified with that institution he passed away March 28, 1900, in his eighty-third year.