“In no small sense, Vincentian was Father Charles.  It was his enthusiasm, infectiously communicated as pastor, that created the school in the first place.  It was his standard of excellence, of moral rectitude and perseverance that engendered the famous Vincentian spirit.  It was his stress on the development of inner lights that encouraged nascent VI talent on a sense of purpose in life for all persons that challenged Vincentians to explore many fields of knowledge, the better, he thought, to choose and excel in one.  In short, Vincentian is unique because Father Charles was unique.” from Vincentian A Tribute: The First 65 Years. Albany: St Vincent de Paul Parish, 1982. Print.

Father William Charles, was born in Albany of immigrant parents, Richard and Barbara Charles on November 20, 1877.  Aside from going to college and the seminary, he stayed in Albany for most of his life and was ordained a priest on June 24, 1902.  He worked with the youth of Albany when serving as an assistant at the Cathedral and as the director of Diocesan Schools, before being assigned pastor of St Vincent de Paul Parish.  However, it was during his time with the youth that he realized the real importance and need for children to be given proper guidance and opportunity in order for them to reach their full potential and achieve their God-given tasks in life.

This realization ended up being a key component in the development of the parish school he founded, Vincentian Institute (VI).  Father Charles aimed for VI to give the students the kind of education they were made for, not one the school was made for.  He knew the school’s true achievements were based on the choices its students made and the lives they lived after they graduated and left.  This insight lead to VI high school having multiple education paths -Collegiate, Academic, Commercial/Business, and Certificate- in order to take advantage of all existing opportunities.  A technical program was also offered which became ideal with the later outbreak of WWII.

With just as much emphasis, Father Charles would frequently ask students about their spiritual life.  From the very inception of the St Vincent parish school, Father Charles knew he wanted a chapel built for the students and faculty.  The Our Lady of Lourdes Chapel was finished in 1916 while the rest of the building school was still under construction.  So great was his love for the Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto that he authored a nine day novena to be said only within the Grotto.  Even the chosen school colors, blue and white, where in dedication to Our Lady.

Over time, Father Charles’ health started to become a frequent problem. He became ill during a spring retreat in 1943, and later wrote he could not see well and walked only haltingly, requiring assistance with administering to the parish.  Being so ill he was unable to welcome the incoming Vincentian students that arrived the following year and he later passed away on October 24, 1944

Despite the war going on, his death was first page news.  Mayor Frank S. Harris declared his death to be an “irreplaceable loss,” and one newspaper editorial described him as a “far-reaching and vigorous exponent of Modern Catholicism.”  Three Requiem Masses were held for parishioners and friends, and more than 200 clergy and religious attended a Mass which Bishop Scully presided.  Father Charles was buried in St Agnes Cemetery, Menands.

The Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto wouldn’t have been erected if it weren’t for Father Charles’ vision and deep personal faith rooted in a devotion to the Holy Eucharist and the Blessed Mother.  May the restoration of this Grotto not only spark a remembrance of this great man, but continue the novena and traditions he encouraged for all his students.

 

 

Vincentian A Tribute: The First 65 Years. Albany: St Vincent de Paul Parish, 1982. Print.

Tyrrell, William G. A Century of Spiritual Service: Church of Saint Vincent de Paul. Albany: Church of St Vincent de Paul, 1985. Print.