Catholic Church Extension Society, St. Peter
St. Peter At the time St. Peter was built, it was considered to be one of the longest railroad cars in the world. The chapel of St. Peter was finished in St. Jago mahogany with a Gothic design. Although the car was steel, the wood interior trim still reflected the craftsmanship of the Barney & Smith builders.
1912-1930s -- IL, OH, KS, MN, MT, OR, NC, ID, UT
Catholic Church Extension Society, St. Paul
St. Paul St. Paul, the last Catholic Church Extension Society chapel car was dedicated in New Orleans on March 14, 1915. It was donated by Peter Kuntz of Dayton, Ohio. This last 86-foot steel ark would travel the rails of Louisiana from 1915 to 1918, under the direction of Archbishop Nlenk, devoting its work to the mixture of people located there, as well as serving in Texas, North Carolina, and Oklahoma.
1915-1954 -- LA, NC, OK, MT, ID, IA, IN, TX
Taken from The Story of Extension, (The Catholic Church Extension Society) by Right Rev, Francis C. Kelly, 1922 Reprinted with Permission of the Catholic Church Extension Society
How the “St. Peter” came to be is a story that introduces one of the most interesting men who entered within the circle of Extension, the late Peter Kuntz, Senior, of Dayton, Ohio. I came to know Peter Kuntz through a lecture I gave in Dayton on the invitation of Monsignor William Hickey, of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. The lecture was to be on “Joan of Arc,” and of course did not touch the subject of the Church Extension at all. Monsignor Hickey, however, gave me permission to preface the lecture by a twenty minute talk on the Home Missions, He did that, he said, because he felt certain Mr. Kuntz would be in the audience, and Mr. Kuntz was a man worth interesting in the cause. I asked Monsignor Hickey how I would know if Mr. Kuntz was present. “You’ll know all right,” was the only answer I could get out of the smiling pastor.
While I was being introduced to a pack house, I glanced around. My eye lit on a small, oldish gentleman sitting in a box to my left. He wore funny side-whiskers, very long, and a skullcap. One glance sufficed. I knew that Mr. Kuntz was present, and launched out with a bit of the Story of Extension. The audience that I was talking for the benefit of all; but, truth to tell, I was talking only to Peter Kuntz. When I glanced at him, as I did now and then, I rather fancied that his twinkling eye was telling me that Peter Kuntz was “wise to me”; and Peter Kuntz was.
Next morning at breakfast, the pastor again brought up the subject of Mr. Kuntz. While he was speaking, a telephone call came for me. “This is Peter Kuntz, Junior, speaking. My father wishes to know when you are leaving town.”
Now I had intended leaving in an hour but changed my mind in a second. “I shall leave for Chicago tonight,” I answered.
“Father would like to know if he may call this morning?” said the voice over the wire.
“Tell him no. I will call on him at ten o’clock, if the hour is convenient.”
It was, and at ten o’clock to the minute, I stood in the corridor of the Commercial Building that housed the Peter Kuntz Lumber Company’s offices.
There were four doors opening out of the hall. One was lettered with the name of a firm that was not the one I sought. On one I read: “No Admittance”; on another “No Admittance”; and on the fourth “Positively No Admittance.” Puzzled, I opened the first door. “Do you know where I can find the office of Mr. Peter Kuntz?” I asked. A man at the desk looked up, smiled and said: “Just turn the knob of the door marked ‘Positively No Admittance,’ and there you are.” I did, and found that the advice was good. I saw Mr. Kuntz. He asked a few questions and then, abruptly, told me he was going to build a second Chapel Car. I had nothing to do with persuading him to make the promise. He had seen the “St. Anthony.” He knew all about its work. He appeared to know as much about it as I did myself.
We dedicated Mr. Kuntz’s Car, the “St. Peter,” in Dayton. He would not come to the dedication, but he was proud of that Car. Mr. Kuntz would never do what everybody expected him to do. That was one way he had of getting fun out of life. When the “St. Peter” had been working months, Mr. Kuntz dropped into the Chicago office. “How is the ‘St. Peter’ doing?” he asked.
“Splendidly,” I replied. “Do you want me to show you some of the Chaplain’s reports?”
“Never mind,” he said, as he started for the door. “I’ll build you another.”
That was the Kuntz way. “The other” we called the “St. Paul.” It works in the South while the “St. Peter” keeps to the West.
Peter Kuntz was always looked upon as an eccentric; perhaps he was, but his eccentricity was a bluff. He wanted people to think him a bit queer, so as to have them always guessing. No one ever knew what he would do. If he thought they did he wouldn’t do it. He dressed like a poor man, but he had three automobiles. He lived in a rented house, but easily could have bought ten city blocks. He was crusty, and could say “No” to anyone; but year after year, he took hundreds of poor children out into the country and gave them a gala time at his expense. He told me one day, when I accidentally met him in San Antonio, and urged him to help out the Bishop there is caring for his orphans, that he wouldn’t give another cent to anything that I suggested; but I learned later that he had called on the Bishop the very next day, and not only build the Orphan Asylum, but even helped endow it. He gave in his own way, and at his own time. He was really the greatest “bluff” I ever met, for he systematically went about disguising the fact that he had the softest and most loving old heart in the world; trying to make people think him a crank and a skinflint, making enemies who liked him, and friends who wondered why they thought so well of him as to be his friends. He always refused with his lips, and consented in his heart. He was a wonderful father and husband, a Catholic who practiced his religion, who feared no man and no devil, but who certainly feared God.
When Peter Kuntz died I felt sad, not for what his death might have lost the Society, but for the job I had myself lost in his occasional visits. A friend was with me when the news came. He had heard of Peter Kuntz, though not favorably. I gently told him the story of the real Peter. “Impossible,” he said. “He had no heart.” Then I thought of something, an event that had happened at the dedication of the “St. Paul” in New Orleans. Alongside the Card was a platform erected for the ceremonies. An Archbishop had just blessed the Car, and a Bishop was preaching out there on the platform. Thousands of people were listening. I slipped into the Car. Alone on a seat in a little room sat the old man to whom the Church owed that Car and another. He was hiding. When I looked through the door at him, I saw tears dropping down from his eyes. They had fallen on his queer side-whiskers, and the sun made them glisten like diamonds. The tears were to me a revelation of the soul of Peter Kuntz. No heart? He was all heart. I told my friend the story, and then, when he had gone, I took up my pen and wrote: “There is no sight so wearisome to the traveler as that of a long, unbroken prairie, or of a trackless, sandy desert; none so dispiriting to the student of mankind as that of a dead-level amongst men. The thing that is ‘different’ stands out sharply in nature; and the man who is ‘different’ stands out equally marked amongst his fellows. In fiction, at least, out literature would amount to little if we always came to the dead-level. While God wants all of us to be saints, and endeavor to reach perfection, perfection itself, as far as we are concerned, is anything but a dead-level. Not even in sanctity is there any particular monotony attainable. A good man, who was also ‘different,’ died last month in Dayton, Ohio, at the age of 79 years. His name was Peter Kuntz. He was a lumberman in the business world, and a very great lumberman at that; but also was he a religious man, a charitable man, with a character all his own, in business, church and social life. His charities were big, but unostentatious. In anything that concerned himself his desires were few; but outside of himself he planned and did great things. His clothes never fitted him, and it seemed as if he never wanted them to; but his heart was a good fit in his great sympathetic breast. There was nothing pretentious about him; but in his unpretentious way he did very pretentious things. He liked to be thought old-fashioned; but few of the ultra-modern business men with whom he came in contact, were conceited enough to think that the old-fashioned ways of Peter Kuntz were not much more effective than their over-much vaunted modern ones. He was a home man who loved his family and delighted in the size of it. He presided at his table like a patriarch of old, and, like the patriarchs of old, was loved by his children and his children’s children. People who did not know him thought him rough and unkind; but no one admitted to his house had ever any such idea as that about him. He systematically worked out a plan of giving away a certain portion of his earnings. It was a business-like plan that safeguarded very effectively not only the giver, but also the receiver. He gave the same attention to his charities that he gave to his business. He was strict and exacting in both. He could not be stampeded into a charity any more than he could be stampeded into a business deal. It was impossible to win him by loud talk, but it was always possible to win him by a silent showing of the goods. He had his own way of investigating, and it was very thorough. His plain, blunt way of saying things could not help but offend at times; but one had to know him to understand that he considered his plainness and his bluntness an honestly that ought to be appreciated; for Peter Kuntz always loved honesty. He was a benefactor of The Catholic Church Extension Society in his own way and on his own terms; but none the less a benefactor. After his first investigation of us, he dropped into the office now and then. When we came to know him, we knew also that his benefactions were not only for the good of the cause, but also a distinct compliment to the work and its management. A second gift by such a man meant more than the favorable report of Certified Public Accountants. Very many people are going to be sorry that Peter Kuntz is dead. His family will, of course, mourn for him sincerely, but the many people who knew him in a business way, the few who knew him in a social way, and the still fewer who knew him in a small but intimate circle, will sorrow because a different man has gone before them, and there is too much of the ‘dead-level’ left in this modern world.”
During the Great War it was noticed that as Editor of Extension Magazine I used to draw very sharp distinction between the Germany with which we were at odds, and the American citizens of German birth or extraction. Against the latter no verbal sword was ever raised, but that sword was more than once lifted in defense. “Why?” asked some, who thought that this policy might have the effect of throwing a doubt on a patriotism that ought to be above suspicion.
Peter Kuntz, and more of his kind, who helped teach me to look below the surface if I wanted to find gold, Peter Kuntz was the “why.”