HAWLEY- Rt. Rev. Michael John Hoban was the son of a coal company worker who answered the call to priesthood and was served as Bishop of Scranton from 1899 until his death in 1926. He was raised in Hawley, Pennsylvania. His parents, Patrick and Bridget (Hennigan) Hoban, were Irish immigrants. Michael was their first child, and was born on June 6, 1853 (one source said January 6) in Waterloo, New York. His father at that time was completing a contract to build a section of the Morris & Essex Division of the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad. With that work completed, in the fall of 1853, Patrick Hoban and his family moved to Hawley. Patrick Hoban secured a contract from the Pennsylvania Coal Company (PCC) to load coal stored during the winter months, or while canal navigation was closed. Hawley at that time was in a period of rapid growth, with the PCC Gravity Railroad bringing coal to town for transfer to the Delaware & Hudson Canal. Coal storage was at the foot of Shanty Hill, a neighborhood of Irish immigrant families who were coming to work on the PCC and canal - later called Marble Hill. St. Philomena’s church was established only the year before their arrival, at the same corner where Queen of Peace is today (Church and Chestnut).
Life in Hawley
Where the Hobans lived is still being researched. They may have lived near the corner of Keystone Street and Chestnut Avenue (then known as 15th and 20th streets) where an 1860 street map lists “Hoban.” There was also a store listed as “Mrs. Hoban” on River Street between Chestnut and Wangum. Michael attended private schools in Hawley, principally one conducted by Mr. and Mrs. James T. Rodman. The 1872 street directory shows the large home of J. T. Rodman at the southeast corner of Keystone and Chestnut. Diagonally across, at the northwest corner of Keystone and Chestnut was the store of “Hoban and Hennigan” as it is listed on an 1860 street map. The 1872 map gives it as Mrs. B. A. Hoban - store.” The Catholic church where young Michael apparently received so much inspiration, was just a block away. Pastoring the flock as the impressionable young Michael was growing up, was Rev. Michael Filan 1855-1865 and Rev. Bernard McCollum. St. Philomena’s was very active in mission work during this period, starting numerous churches in Pike County. The Scranton Diocese was formed on March 3, 1868, when Michael was a teenager, and the Hawley church came under it. Here would be Michael’s destiny. As a lad he would have seen tumultuous changes as the Civil War gripped and tore the Union. He would have known of the Hawley Militia, volunteers who responded to the Governor’s call for troops in 1862 and likely departed on one of Hawley’s gravity railroad coaches. Perhaps he knew Lt. Michael E. Creighton, an Irish immigrant who died at Gettysburg in 1863- and was buried in St. Philomena’s cemetery. He would have witnessed the coming of the steam locomotive to Hawley in 1863 when the PCC sought a faster way to ship coal than using the canal.
Road to Bishop
When he was about 15 years old, in 1868, he entered St. Francis Xavier School in New York City for one year, and then Holy Cross College, Worcester, Mass., for three years. About this time his father died and Michael came home for about three years, settling up the mercantile business of his two deceased uncles, James Hoban and Thomas Hennigan. He then entered Fordham College for a year, and in 1874 enrolled at St. Charles Seminary, Overbook, Pa. After a year he was sent to Rome in 1875 by Rt. Rev. William O’Hara, Bishop of the Scranton Diocese. Here he studied at the American College, and on May 22, 1880, was ordained to the priesthood. Returning from Rome he was appointed as assistant pastor at Towanda, Pa. and in 1882, became assistant pastor at Pittston. Four years later he was pastor at Troy, Pa., and next, pastor at Ashley, Pa. in 1887. In 1895 Fr. Hoban was named Coadjutor to Bishop O’Hara. On Feb. 3, 1899, following Bishop O’Hara’s death, Hoban was named Bishop of the Diocese of Scranton. During his 27 year tenure, Bishop Hoban oversaw tremendous growth of the Diocese. At the time of his succession in 1899, the Diocese included 152 priests, 100 parishes and 32 parochial schools. By the time of his death in 1926, the Diocese had 341 priests, 202 parishes, 65 schools and three colleges. He was credited with helping to temper the growing ethnic divide occurring in Northeastern Pennsylvania. The Diocese was in the heart of the anthracite coal mining industry which saw great upheaval in labor relations during the Bishop’s tenure. Bishop Hoban backed the miners during their national strike in 1902. He and Monsignor John J. Curran were succesful in encouraging President Theodore Roosevelt to intervene in the bitter strike that was crippling the nation. He met Roosevelt on at least two occasions. His diocese was the first in the country to fill the quota of Catholic chaplains, during the 1st World War. He exhorted his flock to make all necessary sacrifices for the defense of their country. He was 73 when he passed from this Earth on Nov. 6, 1926, after a bout with pneumonia.
Blesses the cornerstone
On July 22, 1900, Bishop Hoban returned to Hawley for the dedication of the new brick Catholic Church. Known then at St. Philomena’s, it is now B.V.M. Queen of Peace. Following a parade that morning hosted by the church, the cornerstone for the new church was put in place. Bishop Hoban then blessed the stone, assisted by Rev. J.J. Loughran. Following a sermon by Father Garvey, Bishop Hoban offered the following comments: “If it gives me great pleasure to go to other places in my diocese to officiate at occasions of this kind, you can imagine how pleased I am to come here to what I may call my native town to lay the cornerstone for your new church. “There are among you many friends of my boyhood days, and therefore, you can readily realize how my affections go out as I stand here. And I am glad to see that many others have come from distant places to help in building a new church to the honor and glory of God. “There are men before me who were present when the old cornerstone was laid 48 years ago, and they have come now that they may tell their children they were here on two memorable occasions. They have not forgotten the old place...”