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Fr Matthew O'Keefe

Fr Matthew O'Keefe

Waterford, County Waterford, Ireland
Death 28 Jan 1906 (aged 77)
Towson, Baltimore County, Maryland, USA
Burial Towson, Baltimore County, Maryland, USA
Plot Buried in Lady Chapel, in front of the altar of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Memorial ID 116116811 · View Source
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The bells of the church he built tolled January 28, 1906 for Father Matthew O'Keefe, who died during Mass, his life a finished work, 'a ripe and full harvest of a seedtime of faith.'

Micheal O'Keefe was born in Waterford, Ireland and prepared for the priesthood in St John's College at Waterford. On the first Sunday of January, 1852, he was ordained, and was sent to Norfolk, Virginia.

Father O'Keefe was famous in the South for his heroic service during the yellow fever epidemic of 1855 in Norfolk. With courage that did not falter in the face of death, Father O'Keefe went from hovel to mansion, nursing and administering to the sick, performing last rites for the dying and burying the dead. In those three terrible months, Father O'Keefe buried half his congregation.
In 1869, Father O'Keefe was again called upon in dire sickness. A French frigate whose crew was perishing of yellow fever was docked in Hampton Roads. The captain sent for Father O'Keefe, and he responded, ministering to the ship's crew and burying 23 of them. In gratitude for his service to the Imperial vessel, Napoleon 3 sent him an engraved gold watch, and he was enrolled in the Legion of Honor of France(the gold watch was later sold to aid his work).

Father O'Keefe, possessed of a large fortune, had vowed to die penniless, possessing not a dollar at the end of his life, to be rich in poverty. He succeeded in his vow.

In 1887, he accepted the pastorate at Towson, Maryland, where he was largely responsible for the building of the Catholic Church of the Immaculate Conception, completed in 1902, and established a parochial school.

At the outbreak of the Civil War Father O'Keefe applied to his bishop for permission to take up arms in defense of the South. This he was denied on account of his vows, and he was instead appointed brigade chaplain to Mehone's Brigade in the Army of Northern Virginia during the Civil War. He schemed to take a more active role, but his schemes failed. At his death, he was the last surviving brigade chaplain of the CSA. He had been a close friend of Robert E Lee and Jefferson Davis, whom he visited daily when he was a prisoner after the war.
Father O'Keefe bore an intense love for the Southern people and the leaders of the Confederacy, and was proud of his connection with the Confederate army. At his death, he wished it to be known that he died an unreconstructed Confederate.

One Sunday during the War Between the States, Father O'Keefe received a telegram from Gen Benjamin Butler: "General Butler sends his compliments to Father O'Keefe and desires to know if he prays for the Federal authorities at the vesper service."

Father O'Keefe replied: "Father O'Keefe does not return his compliments to General Butler. I do not pray for the Federal authorities at versper service, nor do I intend to do so."
He had hoped in vain that General Butler would arrest him so that he might possibly be sent to the front.

  • Created by: Anna
  • Added: 27 Aug 2013
  • Find A Grave Memorial 116116811
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  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Fr Matthew O'Keefe (11 May 1828–28 Jan 1906), Find A Grave Memorial no. 116116811, citing Church of the Immaculate Conception Cemetery, Towson, Baltimore County, Maryland, USA ; Maintained by Anna (contributor 47329432) .