Smith, John Talbot
SMITH, JOHN TALBOT
Author; b. Saratoga, N.Y., Sept. 22, 1855; d. Dobbs Ferry, N.Y., Sept. 24, 1923. He was the son of Americanborn parents, Bernard, a railroad worker, and Brigid (O'Donnell) Smith. After early education at the Christian Brothers' school, Albany, N.Y., he entered St. Michael's College and Seminary, Toronto, Canada, where he was ordained in 1881 for the Diocese of Ogdensburg, N.Y. After serving the diocese as curate in Watertown and pastor at Rouses Point, he was released by his bishop in 1889 and went to New York City, where he devoted himself mainly to literary work for nearly 20 years. During most of that period he was chaplain to the Christian Brothers at De La Salle Academy, and from 1901 to 1904 to the Sisters of Mercy at St. Catherine's Convent. His first publication was a novel, "A Woman of Culture," that ran serially in the Catholic World, as did some of his later writing. He was the author of a number of novels, some on the juvenile level; a biography of Brother Azarias, FSC (1897); some short stories; and a History of the Diocese of Ogdensburg (1885). He edited (1889–92) the Catholic Review, a weekly paper, and contributed, sometimes anonymously, to various other papers. His History of the Catholic Church in New York (1906), written for the centenary of the archdiocese, remains the only book on the subject. In Our Seminaries (1896), reprinted as The Training of a Priest (1908), his scathing criticism of the entire system of clerical training in America caused lasting resentment, partly because so much of what he said was true. He was a founder and president (1905–09) of the Catholic Summer School of America, and he established the first Catholic camp for boys as an adjunct to it. He founded also the Catholic Writers Guild and the Catholic Actors Guild. An excellent lecturer and preacher, he was in demand for special occasions. In September 1908, he was appointed pastor of Sacred Heart parish, Dobbs Ferry, N.Y. Before his death there, he destroyed all his personal papers.
Bibliography: Catholic World 64 (Dec. 1896) 419–420. t. mcmillan, ibid. 118 (Nov. 1923) 218–220.
[f. d. cohalan]