The twentieth anniversary of the death yesterday of my late second and or fourth cousin, depending on how you read the family tree (a lot of intermarriage among cousins back then), Bishop Joe McShea of Allentown. Joe the Bishop.
I was kinda taken aback when I first saw the massive black granite gravestone slab, 4' x 8', of my late cousin. It’s size and position next to the Allentown cathedral put me in mind of other big black granite slabs in museums I have seen and it reminded of the kind of monument fit for minor members of a Pharaoh’s family or their stewards in ancient history and bible stories. Remember the story of another steward of Pharaoh - Joseph and his many colored coat?
So being a student of ancient history and well versed in the King Tut inventory of royal treasures kind of thing, I thought this might be of interest to some out there for its historic perspective on documentation, post mortem, of the estate of a typical in the recent past American RC bishop.
"I direct that my body be interred on the grassy plot on the south side of the cathedral --the ground between the sidewalk that parallels Turner Street and the cathedral.
"It is my sincere wish that the church and civil authorities respect this request for interment."
Ford says he got written assurance from the city -- twice -- that nothing prohibited the burial of McShea on that tract between the cathedral and the sidewalk on Turner street.
He says he researched state law on this before the bishop's death.
He says he learned that there is a fee for burying certain animals on your property, but no fee for the burial of a human.
The bishop's will calls for a tombstone with the Latin inscription: "Domine, dilexi decorem domus tuae" -- Lord, I love the beauty of thy house.
8- O Lord, I have loved the beauty of Your house, and the place of the tabernacle of Your glory.
9- Destroy not my soul together with the ungodly, nor my life with bloody men;
10- in whose hands are iniquities, and their right hand is filled with bribes.
11- But I have walked in my innocence; redeem me, and have mercy upon me.
12- My foot stands in an even place; in the congregations will I bless You, O Lord.
FYI – Allentown College is now De Sales University
|Bishop McShea Student Center - De Sales University|
September 23, 1992|by DICK COWEN, The Morning Call
Allentown College of St. Francis de Sales in Center Valley is to receive $641,352 from the estate of Bishop Joseph M. McShea, the founding bishop of the Allentown Catholic Diocese.
That is the figure listed on the inheritance tax return for the bishop's estate -- filed recently in Lehigh County Courthouse.
The bishop in his 1985 will named the college, which he helped establish, as the residuary heir.
The will designated the money for the school's general fund "to be used as the college may see fit."
McShea died Nov. 28, 1991, at his home at 2920 Chew St., Allentown, at age 84. He was named bishop when the diocese was created in 1961. He retired in 1983.
The tax report showed the estate had a gross value of $862,000.
The total included 16,649 shares worth $202,285 of Metlife Fixed Government Income Fund, 4,500 shares valued at $179,718 of NBD Bancorp and $127,450 in personal property at his residence.
Set against the gross was about $99,000 in estate expenses.
Among them were more than $21,000 for his funeral, $14,450 for the tombstone on the Turner Street side of the Cathedral of St. Catharine of Siena where the bishop is buried, and $16,930 each to Msgr. John P. Seitzinger of Reading and the Rev. James J. Ward of Summit Hill as executors.
There is also $24,180 in attorney fees -- though there is no breakdown on how those fees are divided.
The filing of the will and related papers was handled by then attorney William Ford in December 1991 -- just a month before he became a Lehigh County judge.
Ford listed the value of the estate at $1.2 million -- though he said that was based on old appraisals and that final figures would come in considerably lower.
With Ford's move to the county bench, attorney William G. Malkames became counsel to the McShea estate.
The bishop's will mentioned a memo requesting how certain of his personal property was to be distributed. And it directed that the memo not be made a part of the public record.
The inventory itself, however, is part of the court record.
The $127,450 includes a mahogany circa 1775 secretarys desk appraised at $9,000, a Chippendale circa 1775 mahogany chest at $6,000, Reed & Barton flatware service for 18 at $5,020 and a Hipplewhite circa 1780 antique sideboard at $4,500.
Indirectly, the court records reveal the memo called for 14 paintings and carvings valued at $6,825 go to Allentown College.
The bishop's home on Chew Street had been deeded to the Allentown Diocese before his death.
“And Jesus said: Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do. But they, dividing his garments, cast lots.” – Luke 23:34
(It’s good to be the bishop!)