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Augustine Francis Hewit
Priest and second Superior General of the Institute of St. Paul the Apostle; b. at Fairfield, Conn., U.S.A., 27 November, 1820; d. in New York, 3 July, 1897. His father was Rev. Nathaniel Hewit, D.D., a prominent Congregationalist minister; and his mother, Rebecca Hillhouse Hewit, was a daughter of Hon. James Hillhouse, United States Senator from Connecticut. He was educated at the Fairfield public school, Phillips (Andover) Academy, and Amherst College, from which he was graduated in 1839. Although strictly educated in the religious sect of his parents, his aversion to its peculiar Calvinistic tenets prevented him from joining their Church until after his graduation from college, when, as he declares, he first learned that "a baptized person may claim the privilege of a Christian, if he is willing to acknowledge and ratify the covenant of which the sacrament is the sign and seal". Shortly after his conversion he began the study of theology at the Congregationalist seminary at East Windsor, Conn. Scarcely had he finished its prescribed course and been licensed to preach when he became convinced that episcopacy is of Divine origin and he entered the Episcopal Church. The Oxford Movement in that Church had already extended to America, and Hewit became one of its most ardent followers. He received the Anglican order of deacon in 1844, but with the expressed condition that he might interpret the Thirty-nine Articles in the sense of "Tract 90". The conversion of Newman in 1845 gradually unsettled his belief in the validity of the claims of Anglicanism, and he made his submission to the Catholic Church, 25 March, 1846. He then studied Catholic theology privately under the direction of Dr. Patrick N. Lynch, afterwards Bishop of Charleston, S.C., and Dr. James A. Corcoran, subsequently professor at Overbrook Seminary, Philadelphia. He was ordained priest on the first anniversary of his profession of faith by Right Rev. Ignatius A. Reynolds, D.D., Bishop of Charleston. He then became a teacher in a collegiate institute founded by Bishop England at Charleston, and assisted Bishop Reynolds in the compilation of Bishop England's works for publication. This occupation called him to Baltimore and Philadelphia, where he resided with Bishop Francis P. Kenrick and became acquainted with the Venerable John Nepomucen Neumann, C.SS.R. [Editor's note: St. John N. Neumann was canonized by Pope Paul VI in 1977]. Here he was attracted to the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, which he entered in 1849. He made his religious profession 28 Nov., 1850. As a Redemptorist he laboured principally on missions with Fathers Isaac T. Hecker, Clarence A. Walworth, Francis A. Baker, and George Deshon, until with them he was dispensed from his religious vows by a decree of the Roman Congregation of Bishops and Regulars, 6 March, 1858. Under the leadership of Father Hecker all of these priests immediately formed the Institute of St. Paul the Apostle in New York, with a rule enjoining poverty and obedience with the obligations of the vows. Father Hewit, on account of his rare judgment, learning, and piety, was chosen to draft the first constitution and laws of this new institute, which aims to satisfy the aspirations of clerics who desire to lead an apostolic and religious life in community without assuming the canonical responsibilities of the religious state, strictly so called. As a Paulist, Father Hewit laboured assiduously in the parochial and missionary fields and in the establishment and management of "The Catholic World" magazine. He was a deep student of philosophy, theology, patristic literature, church history, and Scripture, and taught all of these branches to the first novices of the institute. He was also a prolific writer and for twenty years was one of the foremost Catholic apologists in the United States. In this field he was chiefly noted for his loyalties to the magisterium of the Church and his agreement with the opinions of the most approved theologians. He wrote nothing that could be styled original; he simply aimed to explain and popularize the teaching of the doctors and saints of Holy Church. Most of his articles were published in "The Catholic World" and "The American Catholic Quarterly Review", and a few of them have reappeared in a volume entitled "Problems of the Age with Studies in St. Augustine on Kindred Topics". His most popular book was "The Life of Rev. Francis A. Baker", one of his companions, who died in 1865. "The King's Highway", which he wrote in 1874, is an excellent work to place in the hands of Protestants who are seeking truth from Scripture. Upon the death of Father Hecker (1888), Father Hewit was almost unanimously chosen superior general of the institute and held this office until his death. One of his first acts as superior was to pledge the Paulist community to support the Catholic University at Washington, D.C. St. Thomas College for the education of candidates of the institute was accordingly opened in one of the university buildings in 1889. Under his direction, Rev. Walter Elliott, C.S.P., gave the first regular missions to non-Catholics in the United States, and a new foundation of the institute was established in San Francisco, Cal.
Hewit, How I became a Catholic, Stories of Conversions (New York, 1892). Very Rev. Augustine F. Hewit in The Cahtolic World (August, 1897); O'Keefe, Very Rev. Augustine F. Hewit in Amer. Cath. Quarterly Review (July, 1903); Hewit, Life of Rev. Francis A. Baker (New York, 1865); Elliott, Life of Isaac Thomas Hecker (New York, 1891); Walworth, The Oxford Movement in America (New York, 1895).
HENRY H. WYMAN