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country school commissioners, till the year 1816. Overberg was a member of this body, and paid attention to most of its affairs. In the troublous times, when public instruction not only met with no external support, but, on the contrary, was deprived of the means which it had possessed, Overberg maintained the country schools of Münsterland, almost single-handed. He continued to assemble, every year, the masters and candidates for schools to the normal instruction.
He at tended to the filling of any vacancy, which took place in the schools; he did what in him lay to raise up the low state to which was reduced the profession of teacher, so greatly neglected in those times.
When he, in the year 1816, was nominated, by his majesty the king, counsellor of the consistory, and so was engaged in the consistory and in the government at Münster, about the management of the affairs of the Church and of education, he had a fresh opportunity to work with visible success for the improvement of schools : it need not be said that he availed himself of this opportunity with the most conscientious fidelity. He lived on terms of sincere friendship with his colleagues. His differing from them in religious belief was no obstacle to him in this respect. Since, by reason of ill-health, he was able but seldom to attend the sittings of the commissioners, and yet was consulted on all matters connected with schools, it was necessary, that in general his opinion should be given in writing. It is wonderful to see with what zeal and what minuteness of detail he delivered his opinion on matters whether of importance or of no importnnce, although he was at the time burdened with so many other affairs, that, being now old, he was fatigued and often unwell by them. In all his transactions with other men, it may be seen with what delicate conscientiousness he weighed the right and the wrong, the for and against. With the greatest calmness and prudence, he always declared his opinion and the motives of it, in the clearest terms, according to the knowledge which he had of ali the circumstances of the matter in hand. It was undoubtedly to him the most consoling reflection, that, in the evening of that life, of which the whole had been devoted to the advancement of country schools, he still continued to labour for them with most blessed fruit. The consciousness of this, was certainly his greatest reward here on earth. But he received, also, exterior honour and distinction in acknowledgment of his merits. In the year 1818, his majesty the king placed him in the third class of the order of the Red Eagle. He was, at that time, confined to his chamber more than half-a-year with his scrofulous complaint. His sufferings were great: the constant sitting or lying-down
posture must have disposed him to be discontented and impatient; and yet his cheerfulness continued undisturbed,—his kindness to others was always the same as usual. He answered one friend, who asked him how he felt himself :
“Oh, I am very well now; but last night my pains were insupportable.” Then, immediately added, “ No, they were not insupportable, but they were very difficult to bear.” It moreover may be seen by his journal, that, in order to keep himself clear of discontent and impatience, he had need to call together to his help, all his motives of consolation. Among these he reckons, in particular, the success of his labours, the satisfaction of his superiors, the favour of the king. In the last years of his life he had the title of a chief counsellor to the consistory; yet he never would consent to have any title placed at the head of his writings but that of teacher of the Normal school.
When the chapter of the cathedral of Münster was re-organised in the year 1823, the second prebend, with a stipend of 1200 dollars, was offered him by the papal delegate, the prince bishop of Ermland. could not, however, be persuaded to accept it; since, as he said, he did not feel himself in a condition to fulfil the obligations of this benefice. He set aside the idea of a dispensation from these obligations, with the reflection, that it would have an unfavourable effect on the discipline of the new cathedral chapter, if they were to begin, from the first, with dispensations. After repeated solicitations, he became an honorary member of the chapter. Besides these public
. distinctions, by which the merits of this unpretending, humble man were recognized, he was recompensed by a most uncommon veneration of all classes of the people, which might be remarked on every occasion. He appeared to every one who saw him, as an angel of peace. If he went across the street, children pressed upon him with innocent confidence; and grown-up persons came out of their houses to see him pass along. Into whosesoever house he entered, it was counted as a blessing ; many, as they saw him approaching, would, in secret, wish that some accidental circumstance might bring him into their habitation, and the bare hope of it was enough to give them delight. Mothers esteemed it as a good omen for the welfare of their children, if he only just noticed them, in the arms of their nurse, with a friendly look. His pure soul, full of nothing but the love of God and of his fellow.creatures, drew all spirits to him, and gave him an incredible influence on the hearts of men. The obligations under which they lay to him did the rest. The entire country esteemed him as a father.
CHAPTER XV.-THE LAST DAYS OF OVERBERG. From the year 1818, when Overberg was confined to his room for many months, by the very painful disease he had in his feet, he began gradually to fall off. When he should have been to commence the normal instruction in the year 1824, he was so weak as to appear altogether incapable of carrying it on. Only make a beginning with it, said his physician to him. He gathered up what strength he had, made a beginning, and it went on ; for love made him strong. Old age and sickness made him think of his end. He thus writes, on the 19th of August, 1824, to his old friend Hüffer, the parish priest of Liesborn : “As I believe the days of this my pilgrimage will shortly come to an end, I thank the Lord, who has thus far helped me; he will yet help me to gain the point at which I aim. It presses hard on nature, when one loses, by degrees, first one, then another of one's powers; but, my dear friend, (I speak to you now with feelings of peculiar friendly confidence, quasi sub rosa), is it not better, that the Lord should thus strip us by degrees, than that we should fall with violence into the grave, all at once, with our powers entire ? This gradual stripping teaches us better to understand our frailty, helps us better to humble ourselves truly under the almighty hand of God, and gives us opportunity to offer to our good God, one great sacrifice after another.Lord, wilt thou take away my sight? Be it so; I give it thee as a sacrifice. I thank thee for having given it me; I thank thee, that thou wilt accept it back at my hands as a sacrifice! Lord, wilt thou take from me my hearing, my speech, the power to walk, to write ? Be it so; I am content. --
From several expressions which Overberg addressed to friends, it is manifest that he thought his death near at hand. He had, throughout his whole life, been preparing himself for it; yet the near expectation of death was certainly a pressing motive for him to make himself more familiar with it. During the summer season, in the last years of his life, he was often seen, at an early hour, on his knees at prayer, in the church yard, which is outside the new gate, where he expected to find his place of rest.
The increasing infirmities of age were, however, not the only reason which he had for believing his death near at hand. Many traits in the last years of his life, shew, in a manner not to be mistaken, that he had a presentiment that his life would come to an end, as the need of his active exertions ceased to be pressing. Among all his offices, that of which he was the most fond, was the office of normal teacher. The
training of schoolmasters was the great business of his life; the education of youth, particularly the formation of their religious and moral character, was the centre point of all his thoughts and exertions. It did not escape his observation, low imperfect the acquirement of the masters, under existing circumstances, must always continue to be, by reason of the short continuance of the normal instruction. Even from the commencement of his labours in the cause of education, the establishment of a seminary for schoolmasters was the object of his most longing desires. On the 24th of February, 1790, he wrote in his journal: “O God, I thank thee, that thou hast this day brought the deputies of the provinces to an unanimous resolution to lay the foundation of a seminary for schoolmasters. Bless those who have contributed to bring this about, particularly T - and F--; and grant that the work now begun, may conduce to thy honour, through Jesus Christ. Amen.” The seminary for schoolmasters was not then brought to completion. The war of the revolution, which drew the attention of the German princes from the home affairs of their states to the exterior, was, probably, the reason why the prosecution of this object was, in the first instance, delayed, and subsequently lost sight of. What Overberg had looked for with earnest desire, at the commencement of his public life, was, by the providence of God, ordained to mark the end of it.
In the year 1822, the resolution was brought to maturity, to establish a Catholic seminary for schoolmasters, for the entire, province of Westphalia, in what had once been the college of the Jesuits, at Büren, in the diocese of Paderborn. Mr. Kloke, parish priest of Alme, in the duchy of Westphalia, was fixed upon as the director of it, and made an educational tour through the Prussian States, through Saxony, Bohemia, Bavaria, and the Rhenish Provinces. The opening of this seminary, in which the future schoolmasters of Münsterland also were to be trained, was now expected as just about to take place. What Overberg's thoughts on this subject were, may be seen from the following letters, which he wrote to Mr. Kloke, who was nominated as its director.
“Rev. Sir,-my highly-esteemed and dearly-beloved brother; Yesterday evening, I finished reading the report of your educational tour. It is not becoming to Christians, least of all to us, who are priests in the Church of Jesus Christ, to pay compliments to one another. We priests, at least, ought to prove by our deeds, that it is not empty talk, but that we are in earnest, when we say with David, * Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to thy name give glory. There
fore, I say no more on the report, but that it has made me thank God for the hope of having you, my dear friend, for the president of the now so long desired seminary for schoolmasters. May this hope only be now quickly accomplished. For more than a quarter of a century have I now been sighing for it, particularly at the conclusion of every Normal course, since it was then that the insufficiency of this temporary resource most forcibly struck me; and many of the Normal scholars themselves were grieved at our being obliged to come to a conclusion, when we had yet scarcely got fairly into train.
“ Wishing you a joyful festival and a happy return of the season, I remain, with most especial respect and love,
“ Your reverence's devoted servant." “ Münster, December 18, 1822.".
“I will not and cannot resist the impulse of my heart, to say two words to your reverence, as the want of time allows me no more. Your much-esteemed letter of December 27, 1822, has given me great joy, and deeply grieved me. The commencement of it gives me joy, I am grieved by its end, where you deprive me of the delightful hope of honouring you as the first director of our Catholic seminary for schoolmasters. A report of the royal government to the ministers of ecclesiastical affairs, which I received a few days ago for my signature, had revived my hopes and filled me with joy. Yes, beloved and honoured Reverend Sir, I really believe that you are the man whom Divine Providence has chosen for laying the foundation of our seminary for masters. I need not say that very many circumstances, if not all, are promising, in this foundation. What good will a seminary do, in which vain shew, and not piety, predominates ?
“I wish you joyful repetitions of the alleluias which will soon again be heard aloud. We shall then first learn how to sing these aright, when we shall have risen to join the choirs of angels and of the elect.
“With sincere respect,” &c. “ Münster, March 27, 1824."
“I thank you for your intelligence of the 12th of April. Your declaring yourself willing to undertake, in the commencement, the direction of the institute, was, till then, not known to me. reverence will go to Büren for two, three, or more years, to lay the foundation of it, on which so much depends, I, for my part, am con
That your benefice, meanwhile, remains in your possession,