Father Paul Mary Ponziglione, S.J.
February 11, 1818 - March 28, 1880
Count Paul Mary Ponziglione was born in Cherasco, Piedmont, Italy on February 11, 1818. He was of noble descent on both sides of his family. His father was Count Felice Ferrero Ponziglione di Borgo d'Ales. His mother was the Countess Ferrero Ponziglione, nee Marchioness Ferari di Castelnuovo, of the Royal family of Italy. His education was consistent with his royal heritage, yet the pomp of the Italian court held no fascination for him. In 1839 he entered the novitiate of the Society of Jesus at Chieri, near Turin. In 1848 after studies at the Jesuit College at Genoa he was ordained. During the revolution of 1848, Fr. Ponziglione and other priests were transported to Sardinia where he was attacked and seriously wounded by a mob. Escaping to Modena, he left for New York. Upon arrival in America, Fr. Ponziglione found that the Jesuit Society had assigned him to missionary work in Missouri.
Fr. Ponziglione spent two years in Missouri and Kentucky, engaged in missionary work. In March of 1851 he traveled with Bishop Miege to begin work in the western missions. While his home was to be at Osage Mission, his labors extended from Fremont Peak, Wyoming, to Fort Sill, Oklahoma. For 20 years Fr. Paul worked with the Osage. He was an honored guest among the Indians. He baptized and taught their children, and ministered to their bodily and spiritual needs.
The scope of Fr. Ponziglione's work in Kansas was from Cherokee County north to Miami County, west to Fort Larned and Pawnee County, along the southern border of the state. He also traveled the wild regions of the Indian Territory and established mission stations at Indian agencies and military posts. During a 40-year period Fr. Ponziglione established 87 missions -- 67 in Kansas and 20 in the Indian Territory or other states. He is also credited with several mission stations in Missouri. In 1889 he was asked to go as a peacemaker to the Crow Indians in Montana and did not return to Kansas. The next year he became historian of St. Ignatius College in Chicago, Illinois, and assistant pastor of the Jesuit church. He became chaplain of St. Joseph's home for deaf mutes; Catholic chaplain to inmates at Bridewell; and reportedly did missionary work among the city's street gangs. He died in Chicago on March 28, 1900, at the age of 82.