|CHESTER'S CENTURY OF CATHOLICISM
1842 -1942 By
REV. JOSEPH M. O'HARA, PH. D.
PASTOR OF OLD ST. MICHAEL'S, CHESTER, PENNSYLVANIA
Courtesy of Louis J. Warfel, firstname.lastname@example.org
|THE PETER REILLY COMPANY
COPYRIGHT 1942 JOSEPH M. O'HARA
On 29 September, 1842, which fell on a Thursday that year, the corner stone of a new church edifice was blessed and laid in place in Old Chester.(1) This church, the first Catholic ecclesiastical building in Delaware County, was dedicated to God holiest and mightiest, under the invocation of Saint Michael, the Archangel, "one of the chief Princes of the Angels," 2 whose feast was and is celebrated on 29 September. Since then a century of Catholicism has elapsed.
It is true that a centennium is a very brief span in the history of that Church, one, holy, Catholic, Apostolic and Roman that is now rounding out the second millenary of her existence, as young, as fresh and as vital as when Peter, her first Pope, preached his first sermon on Pentecost Sunday.
( footnote )
1 On 30 October, 1701, William Penn granted to the "Townsted or Village" of Chester a Borough Charter. By Act of Assembly of 14 February, 1866, the Borough of Chester became a city. Until its becoming a city the Borough was usually called "Old Chester."
2 Dcrniel, X, 13.
* * * *
A century is, however, a longer-seeming epoch in the history of our beloved country whose Constitution is but 156 years old; and in the history of the Church in America, whose first Bishop, the illustrious John Carroll, had been dead only 27 years when this parish was founded. At that time our own diocese of Philadelphia was but 34 years old, and Delaware County had existed, as a separate entity cut off from Chester County, for only 53 years.
3 St. Matthew, XIII, 31-32.
8+ From 1677 Maine ("The District of Maine") was under the control of Massachusetts until March, 1820, when, in accordance with the Missouri Compromise, it entered the Union as a separate state.
* * * *
Travelling was beset by almost insurmountable difliculties. Catholics were few and scattered.It is estimated that there were 30,000 of the ancient Faith throughout the whole Republic. There were in the whole country but 35 priests to assist the Bishop. Of these only 19 (some say 22) were able or willing to attend the first Diocesan Synod which was held in Baltimore in 1791.
* * * * *We know that when St. Michael's Parish was founded in 1842, Chester was already an old town, even under the name Chester, which was given it by William Penn, Proprietary of Pennsylvania. It was then made up of Swedes and Dutch and there is no mention of any Catholics. It was in 1682 that William Penn, gentle and tolerant Quaker, sailed up the Delaware River to view the grant of land given him for a colony by the English Crown. This was in payment of £16,000 due to his father Admiral Penn. It was in honor of the latter that the tract of land was named Pennsylvania. It will be of interest to many now or formerly of this city to quote Martin: (4) The precise date of the settlement of the old town of Chester is unknown. We do know, however, that it was first settled by the Swedes, probably about the year 1645. Its Swedish name was Upland. The Dutch called it Oplandt. The Indian name, according to Campanius, was Meco-po-nack-a, and finally William Penn, on landing there, on Sunday, Oct. 29, 1682, at the request of his friend Pearson, whose
4 History of Chester, p. 3. Cf. Hazard's Annals, 605. The story as told of the change of name from Upland may or may not be true. Many English from Cheshire settled here after Penn's first visit. They may have requested the change of name. In a document of the year 1701 Penn tells us that he changed the name but gives no date or reason therefor.
* * * * *
first name is unknown, gave the town the name of Chester, the city of Chester in England, from which Pearson came." (5)
In that that same year Penn founded Philadelphia. All his colony, including, of course, Chester, was 'an holy experiment." The earliest settlers in Philadelphia were Swedes, Dutch and English. They too seem to have left no record of Catholic settlers, although there is evidence of a Chapel existing in Philadelphia. on Walnut Street in 1686. As regards Pennsylvania we have figures that are more detailed than it was possible to arrive at for the whole Country. "In 1757 in the census of Roman Catholics in Pennsylvania, the following return shows that in Chester County (which then included what is now Delaware County) there were:
Under care of Robert Harding 18 22
" " " Thomas Schneider 13 9(footnote)
(5) Penn's colony was "the largest tract of territory that had ever been given in America to a single individual, and in addition he received from the Duke of York all of the territory now included in the State of Delaware, for the sake of controlling the free navigation of the river of that name." Cath. Ency. s. v. Pennsylvania.
* * * * *
Under care of Thomas Schneider
( Irish ) 9 6
" " Ferdinand Farmer
( Irish ) 23 17
" " Ferdinand Farmer
( German ) 3
"These were all who took the sacrament bove twelve years of age or thereabout." 6
The noted Martin I. J. Griffin ~ tells us: " So, in 1756, Father Harding (8) reported to the Secretary of the Province that the number of Roman Catholics, English and Irish, in Philadelphia.
6Penna. Archives, 1st Series, Vol. III, p. 144. Of course the three spoken of above were the Revereiid Fathers Harding, Schneider and Farmer (Steinmeyer), all of the Society of Jesus.
(7) Mr. Griffin was a member of the American Catholic Historical Society founded in Philadelphia in July, 1884. The Very Rev.T.C. Middleton, D.D., O.S.A., was the first president.
( ) 8 Father Robert Harding was the second pastor of Philadelphia. Born in Nottinghamshire, England, 6 Oct., 1701, he entered the Society of Jesus and in 1732 came to America. He was the founder of the historic Church of St. Mary at 4th & Spruce Sts., Philadelphia, in 1763. St. Mary's became the parish church of Philadelphia; St. Joseph's founded in 1733 by Rev. Joseph Greaton, S.J., the first resident priest in Philadelphia, remained a chapel. Father Harding died 1 Sept., 1772, after 23 years aspastor in Philadelphia. "Saint Mary's was the parish church, supported by the rentals of certain properties, a revenue from Sir John James' Fund, and the voluntary contributions of the faithful. The Sunday services, with the exception of an early Mass at SL Joseph's, were held in St. Mary's, and the old church was used as a chapel where the weekday Masses were said."-Catholicity in Philadelphio, Joseph L. J. Kirlin, pp. 93, 94.
* * * * *
were males 77, females 62; total 139. In Chester County'(9) there were 25 males and 15 females; total 40."
The coming of Penn made the lot of Catholics better, at least in his colony. Our persecuted coreligionists from the neighboring colonies flocked thither, where Penn welcomed them. Indeed as as 1708 and in later years the Proprietary was frequently delated to London for that hepermitted the "Popish Mass" to be read publicly in Philadelphia. But he firmly stood his ground. His Fundamental guaranted the right to every man to worship God without let or hindrance according to the dictates of his conscience. There was accordingly a steady increase in the Catholic population of the colony, especially in Philadeldelphia. That this increase affected Chester is extremely doubtful. The town was not thriving and people were not attracted to it. At the founding of this parish there were but two Catholic families here.
9 At that time Chester County included what is now Delaware County.. On 26 Sept., 1789, a new county called Delaware County was erected out of Chester County. The Act of that date made the said Borough of Chester and the southeastern parts of the same county (i.e., Chester County) into a separate county." Cf. Ashmead, Henry Graham, History of Delaware County, Pennsylvania. This explains, of course, why Chester is in Delaware County. It was originally the county seat of Chester County.
* * * * *
By a great misfortune their names have not been preserved.
A century ago our country was, in a physical as well as a canonical sense, a Missionary country. Its priests were few and scattered and had to conform themselves to the exigencies of the time and place rather than to the sacred canons. Ecclesiastically the United States was under the jurisdiction of Propaganda (10) which takes cognizance of causes in Missionary fields.
True, indeed, in the Cathedral (now the Basilica) of the Immaculate Conception in Baltimore there have been held (before and after the founding of our parish) ten Provincial Councils (11) and three Plenary Councils. All these enacted true and binding laws. Indeed the first seven provincial councils legislated in effect for our whole country as, of course, did the three Plenary Councils.
10 The Sacred Congregation of the Propagation of the Faith is the full title of this august body.
11 A council is, of course, a legally convened assembly of ecclesiastical dignitaries and theologians for the purpose of discussing and determining matters of an ecclesiastical nature. Councils are oecumenical, plenary and provincial. There can be no oecumenical council unless it be convoked by the Roman Pontiff. A plenary council is summoned by the Ordinaries of several ecclesiastical provinces with the permission of the Supreme Pontiff. A provincial council is summoned by the head of an ecclesiastical province and legislates only for that province. Cf. Cicognani, Canon Law, pp. 96 f.
* * * *
The Third Plenary Council of Baltimore, held in 1884, still furnishes Canon Law for the United States.
Despite this, the days of our parish's founding were pioneer days. Priests had not always a fixed Parish, but went from place to place, hearing Confessions, baptizing, assisting at marriages, catechizing, saying Holy Mass. As regards this territory and this parish excellent work was done by various priests, from Ireland, and of course,from Italy, from Spain, from France. Jesuits labored here, Augustinians, Vincentians, our own Diocesan priests. All made sacrifices that the divine spark of faith might be kept alive and brightly burning. Long since they have gone beyond our poor power to help or harm but we at least record here with burning hearts the debt of gratitude we owe them.
BISHOP JOHN CARROLL
Since he was the first Bishop of Chester, we must pause for a moment briefly to trace the career of this illustrious churchman. John Carroll was the first bishop of the hierarchy of the United States, the first Bishop of Baltimore, the first Archbishop of Baltimore. Indeed his distinguished career is a series of firsts. He founded Georgetown College; he assisted the Sulpician Fathers to begin St. Mary's College and Seminary. He held the first Synod in the U. S. at Baltimore in 1791, with 19 priests attending. He ordained the first priest within the territory of the thirteen States, Rev. Stephen Badin, in 1793. In 1800 he consecrated for the first time in the new Republic a bishop, Rt. Reverend Leonard Neale, to be his coadjutor. He laid in 1806 the cornerstone of our first Cathedral, the Cathedral (now a Basilica) of the Assumption B.V.M., in Baltimore.
* * * * *
Archbishop Carroll's name is, of course, a household word throughout the whole land; in his own right first of all as a great and distinguished Churchman and also in the fact of his ardent patriotism and that he was closely related to those who figured so strikingly in the glorious Revolutionary era of our country's history. But he seems particularly close to us Catholics of Pennsylvania because his Jesuit confreres evangelized so many parts of this Commonwealth. Dr. Guilday says: "In Pennsylvania (according to the estimate of 1765) the chief Catholic centres were: Philadelphia, with two churches, St. Mary's and St. Joseph's; Goshenhoppen [now Bally]; Lancaster and Conewago. About three thousand adult communicants belonged to these churches. Attached to these four centres were other congregations, or private houses, where the faithful came whenever it was announced that a priest would hear confessions and celebrate Mass. The exact numer of priests in the English colonies at the outbreak of the Revolution is not known with certainty. If we accept Carroll's statement of 1785 a basis, the number could not have been over thirty.
* * * * *
In that year there were nineteen priests in Maryland and five in Pennsylvania (1)
More specifically as regards this history of Old St. Michael's, the first regular celebration of Holy Mass in our territory began about 1730 in the domestic chapel of the Thomas Willcox Mansion in Concord Township, Chester Co., or Ivy Mills, as it has now been called for nearly a century and a quarter. A Missionary station was founded there by Rev. Joseph Greaton, S. J. and served by him from Bohemia Manor, Cecil County, Maryland. In 1731 St. Joseph's Chapel in Philadelphia was begun by Father Greaton. Holy Mass was celebrated there for the first time on 22 February, 1732. Henceforward Father Greaton made St. Joseph's his headquarters and from it attended the Stations at Ivy Mills, West Chester and Deer Creek.
"Until 1790 the Station at Concord was attended by the priests from St. Joseph's Church, Philadelphia. From that date it is believed that it was attended by the priests living at White Clay Creek (Coffee Run) , in Delaware, by the
1 The Life and Times of John Carroll, p. 66. It will not be amiss, we trust, to record here that the Right Reverend Dr. Peter Guilday, distinguished historian of the Catholic University at Washington, is a native of St. Michael's Parish, Chester, Pa.
* * * * *
Augustinian, Rev. John J. Rosseter, and later by Rev.Charles Whelen, until the arrival of Rev. Patrick Kenny, in August, 1804." (2)
It is worthy of more than passing notice that Holy Mass had been celebrated in this private Chapel for 107 years when the house was razed in 1837. Mass continued to be celebrated in the new home, erected on the site of the old, until 1853 when the Church of St. Thomas, the Apostle was built.
The Catholic Faith had witnessed a century of life if not of progress, in the English colonies of North America, when John Carroll, the first Bishop of the new Republic, was born to Daniel and Eleanor Carroll, on January 8, 1735, at Upper Marlboro, Prince George's County, Maryland. Carroll was of the family of Keane Carroll of Ireland, who had emigrated to America at the beginning of the eighteenth century. He became a prominent Maryland merchant, and he must have possessed more than the attraction of wealth to have won for his bride one of Maryland's richest heiresses, Eleanor Darnall, the daughter of Henry Darnall of the Woodyard.(footnote)
2 Cf. Records of the American Catholic Historical Society of Philadelphia,
Vol. 15, p. 427.
* * * * *
John Carroll's mother was among the highly educated women of her day; and, like so many of the young Catholic girls of the colonies, she had been sent to Europe to finish her schooling. Ties of blood and ties of marriage linked the leading Catholic households of Maryland into one large family-the Roziers, the Youngs, the Darnalls, the Brents, the Sewalls, the Brookes, and the Carrolls of the two principal branches.
"These two branches of the Carroll family, much inter-married, are descended from Charles Carroll, the Attorney General, and Daniel Carroll, of Upper Marlboro."(3)
John Carroll, the fourth of seven children, was educated at the Jesuit school at Bohemia Manor in Maryland and at the Jesuit College at St. Omer in French Flanders. In 1753 he entered the Society of Jesus,4 studied at Liege and was ordained to the priesthood in 1769.
After several years of teaching, Father Carroll
returned (26 June, 1774) to America, and devoted himself to the arduous labors of a
3~ Guilday, op. cit. p. 3.
4 Society of Jesus was suppressed by Pope Clement XIV in 1773 and restored by Pope Pius VII in 1814. (This latter Pope created the diocese of Philadelphia.) During most of the time of the Suppression the only priests in the United States were former Jesuits.
* * * * *
missionary priest in a pioneer country. It is related that not seldom he rode twenty-five miles on horseback to administer the Sacraments to some dying Catholic.One of his Stations was sixty miles fom his home. Travelling for many people is exceedingly fatiguing both physically and nervously even with all the comforts, not to say luxuries, of modern days. What must it have been on the eve of the Revolution, with snow bound roads in winter and miry roads in spring, filled with ruts and depressions; with roadside Inns few and not too clean!
However, no other course was open to or desired by the zealous priest. Duty called and, as ever, he answered. There were here no hierarchy, no Parishes, as we now understand that term. Ecclesiastically the whole land was a dependency of England. The Vicars-Apostolic of London from the time of King James II (1685-1688) exercised jurisdiction over the English Colonies and Islands of America. In a letter from Bishop Challoner (5) to Rev. Dr. Stonor, the English Clergy agent at Rome, we read: "The same Vicar-Apostolic, far from.(footnote)
5 Richard Challoner, Bishop of Debra, Vicar Apostolic of the London district was born 29 Sept., 1691, and died 12 Jan., 1781. This Prelate, a convert to the faith, was during nearly all of the eighteenth century the leading figure amongst English Catholics. He was a writer of spiritual and controversial works
* * * *
having any ambition or desire to increase his jurisdiction in those parts, would regard with evident pleasure an act of the Sacred Congregation relieving him of a burden which is already too great for him, and to which he is unable to give the necessary attention. The great distance of those provinces from his residence in London hinders him from visiting them personally. And, therefore, he cannot have the information necessary to know abuses and to correct them; he cannot administer the Sacrament of Confirmation to those faithful who remain totally deprived of this spiritual aid; he cannot furnish them with priests, partly for the same reason of remoteness and partly because of the lack of the, necessary means to meet the required outlay."(6)
Of course such a state of affairs was even less acceptable to Catholics here. It undoubtedly did not make for the advancement of religion. And so John Carroll took up the life of a missionary in Maryland and Virginia. His first care was to erect a frame chapel on his mother's estate. There was then no public Catholic church in Maryland because of the laws discriminating against Catholics in that province.
6 Guilday-The Life and Times of John Carroll, pp. 61, 62.
* * * *
Catholics in that province. For instance: 'Every colonist, including the slaves over sixteen years of age, was compelled to contribute annually to the support of the established Anglican Church, even though its ministrations were rejected by the majority."(7)
Small wonder then that at the request of the priests of Maryland the Holy See appointed Father Carroll Superior of the Missions (Prefect Apostolic) in the thirteen United States of North America, with power to administer the Sacrament of Confirmation. The new Prefect Apostolic took up his residence at Baltimore.
Soon he became noted for his urbane, pleasing and persuasive eloquence. He usually preached at old St. Peter's Church (later to be designated as the pro-cathedral) and attracted throngs of the faithful and of Protestants.
In a few years he realized that the religious welfare of the new Republic would best be served by having here a bishop with all the powers of an Ordinary. Indeed the clergy of Maryland held a meeting (March 1788) to petition Rome in this regard. Twenty-five priests attended the meeting
(7) Guiklay, op. cit. p. 11. Some years ago Monsignor Gtiilday caused a replica of Father Carroll's ancient chapel to be erectedat the original site.
* * * * *
and with the permission of the Holy See proceeded (for this case only) to select the episcopal city and to name the candidate, subject, of course, to confirmation by the Pope. Twenty-four of the priests present voted for Father Carroll. We can easily surmise that the missing vote was that of Father Carroll himself.
Bishop Carroll was consecrated on 15 August, the feast of Our Lady's Assumption,(8) 1790 at Lulworth Castle, England, by the Rt. Rev. Charles Walmesly, senior Vicar Apostolic of England. Bishop Carroll was then in his 56th year with a diocese that presented, geographically and otherwise, almost insuperable difficulties.
It is of interest to us to learn that Father, and later Bishop, Carroll passed through Chester on several occasions and may even have briefly broken his journey here. First, as Prefect Apostolic, he began his Northern visitation on 22 September, 1785. It is certain that he administered Confirmation in Philadelphia in October of that year although the exact date is not known.
He was also in Philadelphia 22 November, 1787 when the Germans presented him with a petition
(8) Under this title of Our Lady, the Bishop dedicated his Cathedral in Baltimore in 1806
* * * * *
requesting his approbation of the Capuchin, Father John Baptist Heilbron (9) as pastor of Holy Trinity Church. This Father Carroll refused to do.
In 1790 (Jan. 6) Bishop-elect Carroll came to Philadelphia to administer Confirmation at Holy Trinity church. He succeeded in restoring peace where schism threatened and later came. Early in 1791 Bishop Carroll passed through Chester on his way to Boston to settle parochial difficulties that had risen there. In 1798 he went to Philadelphia to bring peace to the distracted parish of Holy Trinity. He was arrested on the complaint of the trustees but soon gained the victory over them and the few recalcitrants who remained with them.
To the end Bishop Carroll remained active in civic and national affairs. He lived to see the restoration of the Society of Jesus in 1814. The good Bishop died 3 December 1815, full of years and the well-earned esteem of the clergy and laity of the United States. The expressions of
9 Two German Capuchins the brothers, Father John Baptist and Peter Heilbron had come to Philadelphia unannounced and apparently without the consent of their superiors. Vid. Guilday, op. cit. p. 646.
* * * * *
sorrow at his taking away knew no distinction of race or creed or political opinion.
Contemporaries speak of the Archbishop as of low stature but dignified and commanding in appearance, ever amiable but firm as regards principles, in controversy compelling and uncompromising but always temperate. His life mirrored his religion
* * * * *
In 1808, at the request of Bishop Carroll, Pope Pius VII,1 of blessed and holy memory, created the diocese of Philadelphia. This is, of course, an act possible only to the supreme authority of the Church. The Bulls (2) are dated 8 April 1808 but, owing to conditions then existing in Europe, did not reach Baltimore till 1810. They designated the diocese as including "the entire two states of Pennsylvania and Delaware, and the western and southern part of the State of New Jersey." This large expanse of territory was entrusted to the Rt. Rev. Michael Egan, O.S.F., D.D. Until the Bulls arrived Bishop-designate Egan remained in Philadelphia as Archbishop Carroll's Vicar-general.
1 This Pope's regnal years were 1800-1823. During his pontificate he created the dioceses of Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Bardstown (all in 1808) and later Charleston (1820), Richmond (1820) and Cincinnati (1821).
2 The Apostolic Bull is the most solemn form of papal document, as is evident from its characteristic features. It is written in a more formal style and deals with matters of greater importance and is marked with a leaden Seal (Bulla, hence the name). Cf. Cicognani, Canon Law, p. 91.
* * * * *
He was consecrated in Baltimore at St. Peter's Pro-Cathedral, 28 Oct. 1810 and after a reign of three years and nine months, troubled by the insolence of Rev. William Vincent Harold and his uncle, Rev. James Harold, and the trustees of St. Mary's, died at the early age of fifty-three years (22 July, 1814).
Thereupon it became a matter of diiliculty to get any priest to accept the bishopric of Philadelphia.(3) Finally the Holy See selected the Very Rev. Henry Conwell, (4) Vicar-General of the Diocese of Armagh, Ireland, to be the Bishop of Philadelphia. He was then seventy-two years old. His administration soon proved, to use an understatement, to be not altogether firm and discerning. He was clearly not the prelate to deal with the schism begotten by the Rev. William Hogan, (5) an unfrocked priest, who was leader of
(3) Fathers Maréchal, Debarth and David declined the See.
(4) He was consecrated 24 Sept., 1820; died 22 April, 1842.
* * * * *
a deluded band of Catholics in a mad attempt to usurp the Bishop's powers.
The good Bishop Conwell lived on in Philadelphia some twelve years after the appointment by the Supreme Authority of the Church of an Administrator and Coadjutor. Doubtless he was glad to relinquish his authority as an Ordinary and leave the battle to younger and firmer hands.
(5) Says Monsignor James F. Loughlin: "It remains a question whether the Hogan Schism, which engrossed the attention of Catholics throughout the entire nation, did not do more good than harm. It focussed the attention of Catholics and non-Catholics on the important question of episcopal rights. While some lukewarm Catholics fell away from the Church, the body of the faithful rallied to their pastors with ardor and increased intelligence. The question of lay interference in the administration of the affairs of the Church was settled for all time in Philadelphia The repudiation by the Holy See and by the hierarchy of the United States of the compromise of 9 Oct., 1826, in which Bishop Conwell surrendered to the already beaten trustees several episcopal rights, ended forever in these states the tyranny of trusteeism."-Cath. Enc. s.v. Philadelphia. Cf. also The Hogan Schism by Very Rev. Francis E. Tonrscher, O.S.A.; also Ii Trustee System e uno Scismcz nella diocesi di Filadelfla, Stati Uniti, by Rt. Rev. Monsignor J. Carroll McCormick, D.D.; Kirlin, Catholicity in Philadelphia.
The aged Bishop Conwell's ineptitude in dealing with the recalcitrant elements in his diocese was so great that the Holy See felt compelled to appoint a new bishop to act as Apostolic Administrator of the diocese. A perfect choice was made in the person of Francis Patrick Kenrick who was appointed coadjutor Bishop, cum jure successionis.' (1) Bishop Kenrick arrived in Philadelphia 7 July, 1830 just twelve years before he gave permission for the founding of St. Michael's parish in Chester.
One loves to dwell on the career of this great scholar, administrator and churchman, the founder and first bishop of St. Michael's parish. He was born in Dublin, 3 Dec. 1797. His uncle, Father Richard Kenrick, parish priest in Dublin, sent him to a good classical school. At the age 0f 18
1.The right of succes.rion. An auxiliary bishop is appointed to assist the Diocesan. A coadjutor bishop is also an assistant and usually has the right of succession.
* * * * *
he was selected to go to Rome to study for the priesthood. The gentle bearing of Pius VII impressed him deeply. The Pontiff had just been restored to Rome after a long imprisonment by Napoleon Bonaparte.
Excellence of any sort does not long remain hidden in the Eternal City and his superiors soon found that young Kenrick was a more than ordinarily promising student as regards both learn-ing and piety. He made rapid progress in all his studies but especially in Sacred Scripture and the Fathers. It was very soon observed that he was able to ponder the significance of Hebrew or Greek text without need of translation. When a call came for priests for the American field, Cardinal Litta had no hesitancy in choosing Francis Patrick Kenrick, despite his youth. It was the Rt. Rev. Benedict Joseph Flaget, S.S., first Bishop of Bardstown,(2) Kentucky, who made the request.
Dr. Kenrick was chosen for the chair of Theology at Bardstown Seminary, which post he held for nine years. At the same time he held the
(2) The diocese of Bardstown was transferred to Louisville in 1841 and has now become the Archdiocese of Louisville, Dec. 9, 1937. BishopFlaget was consecrated 4 November, 1810, and died 11 February, 1850.
* * * * *
professorship of Greek and history in the College of St. Joseph in that state. In fact he gave professional help in every institution of learning in the state. He was, besides, a forceful and winning preacher, an able controversialist and maker of Converts. in 1829 he attended the First Provincial Council of Baltimore, as theologian to Bishop Flaget and as Secretary to the Council. One of the most disturbing items for discussion was the sad state of the Church in Philadelphia because of the schism caused by the excommunicated priest, Rev. William Hogan, who, despite his excommunication, had in the city a large following of deluded people. Bishop Conwell had by this time become so enfeebled and nearly blind that a vicar-general, Rev. Win. Matthews, had been sent from Washington to aid him. Before the Council adjourned it had chosen Dr. Kenrick as coadjutor Bishop of Philadelphia, dependent, of course, upon the consent of the Holy See. This confirmation was soon given. He was consecrated bishop in Bardstown on 6 June, 1830 by Bishop Flaget, assisted by Bishops England, Conwell, Davis and Fenwick. The new Bishop was oniy 34 years old.
* * * * *
Immediately upon his arrival, the trustees of St. Mary's started a violent fight-a sort of trial balloon-to see if they could browbeat Bishop Kenrick as they had done his predecessor. Never 'was greater tactical error. The trustees made a contest for the control of church funds. The Bishop replied by excommunicating the ring-leaders and placing St. Mary's under interdict.
This was the death blow. The trustees soon found themselves deserted by all right-thinking Catholics, many of whom had joined the insubordination under a delusion. Not long after, the Bishop had a law passed substituting the bishop's name for that of the trustees in all bequests to the church.
During an outbreak of cholera that occurred soon after the Bishop's arrival he gained golden opinions of all citizens by his prompt and charitable and effective steps to allay the plague and allebiate the sufferings of its victims. He sent the Sisters of Charity to nurse the stricken, and, with the co-operation of the Pastor, the Rev. Michael Hurley(3) D.D., O.S.A., made St. Augustines rectory and convent into a hospital while his Priests went about fearlessly ministering to the sufferers.
3 The first native Philadelphian to be elevated to the Priesthood.
* * * * *
Of course this is no new thing in the Church. She has always made every effort to alleviate human distress, to succor human misery. Thus did Her Divine Master act. " I have compassion on the multitude," He said. The Mayor and Council voted a public thanks to the Bishop and tendered a silver service to the Sisters of Charity, which they respectfully declined.
About this time the Bishop began the publication of The Catholic Herald, a weekly journal. A prelate of his genius and experience would, of course, realize the need of an enlightened and fearless diocesan organ for the spread and defence of sound doctrine and also for informing his widely scattered flock of items of interest and edification. At the time there was, of course, no radio, no telephone, no telegraph system. The Catholic Herald was placed under the editorship of Rev. Nicholas O'Donnell, O.S.A.
Bigotry in the United States is and always has been endemic. Not rarely does it flame into a raging epidemic, wounding and killing. Such an outbreak was the anti-Catholic Nativist terrorism of 1844. "The Native Americans", most of whom were Irish Orangemen, who had been growing in power as well as animosity against Catholics since 1835, were aroused
* * * *
to mad frenzy by some of their members being killed in the Nanny-goat Market riot in Kensington, which they themselves had provoked. After having laid St. Michael's (Second and Jefferson Sts.) in ashes, the No-Popery mob attacked St. Augustine's (Fourth and Vine Sts.), and burned all its property- church, school, monastery and a fine library. The miscreants were led by a renegade, Peter Albright, who, when he saw that everything was doomed to the flames, boasted that he was destroying the record of his own baptism. He was mistaken; for, on the approach of danger, the sexton had hidden the registers under a large heap of ashes in the cellar, in which place they were afterwards found almost uninjured. When the fire had done its work nothing was left standing but the wall behind the altar, on could still be read, untouched by the ames, the words, ttThe Lord Seeth." Albright his family were drowned in the Delaware some years afterwards." (4) The mob proceeded to St. John's but made no attack because they found on guard Major Dithmar
who had died on 22 April. Here we can leave the good and holy Kenrick. His further history does not come within the purview of this little work. He died in Baltimore, 6 July, 1863.
Just before the founding of our parish there was held the Fourth Provincial Council of Baltimore (1840). The tiny seed of Catholicity was growing. Dr. Guilday gives us some interesting and important figures. "All the sixteen American suffragan sees, with the exception of Natchez, were filled, while New York had been given a coadjutor in John Hughes who was consecrated on January 7, 1838. The Metropolitan Catholic Directory for 1840 gives the following statistics for 1840: Churches and chapels, 454; stations 358; clergymen in the ministry, 399; clergymen otherwise employed, 100; ecclesiastical institutions, 16; clerical students, 141; colleges for young men, 18; female religious institutions, 28; female academies, 47; and charitable institutions, 76. The number of Catholics is not stated in the Directory, but it has been estimated by Shea as about one million." 1
1 A History of the Councils of Baltimore by Peter Guilday, p. 120. Cf. Shaughnessy, Has the Immigrant Kept the Faith? (New York, 1925), P. 125.
* * * *
The same author tells us: "These years (1840-1843) are the first part of a decade of tremendous progress in the American Church. In their letter to Pope Gregory XVI (1831-1846) the prelates wrote that in all parts of these vast regions (in vastissimis vero regionibus) the number of priests, churches, religious institutions, schools and of the faithful were daily on the increase (quolidie crescit). As a sign of progress, they say, in one diocese alone forty-three churches had been erected since the Council of 1840." 2Daniel Sargent gives an eloquent description of the colossal movement of peoples to the United States before and after the founding of our parish. "Thirty-eight million foreigners came to our shores during the century that followed the death of Bishop Carroll. No such displacement of population has ever taken place in the world. Over six million Germans came to us, over four million Italians, over three million Poles, and over three million Irish, not to mention the other peoples. We are told that one-eleventh of the population of the globe at this hour is made up of displaced Europeans. Three-fifths of these Europeans are in the United States. We are a country which has had (footnote)
* * * *
elections, wars, and a most amazing prosperity, but all other countries have had wars; most have had elections and some have had prosperity. None of these things have made us unique. But we are unique as the receptacle of the greatest displacement of population in the history of the world.
"Yet the suddenness of the torrent was too great for any absorbing. During the Napoleonic wars there had been but little immigration from Europe to the United States. After 1815, after Archbishop Carroll's death, it began to flow in at the rate of some ten thousand a year, and some considered it even in that small volume as worthy of attention: the customs officials were asked in 1820 to count from then on the entering immigrants-suspiciously. But such an immigration prepared no channels for the torrent soon to arrive, nor did it give warning of what it would be like. And the torrent arrived. In the 1840's there were two hundred thousand immigrants arriving annually in our ports. In New York alone would arrive eighty thousand a summer. In the 1850's the total number of immigrants oue to three hundred thousand a year, one and a half immigrants to every hundred of the counry's population.
Louis J. Warfel, email@example.com
If you have any information and or pictures that you would like to contribute about the history of Chester, please forward it to firstname.lastname@example.org
© 2001 John A. Bullock III.
This page last updated 10/18/05