Francis Kenrick

Francis Patrick Kenrick (December 3, 1796 or 1797 – July 8, 1863) was an Irish-born prelate of the Roman Catholic Church who served as the third Bishop of the Diocese of Philadelphia (1842–1851) and the sixth Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Baltimore (1851–1863).

The Most Reverend

Francis Patrick Kenrick
Archbishop of Baltimore
AppointedAugust 19, 1851
InstalledOctober 9, 1851
Term endedJuly 8, 1863
PredecessorSamuel Eccleston, S.S.
SuccessorMartin John Spalding
OrdinationApril 7, 1821
by Candido Maria Frattini
ConsecrationJune 10, 1831
by Benedict Joseph Flaget S.S.
Personal details
Born(1797-12-03)December 3, 1797
Dublin, Kingdom of Ireland
DiedJuly 8, 1863(1863-07-08) (aged 65)
Baltimore, Maryland,
United States
DenominationRoman Catholic Church
Previous post(s)Bishop of Philadelphia (1842–51)


Early life and education

Francis Kenrick was born in Dublin to Thomas and Jane (née Eustace) Kenrick.[1] His younger brother, Peter, would later become the first Archbishop of St. Louis.[2] His uncle was the pastor of St. Nicholas of Myra Church in Dublin, and took an active role in his education.[2]

At the age of eighteen, he was selected to study at the Pontifical Urbaniana University in Rome, where he became a distinguished student.[3] He was ordained to the priesthood by Archbishop Candido Maria Frattini on April 7, 1821.[4]

Ordination and ministry

Shortly after his ordination, Kenrick accepted an invitation from Bishop Benedict Joseph Flaget, S.S., to join the Diocese of Bardstown, Kentucky, in the United States.[1] He then held the chair of theology at St. Thomas Seminary for nine years, in addition to teaching Greek and history at St. Joseph's College.[2]

Apart from his academic duties, he also engaged in missionary work; he facilitated several conversions and publicly debated with Protestant ministers.[3] He earned a reputation as an eloquent preacher and effective apologist, and was a recognized theologian and scripture scholar.[1]

Kenrick was later made private secretary to Flaget, whom he accompanied to the First Provincial Council of Baltimore in 1829 as his personal theologian.[1] He also served as an assistant secretary of the Council.[3]

Bishop of Philadelphia

On February 25, 1830, Kenrick was appointed Coadjutor Bishop of Philadelphia, and Titular Bishop of Arath by Pope Pius VIII. He received his episcopal consecration on the following June 6 from Flaget, with Bishops Henry Conwell and John Baptist Mary David, S.S., serving as co-consecrators, in Bardstown.[4]

Kenrick assumed full administrative powers from the aged Bishop Conwell, whose tenure had been plagued by a public feud with a schismatic priest named William Hogan.[2] Immediately upon his arrival, he also became engaged in the long-running dispute between episcopal authority and the lay trustees of St. Mary's Church.[5]

The trustees eventually conceded their struggle for power after Kenrick placed St. Mary's Cathedral under interdict.[3] He also placed all church property in the name of the bishop instead of those of the trustees.[2]

In 1832, Kenrick founded St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, which was originally located at his personal residence. That same year an outbreak of cholera took place in Philadelphia. The Committee of the Almshouse, later known as Philadelphia General Hospital, asked Bishop Kenrick if he could request additional help from the Sisters of Charity to serve as nurses. Father Michael Hurley, pastor of St. Augustine's Church turned it into a makeshift hospital under the supervision of Dr. Oliver H. Taylor.[6]

Kenrick led the local Catholic clergy and sisters in ministering to the sick; his efforts were publicly recognized by Mayor John Swift.[2]

Kenrick successfully petitioned the Holy See to separate Western Pennsylvania into a new diocese, and the Diocese of Pittsburgh was established in 1836; Kenrick was initially considered for the new diocese as well as for coadjutor bishop of New York, but withdrew his candidacy.[3]

Kenrick succeeded Conwell as the third Bishop of Philadelphia upon the latter's death on April 22, 1842.[4] As Bishop, Kenrick expressed public concern over the fact that Catholics in Philadelphia were forced to participate in Protestant religious instruction in the public schools. This dispute led to 1844 riots, a series of riots resulting from increasing anti-Catholic sentiment at the growing population of Irish Catholic immigrants.[2]

Although most of the patients cared for by the Sisters at St. Augustine were listed as non-Catholic, the church was burned to the ground during the riots.[6] Throughout the violence, Kenrick encouraged Catholics "to follow peace and have charity."[3] He closed all Catholic churches and ordered the suspension of all Masses until the riots were brought to a halt by military force.[citation needed]

Following the riots, Kenrick ended his advocacy for changes in the religious instruction of public schools and initiated the creation of a Parochial school system designed for Catholic students and run by the Church.[7]

Influenced by the work of his contemporary, an English priest named John Lingard, Kenrick published his own translation of the four Gospels in 1849; he eventually translated the entire Bible, as a new revision of the Douay-Rheims Bible.[2]

Between 1830 and 1850, the number of churches in the diocese grew from 22 to 92; priests from 35 to 101; charitable institutions from two to six; and the Catholic population from 35,000 to 170,000.[1] He also began construction on the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul[3] and oversaw the rebuilding of St. Michael and St. Augustine following the 1844 riots.[citation needed]

Archbishop of Baltimore

Following the death of Archbishop Samuel Eccleston, S.S., Kenrick was named the sixth Archbishop of Baltimore, Maryland, by Pope Pius IX on August 19, 1851.[4] His installation took place on the following October 9.[4] He presided over the First Plenary Council of Baltimore in 1852.[1]

As Archbishop of Baltimore, Kenrick expanded the Parochial School System beyond Philadelphia and help to make Catholic instruction the norm for Catholic children in America. Under his tenure, parochial schools were free for all students, and were supported directly by the parishes.[8]

In 1854, he was invited by Pius IX to attend the promulgation of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception in Rome.[2] In 1858, the Sacred Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith, with the approval of Pius IX, conferred a "prerogative of place" on the Archbishop of Baltimore over all archbishops and bishops in the United States, regardless of seniority in promotion or ordination.[3]

Death and legacy

In his later years, Archbishop Kenrick struggled to reduce tensions between Catholics and the Protestant majority. While several anti-Catholic Riots took place in the US during the 1850s, none took place in Kenrick's archdiocese except the Know-Nothing Riots of 1856.

Kenrick was greatly troubled by the outbreak of the Civil War. He died aged 66 on July 8, 1863, shortly after reading of the massive slaughter that had taken place in nearby Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. (The entire state was part of his ecclesiastical province at the time.)

Kenrick will be remembered primarily for his contribution to the development of the US Parochial School System. His best known literary works include the following:

See also


  • Parts of Francis Kenrick's Bible Translation
  • Marschall, John P.,Francis Patrick Kenrick, 1851-1863: The Baltimore Years (Ph.D. diss., Catholic University of America, 1965)
  • Spalding, Thomas W. The Premier See: A History of the Archdiocese of Baltimore, 1789-1989. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1989