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Domenec, Michael


Second bishop of pittsburgh, Pa.; b. Ruez, Tarragona, Spain, Dec. 27, 1816; d. Tarragona, Jan. 7, 1878. His education at Madrid was interrupted by the failure of the Carlist movement, and at 15 he fled with his father to Paris, where he joined the Congregation of the Mission (Vincentians). John timon, then Vincentian visitor general, persuaded him to finish his studies in the U.S., where he was ordained at the seminary in Barrens, Mo., June 29, 1839. Domenec was assigned to the seminary faculty, but he engaged also in missionary activities in Missouri. In 1845 he went to Philadelphia, Pa., to teach at St. Charles, the diocesan seminary; in addition, he served as pastor in Nicetown and later founded St. Vincent's parish in Germantown. He was notably successful as a preacher and lecturer. He was named second bishop of Pittsburgh and consecrated on Dec. 9, 1860.

Some of the bishop's policies, especially regarding the seminary and the diocesan newspaper, the Pittsburgh Catholic, were unpopular. They appear to have led to the resignations of James O'Connor, rector of the seminary; Rev. J. Keogh, editor of the paper, who went to Philadelphia; and others. Domenec's rule was handicapped also by financial difficulties and by the Civil War. Domenec was a staunch Unionist in a city torn by internal strife; he traveled to his native Spain on behalf of the Union. According to his contemporary, Abp. John Hughes of New York, Domenec was the most successful of all the ecclesiastic ambassadors during the Civil War. His administration was marked also by an increase in the number of Catholics from 50,000 to 200,000. To provide for the new Catholics, many of them immigrants, ten churches, including one for emancipated slaves, were erected in the city alone. In all, 60 churches were dedicated and the cathedral was enlarged. Two orphanages were built for war orphans, and the Sisters of St. Francis, Ursuline Nuns, Carmelites, Little Sisters of the Poor, Sisters of the Good Shepherd, Sisters of St. Joseph, and Sisters of Charity, as well as the Oblate Fathers, Capuchins, and Holy Ghost Fathers, were brought into the diocese. In 1870 Domenec attended Vatican Council I; he originally voted non placet on the question of papal infallibility, but later changed his vote.

The rapid growth in population and serious financial problems resulting from the 1873 depression led Domenec to petition Rome to divide the diocese; on Jan. 11, 1876, he was transferred to the new Diocese of Allegheny (suppressed in 1889 and reunited with Pittsburgh). But the division aggravated the financial situation, and, broken in health, Domenec resigned on July 27, 1877, and returned to Spain, where he died six months later.

Bibliography: w. p. purcell, Catholic Pittsburgh's One Hundred Years (Chicago 1943).

[h. j. nolan]

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