Louisville, Archdiocese of
LOUISVILLE, ARCHDIOCESE OF
The Archdiocese of Louisville (Ludovicopolitana ), comprising 24 counties in central Kentucky, is the metropolitan see of the states of Kentucky and Tennessee. The Province of Louisville includes the suffragan sees of Covington, Owensboro, and Lexington in Kentucky, and the sees of Nashville, Memphis and Knoxville in Tennessee. Originally created as the Diocese of Bardstown by Pius VII on April 8, 1808, the see was transferred to Louisville on Feb. 13, 1841, and created an archdiocese on Dec. 10, 1937.
When the diocese of Bardstown transferred its see city to the growing municipality of Louisville in 1841, Benedict Joseph flaget (1763–1850), the first Bishop of the West, found three churches in his new hometown: one for English speaking, one for Germans and one for French. As Germans and Irish increased rapidly in numbers in the area, anti-immigrant and anti-Catholic feelings exploded in the Bloody Monday Riots of Aug. 6, 1855, when over 20 were killed in mob action.
The earlier history of the city had been (and its subsequent history would be) decidedly more ecumenical. When Louisville's first congregation, Saint Louis, (forerunner to today's cathedral parish) built its primal church in 1811, Protestants made up over half of the contributors. The cornerstone ceremony for the second church building in 1830 was hosted by a Presbyterian congregation. The first resident priest of the parish was Philip Hosten, a Flemish native who died quite young in 1821 as "a victim of his zeal" as his Louisville tombstone reports. He had been nursing his people through the cholera epidemic and succumbed to the disease.
In the years before the Civil War, several traditional aspects of Catholic culture came to the city: a newspaper, The Catholic Advocate ; the Jesuit Fathers to found a short-lived school; the Xaverian Brothers to make their first American foundation; a large congregation of teaching Ursuline Sisters from Germany, and the Sisters of the Good Shepherd from France to begin their social works ministry.
Spalding. Flaget was succeeded by his coadjutor, Martin J. spalding. Three years after Spalding became the second bishop of Louisville in 1850, the Diocese of Covington was erected by separating the eastern part of Kentucky from Louisville. While in Europe that year, Spalding secured from Belgium several priests and a community of Xaverian Brothers, who in 1854 opened a school in Louisville. That year the Saint Vincent DePaul Society was established in Louisville. Spalding introduced the Ursuline nuns in 1858 and the Christian Brothers in 1860; the Franciscans and the School Sisters of Notre Dame also joined the diocese at his invitation. In his 16 years as bishop, eight new churches were built in Louisville and 22 new parishes erected elsewhere, making a total of 85 parishes in the diocese. On May 1, 1858, the Catholic Guardian began publication; it suspended publication in July 1862 because of the Civil War. The war years were characterized by a weakening of KnowNothing and other anti-Catholic movements, especially after the sisters of the diocese became active in nursing the soldiers. In 1862 the army closed Saint Joseph College in order to use the building; Saint Thomas Seminary barely managed to remain open. The war caused an interruption of all progress.
Lavialle. On June 9, 1864, Spalding was transferred to the See of Baltimore; his brother and vicar-general, Benedict J. Spalding, was made administrator until the third bishop, French-born Peter Joseph Lavialle, was consecrated Sept. 24, 1868. The new bishop had been ordained
to the priesthood in 1844, and then served successively as secretary to Flaget, superior of the diocesan seminary (1849–56), and president of Saint Mary's College (1856–65). During his brief episcopacy, six new churches were started in the diocese; ground for Louis Cemetery was purchased; and a group of Franciscan sisters, formed under the direction of the Trappists, opened a school at Mount Olivet near Gethsemani. Failing health caused Lavialle's retirement to Nazareth where he died, May 11, 1867; he was buried beside Flaget in the crypt of the cathedral.
McCloskey. On March 3, 1868, William George mccloskey, rector of the American College in Rome, was appointed to the vacancy in Louisville and consecrated in Rome May 24, 1868. Four months later, he arrived in his see city for a turbulent episcopate of 41 years. His first major dispute was with Spalding over the terms of the will of Spalding's brother. Shortly thereafter, some of the older priests had some difficulty with their bishop and turned to Spalding for aid. During these years, many priests left the diocese, led by the bishop's secretary and the chancellor, John Lancaster spalding (1840–1916), nephew of bishop Martin John Spalding and later first bishop of Peoria. Moreover, many religious establishments were the objects of episcopal disfavor. McCloskey first suppressed Saint Mary's College; as early as 1869 the abbot of Gethsemani complained that the bishop was hostile to the Trappists; in 1898 the school sisters of notre dame withdrew from the diocese and the Sisters of Saint Francis from Mount Olivet left for Clinton, Iowa, because of trouble with the bishop. Nor were the dominican sisters, the sisters of mercy, the ursuline nuns, sisters of loretto, and the mens' orders left unvexed.
Despite these difficulties, religious advancement marked the four decades of McCloskey's administration. Six new religious orders came into the diocese: Carmelite Fathers, resurrectionists, the Society of Saint Joseph for Foreign Missions, the passionists, the Sisters of Mercy, and the little sisters of the poor. In 1870 the seminary was moved from Saint Thomas to a location known as Preston Park, in Louisville. It was closed in 1888, reopened in 1902, and closed again at McCloskey's death. An official diocesan organ, the Record was established in February 1879. In the next decade, about 50 priests and 25 churches were added to the diocese and similar progress marked the next ten years. Between 1900 and 1909, the year of McCloskey's death, 14 churches were established or dedicated in Louisville alone, and a like number elsewhere. By 1909 the Catholics of the diocese had increased to 155,000, the number of priests to 201, and there were almost 100 new churches.
O'Donaghue. Denis O'Donaghue, auxiliary bishop of Indianapolis, Indiana, was transferred to Louisville Feb. 7, 1910, and a month later was enthroned. A year later, the Clerical Aid Society was organized, the orphan boys home was moved from Saint Thomas to Louisville, and the Catholic Orphans Society was organized. Saint Joseph's College was reopened under the Xaverian Brothers. Four new parishes were organized; 21 churches built to replace older or smaller ones; nine new schools were established in the city; and 18 schools were built in country parishes. O'Donaghue's failing health caused the Holy See to appoint an apostolic administrator (1921) and a coadjutor (1923). The next year O'Donoghue resigned and was given the titular See of Lebedus. He died Nov. 7, 1925 and was buried in Saint Louis Cemetery.
The Louisville see was elevated to the status of an archdiocese by the action of Pope Pius XI on Dec. 10, 1937. The first archbishop was John A. Floersh (1886–1969), noted both for his piety and business acumen. In his administration, the amazing post-World War II building boom occurred and new institutions and parishes grew rapidly throughout the archdiocese.
Floersh. John A. Floersh, born Oct. 5, 1886, in Nashville, Tenn., was ordained June 10, 1911, in Saint John Lateran, Rome. After a year in Nashville parishes he was called to Washington, D.C., to act as secretary at the apostolic delegation. On Feb. 6, 1923, he was named coadjutor of Louisville and was consecrated in Rome on April 8, 1923, succeeding to the see on July 26, 1924. In December 1937, Louisville was made a metropolitan see with Floersh as its first archbishop. He consecrated his chancellor, Francis R. Cotton, on Feb. 23, 1938 as first bishop of Owensboro. Floersh instituted the Catholic School Board and the Office of Catholic Charities. He brought the Carmelite nuns to Louisville and founded several new high schools as well as Bellarmine College, with Monsignor Alfred Horrigan as first president.
Archbishop Floersh, for reasons of health attended only the first session of the Second Vatican Council in 1962, while his Auxiliary Bishop, Charles Garrett Maloney (consecrated on Feb. 2, 1955) was in attendance at all four. Mary Luke Tobin, at the time President of the Sisters of Loretto was the only American woman to have official status (auditor) at the conciliar sessions. She would remain a major voice in American Catholicism even into the next century. Another figure from the archdiocese, Passionist Father Carroll stuhlmueller, was a peritus in the years of the Council. Of all the residents of the archdiocese in those years, the most internationally known was Father Louis (Thomas merton), monk of the Abbey of Gethsemani. Less than two years after the Council's close, on March 1, 1967, Archbishop Floersh resigned his see. He died June 11, 1968.
McDonough. Thomas Joseph McDonough (born in Philadelphia in 1911) was installed as Louisville's second archbishop on May 2, 1967. His early pastoral letters signaled his encouragement of those engaged in addressing racism, poverty and other social evils. He noted in 1967 (echoing a Merton title) that the church and the world could not be "disinterested bystanders" amid social brokenness.
McDonough's tenure helped to initiate not only social, but also ecclesiastical and liturgical change in the light of the Second Vatican Council. He initiated the restored office of permanent deacon in the archdiocese, beginning in 1976. Sometimes the changes of the era were painful—such as the decision to close down the long tradition of the annual Corpus Christi procession involving in some years over 50,000 people at Louisville's famed Churchill Downs. Dwindling attendance caused its suspension after the 1976 event. McDonough announced his resignation in the autumn of 1981, exiting office with the words: "A good bishop today needs big ears and a small mouth" (Courier-Journal, Feb. 4, 1982). He died on Aug. 4, 1998.
Kelly. Dominican Thomas Cajetan Kelly (born July 14, 1931) had seen long service with the National Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington before he was installed as Louisville's third archbishop on Feb. 18, 1982. Among his first tasks was leading diocesan leaders in the articulation of a mission statement. He also oversaw the restoration of the historic downtown Cathedral of the Assumption through the activity of an innovative, inter-faith Cathedral Heritage Foundation (begun in 1985). The Cathedral was renewed not only architecturally but as a lively inner-city parish where liturgy, the arts, ecumenical understanding and social service—especially to the urban poor—flourish. Visitors to the venerable church have included Dorothy Day, Thomas Merton, Joseph Cardinal Bernardin, Jesuit Karl Rahner, historian Martin Marty, Muhammad Ali, the Dalai Lama and Nobel Laureate Jewish scholar Elie Wiesel.
Kelly encouraged and supported individuals with special leadership skills. In the last third of the 20th century, no fewer than nine clerics, laity and religious of the archdiocese held national presidencies in professional Catholic groups. One, Father Nick Rice, was elected to three separate leadership roles at the national level. At home Renew and other programs enhanced parochial and personal spiritual life.
In 1988, the creation of the new Diocese of lexing ton reduced the geographical area of the Louisville archdiocese to 24 counties in central Kentucky. In addition to metropolitan Louisville and the Holy Land counties, this included creative mission programs in southern portions of the diocese where Catholics are few in number. In 2000 the archdiocese had a Catholic population of some 197,000 (about 16% of the total population), served by 112 parishes and 12 missions.
Bibliography: c. f. crews, An American Holy Land (Wilmington 1987). m. c. fox, The Life of the Right Reverend John Baptist Mary David, 1761–1841 (U.S. Catholic Historical Society 9; New York 1925). m. r. mattingly, The Catholic Church on the Kentucky Frontier, 1785–1812 (Washington 1936). v. f. o'daniel, A Light of the Church in Kentucky … Samuel Thomas Wilson,O.P. (Washington 1932). j. h. schauinger, Cathedrals in the Wilderness (Milwaukee 1952). m. j. spalding, Sketches of the Early Catholic Missions of Kentucky, 1787–1827 (Louisville 1844). b. webb, The Centenary of Catholicity in Kentucky (Louisville 1884).
[j. h. schauinger/