Missouri, Catholic Church in
MISSOURI, CATHOLIC CHURCH IN
Located in the central United States, Missouri is separated from Illinois, Kentucky, and Tennessee by the Mississippi River and is bounded on the north by Iowa; on the west by Nebraska, Kansas, and Oklahoma; and on the south by Arkansas. It was admitted to the Union in 1821 as the 24th state. The capital is Jefferson City; St. Louis and Kansas City are the largest cities. In 2001 the population of the state was 5,478,300 of whom 859,574 or about 16 percent were Catholic. There are four Catholic dioceses: the archdiocese of St. Louis and its three suffragan sees, Springfield-Cape Girardeau, Jefferson City, and Kansas City.
Early History. The roots of Roman Catholicism's development in Missouri date back to 1673; on June 17 of that year Jesuit Father Jacques marquette, a priest and missionary from Canada accompanying the entrepreneur Louis Joliet down the Mississippi River to evangelize the peoples living in the region, entered the Great River. Eventually Marquette and Joliet negotiated the river from the Kaskaskia country all the way to the southern reaches of Arkansas. En route the two Frenchmen crossed the Mississippi and camped over in and explored the southeastern part of what would later become Perry County, Missouri. That trek laid the foundation for Catholic missioning in the western reaches of the Mississippi Valley.
Throughout the latter half of the seventeenth century and much of the eighteenth, the French presence in the Mississippi Valley increased, with a settlement across the river, St. Genevieve, founded in the mid-1730s. In 1759 the Jesuits established a parish at St. Genevieve. Several years later, in 1763, the Treaty of Paris ended the French and Indian War. France was forced to cede to England all her North American territorial possessions east of the Mississippi River and north of the Ohio, including Canada. In order to safeguard her interests in the vast lands she claimed westward from the Mississippi River to the Rockies against the incursions of the British, France ceded them all to Spain. As a result, the Catholic Church's situation changed dramatically in the area. For more than a century that region had existed under the ecclesiastical authority of the French Bishop of Quebec. But with the ceding of this domain to Spain, it then fell under the jurisdiction of the Spanish Bishop of Havana, Cuba.
Not many years were to pass before several clusters of settlers with visible Catholic identities (mainly French, Irish, and German) began to develop immediately beyond the western bank of the Mississippi River. Between 1787 and 1818 a small farming community situated 80 miles south of Saint Louis near St. Genevieve took form and began to mature. Originally known as the Barrens Colony, it would later be called Perryville, named after the naval hero of the War of 1812, Oliver Hazard Perry. About 1790, an Irish-born priest who had received his education in Spain, Father James Maxwell, began to serve the Catholics of the Barrens Colony.
According to Isidore Moore, one of the locale's earliest residents, Father Maxwell labored among the people of the settlement well into, and perhaps even slightly beyond, the War of 1812. The Congregation of the Mission constructed a seminary in Barrens Colony (Perryville) that molded countless Vincentians into frontier churchmen inspired by the spirit of their founder, St. Vincent de Paul. Alumni of the seminary emerged as key in the growth of the Catholic Church not only in Missouri, but far southward to Texas and northern Mexico and west to California as well.
The first permanent settlers in that area in 1787 were two Frenchmen, Jean Baptiste Barsaloux and his father. They had obtained a tract of land from the Spanish government and planned to engage in a life of farming. Inasmuch as the government of Spain would have required such, the two Frenchmen likely were Catholics. Within 30 years a rural community of Catholics had been attracted to the site. In addition to Isidore Moore and his family, they included Joseph Fenwick (at the vanguard of a group of Marylander Catholics), Joseph Tucker and his sons, Aquila Hagan, Sarah Haydon, and Wilfrid, Joseph, and Ignatius Layton and the latter's wife. Important also in the development of that Catholic group were the French Trappist pastor from Florissant, Missouri, Father Joseph Dunand, an Italian Vincentian priest, Joseph rosati, and Bishop Louis William du bourg, heading up the diocese of Louisiana and the Floridas.
When Father Rosati arrived at the Barrens on Oct. 1, 1818 with a number of Vincentian missionaries and seminarians, they were warmly welcomed by Bishop Du Bourg. The construction of the seminary had already
begun; it was completed in the early 1820s, and a lay college was attached. Among the many dedicated missionaries educated in Saint Mary's of the Barrens seminary none were better known nor more highly respected than Jean-Marie odin, C.M., and John timon, C.M.
Odin was a French priest born in the tiny hamlet of Hauteville, in the parish of Saint Martin d'Ambierle, situated in the far western reaches of the archdiocese of Lyon, France. Following his decision to volunteer for foreign mission work to America from the Sulpician major seminary of Saint Irenaeus at Lyon, Odin arrived at Saint Mary's of the Barrens Seminary in August of 1822. In 1823 he entered the Congregation of the Mission and was ordained a priest. For 17 years following his ordination he labored as a missionary, professor of theology at the seminary, secretary to the rector of the seminary (Father Rosati) and confessor to a community of Sisters of Loretto at a convent near the seminary. After serving as first pastor of the newly established parish of Saint Vincent de Paul at Cape Girardeau, Missouri, in 1836, he returned to Saint Mary's of the Barrens seminary for a three-year stint. Eventually, however, in 1840, he was sent to Texas, where he spent more than 20 years building the Faith there as vice prefect apostolic (1840), vicar apostolic (1841), and finally first bishop of Galveston (1847–61). In the spring of 1861 Odin was named second archbishop of New Orleans (1861–70).
John Timon, three years older than Odin, was born of Irish immigrant parents at Conswego Settlement near York, Pennsylvania, on Feb. 12, 1797. Following the War of 1812 the Timon family migrated westward, eventually settling in St. Louis where young Timon met Father De Andreis and Bishop Du Bourg. After studying for a short time at a school that Bishop Du Bourg had founded in 1919 (the forerunner of St. Louis University), Timon moved on to St. Mary's of the Barrens Seminary where in 1823 he joined the Congregation of the Mission. He was ordained a priest in 1825 and in 1835 Timon was named the first Visitor (Superior) of the American Vincentians. Ultimately Timon went on to be named prefect apostolic of Texas (1839) and first bishop of Buffalo, New York (1847) where he died on April 16, 1867. Under the leadership of Father Rosati, these nineteenth-century Vincentians went on to lay a strong base for the Church in Missouri, building parishes, catechizing, and ministering to the Catholics of the state.
From 1804 when the Upper Louisiana Territory was transferred to U.S. control, to 1826 the territory of the future state of Missouri fell under the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the Bishop of Louisiana, Bishop Du Bourg. The Vincentian Joseph Rosati was appointed coadjutor of Bishop Du Bourg and consecrated bishop at Donaldsville, Louisiana in March 1824. When on July 18, 1826 Pope Leo XII divided the Diocese of Louisiana and erected the sees of St. Louis and New Orleans, Bishop Du Bourg resigned. (He returned to France where he died on Dec. 12, 1833). The pope named Bishop Rosati the first ordinary of the Diocese of St. Louis and administrator of the Diocese of New Orleans. On Nov. 30, 1841, Father Peter Richard kenrick, a native of Dublin, Ireland, and younger brother of coadjutor bishop of Philadelphia and future archbishop of Baltimore Francis Patrick Kenrick, was consecrated coadjutor bishop of St. Louis. When Bishop Rosati died in Rome on Sept. 25, 1843, Kenrick automatically succeeded him as ordinary of the diocese.
Diocesan Development. On Jan. 30, 1847, St. Louis was raised to the ecclesiastical status of an archbishopric; and Kenrick became the first archbishop of St. Louis. St. Louis included among its early suffragan sees Chicago, Dubuque, Milwaukee, Nashville, and St. Paul. At first the territory of the archdiocese was ill-defined, but by 1850 it was restricted to the present state boundaries. The Diocese of St. Joseph was erected in 1868, followed by that of Kansas City in 1880. Save for the assignment of 11 northeastern Missouri counties to St. Joseph in 1911, the ecclesiastical division of Missouri remained the same for 76 years. In 1956 a third suffragan see was added, and the territory completely realigned, with the Archdiocese of st. louis contracted to the see city and nine surrounding counties.
The ethnic make-up of Missouri's Catholic presence mirrors the historical patterns of religious demography associated with nineteenth-century American migration into the Midwest and beyond to the West Coast. The original French pre-eminence in the European settlement of the Mississippi River Valley, particularly with such personages involved as Marquette and Joliet, evolved as a paradigm of the manner in which New France was colonized. The nineteenth-century influx of Irish and German Catholics into the region, on the other hand, developed as an integral part of the narrative of European immigrants and the westward movement. This is especially true in regards to the building of the railroads and other essences of the industrial revolution—including that of mining in the West.
Catholic Irish and German life of Missouri is a prominent aspect of the state's legacy. Though noticeable throughout the southeastern, eastern, and central-northwestern regions of the state, such is especially true regarding St. Louis, Kansas City, and some of the state's smaller population centers. Perryville, for example, enjoys a visible German Catholic identity concomitant with its Irish and French Catholic heritage. As early as 1790, Father James Maxwell, from St. Genevieve, served Missouri's first Irish Catholic settlement, "a rough and tumble encampment on the Mississippi River called Boisé Brûlé Bottom." After gaining statehood in 1821, Missouri attracted an increasing number of settlers. Its Irish Catholic population steadily grew, many of the men working on the docks and steamboats of the Mississippi and Missouri rivers, and the women acting as domestic servants. Having matured as a prominent ethnic community in Missouri's western settlement of St. Joseph, the Irish Catholics saw the first parish established there in 1845, with Irish-born Father Thomas Scanlon as pastor.
With the passage of time, Irish Catholics came to play a major role in the building of not only the Church, but secular society as well. Father John Joseph Hogan of Bruff (Limerick), Ireland, the founder of the Irish Wilderness Settlements, became the first bishop of St. Joseph (consecrated on Sept. 13, 1868), and later (Sept. 10, 1880) first bishop of Kansas City. Irish Catholics were active in virtually all phases of Missouri's nineteenth and twentieth-century political, economic (especially labor unions), cultural, educational, military, and social developments.
The late nineteenth and twentieth centuries saw a kneading into the population of St. Louis, Kansas City, and other metropolitan areas most of the nationalities that have historically emerged as segments of the contemporary Catholic scene: Hispanics (and their centuries-old heritage from the American Southwest), Italians, and Asians.
At the same time with all of this development of the Catholic presence in Missouri, it cannot be ignored that a moral blight existed into the seventh decade of the nineteenth century, infecting the American nation, and thus society in Missouri and Catholicism's role therein: the institution of slavery. That phenomenon must be looked at carefully, as it came to fruition within the Catholic population of the state. While the human debasement that lay at the heart of slavery inherently contradicted Catholic moral precepts, lay Catholics and clergy and religious alike owned slaves in the nineteenth century, including the Vincentians at St. Mary's of the Barrens Seminary at Perryville.
After the creation of the Diocese of St. Joseph in 1868 and Kansas City in 1880, the ecclesiastical division of Missouri, save for the assignment of 11 northeastern Missouri counties to St. Joseph in 1911, remained the same for 76 years. In 1956 the territory completely realigned. The dioceses of Kansas City and St. Joseph were joined and redesignated as the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph. The new diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau was created by carving out 39 counties in southern Missouri from the dioceses of St. Louis and Kansas City. Bishop Charles H. Helmsing, auxiliary bishop in St. Louis, was the first ordinary (1956–62). The diocese of Jefferson City in the northeastern part of the state embraced 38 counties taken from St. Louis, Kansas City and the old diocese of St. Joseph. Bishop Joseph M. Marling, an auxiliary bishop in Kansas City, was named the first ordinary (1956–79). The Archdiocese of St. Louis was contracted to the see city and nine surrounding counties. The four dioceses joined together to form the Missouri Catholic Conference to provide a forum in which Catholics communicate and exchange information with one another and other groups on a statewide basis. The conference provides moral leadership and advocacy on public policy and issues of concern to the Church.
Higher Education. Founded by the Jesuits in 1818, st. louis university is the oldest and most prestigious Catholic institution of higher learning in Missouri. In addition to St. Louis University, the Jesuits also sponsor Rockhurst College in Kansas City (established 1910). The Sisters of Saint Joseph of Carondelet sponsors two colleges, Fontbonne College in St. Louis (founded 1923 as a liberal arts college for women; coeducational from 1971) and Avila College in Kansas City (founded 1916 as a women's college; became coeducational in 1969). The Dominicans founded the Aquinas Institute of Theology, a Catholic graduate school, in St. Louis in 1925.
Bibliography: g. j. garraghan, Catholic Beginnings in Kansas City, Missouri (Chicago 1920). j. e. rothensteiner, History of the Archdiocese of St.Louis, 2 v. (St. Louis 1928). p. c. schulte, The Catholic Heritage of Saint Louis: A History of the Old Cathedral Parish (St. Louis 1934). w. faherty, Dream by the River: Two Centuries of St. Louis Catholicism (St. Louis 1973). p. foley, "Jean-Marie Odin, C.M., Missionary Bishop Extraordinaire of Texas," Journal of Texas Catholic History and Culture 1:1 (1990) 42–60. j. e. rybolt, ed., The American Vincentians: A Popular History of the Congregation of the Mission in the United States, 1815–1987 (Brooklyn 1988).
[p. j. rahill/