Ohio, Catholic Church in
OHIO, CATHOLIC CHURCH IN
The first state formed from the Northwest Territory, Ohio was admitted into the Union in 1803. Its prehistoric inhabitants were the Hopewell, also known as the Mound Builders because of their earthen mounds used for burial and, perhaps, ritual practices. There are many of these burial grounds and other unusual earthworks still preserved in the state, the most noteworthy being the Great Serpent Mound near Hillsboro, Ohio. The Seneca from Canada, Michigan, and New York also constituted a strong presence in Ohio as they followed the Allegheny and Ohio Rivers on long hunting forays in the winter months. The Miami and Wyandotte were also significant tribes within the geographical boundaries of the state.
Catholicism came to the territory with French explorers and missionaries who entered Ohio through Lake Erie and the Ohio River, but the first permanent settlement in Ohio was not established until 1788 at Marietta. From there the state grew rapidly. By 1800 the population exceeded 45,000, most of these coming from the eastern seaboard and Kentucky. Ethnically and religiously they were Protestant Ulster Irish accompanied later by a significant German immigration from Pennsylvania. Few of these early settlers were Catholic, but there was a settlement of French Catholics in Gallia County who founded
the city of Gallipolis, on the Ohio River, in the southeastern region of the state. Father Peter Joseph Didier, O.S.B., worked among these Catholics as early as 1791, but seems to have left in discouragement after a few years of hardship and failure.
Until 1785, the entire region was included in the jurisdiction of the Diocese of Quebec. There were several missionary journeys in the old territory and early missions were founded by French Jesuits. However, none of these became permanent, and Ohio remained mission territory into the 19th century. In 1789 the Diocese of Baltimore was established in the new republic, and Ohio became part of the first U.S. see.
About 1802 a small group of settlers from near the Maryland-Pennsylvania border moved into Somerset, Pennsylvania, and then went on to found a small community of Catholics called Somerset in southeastern Ohio. Mostly of Alsatian extraction and led by a devout Catholic, Jacob Dittoe, they petitioned Bishop John Carroll for priests to serve this new settlement. Jacob Dittoe, in fact, had written to Carroll twice, in 1805 and 1808, requesting priests for the isolated Catholic settlements of Ohio. It was not until 1818, after the founding of the Diocese of Bardstown in 1810 and the establishment of the Dominican Friars near Springfield, Kentucky, by Edward Fenwick, O.P. (1768–1832), that the first permanent parish in Ohio was founded. Fenwick and his nephew, Nicholas Young, O.P., came across the village of Somerset on one of their many missionary travels and authorized the construction of a church for the settlement. According to local lore, Father Fenwick heard an ax being wielded in the forest and veered from his route in order to discover the source of the sound. He found Dittoe at work clearing land. Eventually, the Dominicans were given 320 acres of cleared farmland, and Somerset became an important center for the friars. In 1830, the Dominican Sisters from Washington County, Kentucky, opened a girls' academy in Somerset. St. Joseph in Somerset remained an education and formation center for the eastern province of the Dominican Fathers until 1968. The priory remained standing until 1976. The Dominican Sisters moved to St. Mary of the Springs in Columbus in 1868, after struggling with the consequences of a disastrous fire in 1866, and have maintained the old St. Mary of the Springs College and Academy as Ohio Dominican College.
On June 19, 1824, Pope Pius VII responded to the expanding Catholic population in Ohio and created the Diocese of Cincinnati with Edward Fenwick as its first bishop. The bishop of Bardstown, Benedict Flaget, consecrated Fenwick in St. Rose Church, Washington County, Kentucky, on Jan. 14, 1822. Fenwick had immediate problems when he transferred his residence from the outskirts of Cincinnati to a location in the city on Sycamore Street. The laity challenged the merging of diocesan and Dominican property and brought the dispute before the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith. The congregation ordered a separation of diocesan and Dominican property, and in 1828 established the policy that diocesan property was to be held by Fenwick in the name of the diocese and willed to his successor in the See of Cincinnati. This arrangement spread throughout the Northwest Territory and is credited with keeping trusteeism from becoming a major problem for the Church in these states.
Fenwick was not only a residential bishop but also an active missionary. He traveled extensively throughout Ohio. Fenwick was born of a large landholding family in Maryland and had joined the English province of the Dominicans in Belgium. He returned to Europe on fund raising missions and was aided by Pope Leo XIII's support in collecting significant funds in Belgium, Holland and England. During his absence, from 1823 to 1825, a new episcopal residence was constructed and a cathedral completed and dedicated on Dec. 17, 1826. Fenwick opened a theological seminary, St. Aloysius, in May 1829. Fenwick's intense labors and travels left him in poor health. He petitioned for a coadjutor but died on a missionary journey in Wooster, Ohio, on Sept. 26, 1832, before one was appointed. On May 12, 1833, Pope Gregory XVI named John Baptist purcell (1800–83) as the second bishop of Cincinnati. He had completed his studies for the priesthood at St. Sulpice in Paris and was ordained by the archbishop of Paris before returning as professor and president of Mt. St. Mary's in Emmitsburg, Maryland. He was consecrated in Baltimore on Oct. 13, 1833. Purcell's half century in office as bishop and later archbishop of Cincinnati was a period of enormous growth and expansion of the Church in the state of Ohio. He was a learned and expansive man with a flair for the dramatic.
During the early years of Purcell's reign, there was a significant social change underway in Cincinnati. The Catholic population was transformed from an Irish Catholic community into a predominantly German Catholic Church with a minimum of ethnic tensions. Purcell, in contrast to the situation in many other urban areas of the country, was able to manage the transition with a minimum of ethnic tension and conflict. This was unique in the American Church where newer ethnic groups often clashed with the increasingly numerous Irish American hierarchy.
Purcell's European experience gave him inroads into the Church in Europe where he received both financial assistance and personnel for his rapidly growing missionary diocese. A participant in the first vatican council, he initially opposed the definition of papal infallibility for ecumenical reasons. He had clearly and articulately defended his position in a series of public debates in Ohio with Alexander campbell, founder of the Disciples of Christ, in 1836. Nevertheless, he accepted the conciliar definition and, while remaining seemingly intellectually unconvinced, offered his obedience to the Church and, personally, to Pope Pius IX. Edward fitzgerald, a priest of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati who became bishop of Little Rock in 1867, actually voted against the definition at the council, though he too publicly acquiesced.
Purcell allowed great freedom to the German congregations in Cincinnati and accepted a moderate form of trusteeism for the German parishes. Because of the earlier arrangement between the Irish Catholics and Bishop Fenwick, the actual ownership of the German parishes remained in the hands of the local bishop. The extreme forms of trusteeism, therefore, were not realized in Cincinnati. Purcell, however, was careful not to extend this form of local government to the Irish congregations of Cincinnati. He accepted the assistance of the Tirolean province of the Franciscan Fathers, centered in Innsbruck, Austria, to work with the German population in the city of Cincinnati. He also secured the services of the Precious Blood Fathers and Brothers, under the leadership of Father Francis de Sales Brunner, to serve the rural German population of northwestern Ohio. Both of these religious communities became separate provinces centered in the diocese, the Franciscans in Cincinnati and the Precious Blood Fathers in Carthagena, Ohio.
In 1850, Pope Pius IX raised Cincinnati, along with New York and New Orleans, to the status of an archdiocese, and Purcell became the first archbishop of the new province of Ohio. One of his goals was to open a seminary to provide the necessary education for those called to the priesthood. After several attempts, he undertook the construction of a facility west of the city, on Price Hill. The new seminary opened in 1851 as Mt. St. Mary's of the West. The name was reminiscent of his days as rector of Mt. St. Mary's in Maryland. In 1924 the seminary was moved to Norwood, Ohio, and in the early 1980s to its present location on the eastside of Cincinnati. Religious sisters also came to serve the expanding Catholic population of the state. St. Elizabeth Ann Seton's Sisters of Charity had arrived from Emmitsburg in 1829 and undertook educational and charitable works throughout the diocese. When their congregation affiliated with the French Daughters of Charity, the sisters in Cincinnati chose to become a separate canonical community known as the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati. In 1920 they established their College of Mt. St. Joseph's on the Ohio. Among the many notable women of the congregation, Sister Blandina Segale has a special place in the folklore of the American West as friend and teacher of Billy the Kid. In 1830, when Bishop Fenwick brought four Dominican Sisters from Kentucky to open a school in Somerset, they included Sister Benvin Sansbury, the sister of Sister Angela Sansbury, the first Dominican Sister professed in the United States. In 1839, Bishop Purcell obtained the services of the Sisters of Notre Dame, while visiting their motherhouse in Namur, Belgium, and in 1840, eight Notre Dame Sisters opened a school for girls at St. Xavier's Parish in Cincinnati, and in 1865, a school for Holy Cross and St. Patrick's parishes in Columbus.
The remarkable growth of the numbers of religious communities of women in the 19th century worked to the great benefit of the Church in Ohio. By mid-century the Sisters of Mercy from Kinsale, Ireland, the Franciscan Sisters of Stella Niagara, New York, the Ursulines, the Sisters of the Holy Humility of Mary, Sisters of Saint Joseph, the Good Shepherd Sisters, and many other congregations had come to serve the expanding Catholic population of the state. They worked not only in Cincinnati and the other early Catholic settlements, but also among the Catholics moving into the Ohio River valley, the industrially developing cities of Youngstown, Cleveland, Steubenville, and Toledo, and the German farmlands of northwest Ohio. The Sisters of the Precious Blood were an important part of the rural German communities of northwestern Ohio. Along with the Precious Blood Fathers, they were the most significant religious presence throughout that part of the state. Purcell's reign ended, sadly, in scandal and personal tragedy. His brother and chancellor, Father Edward Purcell, had tried to provide a safe banking service for the Catholics of Cincinnati and was successful during some of the financial crises of the mid-19th century. During the Panic of 1877–78, however, there was a run on Purcell's financial holdings and the funds to respond to the demands were simply not available. In fact, there were only a third of the funds demanded available. The legal battles were not finally resolved until 1905 when investors received a settlement based on their initial investments.
Archbishop Purcell publicly acknowledged the terrible situation and offered his resignation to Pope Leo XIII. The pope allowed Purcell to retain the title of archbishop, but he retired, with his brother, to the Ursuline convent in St. Martin, Ohio. He died there, after suffering a series of strokes, on July 4, 1883. He was succeeded by the bishop of Natchez, Mississippi, William Henry Elder, who faced the task of managing a financially shattered archdiocese while at the same time attempting to maintain the growth and strength of the Catholic Church in the aftermath of disillusionment, anger, and loss of faith. The situation was so widely known and so severe that Bishops Edward Fitzgerald of Little Rock and Bernard McQuaid of Rochester had both refused the appointment to Cincinnati. Elder turned out to be an excellent choice. He was learned and cultured and a good reconciler of divergent opinions and conflicting movements. He held the position for 24 years and died Oct. 31, 1904. The courts dealt with the Purcell financial scandal during Elder's entire time as archbishop.
In addition to the strong European immigrant communities, there were also African American Catholics in Ohio in the 19th century. Daniel Rudd (1854–1903), who had been born a slave in Bardstown, Kentucky, published a black Catholic weekly newspaper, American Catholic Tribune, beginning in the late 1880s. Beginning in Springfield, Ohio, where he had migrated in order to attend high school, he eventually published the newspaper in Cincinnati, and then in Detroit, until the late 1890s. He was confident that the Catholic Church possessed the means, through its teaching and its structure, to overcome all forms of racism in the nation. Rudd was a principal organizer of the five black Catholic lay congresses, whose delegates were elected by parishes across the country, that were held between 1889 and 1894, including one in Cincinnati (1890). There was a continuing attraction for American blacks to convert to Catholicism through the mid-20th century. In several small southern Ohio cities, blacks were not welcome to pursue high school education in the public schools, and so many converted to Catholicism in order to attend Catholic high schools. Chillicothe, Ohio, the state's first capital, experienced this phenomenon, and families such as the Menefees, Mitchells, and Hairstons remain an important part of the black Catholic population of southern Ohio.
Cincinnati's jurisdiction had been divided twice during the reign of Archbishop Purcell. In 1847, Pope Pius IX created the Diocese of Cleveland, comprising the entire northern section of Ohio. The first bishop, Louis Amadeus Rappe, had come to America with three other French priests, John Baptist Lamy, Joseph Machebeuf and Louis de Groesbriand, all of whom had been recruited for the American missions by Archbishop Purcell. Lamy first went to Danville, Ohio, then known as Sapp Settlement, and served as a missionary priest in central Ohio, founding St. Vincent parish in Mt. Vernon, Ohio, and St. Francis de Sales in Newark, Ohio, before being named the archbishop of Santa Fe. He remains a significant figure in American literature as the archbishop in Willa Cather's Death Comes for the Archbishop. Groesbriand went on to become the bishop of Burlington, Vermont, and Machebeuf the bishop of the Diocese of Epiphany, later known as Denver.
Rappe had only one permanent church in his new diocese, St. Mary on the Flats. Within five years, Rappe had built a new cathedral dedicated to St. John the Evangelist. The Catholic population grew rapidly, and several synods were held to help guide the growing Church. Rappe faced great ethnic tensions when waves of immigration broke over the new diocese. The results were less fortuitous for Rappe in Cleveland than for Purcell in Cincinnati. Various ethnic groups in the new diocese were in great conflict with each other and the bishop. Rappe became increasingly disheartened by the intense conflict, and when he submitted his resignation to Pope Pius IX in 1870 while attending the Vatican Council, his enemies in Cleveland used the occasion to accuse him of scandalous behavior. The local newspaper, The Leader, took up the story, and Rappe was vilified throughout the city. No truth was ever ascertained concerning the charges of confessional solicitation, but Rappe happily took up missionary work in the Diocese of Burlington among the French-speaking population of northern New York and Vermont. He died on Grand Island in Lake Champlain in 1877, and was buried in the cathedral at Cleveland. On March 3, 1868, Cincinnati was further divided by the creation of the Diocese of Columbus. Sylvester Rosecrans, brother of the Civil War General William Rosecrans and auxiliary bishop of Cincinnati, was appointed the first bishop of Columbus. Rosecrans was converted to Catholicism while a student at Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio. As a consequence of his conversion he had to withdraw from Kenyon, then an Episcopalian men's college founded by the Protestant Episcopal Bishop Philander Chase in 1824. By the time Rosecrans became bishop, Columbus had some 40,000 Catholics. Somerset, Ohio, site of the first permanent Catholic church in the state, was in the new diocese and remained under the Dominicans who had been there since 1818, and who still remained responsible for the church in Somerset into the year 2001. Rosecrans built a new cathedral for Columbus, neither wishing to choose the Irish church, St. Patrick's, nor the German church, Holy Cross (formerly St. Remigius parish), for his cathedral. He dedicated the new St. Joseph Cathedral on Oct. 20, 1878, and died the following day. He was succeeded by John Watterson, president of Mt. St. Mary's in Emmitsburg, Maryland.
Watterson paid off the cathedral debt but by expanding the number of parishes and schools, left the diocese heavily in debt. There was some consideration of suppressing the new diocese for financial reasons, but Watterson's death and the arrival of the financially adept former Cincinnati chancellor, Henry Moeller, ensured the continued existence of the Columbus diocese. In 1904, James J. Hartley was appointed bishop of Columbus. He reigned until 1944 and continued the expansion and building of the institutions which spread and supported the faith. In 1923 he opened a local seminary dedicated to St. Charles Borromeo, which remained in operation until 1969. It is now the only Catholic boys' high school in Columbus.
During the early 20th century, the industrial cities of Ohio grew so rapidly that new dioceses had to be created. In 1910 Toledo became a diocese. The first three bishops of Toledo were to move on to other sees: Joseph Schrembs to Cleveland, Samuel Stritch to Chicago, and Karl Alter to Cincinnati. The Toledo Cathedral of the Queen of the Most Holy Rosary was planned by Bishop Schrembs, begun by Bishop Stritch, and completed in 1940 by Bishop Alter. It is the finest example of Spanish Plateresque architecture in the country. Toledo, like the other Ohio industrial cities, was challenged to care for the great waves of immigrants pouring in from eastern and southern Europe. During the Second World War, the wartime economy with its demand for steel and other materials needed for the war effort provided ample opportunity for numerous Catholic immigrants to find work in the Ohio industrial belt. Two new dioceses were erected during these years of rapid wartime expansion: Youngstown, with James McFadden as bishop (1943–52), in 1943, and Steubenville, with John King Mussio as bishop (1945–77), in 1944. Schools, hospitals, colleges, and charitable institutions proliferated throughout the state. The sacrifice and hard work of religious sisters maintained most of these institutions.
Ohio became a center for Catholic higher education. Major colleges and universities were founded and sustained by religious congregations of men and women. The University of Dayton was founded in 1850 by the Marianist Fathers and Brothers who still provide the leadership of the university. Ohio's largest Catholic university, it draws students from across the United States and abroad. The Marian Institute of the university has the largest Marian library in the world and grants pontifical degrees in Marian theology through its affiliation with the Marianum University in Rome.
Xavier University in Cincinnati and John Carroll University in Cleveland were founded by the Society of Jesus, in 1831 and 1886 respectively. These Jesuit universities have provided the Catholic population of Ohio with the Jesuit educational tradition for well over a century and a half. Today they face the same Catholic identity issues that most Catholic colleges and universities face, but still maintain a significant number of priests and scholastics in administration and on the teaching faculty.
The Ursuline Sisters of Toledo and Cleveland were leaders in Catholic higher education for women in northern Ohio, as were the Sisters of Mercy in Toledo and the Holy Humility of Mary Sisters in Cleveland. The College of Mt. St. Joseph on the Ohio, founded by the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati, has been a mainstay of Catholic women's education in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. The funds for the establishment and development of these institutions and other institutions owned and operated by communities of women religious throughout the state and the country were acquired through the ability and skill of the sisters themselves, giving further testimony to the extraordinary ability and resourcefulness of American women religious. Few women in American society during the 19th and early part of the 20th centuries had such opportunities to develop and use their education and natural abilities in such public and professional ways. As the decline in vocations to the religious life accelerated and the costs of operation increased greatly, many of the smaller Catholic colleges merged, closed or secularized. Nevertheless many remained and continue to provide educational opportunities for the people of Ohio and across the country.
A unique phenomenon in Catholic higher education in Ohio is the Franciscan University of Steubenville. Founded in 1946 as the College of Steubenville by the Sacred Heart Province of the Third Order Regular of St. Francis with the cooperation of Bishop John King Mussio, the university floundered for many years until Father Michael Scanlan, T.O.R., was elected president in 1974. He led the university into the Charismatic movement and beyond. By the time Scanlan retired as president in 2000, after 26 years of service, the university had gained a national reputation by placing a strong emphasis on orthodoxy and youthful enthusiasm, and had won recognition as a source of church renewal and youth retreats.
Ohio is also the home of the Pontifical College Josephinum, a seminary that offers undergraduate, pretheology and theology degree programs. Founded originally as St. Joseph's Orphan Home in Pomeroy, Ohio, by German born Father Joseph J. Jessing, the institution became incorporated as a seminary in Columbus in 1888. Jessing sought to provide free seminary education for poor German boys to serve the needs of the German immigrant population of the United States, and at the founder's initiative, the seminary came under pontifical jurisdiction in 1892. With the Apostolic Nuncio to the United States as the Chancellor and also the Ordinary of the Josephinum, the seminary holds the unusual position of being the only such institution for the education of students for the priesthood outside of Italy. The state is also home to three diocesan seminaries, Mt. St. Mary's of the West in Cincinnati, as well as Borromeo and St. Mary Seminaries in Cleveland.
The hierarchy of Ohio has played a major role in the life of the Church of the United States. Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, as general secretary of the National Catholic Welfare Conference (NCWC), was instrumental in founding the United States Catholic Conference and the National Conference of Catholic Bishops (NCCB). He served there as general secretary and president. In 1972, he was named archbishop of Cincinnati and remained there until 1982, when he was transferred to the Archdiocese of Chicago. Bishop James Malone, bishop of Youngstown from 1966 to 1995, was also active in the NCWC and the NCCB, serving as its president from 1984 to 1986. Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk of Cincinnati and Bishop Anthony Pilla of Cleveland have also served as presidents of the Conference, from 1990 to 1992, and from 1996 to 1998, respectively.
In addition to Cardinal Bernardin, Bishop Samuel Stritch of Toledo (1921–30) also became cardinal archbishop of Chicago. Bishop John J. Carberry of Columbus (1965–68) went on to become the cardinal archbishop of St. Louis. Bishop James Hickey of Cleveland (1974–80) became the cardinal archbishop of Washington and Auxiliary Bishop John Krol of Cleveland (1953–61) became the cardinal archbishop of Philadelphia. Other Ohio bishops have also had a significant impact on the life of the national Church. Most notable among these were Archbishops John T. McNicholas of Cincinnati (1925–50) and Karl J. Alter, also of Cincinnati (1950–69). Joseph Schrembs, Bishop of Cleveland (1921–45) and Edward F. Hoban, Bishop of Cleveland (1945–66) were both awarded the personal title of archbishop in recognition of their leadership roles within the Church in the United States.
The bishops of Ohio collaborate in the work of the Church in the state through the Ohio Catholic Conference. Founded in 1945 under the presidency of Archbishop McNicholas, it was known as the Ohio Catholic Welfare Conference. In 1967, in conformity with the change in the National Catholic Welfare Conference, it changed its name to the Ohio Catholic Conference. Meetings are usually held twice a year in Columbus under the presidency of the archbishop of Cincinnati. The conference identifies itself as "the official representative of the Catholic Church in public matters affecting the Church and the general welfare of the citizens of Ohio." It focuses on educational and health issues as well as social concerns, and it lobbies the state legislature on issues pertaining to Catholic interests and those of the general well-being of the citizens of the state.
The Catholic Church in Ohio rests on the institutions, leadership, and labor of earlier leaders; clerical, religious, and lay. From Jacob Dittoe of Somerset to the German trustees of Cincinnati to the newer forms of public presence, the faithful have built and sustained a strong community of believers. The Church in Ohio has positioned itself well to face the challenges of its next century.
Bibliography: The story is recorded by r. brennan, o.p., in Cradle of the Faith in Ohio, published in 1968. f. f. brown, A History of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Steubenville, Vol. I: The Mussio Years 1945–1977 (Lewiston/Queenston/Lampeter 1994). j.j. hartley, ed., A History of the Diocese of Columbus, 2 v. (Columbus, Ohio 1918–43). Also see The Catholic Record Society, 197 East Gay St. Columbus, Ohio 43215. m. e. hussey, A History of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati (Strasbourg, France 2000). m. j. hynes, History of the Diocese of Cleveland: Origin and Growth (1847–1952) (Cleveland 1953). l. a. mossing, History of the Diocese of Toledo, 9 v. (Fremont, Ohio 1983).
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