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Phelan, David Samuel


Priest, editor, author; b. Sydney, Nova Scotia, July 16, 1841; d. St. Louis, Mo., Sept. 21, 1915. As the son of Alexander and Margaret (Creedon) Phelan, he moved with his family to St. Louis, Mo., in 1853. On completion of his studies for the priesthood under the Vincentians at Cape Girardeau, Mo., he was ordained by Abp. Peter Richard Kenrick (May 30, 1863) and assigned as assistant at the cathedral in St. Louis. Within a few months he became pastor at Indian Creek, Mo., and shortly afterwards, at Edina, Mo. Here he purchased the machinery and type of two small, often anti-Catholic newspapers and began publication of the Missouri Watchman. In 1868 he was named pastor of Annunciation parish in St. Louis. In 1873, after serving at Pacific, Mo., he became pastor of Our Lady of Mount Carmel parish, St. Louis, a post he held until his death. Phelan organized parishes in Ferguson and Spanish Lake, Mo., and was involved in the establishment of a Carmel in New Orleans, La., by nuns from the St. Louis Carmel. Phelan was best known as a journalist. At Edina, where his newspaper attacked the test oath demanded by the Missouri constitution, he was arrested when he refused to take the oath. He was released without conviction. His newspaper, renamed the Western Watchman, in St. Louis, often indulged in controversy. Phelan frequently criticized the actions of the hierarchy, including his own superiors. He was outspoken, for instance, against Cahenslyism, attempts to recruit American volunteers for papal service against Garibaldi, the condemnation by some bishops of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, and the educational provisions of the Third Council of Baltimore. He was a great admirer of Abp. John Ireland, who supported him in several disputes. In addition to exposing the American Protective Association in St. Louis, Phelan usually favored Democratic foreign and domestic policies and reflected contemporary Irish-American antipathy to Britain. Besides his editorial contributions, he produced two volumes of sermons, The Gospel Applied to Our Times (1904) and Christ the Preacher (1905). He also compiled and translated from the French three works in ascetical theology.

Bibliography: j. e. rothensteiner, History of the Archdiocese of Louis, 2 v. (St. Louis 1928). m. c. smith, Our Pastors in Calvary: Biographical Sketches of Parish Priests of St. Louis, 18541924 (St. Louis 1924).

[m. f. hasting]

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