Price, Thomas Frederick

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Cofounder of the Catholic Foreign Mission Society of America; b. Wilmington, N.C., Aug. 19, 1860; d. Hong Kong, China, Sept. 12, 1919. His parents, converts to Catholicism, were Alfred Lanier and Clarissa Bond; his father was editor of Wilmington's first daily newspaper, the Daily Journal. As a youth Price sometimes served the Masses of Bishop James Gibbons, vicar apostolic of North Carolina (and future archbishop of Baltimore), who resided in Wilmington's St. Thomas parish. After studies at St. Charles Seminary, Catonsville, Md. and St. Mary's Seminary, Baltimore, Price was ordained on June 20, 1886, becoming the first native diocesan priest of the vicariate of North Carolina. From 1887 to 1896 he was pastor of the vicariate's oldest parish at New Bern, traveling by horse and buggy to its over 17 dependent missions.

Toward a Wider Apostolate. Though widely scattered, Catholics were relatively few in North Carolina. Price concluded that more of the Church's efforts should be devoted to a wider apostolate. Influenced by the convert programs of the Paulist Fathers in the north, he secured authorization from the then vicar apostolic, Bishop Leo Haid, O.S.B., abbot of Belmont, to be released from his parish to engage in preaching to the mostly protestant general public. In 1896 he acquired land near Raleigh as a base for his work, naming it Nazareth. As he began his new preaching campaign, he launched Truth (1897), a monthly devoted to correcting misunderstandings about Catholicism. Edited entirely by Price, it was nonpolemical in style and soon attracted a national readership. At Nazareth he established an orphanage, inviting the Sisters of Mercy, led by his sister, Sr. Catherine, to staff it. He also began seeking priests and seminarians who would join him as a community of missionary preachers. At Nazareth he built a center for this "North Carolina Apostolate" with a preparatory seminary for future apostles (1902). Although a few priests joined him and some candidates entered his training program, and while others, including some Northern seminarians, lent their services in summer months, the project did not succeed as he had hoped.

The Foreign Mission Challenge. In 1904 Price attended a meeting of the Catholic Missionary Union in Washington, D.C., an organization of leaders of the principal home missionary projects in the United States. Price presented a report on his methods. He also listened as the young director of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith from Boston, Fr. James A. walsh, proposed that home mission interest and vocations might well be increased if the wider challenge of foreign missions were likewise promoted. Price was attracted to Walsh's vision. The foreign mission theme now appeared frequently in his editorials in Truth, and he followed Walsh's appeals in The Field Afar. During the next several years he began to feel that the future of his North Carolina project should be its becoming a national mission society for home and foreign missions. He also realized that Bishop Haid would not approve of his expanding the Nazareth project.

Cofounder of Maryknoll. In September of 1910 Price and Walsh met by chance while attending a Eucharistic Congress in Montreal. Price urged that they take steps together to establish the mission seminary they felt was needed by the U.S. Church. Walsh accepted the challenge. Price then conferred with Cardinal Gibbons and the apostolic delegate, Diomede Falconio, who were favorable to making the project a national one. Gibbons submitted the project to the U.S. archbishops, who approved it at their meeting on April 27, 1911, directing Walsh and Price to proceed to Rome to secure the authorization of the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith (June 29). Upon their return, they established The Catholic Foreign Mission Society of America near Ossining, N.Y. on property they named Maryknoll. For the next seven years, Price traveled throughout the East and Midwest, promoting the new society and seminary, seeking vocations and raising funds. When he was at Maryknoll, he served as a spiritual director. During these years his personal spirituality became more mystical, marked by an intense devotion to Mary and to the Venerable Bernadette Subirous of Lourdes. The fact that the new society did not include missions in the United States was a disappointment to Price, and he continued to nourish the hope of eventually establishing such a society. In this effort he was not encouraged by Cardinal Gibbons. In 1918 Price accepted the charge of superior in the first group of four Maryknoll missionaries assigned to work in China. In 1919 he developed acute appendicitis and died at St. Paul's Hospital in Hong Kong. In 1936 his remains were returned to Maryknoll, N.Y., where they now rest beside those of Bishop James A. Walsh in the crypt of the society chapel.

See Also: maryknoll fathers and brothers.

Bibliography: a. dries, The Missionary Movement in American Catholic History (Maryknoll, N.Y. 1998). j. c. murrett, Tar Heel Apostle: Thomas Frederick Price, Cofounder of Maryknoll (New York 1944). j. t. seddon, When Saints Are Lovers: The Spirituality of Maryknoll Co-Founder Thomas F. Price (Collegeville, Minn. 1997). r. e. sheridan, ed., Very Reverend Thomas Frederick Price, MM. Cofounder of Maryknoll: A Symposium, with Supplement 1981 (Maryknoll, N.Y. 1981). r. e. sheridan, ed., Collected Letters of Thomas Frederick Price, M.M. (Maryknoll, N.Y. 1981).

[w. d. mccarthy]