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Cincinnati’s spiritual leaders

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Friday, December 25, 2009

Archbishop Dennis M. Schnurr joins a storied group of men who have led the local Catholic Church since the beginning of the 19th century. Here is a brief look at them:

Bishop Edward D. Fenwick, OP (1768-1832)

Father Edward Fenwick, future first bishop of Cincinnati, at Somerset, Ohio, 1808. (CT file photo)

Edward Dominic Fenwick was born at St. Mary’s County, Md., on Aug. 19, 1768. He was educated at Holy Cross College in Belgium and entered the Dominican order on Sept. 4, 1788. He was ordained at St. Bavon, Ghent, in 1793 and served assignments in England until returning to the United States in 1804. With the approval of Baltimore Bishop John Carroll, he undertook establishment of a province in St. Rose, Ky., where he was appointed superior. For 14 years he endured the difficult life of a missionary and was appointed first Bishop of Cincinnati in 1821. His episcopal ordination was held Jan. 13, 1822 at St. Rose Priory in Kentucky.

Bishop Fenwick built both a seminary and a cathedral in Cincinnati, and in response to increasing anti-Catholic sentiment, he founded The Catholic Telegraph in 1831 to help educate and support his flock.

He died Sept. 26, 1832, in Wooster, Ohio, while on a missionary journey.

Archbishop John Baptist Purcell (1800-1883)

05leaders_b_100x166John Baptist Purcell was born in Mallow in County Cork, Ireland, on Feb. 26, 1800. He studied for the priesthood at Mount St. Mary Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md., and was ordained in Paris in 1826. In 1829 he was named president of Mount St. Mary.

Bishop Purcell was appointed Bishop of Cincinnati in 1833 and archbishop in 1850 when Cincinnati became an archdiocese. In 1869 he took part in the First Vatican Council.

Archbishop Purcell saw the Catholic population of Cincinnati increase from 7,000 Catholics, 14 priests and three churches to a statewide growth of 500,000 Catholics, 500 churches and 480 priests in the dioceses of Cincinnati, Columbus and Cleveland. He is known for his contributions to building a Catholic school system in the Midwest.

In April 1880 he turned all affairs of the archdiocese over to the hands of his coadjutor, Bishop William H. Elder. He died in Brown County in 1883.

Archbishop William H. Elder (1819-1904)

Archbishop William H. Elder was born in Baltimore on March 22, 1819, and received his seminary training at Mount St. Mary in Emmitsburg. He was ordained in Rome in 1846.

After 11 years as a professor of dogmatic theology at Mount St. Mary he was named Bishop of Natchez, Miss., in 1857. Although appointed Coadjutor Archbishop of San Francisco in 1878, he never fulfilled that assignment, believing himself to be more critically needed in Natchez.

In 1880 he was appointed Coadjutor Archbishop of Cincinnati, succeeding Archbishop Purcell on July 4, 1883. Following the 1903 appointment of Bishop Henry Moeller as his coadjutor, Archbishop Elder turned the administration of the archdiocese over to his successor. He died Oct. 31, 1904.

Archbishop Henry K. Moeller (1849-1925)

05leaders_c_100x166Archbishop Henry K. Moeller was born in Cincinnati Dec. 11, 1849 — the first native son to lead the archdiocese. He attended St. Joseph School in the West End and St. Xavier High School. He was ordained to the priesthood in Rome in 1876. He served briefly as pastor of St. Patrick’s Church in Bellefontaine and was then appointed to teach at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Cincinnati. He later served as secretary to then-Bishop Elder until 1900, when he was himself appointed Bishop of Columbus.

After three years he was appointed Coadjutor Archbishop of Cincinnati and succeeded Archbishop Elder a year later. He died Jan. 5, 1925, at his residence in Norwood.

Archbishop John T. McNicholas, OP (1877-1950)

The second Dominican priest to lead the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, Archbishop John T. McNicholas was born Timothy McNicholas in Kiltimagh in County Mayo, Ireland, in 1877.

Educated in Philadelphia, he entered the Dominican order at St. Rose Priory in Springfield, Ky., and was ordained to the priesthood at Somerset, Ohio, in 1901. He was named assistant to the master general of the Dominicans in Rome in 1917. A year later he became Bishop of Duluth. In 1925 he was appointed to lead Cincinnati. During his 25 years as archbishop, he also served as president of the National Catholic Educational Association and chairman of education for the National Catholic Welfare Conference.

He died April 22, 1950, at his residence in College Hill.

Archbishop Karl J. Alter (1885-1977)

Archbishop Karl J. Alter, a native of Toledo, was ordained to the priesthood for that diocese in 1910. He was appointed bishop of his native diocese in 1931, spending 19 years in that role until being named Archbishop of Cincinnati in 1950.

In this archdiocese he oversaw the restoration of St. Peter in Chains Cathedral and the completion of St. Gregory Seminary, as well as about 130 other major building projects. The archbishop was responsible for implementing the reforms of Vatican II in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati.

Archbishop Alter retired in 1969 but maintained an active and visible role in the life of the archdiocese until his death in 1977.

Archbishop Paul F. Leibold (1914-1972)

Archbishop Paul F. Leibold was born in Dayton in 1914. A graduate of Chaminade High School and the University of Dayton, he was ordained to the priesthood in 1940.

He served as assistant chancellor and chancellor of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, as well as pastor of St. Louis Church. In 1958 he was named Auxiliary Bishop of Cincinnati, a position he held for eight years until being named Bishop of Evansville.

In 1969 this native son returned as Archbishop of Cincinnati, where he was known for his pastoral style. He launched the Sixth Archdiocesan Synod and involved the laity in more of the decision-making. He was also devoted to ecumenism.

Archbishop Leibold died suddenly in 1972 at the age of 57.

Cardinal Joseph L. Bernardin (1928-1996)

05leaders_d_100x166Cardinal Joseph L. Bernardin was born in Coumbia, S.C., on April 2, 1928, to Italiam immigrant parents. Following studies at Mount St. Mary Seminary in Maryland, he was ordained to the priesthood for the Diocese of Charleston in 1952 and served as a parish priest and chancellor. He was later named Auxiliary Bishop of Atlanta.

Upon his appointment to lead the Archdiocese of Cincinnati in 1972, he was the youngest archbishop in the United States. During his decade as this archdiocese’s spiritual leader he served as president of the then-National Conference of Catholic Bishops from 1974-77. In 1974, 1977, 1980 and 1983 he was appointed by his fellow bishops as one of four American delegates to the World Synod of Bishops in Rome.

He was then appointed Archbishop of Chicago in 1982 and elevated to the rank of cardinal the following year.  Following a very public and courageous battle with cancer, Cardinal Bernardin died in November 1996 in Chicago.

Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk

Born in Dayton on Aug. 12, 1934, Archbishop Pilarczyk was ordained to the priesthood in Rome in 1959 and later earned doctoral degrees in sacred theology and classics. In 1974 he named Auxiliary Bishop of Cincinnati to assist then-Archbishop Bernardin. Just eight years later, on Dec. 20, 1982, he was installed as Archbishop of Cincinnati. He served as president of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops from 1989-1992. As Archbishop of Cincinnati he has been focused on education. He initiated programs to address racism, clergy shortages and other social and pastoral programs facing the church, including the Decree on Child Protection first promulgated in 1993. In 1991 he implemented Stewardship Sunday to educate Catholics about the various facets of stewardship.

He has been a member of the International Committee on English in the Liturgy and is chairman of the Common Ground Initiative.

Archbishop Pilarczyk is also the author of two dozen books. At his retirement, effective Dec. 21, 2009, he had been a priest for 50 years, a bishop for 25 and Archbishop of Cincinnati for 27 years.

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