Edward Fenwick

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Edward Fenwick

Bishop Edward Dominic Fenwick, O.P. (b. August 19, 1768, St. Mary's County (Maryland) - d. September 26, 1832, Wooster, Ohio) was an American Dominican.


Born on the Patuxent river, Maryland (then a colony) to Colonel Ignatius Fenwick and Sarah Taney. Colonel Fenwick was a military figure of the American Revolution and one of the early Catholic families of Maryland; he was educated, aged 16, at the College of Bornheim, near Antwerp, Belgium.

On completion of his studies he joined the Dominican Order and entered the seminary at Bornheim as a theological student. After ordination he became a professor at the Dominican College. Belgium being invaded during the French Revolution, Fenwick was initially imprisoned under threat of death, but later released upon proof of his American citizenship. After release from prison he travelled to England and entered a convent of the Dominican Order.

He returned to the United States anxious to establish the Dominican Order. He was received by Bishop John Carroll, who suggested that Fr. Fenwick and the Dominicans who accompanied him should evangelize the vast regions of the United States west of the Appalachian Mountains, including the territories acquired in the 1803 Louisiana Purchase.

In 1805, Fr. Fenwick traversed the entire Mississippi Valley looking for a central location to continue his missionary work. The other three Dominican priests were Samuel Thomas Wilson, a Master of Sacred Theology, Robert Antoninus Angier, a Lectorate in Sacred Theology and Preacher General, and William Raymond Tuite.

Fr. Fenwick selected a site in Washington County, Kentucky, near Springfield, Kentucky. Construction of a priory and a church began almost immediately and was first inhabited in December 1806 but not completed until 1807. St. Rose Priory church was dedicated December 25, 1809. Saint Thomas of Aquinas College was added later, completed in 1812. St. Rose Priory was the first Catholic educational institution west of the Alleghenies. The first Bishop of the new (in 1808) Diocese of Bardstown, Benedict Joseph Flaget, used the priory until the Bardstown St. Joseph Proto-Cathedral was built.

On January 13, 1822, Edward Dominic Fenwick was consecrated as the first Bishop of the new Diocese of Cincinnati. The consecration was celebrated at Saint Rose Church as there was no cathedral in Cincinnati. He went to Europe in 1823 to raise funding for the new diocese and returned in 1826 with resources to begin the construction of the cathedral, parochial schools, and to found the convents of the Sisters of Charity and of the Dominican nuns.

In 1829 Bishop Fenwick established the St. Francis Xavier Seminary. This was the third oldest Catholic seminary in the United States and the oldest Catholic seminary west of the Appalachian Mountains. The Athenaeum of Ohio-Mount St. Mary Seminary claims its roots through the St. Francis Xavier Seminary and is located in Cincinnati.

In 1831 Bishop Fenwick initiated publication of The Catholic Telegraph diocesan newspaper.[1] The weekly newspaper was carried by stage and riverboat to areas within the diocese's government, as well as to cities in Kentucky, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Maryland and the District of Columbia. The Catholic Telegraph is still in existence today as the oldest continuously-published Catholic newspaper in the United States.

Also in 1831, Bishop Fenwick founded The Athenaeum, which later evolved into Xavier University and St. Xavier High School.

After the college was established he returned to missionary work, visiting the Indian tribes in the Northwestern territory. Stricken by cholera he died in Wooster, Ohio on September 26, 1832, aged 64.

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Bishop of Cincinnati
Succeeded by
John Baptist Purcell

Several schools are named in his honor:


  • August 19, 1768 - Born in Maryland Colony
  • December 24, 1784 - Entered Holy Cross College, Bornheim, Belgium
  • September 4, 1788 - Entered the Order of the Dominicans
  • March 26, 1790 - Professed a Friar Preacher at Bornheim
  • March 24, 1792 - Ordained Subdeacon at Ghent, France
  • June 2, 1792 - Ordained a Deacon
  • February 23, 1793 - Ordination as priest (date probable)
  • Spring, 1794 - Put in charge of convent at Borheim
  • 1795 - Joined college at Carshalton, Surrey, England (date approximate)
  • November 11, 1800 - Entered Woburn Lodge for theological studies
  • June 21, 1802 - Made procurator of the convent at Surrey, England
  • September, 1804 - Sailed from London to return to America
  • Spring, 1805 - Visited Kentucky to investigate founding a college or school
  • June 22, 1805 - Appointed Superior of the Province of United States (Dominican)
  • July, 1806 - Returned to Kentucky, purchased acreage near Springfield, Kentucky to construct convent, college and church known as St. Rose.
  • October, 1807 - Petitioned for and was released from superiorship of the newly created Dominican Province of the United States (began mission work).
  • 1807 to 1821 - Devoted time to missionary work, traveling throughout Kentucky and Ohio ministering to the Catholics.
  • December 6, 1818 - Blessed first church in Ohio, at Somerset, Ohio (dedicated to St. Joseph).
  • April 12, 1819 - Mass celebrated at Christ Church, Cincinnati for the first time (Christ Church was the first church in Cincinnati).
  • June 19, 1821 - Appointed by Rome to the see of Cincinnati.
  • January 13, 1822 - Consecrated Bishop at St. Rose Church, Springfield, Kentucky, by Bishop Benedict Joseph Flaget, became first Bishop of Cincinnati and Ohio.
  • March 23, 1822 - Bishop Fenwick arrives in Cincinnati on horseback.
  • December 5, 1822 - Christ Church, having been moved and reconstructed, is opened and services held. The church is now known as St. Peter.
  • May 30, 1823 - Bishop Fenwick leaves for Rome, his trip expenses paid for by laymen in Cincinnati.
  • August 6, 1823 - Arrives at Bordeaux, France.
  • September 26, 1823 - Arrives at Rome, two days before election of Pope Leo XII.
  • October 6, 1823 - Is received in audience of Leo XII. Receives financial assistance, ecclesiastical articles, and 12 paintings.
  • March 29, 1824 - Returns to Cincinnati.
  • December 17, 1826 - Cathedral dedicated in honor of St. Peter.
  • May 11, 1829 - Fenwick opens St. Francis Xavier Seminary.
  • May 14, 1830 - Cornerstone laid for church dedicated to St. Francis Xavier.
  • October, 1831 - Establishes The Athenaeum.
  • October, 1831 - Establishes The Catholic Telegraph, oldest diocesan newspaper in America.
  • September, 1832 - Died at Wooster, Ohio

External links[edit]


  1. ^ The Catholic Telegraph diocesan newspaper
  1. History of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati by Rev. John H. Lamott, S.T.D. (1921)