John Joseph Hennessy

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John Joseph Hennessy (July 19, 1847 – July 13, 1920) was an Irish-born prelate of the Roman Catholic Church. He was the first Bishop of Wichita, Kansas (1888-1920).


John Hennessy was born near Cloyne, County Cork, to Michael and Ellen (née Cronin) Hennessy.[1] In 1850 he and his parents came to the United States, where they settled at St. Louis, Missouri.[2] He received his early education at the local cathedral school and the Christian Brothers College, from where he graduated in 1862.[2] He completed his theological studies at St. Francis Seminary in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and his philosophical studies at St. Vincent College in Cape Girardeau.[1] Hennessy was ordained to the priesthood on November 28, 1869.[3] At age 22, he was below the age requirement for ordination but was granted a dispensation by Pope Pius IX.[1]

Hennessy then served as pastor of Iron Mountain, with his jurisdiction extending as far south as Arkansas.[2] He erected churches at Bismarck, Doniphan, Poplar Bluff, Gatewood, Graniteville, and Farmington.[1] He established the Catholic Railroad Men's Benevolent Union in 1871, a convent for the Ursuline Sisters at Arcadia in 1877, and the first total abstinence society in southeast Missouri.[2] In 1878 he was elected procurator and vice-president of the Catholic Protectory for Boys at Glencoe.[1] He became rector of St. John's Church at St. Louis in 1880.[2] That same year he became editor of the St. Louis Youths' Magazine and in 1882 secretary of the St. Louis Orphan Board.[1] He also served as treasurer of the diocesean clergy fund and spiritual director of the St. Vincent de Paul Society.[1]

On February 11, 1888, Hennessy was appointed the first Bishop of the newly erected Diocese of Wichita, Kansas, by Pope Leo XIII.[3] He was technically the second Bishop of Wichita, as Rev. James O'Reilly was appointed the first bishop in 1887 but died before his episcopal consecration.[4] Hennessy was consecrated on November 30, 1888 by Archbishop Peter Richard Kenrick, with Archbishop John Hennessy and Bishop Louis Mary Fink, O.S.B., serving as co-consecrators.[3] In 1898 he convened the first diocesan synod.[5] He broke ground for the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in April 1906 and laid the cornerstone the following October; it was later dedicated by Cardinal James Gibbons in September 1912.[5] Between 1891 and 1898, he also served as Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Concordia.[3]

After thirty-one years as bishop, Hennessy died at age 73.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Blackmar, Frank W., ed. (1912). Kansas: A Cyclopedia of State History, Embracing Events, Institutions, Industries, Counties, Cities, Towns, Prominent Persons, Etc. Chicago: Standard Publishing Company. 
  2. ^ a b c d e The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography XII. New York: James T. White & Company. 1904. 
  3. ^ a b c d "Bishop John Joseph Hennessy". 
  4. ^ "Diocese of Wichita". Catholic Encyclopedia. 
  5. ^ a b "History: 1912-2002". Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. 
Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Bishop of Wichita
Succeeded by
Augustus John Schwertner