Peter Richard Kenrick

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Most Reverend

Peter Richard Kenrick
Archbishop of St. Louis
ChurchCatholic Church
AppointedJuly 20, 1847
Term endedMay 21, 1895
PredecessorJoseph Rosati, C.M.
SuccessorJohn Joseph Kain
Other post(s)Titular Bishop of Draso (1841–1843)
Coadjutor bishop of St. Louis (1841–1843)
Bishop of St. Louis (1843–1847)
Titular Archbishop of Marcianopolis (1895–1896)
OrdinationMarch 6, 1832
by Daniel Murray
ConsecrationNovember 30, 1841
by Joseph Rosati
Personal details
Born(1806-09-17)September 17, 1806
DiedMarch 4, 1896(1896-03-04) (aged 89)
St. Louis, Missouri, US
BuriedCalvary Cemetery, St. Louis
SignaturePeter Richard Kenrick's signature
Ordination history of
Peter Richard Kenrick
Episcopal consecration
Consecrated byJoseph Rosati, C.M.
DateNovember 30, 1841
Episcopal succession
Bishops consecrated by Peter Richard Kenrick as principal consecrator
James Oliver Van de Velde, S.J.September 16, 1827
John McGillJuly 23, 1850
John Baptiste Miège, S.J.March 25, 1851
Anthony O'ReganJuly 25, 1854
James DugganMay 3, 1857
Clement Smyth, O.C.S.O.May 9, 1857
James O'Gorman, O.C.S.O.May 8, 1859
James Whelan, O.P.May 8, 1859
Thomas Langdon Grace, O.P.July 24, 1859
Patrick FeehanNovember 12, 1865
John HennessySeptember 30, 1866
Joseph MelcherJuly 12, 1868
John Joseph HoganSeptember 13, 1868
Patrick John RyanApril 14, 1872
Thomas BonacumNovember 30, 1887
Thomas BonacumNovember 30, 1887
John Joseph HennessyNovember 30, 1888

Peter Richard Kenrick (August 17, 1806 – March 4, 1896) was an Irish Catholic priest who served as Bishop of St. Louis from 1843 to 1895. The see was made an archdiocese in 1847, when he was called as the first archbishop west of the Mississippi River. The archdiocese covered nearly all the territory of the Louisiana Purchase. He served in this position for nearly 50 years, until months before his death.

Kenrick was born and raised in Dublin, Ireland, where he was educated at Maynooth College and ordained as a priest in 1832. He and his older brother Francis Kenrick both served all their lives as priests and officials in the Catholic Church in the United States. For a time they both served in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Early life, ordination, and emigration[edit]

Peter Richard Kenrick was born in Dublin on August 17, 1806.[1] He was educated at Maynooth College, and ordained to the priesthood in 1832 by Archbishop Murray of Dublin. Prior to entering the seminary, he worked with and befriended poet James Clarence Mangan.[2]

In 1833, the year following his ordination, Peter Kenrick emigrated to the United States with his older brother, Francis Kenrick, who had also been ordained. They both served initially in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Francis Kenrick eventually became the Bishop of Philadelphia and later the Archbishop of Baltimore.[2]

In his early years as a priest in Philadelphia, Father Kenrick wrote several works relating to Catholic theology and church history. One of his works, Validity of Anglican Ordinations examined (1841), was not challenged for over a century. He held a number of posts in the Philadelphia church, until he was appointed coadjutor bishop of Saint Louis, Missouri in 1841.

At the time, the diocese included the entire vast area of the Louisiana Purchase, except for Iowa, Louisiana, and Minnesota. In 1847, when the diocese became an archdiocese, Kenrick became the first archbishop of the newly created archdiocese. The city of Saint Louis grew almost thirtyfold over the term of his residency.


During his tenure in St. Louis, Father Kenrick visited many parts of the state of Missouri and actively encouraged the development of Catholicism and Catholic institutions in his diocese. He started a Catholic journal, opened a seminary in the city of Carondelet, Missouri, which was then independent, and invited a number of Roman Catholic religious institutes to work in the diocese.

During the period of the American Civil War and its aftermath, Kenrick maintained a neutral position in a city and state whose residents were of widely divergent opinions on the matter. After the war ended, he urged the priests in his diocese to refuse to take the ironclad oath, which was intended to ensure that no person who had supported the Confederate position would ever achieve a position of influence. He supported those who refused. One of these priests, the Reverend John A. Cummings, filed the case on this oath which reached the United States Supreme Court. It ruled that it was unconstitutional for the government to demand that people take this oath.

Father Kenrick took part in the second Plenary Council of Baltimore, where he advocated that the affairs of the Catholic Church in the United States be handled locally wherever possible. This position earned him a number of detractors and opponents. During the First Vatican Council, he opposed the centralization of church authority in Rome and did not support the declaration of the dogma of Papal infallibility. When it was defined dogmatically, he accepted the opinion of the majority. His failure to support this issue increased the number and prominence of his detractors.

It is known that Kenrick also owned slaves.[3]

Later life[edit]

After harassment by his detractors and members of the curia made life difficult for him, Father Kenrick turned over the administration of the archdiocese to his coadjutor bishop, Patrick John Ryan, in 1871. Upon Ryan being made the Archbishop of Philadelphia, the diocese which Kenrick's brother Francis had previously headed, Kenrick took back active administration of his diocese.

During the period when the Knights of Labor, a strongly Roman Catholic labor union and the first national labor union, turned to violence in seeking their goals, Kenrick vocally opposed them and condemned their actions. However, the higher-ranking Cardinal James Gibbons, the Archbishop of Baltimore, overruled his objections.

In 1893, Kenrick's attempt to name his coadjutor bishop failed when his nominee did not win the support of his fellow bishops. John Joseph Kain was appointed to fill the role instead. Kenrick's conflicts and failed communication with Kain lent a note of discord to his final years.[4] While Kenrick continued as archbishop, Kain was given responsibility for administration of the archdiocese.

With advancing age, Kenrick became increasingly infirm. In 1895 he was canonically deposed by Pope Leo XIII because of physical incapacitation due to infirmity.[5]

He died on March 4, 1896, and is buried in Calvary Cemetery in St. Louis. Kenrick had established this cemetery on the property of a farm he bought.[6][7] The seminary of the Archdiocese of St. Louis, Kenrick-Glennon Seminary, formerly known as Kenrick Theological Seminary, is named in his honor.


  1. ^ Johnson, Rossiter; Brown, John Howard, eds. (1904). The Twentieth Century Biographical Dictionary of Notable Americans. Vol. VI. Boston: The Biographical Society. Retrieved May 1, 2022 – via Internet Archive.
  2. ^ a b O'Shea, J.J. (1910). "Francis Patrick and Peter Richard Kenrick". In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved May 1, 2022 from New Advent.
  3. ^ "Archdiocese's research into history with slavery reveals three bishops, priests as slaveowners". Retrieved October 31, 2023.
  4. ^ "Kain is Ruler, Archbishop Kenrick Divested of His Power". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. September 25, 1893. p. 1. Retrieved May 1, 2022 – via
  5. ^ "Archbishop Kenrick is Deposed; The Physical Infirmity of the St. Louis Prelate Causes the Pope to Take Action -- Bishop Kain Succeeds". The New York Times. St. Louis. June 4, 1895. p. 1. Retrieved May 1, 2022 – via
  6. ^ "Peter Richard Kenrick, the Aged Archbishop of St. Louis, is No More". Iron County Register. St. Louis. March 12, 1896. p. 6. Retrieved May 1, 2022 – via
  7. ^ "Archbishop Kenrick Buried". The Times. St. Louis. March 12, 1896. p. 5. Retrieved May 1, 2022 – via

External links[edit]

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by Archbishop of St. Louis
Succeeded by