"I have mentioned twice to you the advice and encouragement Bishop Carroll gives me — to fix our establishment in the Provience of Kentucky where every generous offer and solicitation is made to me by the Catholics of that extensive country — which I have accepted... I am labouring on the mission, raw and inexperienced as I am, charged with a numerous congregation, who had been fifteen months without a pastor till I came among them."
|Bishop Edward Dominic Fenwick, OP|
Why had Fr. Fenwick changed his mind about founding a College? For although he still writes of the prospects of opening a school in Kentucky, he no longer speaks of a institution or seminary modeled after Bornhem College. Was he just being a realist? Had he given up on his dream and mission? I think not. Rather, Fr. Fenwick saw the need of the Catholic people in Kentucky and heard God's call, not his own. He says in his letter to Fr. Concanen: "In Kentucky there is but one priest, Reverend Mr. Stephen Badin, and about 10,000 Catholics. That good and zealous man has been there near twelve years, the two or three last of which he has been the only pastor for those numerous congregations." As the Lord had said: "The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out larbourers into his harvest."
Fr. Fenwick saw the spiritual needs of God's people and realized that he was being called to a different task than what he initially thought. He had sailed across the Atlantic to found a Dominican seminary and college; instead he was founding parishes in rural Kentucky and preaching missions non-stop to the Catholics under his care. This became so important to Fr. Fenwick that by July 1808 his prime source of boasting was not the small school he had begun but the expansion of his congregations and of the first Church in Ohio, St. Joseph's in Somerset. In his letter to Fr. Conanaen he writes:
"We count 2,300 souls in our congregation. The chapel of the congregation is under the patronage of St. Ann, about two miles from us, where one of us serves every Sunday and Holyday... When our new church is finished we shall divide the congregation between St. Ann and St. Rose, and I hope later to have another chapel under the protection of St. Joseph. Thus you see, Revered and dear Father, we have a fair prospect before us. We only want money and members to make us more respectable in the country and to ensure the predominance of our holy Religion and even of our holy Order. Our church ... will be the first in the State and I hope equal to any in America, except the Cathedral of Baltimore, now building under the inspection of Bishop Carroll."
|St. Joseph's in Somerset, Ohio|
Part I of this post CLICK HERE