Archbishop Kenrick Celebrates 50 Years

     On August 17, 1891, St. Louis Archbishop Peter Richard Kenrick celebrated his 85th birthday and fifty years as head of the St. Louis Catholic Church.  In 1841, Kenrick was appointed as Coadjutor Bishop of St. Louis.  When St. Louis Bishop Joseph Rosati died in Rome during 1843, Bishop Kenrick was appointed Bishop of the St. Louis Diocese.

     In 1847, the growing metropolis west of the Mississippi River became an Archdiocese.  Bishop Kenrick became the first Archbishop in St. Louis history.  Archbishop Kenrick possessed shrewd business sense, which he used to acquire millions of dollars in real estate for the St. Louis Catholic Churches.

archbishop-peter-richard-kenrick

Archbishop Peter Richard Kenrick

     Unlike other church leaders, Archbishop Kenrick’s focus was not on building magnificent structures.  His successors would build the beautiful Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis in 1914.  Archbishop Kenrick built churches, schools and charitable organizations throughout St. Louis with  a particular focus on poorer neighborhoods.

     Around 1860, St. Louis’ City Council asked Archbishop Kenrick for a three-month loan of $50,000 at 8 percent interest.  Archbishop Kenrick gave the Council a $100,000 loan at 0 percent interest with a repayment period of one year.  Archbishop Kenrick said, “I want no security.  I have enough confidence in the future of St. Louis to know my money will be all right.”

     Archbishop Kenrick was born in Dublin, Ireland on August 17, 1806.  Archbishop Kenrick was ordained on March 6, 1832.  He was consecrated as Bishop on November 30, 1841 by Bishop Joseph Rosati.

     Observers described Archbishop Kenrick as somewhat aloof but a kind man of simple habits.  Archbishop Kenrick rose every morning at 5 am, held mass and ate his breakfast at 7 am.  From 8 am to 9 am, he tended to the business of the Archdiocese.  He spent the remainder of the morning either reading or receiving callers.

     After lunch, Archbishop Kenrick would spend his time studying and praying.  At 5 pm, Archbishop Kenrick took a daily walk, which he took no matter the weather.  At 7 pm, Archbishop Kenrick ate dinner and then retired at 9:30 pm.

    Due to both his keen mind and regular habits, Archbishop Kenrick presided over the St. Louis Catholic Church for 54 years.  When he passed away on March 5, 1896, the day before the 64th anniversary of his ordination, he was beloved by most St. Louisans regardless of religious denomination.  Peter Richard Kenrick served not only his church but his city.  St. Louis lost a great benefactor.

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Sources: The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, August 17, 1891 edition, p. 2 and March 5, 1896, p. 1, 2 and 8

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