Remembering the Faithful Departed: Bishop Edward Fenwick, OP
September 26, 2014
Today Dominicans of the Province of St. Joseph remember the death of a very special man: Bishop Edward Dominic Fenwick, OP, founder of our Province and later first Bishop of Cincinnati. There are many places, on the internet alone, to find biographical accounts of Bishop Fenwick, but perhaps a good way to remember him is to listen to his own words as he introduces himself to the faithful in Rome, part of an “Exhortation to the Piety of the Faithful,” published in 1823:
“Bishop Edward Fenwick, born in Maryland in America, educated in Flanders at Bornhem in the College of the respected English Dominican Fathers, and professed in the same Order, returned to his native land and after having announced the Gospel of Peace in the needy region of his birth moved on to Kentucky where he founded a Convent of his Association. Eventually his sights fell on a region where it seemed that no footprint of any past missionary had been impressed, a vast and rugged land which did not long remain unbathed with his apostolic sweat. He reached Ohio in the year 1808, and met with three German Catholic families composed in all of twenty persons, and who for ten or twelve years had not seen a priest of their communion. What was their mutual joy in this encounter is not easy to retell, as they looked upon him as an angel of God sent for their salvation and he considered himself as a labourer dispatched from heaven to gather there an abundant harvest…. The people show the most beautiful disposition to receive the truth. Idolaters and non-Catholics and other sectarians that are there, all are eager to hear the Divine word, and even those who call themselves of the Reformation, follow the missionaries in their journeys, and full of confidence invite them in preference to others to baptize their little ones, manifesting always the firm resolution of having their children profess the Holy Catholic Religion and to embrace it themselves. And it is not a rare occurrence that entire families abjuring their errors become true believers. Daily that field would be more fruitful for the choicest conversions were there more gospel-minded to minister and the means were not lacking by which to provide for the establishment and decorum of the sacred temples and to found places of education and colleges for apostolic men, goals that are close to the heart of the said Bishop, to the end of increasing the triumphs of the Faith in a land upon which the benign heavens diffuse most ample benedictions.”
— Excerpt from Edward Dominic Fenwick Papers 1803—1832: Founding American Dominican Friar and Bishop, ed. Luke Tancrell, OP (New York: Dominican Publications, 2005), 145-146.
Image: Bishop Fenwick’s tombstone at St. Joseph New Cemetery, Cincinnati, OH ( www.findagrave.com)