Elizabeth Sarah Kite and the Seminaries of France

As I was processing the correspondence series of the Elizabeth Sarah Kite papers (MC2), I came across a group of letters written to Kite and signed by “Geoffroy”, which are all in French. As I am not able to read French, nor did I have the time or inclination to transcribe the handwritten letters into Google Translate, I was pleased to find a grouping of records which included some letters from Geoffroy (who turns out to be Theophile (or Theophilus) Geoffroy, a priest in Bethelainville, France) along with letters from Herman Joseph Heuser, editor of The American Ecclesiastical Review, referencing the letters from Geoffroy.




Letter from Theophile Geoffroy, dated January 6, 1921

Letter from Theophile Geoffroy, dated January 6, 1921

It seems that Kite had sent some of Geoffroy’s letters, along with a short article written by her, to The American Ecclesiastical Review, hoping to have them published in order to raise awareness and solicit support for the plight of French Catholic seminaries after World War I. French Catholic clergy were sent to fight in the war, as were other French citizens, and so the Catholic Church in France experienced a serious dearth of clergy after the end of the war. As a scholar of American history and in particular, of French-American relations during the Revolutionary War, Kite knew the extent to which the French assisted the Americans during their fight for independence. Heuser’s initial response was that the piece was out of scope for the magazine, and that they were not able to respond to and publish every such appeal that they receive: “…if we were to print the truly moving cries of priests and religious here and there in Belgium, France, Central countries, Ireland, and the far East, it would cause odious distinctions and open the gate to a thousand furhter [sic] demands that we are unable to answer.”

Letter from Heuser

Letter from Heuser. Postscript reads: “P.S. the MS is being returned by this post under other cover.”

However, a subsequent letter reveals that Kite’s appeal struck an emotional chord in Heuser:


“Miss Elizabeth S. Kite.
My dear Miss Kite,
Your note explaining the occasion of the communication for which you ask space in the E.R. cannot, of course, leave me indifferent. I hope to publish it, with a few introductory words in the spirit of your letter. It may not be possible to get the matter into the March issue which is overcrowded with material previously engaged, and much of which would lose its value and timeliness if omitted or delayed. But the appeal will be still opportune if it appears in the April number.
May God bless the holy zeal that animates you and give you the joy of seeing the wishes of the venerable Cardinal Luçon relayed.
With sincere regard,
Faithfully in J.C.,
H. J. Heuser
[?] 8th 1921.”

In 1921, Kite’s article was published in The American Ecclesiastical Review (see our online catalog for our collection of The American Ecclesiastical Review here) and entreated Americans of any faith to come to the aid of France:

Yet may we not hope that the generous spirit of the American clergy and people who are…so largely indebted to the priesthood of France, and that under many more titles than that of their readiness to help us to independence and with it to religious freedom—may we not come to the aid of the French Bishops in this matter of the seminaries, and to revive the flagging hopes of the venerable Cardinal of Reims?

I could not help but notice that Theophile Geoffroy was not mentioned in the piece published in The American Ecclesiastical Review. My conclusion is that the publication may have felt that featuring a more well-known or prominent figure would have a more significant impact. Based on the piece that Kite wrote, she had been in contact with the Cardinal of Reims as well (though I did not see evidence of this correspondence in the collection). The Cardinal of Reims at the time was Louis-Henri-Joseph Luçon, whose church in Reims became a symbol of the victims of German aggression during the war. The German army began dropping bombs on Reims in September 1914 and did not cease until June 1918. Cardinal Luçon remained in Reims with his parishioners even as the bombs destroyed the cathedral and the town. He was the last to leave Reims and the first to return to rebuild after the armistice. Due to a French law, Luçon could not expect to receive monetary assistance from the government to rebuild his church. As such, he appealed to the Dean of the American Hierarchy for help. John D. Rockefeller was among those who gave money for the restoration of the cathedral, which was eventually finished in 1938. Incidentally, Reims is where the Germans officially surrendered to President Eisenhower in 1945, one day before VE-Day.


Kite, Elizabeth Sarah. “A Plea for the Seminaries of France.” The American Ecclesiastical Review 64 (1921): 407-411. Print.

Bishop Francis Kenrick and His Journals

As a volunteer at PAHRC this summer, I was tasked with labeling descriptions of letters from one of the journals of Bishop Francis Kenrick, who served as bishop of Philadelphia from 1830 until 1851. This particular journal, which Kenrick kept while in Philadelphia, has never been published or translated from the original Latin in which much of it was written. In addition to this journal, Kenrick also kept another journal known as his Diary and Visitation Record that provides an account of his Episcopal Visitations throughout the Diocese of Philadelphia. This journal was translated into English by Reverend Francis Tourscher and published in 1916.

After noting the page on which each letter started, I marked whether the letter was written in English or Latin, which was the primary language of correspondence used by clergy during this time period. In his journal, Kenrick alternated between drafting long letters to fellow clergymen and jotting down short descriptions of letters written elsewhere; however, the inclusion of dates and the repeat appearance of various names made the letters easy to locate.

Bishop Francis P. Kenrick

Bishop Francis P. Kenrick

Born in Dublin in December of 1797, Kenrick first came to the United States after completing his clerical studies in Rome in 1821 and served as a professor of theology and history in Kentucky for the next nine years.  It was after attending the First Provincial Council of Baltimore in 1829 that Kenrick began his work in Philadelphia. During his twenty years in the city, Kenrick supported the building of asylums for young boys and girls and dozens of new churches throughout the diocese; wisely encouraged the establishment of a new diocese in Pittsburgh; and consented to the creation of the newspaper The Catholic Herald. Kenrick was succeeded by Bishop John Neumann in 1852 after Kenrick was named the Archbishop of Baltimore.

The early years of Kenrick’s time in Philadelphia were not without controversy, and many of the letters at the beginning of his journal detail the events surrounding the conflict between the bishop and the trustees of St. Mary’s Church, then the cathedral of Philadelphia. Named coadjutor bishop while Bishop Henry Conwell retained the title, Kenrick took pains to assert his authority amidst opposition from the trustees and even placed the cathedral under interdict for a short time. Bishop Kenrick’s efforts contributed to a decline in the power of the trustees and to an increased sense of stability in a diocese that had been long divided by tensions arising from trusteeism.

A letter written by Bishop Kenrick describing the conditions to which he hoped the lay trustees of St. Mary's would agree.

A letter written by Bishop Kenrick describing the conditions to which he hoped the lay trustees of St. Mary’s would agree.

While Kenrick maintained in several of his letters that Masses and funeral services should continue to be said in Latin rather than in a vernacular language such as German, his letters reveal a concern for the growing population of German Catholics in his expansive diocese. It is clear from a letter written to Kenrick from the president of the Council of Lyon in 1843 that some missionaries of the time were concerned for the welfare of German Catholics in America (Correspondence 120). Bishop Kenrick provided money to aid a new German parish in Philadelphia (Nolan 252) and allowed for the publication of a Catholic newspaper in German.

A page from Kenrick's journal that mentions the establishment of the Catholic newspaper for Germans.

A page from Kenrick’s journal that mentions the establishment of the Catholic newspaper for Germans.

It was also interesting to note that two of the letters mentioned in Bishop Kenrick’s journal were written to Joseph Bonaparte, the older brother of Napoleon Bonaparte. In these letters Kenrick requests an image of St. Mary Magdalene and expresses his thanks for The Flagellation of Christ by Hannibal Carracci.

Perhaps most noteworthy was Bishop Kenrick’s recognition of the importance of ensuring that the priests in his diocese were well-educated, and it was his welcoming of a young student named Patrick Bradley into his home that marked the establishment of what is today St. Charles Borromeo Seminary. Having such extensive experience as an educator, Kenrick taught his own students until his brother Peter arrived in 1834 and began to assist him. It seems fitting that a man so earnest in his desire to share his learning with others would refer to this particular endeavor as of the greatest “importance for the future of the Church” (qtd. in Nolan 187). The seminary continued to grow throughout Bishop Kenrick’s time in Philadelphia, especially after the Vincentians assumed control of its operations.

A letter in Latin written from Bishop Kenrick to Cardinal Pedicini in which he mentions the seminary, which was begun earlier that year.

A letter from 1832 to Cardinal Pedicini in which Kenrick mentions the seminary, which was begun earlier that year.

Learning more about the bishop who was so integrally responsible for the founding and expansion of the seminary was especially intriguing as a volunteer here. It is fortunate that Kenrick was so meticulous in keeping records of his life, since we are now able to use these records of his letters and travels to gain a deeper understanding of the Diocese of Philadelphia during a time of both hardships and great advances. The journal with which I worked offers insight into Kenrick’s personal relationships with other clerical officials, while his visitation journal details his travels throughout Pennsylvania and reveals him to be a man deeply interested in the spiritual well-being of the Catholics living in his diocese.


A typical page from Kenrick’s Visitation Records that shows the bishop’s concern with administering the sacraments to Catholics throughout the diocese.

This journal that Bishop Kenrick kept between 1830 and 1851 during his time in Philadelphia, as well as translations of many of his letters and of his diary and visitation records, can all be found here at the Historical Research Center. A summary and brief description of the main entries in Kenrick’s journal is also available here at PAHRC.



Kenrick, Francis Patrick. Diary and Visitation Record of the Rt. Rev. Francis Patrick Kenrick,  Administrator and Bishop of Philadelphia, 1831-1852, Later Archbishop of Baltimore. Trans. Francis Edward Tourscher. Lancaster: Wickersham Printing Co., 1916.

The Kenrick-Frenaye Correspondence: Letters chiefly of Francis Patrick Kenrick and Marc Antony Frenaye Selected from the Cathedral Archives, Philadelphia. Trans. Francis Edward Tourscher. Philadelphia: Wickersham Printing Company, 1920.

Looby, John. “Francis Patrick Kenrick.” Edited Appleton’s Enyclopedia. Virtualology, 2001.  <http://famousamericans.net/francispatrickkenrick/>.

Nolan, Hugh J. Francis Patrick Kenrick: Third Bishop of Philadelphia. Philadelphia: American Catholic Historical Society of Philadelphia, 1948.

O’Shea, John J. “Francis Patrick and Peter Richard Kenrick.” The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 8. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910. <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/08618a.htm>.




Priest and Rosary Calm Tension – Oral History Interview

msgr devlin picture

Msgr. Devlin, in an oral history interview from 2008, reflects on his involvement with the Philadelphia Police Department​ as they joined forces to calm tensions in the inner city. Msgr. Devlin was later appointed Director of the Cardinal’s Commission on Human Relations.

Devlin: George Fencl, (Chief Inspector and head of the Police Department’s Civil Affairs Unit), would call me. And one time we were up there and I had to bring in Spanish priests you know. And they were good. They’d come out, you know and we decided that one way of calming the situation down was to have a rosary. We’d had a priest say a rosary in the vernacular in Spanish and then things would—and I still remember—one guy said, “All right, we know you’re a policeman because the kind of belt you’re wearing.” (laughter) I remember then a bottle going zoom—right past my ears. Things were getting panicky, you know. It was very quiet while everybody was saying the rosary. But then it started to stir up again and George Fencl comes up behind me and says, “Monsignor, you think you could say another rosary?” (laughter) 

Interviewer: Thank you for keeping the lid on that simmering violence in the neighborhood.

 Devlin: Yeah, we had, we developed a technique, with Monsignor Dowling and myself and a group, a particular cadre of priests, that you know, we could call on to do this anywhere. And we were in every area of the city. We were in North Philly, we were in the suburbs, we were in South Philly, you know, and all I had to do was call them and they’d be there. I remember a guy and he had his fists right up in my nose, like that. And he says, “You get back in your pulpit! You don’t belong out here. Arrrr arrrr.”  (laughter) And then finally when things settled down, he says, “Father, you want to come home and have dinner with me and my wife?” (laughter)

Centenarian Priest Speaks of Bells and Prayer – Oral History Interview


Monsignor Charles Monaghan, the oldest priest in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, turned 100 on March 31, 2015. In a 2007 taped interview, Msgr. Monaghan spoke of his earliest desire to be a priest, which came in the form of bells at Ascension of Our Lord Church.  Click the link below to listen to him describe this memory, or read the excerpt below.

And I remember going into the church and being there for the whole Mass. Now she had to carry my brother in her arms and my sister just about walking, and I was about 4 years old. 4-1/2, 4 years, and I remember seeing a priest, and I remember the Mass itself, very quiet, there weren’t that many people in church. This was the basement of the present church, and when it was all over, I said to my mother I’m gonna be a priest. And she says “How can you figure that out?” and I says “well, did you notice that the priest, when he put his knee on the ground a bell rang, and when he raised his hand, another bell? And I said I would like to do that.”


Msgr. Monahan was quoted in an April 14, 2015 article in The Philadelphia Inquirer (http://articles.philly.com/2015-04-15/news/61146810_1_priests-retirement-age-bevilacqua) as saying “I’m totally inactive, except for my prayers.” He mentioned in a 2007 taped interview that learning to improve prayer life is a key challenge facing Catholics today, especially children. He said that if we want to be Christians, if we want Christ living in us, we have to learn from Him, and His devotion to his own father.  Click the link below to listen to his thoughts on prayer, or read the except below.

We have to learn how to say prayers together. But we have to learn how to say the prayers individually, and hungrily. When children have problems we have to teach them to kneel down first and say their prayers. We want them to learn to find answers through prayer. Through prayer – I think prayer, and the teaching of prayer, and allowing a child to grow into the need for prayer, and to find out that in their needs, prayer comes first. Prayer comes first. You have to get a closer relationship with our divine Lord Himself, and that has to come through prayer and the sacraments. That’s the beginning, anyway.