Archbishop Patrick Augustine Feehan 

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Archbishop Patrick Augustine Feehan

Patrick Augustine Feehan ; b. County Tipperary, Ireland, Aug. 29, 1829; d. Chicago, IL, July 12, 1902. He was the son of Patrick and Judith (Cooney) Feehan. Entering Maynooth College, County Kildare, Ireland, in January 1847, he studied philosophy and theology and was appointed to the Dunboyne Establishment, Maynooth, for higher studies. In 1850 his family emigrated to the U.S. When Abp. Peter Kenrick of St. Louis, MO, appealed for candidates for his archdiocese, Feehan volunteered and Kenrick ordained him in St. Louis on Nov. 1, 1852. Feehan’s first assignment was to teach moral theology and Sacred Scripture in the Carondelet Seminary, Missouri. In 1854, when Anthony O’Regan was chosen the Bishop of Chicago, Feehan succeeded him as seminary president. Four years later he was named to the pastorate of St. Michael’s Church and then to the Immaculate Conception parish.

During the Civil War, a hospital for the wounded was established in the vicinity, and Feehan’s solicitude for the war victims spread his reputation beyond the diocese. Some of the most destructive Civil War battles were fought in Tennessee, and many Catholic churches were ruined. The devastation so overwhelmed Bp. James Whelan of Nashville that he resigned in 1863. Feehan declined the nomination to Nashville in 1864 because he feared the change would prove fatal to his invalid mother who was living near him. However, when she died in July 1865, he accepted the appointment and was consecrated by Archbishop Kenrick in St. Louis on Nov. 1, 1865.

Feehan arrived in Nashville for his installation on November 11 to find that there were only three diocesan priests in Tennessee. During his 15-year administration, he directed the rebuilding of churches and was successful in recruiting clerics from Ireland. He attended Vatican Council I (1869–70). On Sept. 10, 1880, he was appointed the first archbishop of Chicago and was installed at Holy Name Cathedral on November 25. During his 22- year episcopate, churches increased from 194 to 298, priests from 205 to 538, and schools from 88 with 25,000 pupils to 166, with a total of 62,723 pupils.

Feehan convened the first archdiocesan synod on Dec. 13, 1887, at which the decrees of the Third Plenary Council of Baltimore were promulgated. In 1892 the New World, official Catholic newspaper of the Chicago archdiocese, began publication. Feehan helped to organize the second Catholic Congress held in Chicago from Sept. 4 to 8, 1893, in conjunction with the Columbian Exposition and World’s Fair. With the growth of the archdiocese, Feehan saw the need for an auxiliary bishop. Rome first designated Alexander J. McGavick, pastor of St. John’s Church, Chicago, to be titular bishop of Narcopolis and auxiliary bishop of Chicago. But soon after his consecration on May 1, 1899, illness incapacitated him, and Peter J. Muldoon, pastor of St. Charles Borromeo Church, Chicago, was made titular bishop of Tamassus and consecrated in Holy Name Cathedral on July 25, 1901. A few of the Irish-born local clergy objected to the selection of a native-born American. Their leader, Jeremiah Crowley, pastor of St. Mary’s Church in Oregon, IL, was excommunicated. This friction saddened the last days of the archbishop. When Feehan’s death occurred suddenly as the result of an apoplectic stroke, Catholics in the archdiocese numbered 800,000 and, despite the extensive building program, the archdiocese was financially sound.

Bibliography: c. j. kirkfleet, The Life of Patrick Augustine Feehan (Chicago 1922). j. j. thompson, The Archdiocese of Chicago (Des Plaines, IL 1920).

[H. c. koenig]

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