Benedict Joseph Fenwick bigraphy, stories - Catholic bishop

Benedict Joseph Fenwick : biography

September 3, 1782 - August 11, 1846

Benedict Joseph Fenwick, S.J. (September 3, 1782 – August 11, 1846), was an American bishop of the Catholic Church. A Jesuit, he served as Bishop of Boston from 1825 until his death in 1846.


Fenwick was ordained a priest by his fellow Jesuit, Bishop Leonard Neale on March 12, 1808. He then accompanied Father Anthony Kohlmann to New York City, where he remained for nine years. During that time, he served as pastor of St. Peter's Church (1815–16) and Vicar General of the Diocese of New York (1816–17). He also helped erect the original St. Patrick's Cathedral and served as director of the New York Literary Institution, founded by Kohlmann.

In April 1817, Fenwick was named president of Georgetown College, as well as pastor of . The following year, he was assigned to Charleston, South Carolina, where he successfully repaired divisions within the local Catholic community. In 1822, he returned to Georgetown for another term as president to succeed his brother Enoch, a fellow Jesuit.

Early life and education

Benedict Fenwick was born in Leonardtown, Maryland, to George and Margaret (née Medley) Fenwick. His ancestors were originally from Northumberland in North East England. Benedict's great-great-great grandfather, Cuthbert Fenwick, emigrated to America in 1633 aboard the Ark and the Dove, and was one of the original Catholic settlers of Maryland.

Fenwick entered Georgetown College in 1793, and graduated with high honors. He afterwards served as a professor at Georgetown before deciding to study for the priesthood, entering St. Mary's Seminary in Baltimore in 1805. Following the restoration of the Society of Jesus, he entered its novitiate in 1806.


On May 10, 1825, Fenwick was appointed the second Bishop of Boston, Massachusetts, by Pope Leo XII. He received his episcopal consecration on the following November 1 from Archbishop Ambrose Maréchal, S.S., with Bishops John England and Henry Conwell serving as co-consecrators, at the Cathedral of Baltimore.

In 1827 Fenwick opened Boston College in the basement of his cathedral and undertook the personal instruction of the city's youth. His efforts to attract other Jesuits to the faculty were hampered both by Boston's distance from the center of Jesuit activity, at the time in Maryland, and by suspicion on the part of the city's Protestant elite. Relations with Boston's civic leaders worsened to such a degree that, when a Jesuit faculty was finally secured in 1843, Fenwick decided to leave the Boston school and instead opened the College of the Holy Cross 45 miles west of the city in central Massachusetts where he felt the Jesuits could operate with greater autonomy.

He died on August 11, 1846 at the age of 63.

Bishop Fenwick High School in Peabody, Massachusetts is named in his honor.

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