Bishop John Hennessy

John Joseph Hennessy (July 19, 1847 – July 13, 1920) was an Irish-born prelate of the Roman Catholic Church. He was the first Bishop of Wichita, Kansas (1888-1920).

He was born near Cloyne, County Cork, to Michael and Ellen (née Cronin) Hennessy.  In 1850 he and his parents came to the United States, where they settled at St. Louis, Missouri.  He received his early education at the local cathedral school and the Christian Brothers College, from where he graduated in 1862.  He completed his theological studies at St. Francis Seminary in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and his philosophical studies at St. Vincent College in Cape Girardeau.   Hennessy was ordained to the priesthood on November 28, 1869.[3] At age 22, he was below the age requirement for ordination but was granted a dispensation by Pope Pius IX.

Hennessy then served as pastor of Iron Mountain, with his jurisdiction extending as far south as Arkansas.  He erected churches at Bismarck, Doniphan, Poplar Bluff, Gatewood, Graniteville, and Farmington.  He established the Catholic Railroad Men's Benevolent Union in 1871, a convent for the Ursuline Sisters at Arcadia in 1877, and the first total abstinence society in southeast Missouri.

In 1878 he was elected procurator and vice-president of the Catholic Protectory for Boys at Glencoe.  He became rector of St. John's Church at St. Louis in 1880. That same year he became editor of the St. Louis Youths' Magazine and in 1882 secretary of the St. Louis Orphan Board.  He also served as treasurer of the diocesan clergy fund and spiritual director of the St. Vincent de Paul Society.

On February 11, 1888, Hennessy was appointed the first Bishop of the newly-erected Diocese of Wichita, Kansas, by Pope Leo XIII. He was technically the second Bishop of Wichita, as Rev. James O'Reilly was appointed the first bishop in 1887 but died before his episcopal consecration.  Hennessy was consecrated on November 30, 1888 by Archbishop Peter Richard Kenrick, with Archbishop John Hennessy and Bishop Louis Mary Fink, O.S.B., serving as co-consecrators.  In 1898 he convened the first diocesan synod.

He broke ground for the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in April 1906 and laid the cornerstone the following October; it was later dedicated by Cardinal James Gibbons in September 1912.  Between 1891 and 1898, he also served as Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Concordia.  After thirty-one years as bishop, Hennessy died at age 73.

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