Hennessy, Bishop John Joseph


July 13, 1920

Personal Info

  • Date of Birth:  19 July 1847
  • Place of Birth in Ireland: Laydsburg, in the diocese of Cloyne
  • County: Cork
  • Education: St Francis Seminary, near Milwaukee, WI; St Vincent’s, Cape Girardeau, MO; Salesianum Seminary, near Milwaukee, WI
  • Date of Ordination: 28 November 1869
  • Place of Ordination: St John’s Church, St Louis, MO
  • Ordained by: Rt. Rev. Joseph P. Machebeuf, Bishop of Denver, CO

Diocesan Appointments:

  • Assistant – St James, Potosi, Washington County, MO – 1870 to 1871
  • Missionary work – 10 Counties of Iron Mountain district, Southern Missouri – 1871 to 1880
  • Rector – St John Church, St Louis – 1880 to 1888
  • Treasurer – Diocesan Mutual Aid Society, St Louis – 1880 to 1888
  • Secretary – Orphan Board, St Louis – 1880 to 1888
  • Bishop – Diocese of Wichita, KS – 11/30/1888 to 7/13/1920 – Consecrated by Most Rev. Peter Richard Kenrick, Archbishop of St Louis, MO
  • Administrator ad tempas – Diocese of Concordia – 4/26/1891 to 3/12/1905

While Bishop Hennessy was born in Ireland, his family moved to the USA when he was a child.

During his early years he was engaged in missionary work as a young priest, he founded the Railroad Men’s Benevolent Union, established an Ursuline convent at Arcadia, MO., was editor of the St Louis Youths’ Magazine and became rector for St John’s Church in St Louis, MO.

In The Wichita Beacon, there was a story published that when the news arrived in St Louis that Father Hennessy had indeed been selected to become the Bishop of the Wichita Diocese, he was engaged in climbing to the top of Pike’s Peak, starting from Manitou, Colorado. Not too many people had tried this feat so when he accomplished it, the news of his achievement reached St Louis. When he kept receiving congratulations wherever he went and especially when he received a congratulatory telegram message from a fellow priest, who was also a childhood friend, he thought people were talking about his mountain climb although he was puzzled how many would have heard about it so quickly outside of Colorado. As he continued his vacation to San Francisco and picked up a newspaper, it was then he found out that the “elevation” his friend was talking about was his “elevation” to Bishop!

When Bishop Hennessy came to Wichita, there were 8,000 Catholics, 33 churches and 16 priests in the Diocese. By the time of his death, 32 years later, there were 37,000 Catholics, 149 churches and 106 priests. Some of the highlights of his years as Bishop, as identified by the Wichita Diocesan office included:

  • 1888 – Establishes a building program, including the purchase of land on the corner of Broadway and Central; works to expand and organize parishes and churches in rural areas, has to deal with crop failure and need; Sisters of Mercy open the first orphanage, Mater Misericordine Institute in Wichita
  • 1889 – Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother arrive at St Francis Hospital in Wichita
  • 1898 – First Synod plan for next 50 years of the Diocese of Wichita
  • 1901 – Catholic Advance begins publication
  • 1902 – Adores of the Blood of Christ arrive in Wichita and open St John’s Institute (later St John’s Academy) and Dominican Sisters arrive in Great Bend
  • 1903 – Sisters of St Joseph open hospital in Pittsburg
  • 1905 – The Catholic Church Extension Society and the St Anthony Chapel Railroad Car begin service
  • 1912 – Organizes the Queen’s Daughters, forerunner of Catholic Action and Cathedral built and 25th Anniversary of Diocese
  • 1919 – 50th Anniversary of his Ordination


  • Date of Death: 13 July 1920
  • Age of Death: 72
  • Cause of Death: Stroke
  • Funeral Celebrant: The Most Rev. (later Cardinal) John Glennon archbishop of St Louis, celebrated his funeral in St Mary’s Cathedral and the Bishop J. Henry Tihen of Denver, former chancellor of the Wichita Diocese, delivered the eulogy.
  • Burial: Calvary Cemetery Mausoleum, Wichita, KS

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