St. Francis Xavier Church, Falmouth, Kentucky
was generously transcribed and submitted by Nancy Bray from the
booklet 100 Year History of St. Francis Xavier Church. Thanks
historical sketch of St. Francis Xavier Parish was compiled under the
leadership of Eileen Crotty, Mary Jean Schmidt and Mary Ann Shields and
with the cooperation of many others who supplied pictures, anecdotes and
other information for this booklet.
We deeply appreciate and gratefully acknowledge the interest and
technical assistance of the staff of The Messenger in the preparation of
Our celebration of 100 years of our use of God's house reminds us that
his house is for the needs of his people. That a church is not a
cold monument for God's own satisfaction is stated very forcefully in
Isaiah (66: 1-3): "The heavens are my throne, the earth is my
footstool. What kind of house can you build for me; what is to be
my resting place? My hand made all these things when all of them
came to be, says the Lord. This is the one I approve; the lowly
and afflicted man who trembles at my word."
Our celebration, therefore, is to pay tribute to the foresight of our
predecessors in building such a worthy and durable church and then to
100 years of people gathering here to pray, to thank, to repent, to
rejoice and even to grieve in God's house. It is a century
of people having God's house as their focus as they approached God in
his Sacraments, listened to his word and interacted, sometimes
supportively, sometimes challengingly, but always lovingly, to
strengthen and encourage each other as members of a Christian community
to be able to leave the mark of Christ's love, concern and service on
the larger community.
Our purpose has been to share in this booklet some of the existing
records found in past issues of The Messenger, our Diocesan newspaper,
The History of the Diocese of Covington and in the memories of current
parishioners, some of whose lives have spanned nearly all those 100
The past we share, therefore, is a story of people, people whose
religious lives have centered for the last century around St. Francis
Xavier Church. As much as our pride in our quaint 100 year old
church is justified, our human heritage and the tradition of people
having responded to God's presence so generously is the real tribute to
our church's effectiveness. May the success of our forebearers in
all their humanness give us true confidence in our own future as we
continue to appreciate and try to respond to God's presence in his
house. The faces have changed, many names are new, but we
gratefully celebrate the start of the second century of the same dynamic
of God's house being the focus of his sharing his own life with his
our forebearers, from Kerry, Tipperary, Limerick and Clare, for the
Rhinelands, Bavaria and Stuttgart. They came to find peace and
happiness, a place to work and live, and a place to worship. They
came with tremendous faith and so built St. Francis Xavier Church, which
is one hundred years old in this year of 1980.
As far as written records indicate Falmouth was visited by missionary
priests from Frankfort and Lexington as early as 1851. However,
tombstones in the cemetery are dated as far back as 1840, indicating
that there were Catholic families living in or around Falmouth.
The cornerstone for the first church which was on Main Street was laid
in 1857 under the direction of the Rev. Herman G. Allen. On
November 4, 1860, St. Francis Xavier Church, a brick structure, was
dedicated by Bishop Carrell. Father James McNerny became pastor in
1873. Father John Stephany became pastor in 1876 and took care of
the parish until Father Augustus Gadker was appointed pastor in August
By this time the number of Catholics in the community had grown
considerably and the parish under the guidance of Father Gadker began
the construction of a new and larger church and rectory. The
cornerstone for the new church situated at Second and Chapel Streets was
laid in 1877. For some reason work on the church was delayed more
than a year. The foundation had been laid and the floor joists had
been placed. Msgr. Thomas Coleman relates how Father Gadker used
to let the boys off from Catechism Class to cut the weeds between the
joists with case knives. Work was resumed on the bulding and the
new structure was dedicated on September 12, 1880. At this time a
Miss Mary Tomlinson was the housekeeper and also served as organist.
It was reported that for a while prior to 1885, Miss Janie Tomlinson
conducted a private school in the old church for the children of the
parish. The old church was used ato teach Catechism on Friday
afternoons. The school was also rented to the Negro people for a school.
Some of the parish resented this. One former member of the parish
in Father Gadker's days, still remembers that Father would give his
sermons in German every other Sunday. It seems many of the Irish
people would get very unhappy with this and walk out of the church.
The early congregation was predominantly Irish. "When Bishop
Toebbe, in 1883 forbade the St. Patrick Benevolent Society of Falmouth
to attend divine services on the Feast of St. Patrick in full regalia,
the Irish of Falmouth were disturbed, they ventured to surmise that the
Bishop's action was an anti-Irish policy, and an attempt on the part of
the saintly Bishop to Germanize Irish Catholic Congregations.
(Ryan: History of the Diocese of Covington, P. 599).
"Travelers in Ireland, in the days before the worst of the famine,
remarked on the gaiety and courtesy of people who lived, even then, in
conditions of the direst poverty. This capacity for getting a
great deal out of life in most unhelpful conditions has created a kind
of popular religion which is humane, durable, and irrepressibly
cheerful. The priests who fought for the civil rights of their
immigrant flocks in new American cities were the cousins of the heroic
men who struggled and suffered to save their people at home, and the
people who managed to laugh and sing in New York slums were the same who
danced in their rags in the Irish Villages, and shared a cup of water as
it it had been champagne. If the form and custom of the ancient
Celtic Churches have gone, at least some of the same attitude to life persists.
As long as there are Irish Catholics, there will be a popular culture
which clusters around colourful personalities and great adventures and
that is a very important contribution to the Catholic enterprise."
(Haughton: The Catholic Thing. P. 163)
Father Gadker had also as his charge the care of the Missions at Butler,
Dividing Ridge and Double Beech. Mass was said at Dividing Ridge
on one Sunday, at Double Beach on another, and at Butler on the fifth
Sunday of the month. "An Atlas of Bracken and Pendleton
Counties," published in 1884, shows two Catholic Churches in
Falmouth, one on Main Street and the other on the corner of Ferry St.
(now Second St.) and Mill St. (now Chapel St.), as well as one on High
St. in Butler and also one at Kincaid (Double Beech). The Church
at Double Beech was named in honor of St. Patrick and even had its own
cemetery, which is still there. It was about 1888 that Father
Gadker had the three bells placed in the present church tower.
Father Jerome Feys served the parish from 1895 until 1903; Father Carl
Richartzk 1903-1904; Father Aloysius Gruber 1904-1908; Father Joseph
Lingel, 1908-1911. Father Martin Delaney began his first pastorate
in St. Francis Xavier parish in 1911. During his six years as
pastor the church was redecorated and stained glass windows were
installed. Father Delaney left a lasting impression upon all in
Pendleton County, both Catholics and non-Catholics.
(photo - Gather Jerome Feys and his rabbit.)
Delaney was appointed pastor of St. Thomas parish in Fort Thomas in
1917, Father Declan Carroll came to Falmouth as pastor. His
pastorate was terminated by his entrance into the army as a chaplain.
In 1918, Father J. M. Lelen succeeded Father Carroll. Father Lelen
was pastor at Falmouth for thirty-five years. No history of St.
Francis Xavier Church would be complete without a sketch of Father Lelen.
Father's residence was a two story house of books, each room of which
had shelves from floor to ceiling lined with volumes, many of them
autographed, many of them first editions or first manuscripts and all of
He is well remembered as the "Scribbling Scribe", as he was
known to his readers of "Library Notes" in the Falmouth
Outlook. Father Lelen was born at Sailly, which he described as a
"very small hamlet in northern France", December 24, 1873.
He was educated at the Petit Seminarie of Cambrai at the world renowned
University of Sorbonne. Father Lelen was a Sulpician priest for a
very short time in France and then came to New York as a professor
at Dunwoodie Seminary. From Dunwoodie Seminary he went to Montreal
Seminary and at the request of Bishop Blenk went to New Orleans.
The climate in Louisiana did not agree with him so Father Lelen applied
to Bishop Maes, Bishop of Covington, Ky. The historical facts of
Father Lelen's life do not rely on his own writing alone. His life
history is interwoven with some of the greatest men of our time.
Cardinal Tisserant, Jules Verne, Franz Werfel, Hillaire Belloc, William
Lyms Phelps, and many others.
Especially interesting about Father Lelen is his connection with
Margaret Mitchell, author of "Gone With The Wind". One
of Father Lelen's favorite stories was about the little "southern
girl", who had a story to write, but who lacked the confidence to
execute it. Her story outline had already been approved by the
publishing house and they were most anxious for her to finish the book.
Upon the request of the publishers, Father Lelen was asked to lend some
encouragement to the author. And so he did. He encouraged
her to write at least a page a day, and told her "that if a story
was worth telling, it did not matter whether the book took one month or
one century to write." The little southern girl took ten
years to finish her book.
Father Lelen was a fascinating man, one who belonged to another time, to
an age of scholars and literateurs when it was the custom to entertain
one's self by reading and discussion and in pursuit of knowledge.
Father Lelen was ordained at the famous Notre Dame Cathedral of Paris on
September 24, 1898. During Father Lelen's years at St. Francis
Xavier parish, Miss Bertha Zinzer was the housekeeper. Miss Anna
Feely, a much respected little Irish lady was the organist for many
years. After Miss Ann's death, Winifred Broderick served as
organist. "Winnie" as she was known to all was one of
the most loved and respected young people of that period. There of
course were many other loving, kind people, colorful personalities, who
contributed much and still live in the memories of the parish.
(photo - Father J. M. Lelen)
years, the Sodality of Mary was organized. They worked to
revitalize the parish and the chief goal was for the religious education
of the youth.
Many older parishioners fondly recall incidents of Father Lelen's
pastorate. In Father's time the contribution for the upkeep of the
church was made by paying pew rent. Each family had their own pew.
A whole pew was $20 per year and a half pew was $10 per year.
Still outstanding in the memories of many parishioners from that time is
Father Lelen taking his little hammer and tacking the name of a family
to the end of the proper bench following payment of pew rent; it was
best that everyone sat in his or her "own pew".
Parishioners in good standing paid their pew rent. The church was
heated with two pot-bellied stoves. Many times Father would halt
the Mass to replenish the fires on cold winter mornings, a chore which
Father Lelen reserved to himself with doubtful effectiveness, in that
the holy water would still be frozen at the end of Mass on cold, winter
Somewhat more successful and ingenious was Father Lelen's technique in
heating his rectory. Rather than cut wood small enough to fit into
his fireplace, he would put one end of a large log into the fireplace
and let the other end extend into the room. As the end in the
fireplace burned he would simply push the rest of the log in until it
was all burned. How he managed not to burn the house down remains
one of the wonders of all who witnessed his heating system in operation.
Due to Father Lelen's deep spirituality, much credit is given to him for
instilling in some of the people a deep appreciation for spiritual
reading. Also his daily stroll through town and chats with any and
all he met are still fondly recalled by natives of Falmouth, Catholic
and non-Catholic. Many adults recall how, as children, Father
Lelen not only would give them a piece of candy, when they visited
him, he even placed the candy on their tongue for them.
Father Lelen retired in 1953 at the Glenmary Home Mission House in
Glendale, Ohio. He lived there with his library still around him
until his death on May 23, 1964.
A Poem by Father Lelen
"Tribute to God in the Eucharist"
Sight, touch and taste may here
Alike deceive me;
Thou, Son of God, hast spoken,
I believe Thee;
That must be true which Truth itself attests
O Christ, Eternal Son of the Eternal Father;
Lonely unto the Lone we go,
Divine to the Divinity.
On September 14, 1953, Father Henry A. Busemeyer was appointed by Bishop
William T. Mulloy to succeed Father Lelen who had resigned because of
his advancing years.
Father Busemeyer was born in Covington in 1910 and was ordained at St
Mary's Cathedral by the Most Rev. Francis W. Howard, D. D. on June 6,
1936. He offered his first solemn Mass at St. Augustine Church,
Covington. Father Busemeyer attended Mother of God parochial
School; St. Joseph College, Rensselaer, Ind.; St. Gregory Seminary and
St. Mary Seminary, Cincinnati. Later, he attended the University
of Cincinnati and Xavier University.
His appointments included assistant pastorates of Blessed Sacrament
parish, Ft. Mitchell; St. Joseph parish and orphanage, Cold Spring; and
Corpus Christi parish at Newport. He has also been the assistant
of Sacred Heart parish, Bellevue, and St. Thomas parish, Ft. Thomas.
Father Busemeyer proceeded with a complete remodeling of the church and
preparations for a school. A new complete concrete floor was
placed in the church with a new radiant heating system. Men of the
parish did much of the work themselves, building the boiler room,
removing the old floor in the church and preparing the foundation for
the new floor. A building in the rear of the church had been purchased
several years before to be used as a school. This served as a
temporary residence for Father Busemeyer until September 1954.
During the period of reconstruction one Mass was said on Sundays in the
rectory and another in the Foresters' Hall outside of town.
In May, 1954,
work was begun on a new rectory and parish hall attached to the church.
In the meantime extensive remodeling was done on the exterior of the
church. The altar was simplified and a new tabernacle, throne
candlesticks, and candelabra were donated by the parishioners.
Both the men and the women of the parish gave of their time to remodel
the church and the building to be used as the school and Sisters' house.
They contributed generously of their money to help pay for the work
which they could not do themselves. In the spring and summer of
1954, the firm of Liber and Mirable of Louisville was busy redecorating
the interior of the church.
In September 1954, Father Busemeyer moved into the new rectory so that
three Sisters of St. Benedict, Sister M. Fidelis, superior, Sister M.
Lucille and Sister M. Audrey, might occupy the remodeled residence in
the rear of the church which served as a Sisters' residence and school.
For several years prior to 1953, Sisters from the Order of St. Benedict
conducted a summer school in catechism for the children of the parish.
Classes were conducted in the hall of the St. Francis Xavier Court,
Catholic Order of Foresters.
13, 1954, the grade school was opened officially with a registration of
41 pupils in eight grades. By February of 1955 this number had
grown to 46. In February, 1961, groundbreaking for a new school
and parish hall was held.
St. Francis Xavier Parish now had a newly decorated warm church, a new
rectory, and a new Catholic School, something the parish had longed for
so many years. Julia Coleman served as Father Busemeyer's
housekeeper. Father Busemeyer left St. Francis Xavier Church in
1965 and went to St. Patrick's Church in Maysville.
Father Harry J. Tenhundfeld served the parish from April, 1965, until
June, 1969. Father Tenhundfeld, ordained to the priesthool June 3,
1950, was born in Bellevue in 1921 in a family of eight children and
attended Sacred Heart School there. He offered his first solemn
Mass at St. Stephen's Church, Newport.
Before entering St. Gregory Seminary, Cincinnati, Father Tenhundfeld
attended the Covington Latin School. Later he studied at St. Paul
Seminary, St. Paul, Minn. From 1941 ato 1946, Father Tenhundfeld
served his country in the Air Force and was in France part of the time.
(photo - Father Harry Tenhundfeld)
Some of his appointments included Business Director of The Messenger,
assistant pastor of St. Mary's Cathedral, member of the faculty of St.
Pius Seminary, and teacher at Covington Latin. He was the
administrator of St. Rose of Lima parish in Mayslick before coming to
St. Francis Xavier Church.
During the time that Father Tenhundfeld was pastor, the altar was turned
around and Mass was said facing the people. A Matthias Schwab
organ, well over 100 years old, was purchased by the parish under Father
Tenhundfeld's leadership from the Old Villa Madonna College. It
was removed from the College chapel on Twelfth Street in Covington
just before its demolition and installed in the choir loft of St.
Francis Xavier Church. In April, 1968, a tornado damaged parts of
Falmouth and the surrounding community including the stained glass
windows of the church. Due to the age of the windows this was
quite a feat on the part of Father Tenhundfeld to be able to have them
replaced. Although his stay was brief he was much loved and
respected by all and especially a friend of the youth. During his
stay here, Mae Budde served as housekeeper and also for Father Busemeyer
when he returned. Mae was a dedicated and tireless worker.
In 1969, Father Tenhundfeld was sent to All Saints Church, Walton and
Father Busemeyer returned.
During this time of Father Busemeyer's second period of service the
church was sandblasted, painted, and sealed. Storm windows were
also installed on the church to protect the stain glass windows. A
new cemetery wall was built.
Due to the shortage of nuns the parish was forced to close the school in
the spring of 1971.
In 1978, Father Busemeyer retired because of failing health. He
now resides at Carmel Manor in Ft. Thomas. Father Busemeyer will
always be remembered for his dedicated work in the parish. St.
Francis Xavier Church is one of the land marks of Falmouth and Father
Busemeyer played a great part in the restoration and beautification.
On July 8,
1978, Father John Goeke came to St. Xavier as administrator of the
parish. It would be an understatement to say, "great things
started happening". Father came to us from the Cathedral
Basilica of Covington. He was administrator there from 1970 until
Father Goeke is the son of Mrs. Eva and the late Mr. John Goeke of Fort
Mitchell, Ky. He was ordained in 1959. He studied at
the Seminary of St. Paul, Minn. He was associate at St. William's,
Lancaster, Ky. and then studied Canon Law at the Catholic University of
America from 1960 to 1963. He then served as Defender of the Bond
on Diocesan Marriage Tribunal and as associate at St. Aloysius parish,
Covington. In 1964, Father Goeke was made athe associate at the
Cathedral and continued serving on the Diocesan Tribunal.
(photo - Father Goeke)
In September of 1979, Father Goeke was appointed Chief Judge of Diocesan
Marriage Tribunal. Due to Father Goeke's self sacrificing,
idealistic approach to parish work, he has made many new endeavors seem
attainable. There have been adventurous parish trips and even an
annual parish vacation.
St. Francis Xavier has an active youth group enjoying various projects.
Father Goeke has initiated the Release Time Program in the parish for
the religious education of the youth. This release time program is
an innovation in the Diocese of Covington. Also, Sisters from
various communities and parts of the country have come to Falmouth to
assist in the administration and revitalization of the parish. At
the time of this writing Sisters Rosemarie Ryan, S. N. D. and Cynthia
Rouleau, S. N. D. of Springfield, Massachusetts and Sister Mary Ann
Hartlage, O. S. B., from Ferdinand, Indiana, are serving the parish and
living in a house at 406 Main Street very generously provided by a
One of the
most outstanding accomplishments thus far in the Falmouth community has
been the forming of the Covenant Relationship between the St Francis
Xavier parish and three Protestant congregations. From May until
September, Saturday evening Mass is said at Kincaid Park for the
convenience of many people who come from near and far to camp at the
park. Anyone attending these Masses said at the park cannot help
but be aware of Father Goeke's great ability to translate all the beauty
of nature into an understanding and spiritual experience.
One must travel several miles of winding highway from the Cathedral
Basilica of the Assumption in Covington to St. Francis Xavier Church in
Falmouth. It is a trip Father Goeke has made many times fulfilling
his continuing duties in Covington and Falmouth. A distance of a
different sort lay between Father's previous assignment as Catholic
pastor and his new life as a "country priest" in Falmouth.
Father Goeke has brought with him to St. Francis Xavier an energy,
ingenuity and a profound love for the gospel which has closed all kinds
Among its sons and daughters in religion the parish lists:
Msgr. Thos. J. Coleman, who was born in Falmouth and said his first
Solemn Mass in St. Francis Xavier parish.
Msgr. Edward W. Carlin, who was a native of Falmouth.
Father John Fox, C.P.P.S., who lived in Falmouth when he entered the
Congregation of the Sacred Passion.
Sister M. Speranda, S.F.P. (Elizabeth Coleman)
Sister M. Dafrossa, S.F.P. (Elizabeth Eibeck)
Sister Caritas, S.F.P. ( Mary Veronica Coleman)
Sister M. Rose Margaret, S.F.P. ( Mary Delaney)
Sister Helen Joan, S.C. ( Irene Schuetz)
Sister Aimee, S.C. (Catherine Rourke)
Sister Laetitia (Emma Nicholas) S.F.P. Philomena Nicholas, Barbara
Rev. Herman G. Allen 1857
Rev. James W. Smith 1868-1872
Rev. Gabriel Guerster, O.S.B. May-June 1873
Rev. John A. McGill June-July 1873
Rev. James McNerney 1873-1876
Rev. Augustus Gadker 1876-1895
Rev. Jerome Feys 1895-1903
Rev. Carl Rickartz 1903-1904
Rev. Aloysius J. Gruber 1904-1908
Rev. Joseph Lingel 1908-1911
Rev. Declan F. Carroll 1917-1918
Rev. Joseph M. Lelen 1918-1953
Rev. Henry A. Busemeyer 1953-1965
Rev. Henry J. Tenhundfeld 1965-1969
Rev. Henry A. Busemeyer 1969-1978
Rev. John Goeke 1978-
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