St. Francis Xavier Church, Falmouth, Kentucky


The following was generously transcribed and submitted by Nancy Bray from the booklet  100 Year History of St. Francis Xavier Church.  Thanks Nancy!

"This 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 this booklet."



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 years.

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 people.


They came, 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 of 1876.

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.)

When Father 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 them read.

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)

In later 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 mornings.

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.

On September 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 1978.

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 parishioner.

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 of distances.

Native Vocations
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 Nicholas.


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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