A Mission of the Monks
Past Pastors: The Years without a Resident Pastor (1919-1934)
Published on February 8-9, 2014 in the Parish Bulletin of Saint Andrew Catholic Church, Harrodsburg KY
A local Church historian once noted that 70% of the priests ordained for the Diocese of Louisville from 1875 to 1900 stayed with the diocese while 3% left the priesthood. Fr. Gabe, ordained 31 years by the time he left, is counted among that 3%.
After Fr. Gabe left Harrodsburg in October 1919, Saint Andrew’s and Saint Nicholas in Rose Hill reverted to being missions of Saints Peter and Paul Church in Danville. The Church of the Assumption (also known as Saint Mary’s) in Fenwick (now Thompsonville) again became a mission of the Dominican friars of Saint Rose Church and Protopriory in Springfield.
The Church of Saint James the Less in Lawrenceburg, already in disrepair in 1919, was abandoned in 1921 and eventually was torn down in 1938. The Catholics in Anderson County went back to attending Mass at the home of Mary Anne Murphy Dowling (1859-1930) as they had done before their Church was consecrated in 1894. From 1925 to 1948, the pastors of Saint Leo Church in Versailles would drive over to Lawrenceburg on two Saturdays of every month to celebrate Mass in a room above the Bluegrass Grocery (now Klink’s Drug Store on South Main Street). Sunday Mass would not be celebrated in the town until 1948 when Anderson County once more became a mission of Saint Andrew’s in Harrodsburg.
The turn of the nineteenth century saw millions of Catholic immigrants flooding into the United States. Before long, there was a shortage of diocesan priests to minister to the ever growing Catholic population in the big cities of Kentucky. The third Bishop of Covington (1884-1915), the Right Rev. Camillus P. Maes (1846-1915), thus entrusted the small parishes and missions in the southern part of his diocese in 1899 to the care of the Benedictines of Saint Bernard Abbey in Cullman, Alabama. The Bishops of Louisville would follow suit, entrusting to the monks of Saint Bernard the small parishes and missions in what was then the easternmost region of the diocese: Saints Peter and Paul Church in Danville in 1908, Saint Sylvester Church in Ottenheim in 1909, Saint Andrew Church in Harrodsburg in 1919, and Saint Mildred Church in Somerset in 1927.
The Rev. Osmund Wiesneth, OSB (1874-1951), was the pastor of Saints Peter and Paul Church in Danville when the Churches of Mercer County returned to being its missions. He had been sent there in 1908 by the Right Rev. Bernard Menges, OSB (1866-1933), the second Abbot of Saint Bernard’s (1904-1933). Fr. Osmund replaced a priest of the Diocese of Louisville, the Rev. John F. Knue (1878-1945), and served as pastor until 1922 when his confrere from the abbey, the Rev. Sebastian Siemer, OSB (1876-1936), took over the care of the parish.