1843-1903: The Immigrant Church

Leprechauns, shamrocks and shillelaghs are Ireland’s most famous exports, but that nation’s most important gift to St. Louis was a "lion." Peter Richard Kenrick, named Bishop Joseph Rosati’s coadjutor in 1841 and later the first Archbishop of St. Louis, was a legendary figure in the young American Church. He had a motto to match: Noli irritare leonen! Roughly translated that means "Don’t goad the lion!"

In 1891, on the 50th anniversary of his consecration as bishop, 60 other bishops and archbishops came to St. Louis to honor him. That evening featured a torchlight parade in his honor. Twenty thousand men marched past the Kenrick’s residence on Lindell near Grand. Bands played, and the governor and mayor rode by on floats. Later, at the archbishop’s funeral, former protégé, Archbishop Patrick J. Ryan of Philadelphia, would eulogize Kenrick as the greatest bishop of his time.

But when he arrived on December 28, 1841, the faithful in St. Louis apparently didn’t realize what they were getting. Kenrick arrived alone, and only one priest came to greet him. The two walked and carried Kenrick’s bags to what was then the bishop’s residence near the Old Cathedral.

One of Kenrick’s first concerns was a $53,000 debt. Because there was no mechanism in place to retire debt, Kenrick called a meeting of the city’s prominent Catholics to discuss solutions. He recommended they pledge financial support to help meet the Church’s needs. One pledged $25. The others remained silent. Kenrick wrote to Rosati, who was in Haiti on a special mission for the Holy Father. He called St. Louis a "city of bankrupts." Kenrick would have to retire the debt some other way.

Rosati never returned to St. Louis. In 1843, he left Haiti for Rome to report on his mission. He died there in September of that year, leaving Kenrick alone in charge of the rapidly growing diocese with the worrisome debt.

It seems certain that as he faced his problems, Bishop Kenrick relied upon prayer. It was his lifelong habit. He rose every day at 4:00 a.m. and prayed for an hour before beginning daily Mass at 5:30. Through the rest of the day, he followed a strict schedule of business duties and prayer breaks. Then, regardless of the weather, he took a walk every afternoon at 4:00.

The "Lion" Comes to America

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Archbishop Kenrick

Kenrick first came to the United States from Ireland in October, 1833. He had been invited by his brother, Francis Patrick Kenrick, the coadjutor Bishop of Philadelphia. When he came to Philadelphia, he was a new priest, having been ordained for only about a year. He was not yet 30, but Peter Richard Kenrick immediately became rector of the seminary, editor of the diocesan weekly newspaper and vicar general of the diocese.

Within a year, he also was pastor of St. Mary’s Church in the City of Brotherly Love, the same church where he would be consecrated a bishop in 1841. Amidst occasional accusations that he was using his influence to further Peter Richard’s career, Kenrick’s brother Francis frequently had to explain his younger brother’s rapid rise in the Church of the United States.

When the younger Kenrick arrived in St. Louis eight years later, the diocese was 400 miles wide and 1200 miles long. It stretched north and west from the lower Mississippi to Canada and included Missouri, Arkansas, the western half of Illinois and a vast territory between the Missouri River and the Rocky Mountains. Eventually, 45 new dioceses would spring from the Diocese of St. Louis.

But while the diocese was becoming smaller in terms of territory, the immediate St. Louis area was experiencing unparalleled growth. Just prior to Kenrick’s arrival, the city’s population had doubled, growing from about 8,000 to just over 16,000 between 1835 and 1840. The population would grow to almost 80,000 by 1850.

Although many of the original inhabitants had been French, St. Louis soon became a destination for Germans. Many German Catholics came to St. Louis because it offered freedom, good land and the presence of other Catholics. In fact, many Catholic immigrants found their way to St. Louis after being treated badly in other parts of the country. They faced hostility from Americans because they were German just as they had faced hostility from Germans because they were Catholic. That was less of an issue in St. Louis, and as the city grew, about half of the new settlers were Catholics.

But not all spoke English. There were French-speaking Catholics whose families had built St. Louis. With German-speaking Catholics too, there weren’t always priests who spoke the language of their parishioners. So one of Kenrick’s first efforts involved organizing immigrant congregations where people could worship with others who spoke their language.

Father Joseph Melcher

With immigrants flowing into St. Louis almost as rapidly as the Mississippi River flowed past the city, it became clear to Kenrick that new churches were needed, and in the early 1840s, churches began to spring up all around what is now downtown St. Louis. St. Patrick, St. Francis Xavier, St. Joseph on Biddle, St. Vincent de Paul and St. Mary of Victories all were built between 1840 and 1845. Until that year, the Cathedral had been the only parish in the city, but Kenrick formally divided the city of St. Louis into four parishes: Cathedral, St. Francis Xavier, St. Patrick and St. Vincent.

In St. Louis County, St. Ferdinand in Florissant, St. Peter in the Manchester township (now Kirkwood), St. Martin in the Central township, Mount Carmel in Carondelet and Assumption in Meramec township (now South St. Louis County) were the five operating parishes.

St. Mary of Victories and St. Joseph served German-speaking Catholics. Although they had thriving congregations, the German-speaking churches were not parishes in the technical sense. But they did have a voice in the diocese. Kenrick ensured that by appointing Father Joseph Melcher vicar general for German-speaking Catholics.

Melcher was born in Vienna. He became a priest at 23 and worked in northern Italy, but he felt he was called to serve as a missionary, and Bishop Rosati asked him to work in St. Louis.

He first went to Arkansas, but when Little Rock became a diocese in 1843, Kenrick sent him to a serve a cluster of villages on the Meramec River south of St. Louis. He later would become pastor at St. Mary of Victories.

Shortly after he was named vicar general for German-speaking Catholics, Melcher returned to Europe to recruit other German-speaking priests. On three such trips, he recruited four priests and 12 theology students, seven of whom worked in the St. Louis Diocese after ordination. One of those recruits, Father Henry Muehlsiepen, would succeed him as vicar general and become well-known among German-speaking Catholics in St. Louis and throughout the United States.

Immigration and Banking

The rapid pace of immigration into the diocese both created and solved a problem. Immigrants needed places to worship, and new churches cost money. But, poor immigrants often had trouble getting loans at reasonable interest rates. In addition, many who did not speak English felt more comfortable trusting their money to representatives of the Church. So Kenrick went into the banking business.

The "Bishop’s Bank" was at first, a small program set up by Father Ambrose Heim at St. Mary of Victories. A native of France, Heim had attended the seminary in Perryville. An immigrant himself, he encouraged his German-speaking congregation to save their money, and many chose to deposit it into his safekeeping. In 1846, Heim was transferred to the Cathedral to become Kenrick’s secretary, and his bank went with him.

The bank not only accepted deposits and gave loans to individuals, it also provided loans to struggling parishes and paid for the expansion or renovation of religious communities. Over the years it became so successful that when St. Louis encountered an economic crisis known as the Panic of 1857, Kenrick was able to loan the city money for public works.

St. Vincent de Paul Society

Father Heim also was involved in the founding of another important 19th century diocesan project. He was the first spiritual director of the St. Vincent de Paul Society. The idea came from France, where young Frenchman Frederic Ozanam began a society of men who pledged themselves to personal works of charity.

Soon, conferences formed in other cities around France and another conference sprang up in Rome. The movement later spread to Brussels, Constantinople, London and Dublin. On November 20, 1845, a group of Catholic laymen from Cathedral Parish met to hear about the society. With Kenrick’s blessing and Heim as spiritual director, they formed the first American Congress of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. The society’s national offices still are located in St. Louis, and parishes throughout the archdiocese have chapters that perform charitable works in the tradition of the great French saint, one of the patron saints of what would soon become an archdiocese.

A New Archdiocese

On July 20, 1847, St. Louis became the first ecclesiastical province in the middle part of North America. Baltimore had been first, and the Oregon territory had been set up as an archdiocese the previous year. St. Louis was next, and Kenrick became an archbishop.

During that summer, Archbishop Kenrick made a long tour through his territory. He traveled to Gravois (later named Kirkwood), Manchester, Pacific, Gallagher Mills and Union (where there was only one Catholic resident). He usually preached on streetcorners. And not only Catholics gathered to hear him.

When he preached in Steelville (where there were no Catholics) Protestant ministers gathered to listen. One man claimed to have walked eight miles to hear the archbishop.

He continued into French-speaking territory in towns such as Old Mines, Potosi, Fredricktown, Caledonia and Ste. Genevieve. Many of these towns had been well-established in the days when St. Louis was still a small fur-trading post. Kenrick did not speak French, but he made points with the residents by saying a few words to children in that language.

He then took a steamboat up the Mississippi back to St. Louis and sailed up the Missouri River to Kansas City, coming back through Independence, Booneville, Columbia and other towns in the western portion of the state. In all, the trip took two and a half months.

Fire and Disease

The year 1849 was not a good one for St. Louis. Although the archdiocese still covered hundreds of miles of territory, the city had become a crowded, dirty place. In those days, the city’s western border was near the present Union Station, and Carondelet was so far south it was thought of as "the country." There were 70,000 people living on top of one another in a poorly-drained area with sink-holes and stagnant waters. At the western edge of the city, Chouteau’s pond, once a pristine place for recreation, had become more of an open sewer. It was a perfect incubator for disease.

On December 28, 1848, 30 cholera-infected passengers and crew arrived in St. Louis on a steamboat. Over the next several months, the disease spread quickly.

During those harrowing months, as many as 30 to 35 funerals per day were performed at the Cathedral! Archbishop Kenrick spent his time both burying the dead and visiting the suffering. At a single hospital operated by the Sisters of Charity at the corner of Fourth and Spruce Streets, 2,705 patients received treatment that year, and almost half had cholera. Of those, 510 died. In all, the epidemic claimed seven percent of the population in St. Louis.

Sister Justine Mulhall was a Sister of St. Joseph. Her order comforted the dying and took in the children orphaned by the cholera outbreak. Only 18 years old, Sister Justine worked tirelessly with those who were ill until she became sick herself. Her dying wish was that she might renew her vows on the morning of the feast of the Visitation. Archbishop Kenrick kept a vigil at her bedside through the night in order that her wish might be fulfilled.

As cholera was spreading like wildfire, a massive real fire swept through downtown St. Louis. It took three lives, and it did $10 million of property damage along the riverfront and nearly claimed the Cathedral before being extinguished.

On May 7, the steamboat White Cloud caught fire while moored at the northern edge of the city. When the fire began, the rivermen, as was customary, pushed the boat into the middle of the river to allow the current to carry it away from other boats.

It did not work. A wind from the east held the boat near the Missouri bank, and as it floated down river, the White Cloud set fire to 33 other boats. Soon the roaring fire jumped the levee at Locust Street. It moved along First Street and continued to spread to the southwest, eventually reaching the corner of Market and Second Streets, the block on which the Cathedral stood.

Volunteer firefighters, led by Captain Thomas Targee of the Missouri Valley Fire Brigade, were unable to do much to slow the blaze because the fire was between them and the river, their primary source of water.

Targee decided bold action was required. He ordered several kegs of gunpowder and worked to blow up a number of buildings in the path of the fire to stop the flames before they reached the Cathedral. The plan worked. The Cathedral was saved, but Targee himself lost his life when the final keg of gunpowder blew up in his hands.

Know-Nothings and the Book of Psalms

Even as Archbishop Kenrick was being cheered by Catholics and non-Catholics, around the archdiocese, anti-Catholic sentiments grew around the country. Never one to get involved in politics himself, Kenrick never spoke on the subject, but by the 1850s, anti-Catholic and anti-immigrant sentiments had come together in a movement whose members called themselves the "Know-Nothings."

Officially called the American Party, the Know-Nothings were nativists. That is, they supported policies that favored native inhabitants rather than immigrants. Eventually, they ran their own candidates for office on platforms of limiting immigration and restricting the rights of immigrants who already were in the United States. And the Know-Nothings gradually began to think of immigrants and Catholics as one and the same.

Irish Catholics were a particular target for the Know-Nothings. Meanwhile, the new Irish immigrants, who tended to live in St. Patrick’s Parish, also had a tendency to link their Catholicism with their own cultural and national heritage. In fact, when Irish-born Archbishop Kenrick sent St. Patrick’s a priest from Ste. Genevieve who spoke English with a southeast Missouri twang, he received protests from many parishioners who spoke with Irish brogues.

The tension between the Know-Nothings and Catholics in St. Louis eventually boiled over in election riots. In the summer of 1854, several Irish Americans were denied the right to vote by Know-Nothings who were serving as election judges. An argument ensued, and soon a scuffle broke out. In the melee one of the would-be Irish voters stabbed a boy.

Soon, mobs were attacking Irish houses and stores, and they threatened to destroy churches. St. Louis mayor, John Howe, called for volunteer soldiers to assist police.

On the evening of August 7, 1854, a mob began to move against St. Francis Xavier Church. As word spread that the mob was preparing the attack the church at Saint Louis University, another rumor began to spread that a large force of armed men was waiting to defend the church against the mob.

When rioters finally approached, there were no armed men to defend the university or the church. Instead, Saint Louis University president, Father John Baptist Druyts walked back and forth in front of the church building calmly reading from the Book of Psalms. The mob destroyed two nearby restaurants, but the rioters never approached the church, stopped in their tracks by the sacred scripture.

Financial Solvency from Heaven

As the 1850s drew to a close and the Civil War approached, the death of a St. Louis businessman proved a financial windfall for the Church in St. Louis. John Thornton was a wealthy Catholic from St. Louis County with no wife and no children.

He left $10,000 each to five nieces and nephews and another $10,000 to Kenrick. The archbishop also was named an executor of the Thornton estate, the rest of which was to fund the charitable works of the archdiocese. In the final settlement of the estate, the archdiocese received $579,440.06.

The Civil War

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Rev. August Tolton, ordained in 1886 was the first black man who had been born in the archdiocese to be ordained a priest.

Kenrick’s distaste for politics and his practice to stay out of political discussions was severely tested in the 1860s, as the Civil War raged. Although many of his priests spoke in support of one side or the other, Kenrick’s silence was deafening. He never commented publicly on the subject. In fact, he did not preach at all during the first two years of the war.

The archbishop never expressed his views on the issue of slavery. And he determined that the Church in St. Louis would not involve itself in the conflict. He did not allow his priests to serve either side, but asked instead that they pray for peace.

While some priests followed Kenrick’s neutral mandates better than others, one shining example of both neutrality and Christian mercy was Father Patrick J. Ryan, who would later become Kenrick’s coadjutor and then Archbishop of Philadelphia. He was the chaplain for Confederate prisoners at St. Louis’ prison on Gratiot Street. During the course of the war, he tended the wounded, prayed with the homesick and even baptized some 600 prisoners who, seeing his example of mercy and piety, made the decision to become Catholics.

Bishops in some dioceses began flying the Stars and Stripes above their cathedrals. Not Kenrick. The Bishop of Louisville issued a pastoral letter in support of states’ rights. The Bishop of New York traveled to Europe to drum up support for the Union cause. The Bishop of Pittsburgh lobbied his native Spain not to recognize the Confederacy. And the Bishop of Charleston visited European countries on behalf of the South and even delivered a letter from Confederate President Jefferson Davis to the Pope. But Kenrick remained silent.

In St. Louis, Father John O’Sullivan favored secession to the point that he came into conflict with local military authorities. O’Sullivan was soon relocated to Springfield, Illinois. Father John Bannon was chaplain for the Missouri Militia, and many of his parishioners volunteered to serve in the Confederacy. He eventually joined the Southern cause in 1862 and traveled to Ireland to try to slow down the immigration of potential Union soldiers from Ireland. Bannon did not return.

In a letter to his brother, who was by then Archbishop of Baltimore, Kenrick wrote, "I have decided to stay out of these troubles as much as possible…so that with God’s help, I shall be useful to the end."

Kenrick’s brother died a few days after the Battle of Gettysburg, but because of war travel restrictions, he could not attend the funeral.

Orders and Immigrants

There were some religious orders already working in St. Louis when Kenrick arrived. The Vincentians, Sacred Heart Sisters and Sisters of St. Joseph began their first American efforts here. The Jesuits, Visitation Sisters and Sisters of Loretto made St. Louis their second home in the United States. But Kenrick’s tenure saw a flood of new orders arrive in the river city.

The Visitation Sisters began in Kaskaskia, Illinois, and Kenrick invited them to come to St. Louis. Six did, and they opened a school for girls. The rest came shortly afterward when a flood forced them out of their convent and school in Kaskaskia.

Sts. Peter & Paul School, St. Louis, 1898 
Sts. Peter & Paul School, St. Louis, 1898

The same flood drove the Sisters of St. Joseph from Cahokia across the river to Carondelet. They opened several schools, including a school for Catholic Negro girls. That school was later closed, however, when legislation was passed that made it illegal to teach African Americans.

The Ursuline Sisters came upriver from New Orleans in 1848. The Order of the Good Shepherd arrived during the cholera epidemic in 1849. That same year the Christian Brothers came to St. Louis. They were largely responsible for what became the parochial school system among Irish Catholics.

The Sisters of Mercy arrived from New York. Soon after, the School Sisters of Notre Dame came to teach in the German schools, setting up parochial schools for those children similar to those set up for Irish children by the Christian Brothers. St. Louis eventually became the provincial headquarters for the School Sisters of Notre Dame.

The diocese also was a headquarters for the Redemptorist fathers. The Franciscan Friars set up headquarters at St. Anthony of Padua and worked in other parishes including St. Liborius and Holy Trinity. The Franciscan Sisters arrived a few years later, opening several parish schools and two hospitals in out-state Missouri.

The Carmelites came in 1862. The Alexian Brothers arrived in 1868, and that same year the first Little Sisters of the Poor came from France. Then came the Sisters of St. Mary of the Third Order of St. Francis. They cared for patients during a yellow fever outbreak in southern states and a later smallpox epidemic in St. Louis.

The Oblate Sisters of Providence came in 1880. This order of African-American sisters taught black children in St. Louis. The Sisters of the Most Precious Blood had originally been in Illinois, but after a dispute there, they came to St. Louis, too.

As the religious orders continued to arrive, so did the immigrants, and not just German and Irish. Bohemian Catholics here set up the first Bohemian church outside of Bohemia, St. John Nepomuk, on the city’s near south side. Father Joseph Hessoun, who was born in Bohemia and ordained just after the Civil War, spent more than 40 years at the helm both of St. John Nepomuk and of a good portion of the Bohemian Catholic community in the United States.

He published a paper called Hlas, Bohemian for "the Voice," that helped unite Bohemian-Americans under the banner of Catholicism. Hessoun pushed for gradual but steady assimilation into American culture. He also spent time setting up Bohemian parishes in other parts of the country, hoping to americanize the Bohemian people while keeping them loyal to the Catholic faith.

St. Louis also saw an increase in Italian immigration in the years after the war. They founded St. Bonaventure’s Parish, and many found employment in the clay pits on Fairmount Heights, an area of St. Louis that would later be known as "the Hill."

Polish Catholics began settling on the northern edge of the city. Polish Franciscan Fathers offered the first masses for the immigrants in the basement of St. Patrick’s school. A few years later, work began on St. Stanislaus Church on 20th Street near Cass. The church was consecrated by Bishop Patrick Ryan on November 12, 1882. Four years later, Father Urban Stanowski became pastor. He remained in the post for 40 years.

Archbishop Kenrick continued the practice of having special congregations for Catholics of different nationalities. Through these years, Father Henry Muehlsiepen served as vicar general for German, Bohemian and Polish Catholics.

The First Vatican Council

The Vatican Council was the first Church Council since the Council of Trent in the 16th century. One of the main orders of business at the council would be a declaration on papal infallibility.

For many years, Archbishop Kenrick had been opposed to what he considered over-centralization of the Church in Rome, and he worried that, with many bishops from heavily-Protestant countries, it was a bad time to make such a declaration.

In addition, the Pope was both the spiritual head of the Church and the head of state for the Papal States in Italy. Kenrick worried about pronouncing a head of state infallible. So at the Vatican Council, he spoke against infallibility. The majority of bishops voted in favor.

Not long after the council’s conclusion, Father Ryan was made a bishop. The next month Kenrick prepared a detailed financial report on the state of the archdiocese and retired from its day-to-day administration, placing those responsibilities in Ryan’s hands. He would serve as coadjutor for 12 years.

Ryan was one of 17 priests consecrated as bishops who worked in St. Louis during Kenrick’s tenure. They became bishops and Archbishops of Philadelphia, Green Bay, New Orleans, Buffalo, Chicago, Monterey, Los Angeles, Nashville, St. Joseph, Kansas City, Pittsburgh, Dubuque, Lincoln, and Covington, Kentucky. In fact some have referred to Kenrick’s St. Louis as the "cradle of bishops."

Through Ryan’s years as coadjutor, many thought the aging Kenrick might retire and make Ryan the new archbishop, but there was no formula for doing so. In an era when the average lifespan was just over 40, the issue of retirement for archbishops was not on the "front burner" in the Church. So Kenrick remained archbishop in name while Ryan performed most of the duties.

That arrangement ended in 1884 when Ryan became the Archbishop of Philadelphia. Kenrick was forced to resume the administration of the archdiocese at the age of 78. It was a job he would not voluntarily surrender again.

Father Cornelius O’Leary

The year before Ryan left St. Louis, the Holy Office in Rome had named the Noble Order of the Knights of Labor as a prohibited society, in spite of the fact that their leader was a Catholic. The Knights were a workers’ organization formed in 1869 that had 700,000 members by 1886. They had been condemned by the Archbishop of Quebec, and a letter he sent to Rome resulted in the decision to prohibit Catholic membership.

The Knights became involved in a strike against the Missouri Pacific Railroad in 1886. There had been a brief strike the year before, too, as workers protested pay cuts while the company was earning profits. In 1886, 9,000 shopmen left their jobs, hoping to stop all freight traffic within a five-state region. Their main concern was recognition for the union, and the strike became a power struggle.

One of the railroad’s largest stops was in DeSoto, Missouri. Father Cornelius O’Leary, the pastor of St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church, organized a committee to provide relief to the families of striking workers. He hired a lawyer, former congressman Richard Graham Frost, to defend indicted railroad workers.

O’Leary testified before a Congressional committee on behalf of the workers and defended the Knights of Labor in spite of the official Church condemnation. He even spoke about the Knights to Monsignor Germano Straniero, a visiting representative of Pope Leo XII. After their meeting, Straniero told an interviewer that membership in the Knights was compatible with Catholicism.

The national head of the Knights of Labor offered to build O’Leary a new church should he be removed from St. Rose. Railroad officials promised to retire parish debts if O’Leary was removed.

Meanwhile, Kenrick met with the Archbishop of Quebec. He later met with an executive of the railroad. And eventually, the same archbishop who had refused to take sides during the Civil War, decided to oppose the Knights of Labor. He transferred O’Leary from DeSoto to Webster Groves. The leader of the Knights would later say that Father O’Leary did more for justice for workers than any other man of his time.

Kenrick and Kain

Archbishop Kain 
Archbishop Kain

The final years of Kenrick’s tenure were marked by a split in the American Church over the issue of assimilation. Many Catholics, especially Irish Catholics, opposed the use of foreign languages and the continuance of cultural traditions that were not in step with American practices. They pushed for speedy assimilation.

The more conservative, primarily German, Catholics saw assimilation as inevitable, but believed it should come slowly. They also supported parochial schools. In Chicago in 1887, at a meeting chaired by Father Henry Muehlsiepen, the German-American Priests’ Society was formed. The society expressed devotion to the Pope, the parochial school system and the Catholic Press.

As the debate grew louder, some began to feel that the foreign-language congregations and schools in St. Louis were inappropriate. Others pointed out that the congregations still were not parishes in a strict sense. In fact, they did not become official parishes until Kenrick’s successor, John Kain called an archdiocesan synod in 1896 that granted non-English speaking parishes all rights and privileges.

Kain had been the Bishop of Wheeling, West Virginia. He was born on May 31, 1841, a few months before Kenrick arrived in St. Louis. In 1892, he moved from his post in Appalachia to what was then the fourth-largest city in the United States. He moved from a diocese with 35 priests and 20,000 Catholics into a diocese with 354 priests and a Catholic population of 200,000. He also moved into Kenrick’s residence, but he proved to be an unwelcome guest.

In 1895, Coadjutor Archbishop Kain initiated court proceedings in order to gain control of Church property in St. Louis. The next Spring, on March 4, 1896, Kenrick died. For seven days, a stream of people passed through the Cathedral to pay their respects. One cardinal, seven archbishops, 30 bishops and 300 priests attended his funeral.

Kain officially assumed command of the archdiocese on May 10, 1896. After his difficulties with Kenrick, the archbishop may have hoped his job would get easier. But that same month, a tornado roared through the south side of St. Louis. Several religious buildings were destroyed, including St. Francis de Sales and St. John Nepomuk churches. The property loss reached a half million dollars. The diocese rebuilt and recovered, but Kain did not.

In the years after Kenrick’s death, Kain fell into ill health. He took long trips and extended leaves of absence. By 1903, he had requested a coadjutor bishop. On May 9 of that year, he left for St. Agnes Sanitarium in Baltimore, and he died there on October 3, 1903.

Kain could never hope to match the popularity, influence and longevity of "the lion," but he did accomplish several important things. He settled the question of national language churches. He gave the full support of the archdiocese to the parochial school system, and he chose the sight for a new cathedral at Lindell and Newstead. A successor, however, would have to build it.