Series 11: Papers of Benedict Fenwick, S.J., chaplain
Identifier: Series 11
Scope and Contents
Benedict J. Fenwick, S.J. (1782-1846) was born into one of the original Catholic families of Lord Baltimore's Maryland. In 1806, he joined the Society of Jesus and was ordained in 1808. After serving in New York, Fenwick returned to Georgetown, as its president, in 1817. During the year he served there he apparently became familiar enough with the Port Tobacco Carmel to compose poems and songs for the community, share in their celebrations, and even exercise his creative talents by writing a fable to present to one of the nuns, S. Stanislaus, on her "clothing day." After an assignment in South Carolina where he acted as vicar general for the diocese, he returned to Georgetown; this time he served as procurator for the U.S. Jesuit community and president of the college from 1822 to 1825. But he also served as Port Tobacco Carmel's chaplain, easing the death of Charles Neale (4/27/1823) for the grieving Carmelites, an event he reviewed in a brief biography composed in 1825. All too briefly he served as their chaplain. But, in 1825, he was appointed Bishop of Boston, his transfer ending abruptly the warm and special relationship he had developed with the Port Tobacco community. Benedict Fenwick died in 1846. This series reflects Fenwick's friendship and special spiritual relationship with the community. Besides meditations composed by him, narrative poems, poetry, and some commemorative materials dedicated to members of the monastery have been preserved. In particular are literary pieces addressed to both Clare Joseph and the subprioress of the time (Sister Aloysia Matthews), as well as to two of the young nuns, Sisters Ambrosia and Stanislaus. All of Fenwick's creative work testifies to his personal gifts of warmth and sympathetic understanding. His pastoral gifts were equally impressive. His special support of his fellow Jesuit, Charles Neale, as this beloved chaplain of the Sisters lay dying, and of the community that grieved him led Clare Joseph to append to a poem he wrote in her honor in 1823 "The composition of the Reverend B.J. Fenwick Our Angel Comforter." When Fenwick was temporarily transferred after this event, she wrote that his absence was mourned by "white and black alike." Fenwick's talents are particularly obvious in the fable he addressed to Sister Stanislaus. In this spiritual allegory, he portrays a Tom-Cat as the devil and a mouse as a "certain little nun." After his appointment to Boston, in 1825, there was little opportunity for Fenwick to keep in close contact with the sisters. But five letters remain reflecting the fact that his pastoral and personal concerns for the Carmelite community continued long after his departure from Maryland.
- Majority of material found in 1780-1830
From the Record Group: 3 linear feet