Chalice from 1835 returns to Kentucky after long journey

By Marnie McAllister, Record Assistant Editor

A chalice, shown above, that was given to Archbishop Martin John Spalding after he was ordained a priest in 1835, has passed through many hands since. It was returned to the Archdiocese of Louisville last month. (Record Photo by Marnie McAllister)

A chalice, shown above, that was given to Archbishop Martin John Spalding after he was ordained a priest in 1835, has passed through many hands since. It was returned to the Archdiocese of Louisville last month. (Record Photo by Marnie McAllister)

A chalice and paten that were given to Archbishop Martin John Spalding in 1835, just after his ordination to the priesthood, have been returned to his native Kentucky after a 146-year journey.

The set was made for a traveling priest and it can break into several pieces in order to fit into a special case. The priest would have carried it with him as he rode on horseback to celebrate Mass around the region, said Father Dale Cieslik, archivist of the Archdiocese of Louisville.

But it’s journey over the last century and a half has taken the set farther, perhaps, than expected — traveling to Baltimore, Florida, Ireland, New York and Springfield, Mass.

It was presented to Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz during the fall meeting of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops last month by its most recent owner, Bishop Timothy A. McDonnell of Springfield, Mass.

The set is now on display in the Archdiocese of Louisville’s History Center, located in the Cathedral of the Assumption’s Patterson Education Center, across the street from the Cathedral, at 424 S. Fifth St.

Father Cieslik said that in the early part of the 19th century, as priests rode long distances on horseback, the things they carried had to be lightweight and portable.

Bishop McDonnell of Springfield presented the set along with a letter which he titled “The Journey of a Saddlebag Chalice.” The letter recounts the many places and hands through which the chalice has passed.

The set was presented to Archbishop Spalding, then a newly ordained priest, in May of 1835. The Kentucky native had studied in Rome and returned to Bardstown after his ordination to the priesthood. The letter indicates it was presented to him upon his return from Rome.

The letter goes on to say, on Aug. 15, 1866, “The chalice is given by Baltimore Archbishop Martin John Spalding to William Kennedy, Esq., who was later that year to advise the Second Plenary Council of Baltimore.”

On an unknown date it was returned to the Archdiocese of Louisville. Then, according to the letter, in June of 1914 the chalice was given to Father Jeremiah Patrick O’Mahoney, an Irish-born priest who was ordained in New York. It was presented to him when he arrived in Louisville.

In 1928, Father O’Mahoney, later monsignor, was incardinated to the Diocese of St. Augustine, Fla., the letter says.

Msgr. O’Mahoney died in 1980 in Palm Beach, Fla. He left his family home in Ireland, County Cork, to a niece named Nora Ann Seymour. The chalice was in a private chapel in that house and was a part of the estate.

On Dec. 12, 2001, Seymour gave the chalice to Msgr. O’Mahoney’s grandnephew, Msgr. Timothy A. McDonnell, when he was ordained an auxiliary bishop of New York.

Bishop McDonnell is now Bishop of Springfield and has given the chalice to the Archdiocese of Louisville.

*This story was edited on 12/12/12. It originally stated the chalice was returned to Kentucky by the Bishop of Springfield, Ill.

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