Monsignor Thomas Fahy – Priest, Scholar, Humanitarian

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the inauguration of Monsignor Thomas G. Fahy (1922-76) as the fourteenth president of Seton Hall whose tenure was marked by a major series of initiatives that enhanced the administrative focus, academic infra-structure, and student experience for those connected to the university during his time as chief executive.  His life and example have been fondly remembered by those he touched along with future generations of Setonians who benefited from the forward-thinking initiatives he nurtured and approved between the years of 1970-76 in particular.

Monsignor Fahy looks over campus during his time as University President, c. early 1970s

A native of Jersey City, Monsignor Fahy graduated from Seton Hall College in 1943 and four years later became an alumnus of the Immaculate Conception Seminary just prior to ordination as a priest for the Archdiocese of Newark. He was later educated at Fordham University where advanced degrees in Theological Studies were earned.  The first educational-based assignments undertaken by Monsignor Fahy came as a Latin and Greek Instructor and Director of Athletics at the Seton Hall Preparatory School before joining the ranks of the university administration in 1955.  Prior to becoming president, Monsignor Fahy served Seton Hall as Athletic Director, Professor of Classical Languages, Dean of Men and Vice President of Instruction.

Upon assuming the presidency, Monsignor Fahy created the Center for Black (later known as African American) Studies was established in 1970. Another key addition to the campus landscape came to the fore when the Puerto Rican Institute was founded four years later. During the time of Monsignor Fahy, Seton Hall became more boarder-oriented when they opened Aquinas Hall, the first residence hall for women in 1971. Within academic circles, the Stillman Business School and Schwartz Nursing College Complex opened in 1973. Governance of Seton Hall originally balanced between a 25-member Board of Regents and 13 trustees, as operational leadership on a daily basis emanated from the office of Monsignor Fahy. In addition, Elizabeth Ann Seton, patroness of the University was canonized in Rome by Pope Paul VI in 1975, making her the first American-born saint. A year later, in response to a great swell in religious-based research, the New Jersey Catholic Historical Records Commission was founded at Seton Hall, where it remains active to this day.  These were just a few of the moves of lasting significance that remain connected to his legacy.

Monsignor Fahy discusses policy with faculty member, c. early 1970s

Monsignor Fahy was not only concerned for the welfare of the campus community, but for all citizens of the world  During his inaugural speech in 1970, he made mention of Catholic Higher education and the state of academic life, but also made the following pronouncement in regard to care for the earth and inhabitants based on the means of handling technology and ecology in a responsible manner:

“ . . . for us the most incredibly sophisticated marvels, the automobile and the jet plane to open up the country and the world; an agriculture whose yield is ten-fold what it was at the beginning of this century: a space program so incredible that we now somehow feel deflated that only two of our first three efforts to land on the moon were successful.  But while successive generations of college students were trained to produce these marvels, these students were apparently not warned to relate their achievements to man’s continued existence on earth.  As a result, we now face an ecological crisis of catastrophic proportions.  We could, we are told, be buried in our garbage, be asphyxiated by the exhaust of cards, or poisoned by the effluvia in our waters.”

Monsignor Fahy was an advocate for the United Farm Workers cause and other advocacy groups of note. Clipping, c. early 1970s

Beyond the board room, Monsignor Fahy was known as a thoughtful presence on campus who would sit on the steps of Presidents Hall and gladly talk to anyone who happened by about their lives and concerns. This is another side of the man that lives on in memory.  Monsignor Fahy accomplished many important landmarks during his lifetime, but tragically passed away in 1976 at the age of 54.  When the news arrived on campus he was widely mourned and eulogized.

Among the most poignant tributes came from past university president, Bishop John J. Dougherty who articulated that:

“Thomas George Fahy with honor, for his life was an honor to everything of which he was a part.  He was an honor to the family whose name he bore.  His achievement was begotten of what his parents had give him. He was an honor to the priesthood.  His fellow seminarians respected his gifted mind, his unassuming manner, and his manly and unobtrusive piety.  His priestly and professional life served a cause: the cause was Seton Hall. He was an honor to the human community. He was compassionate not only in thought and feeling, but in action.”

Additional postings regarding the life and legacy of Monsignor Fahy will be forthcoming.  In the meantime, please feel to contact us if you need further information on Monsignor Fahy and all aspects of Seton Hall University.  We can be reached via e-mail at:  archives@shu.edu

 

Remembering Monsignor Francis R. Seymour, KHS (1937-2018)

It is with great sadness that we announce the death of Monsignor Francis R. Seymour, KHS who served for many years as the first Archivist for the Archdiocese of Newark when he was named to this position in 1969.  He was also a founding member of the New Jersey Catholic Historical Commission in 1976 and became Chair of this organization in 2009.  The contributions Monsignor Seymour made to the Monsignor William Noe’ Field Archives & Special Collections Center were many and memorable.  Counted among his most important and lasting works include his careful organization of research files related to the priest community, collecting of important documentation from autographed photographs to memorial cards to parish histories and many other items and objects related to the story of Catholic New Jersey.

It was also in the personal sharing of his knowledge and recollections where he really brought history to life.  His memory for details was remarkable and brought both enthusiasm and a gentle touch to his interactions with the many people he touched during the course of his life.  On a personal level, Monsignor Seymour will be remembered fondly and missed greatly by the many individuals who and had the privilege to learn from his example and had the privilege to call him a colleague and friend.

Among those associated who treasure his kindness are Tiffany Burns, Assistant to the Dean of University Libraries who remembers “My first job on the SHU campus was as an employee with the Archdiocese of Newark. Monsignor Seymour hired me to process sacramental requests in Archives and Special Collections twice a week. During my time in the Archives my brother passed away suddenly. It was Monsignor who most comforted me with words of kindness and his gentle explanation of the Church’s teaching during the saddest days of my life. I always felt that when Monsignor Seymour entered the room he brought the Lord with him.”

Sarah Ponichtera, Assistant Dean of Special Collections and the Gallery, adds, “Monsignor Seymour was a font of knowledge about the history of the Archdiocese.  He knew off the top of his head what would take an average researcher days to track down.  His passing is an enormous loss for historians of the university, the Archdiocese, and the region.”

Monsignor Seymour with Mother Teresa of Calcutta, c. 1981
  • More information about the life and accomplishments of Monsignor Seymour can be found via the official announcement issued by the Archdiocese of Newark.

Winand Wigger and 19th Century Conciliar Connections

Portrait of Winand WiggerThe life and legacy of Winand Michael Wigger (1841-1901), the third Bishop of Newark and first of German extraction was elevated to leadership of the largest Catholic see in New Jersey by 1881 at a time when the Diocese of Trenton was formed to serve the faithful in southern New Jersey.  On a wider scale, the Church was undergoing various changes as a result of nation-wide meetings among the Catholic hierarchy known as the Plenary Councils of Baltimore held in 1852, 1866, and 1884 during the time of Bishop Wigger.  Baltimore was the first Catholic Diocese of the United States (formed in 1789) and as more geographical provinces were made (Newark christened in 1853 being a part of the Province of New York established in 1808) the leadership met to discuss and adopt standard policies and “discipline” based on proper Church teaching and mission meetings and decrees that came out of Maryland would be enacted locally including the Diocese of Newark.  These councils yielded interesting ties to New Jersey including the creation of a standard “Baltimore Catechism” written by Father Januarius De Concilio, a priest of the Diocese of Newark (1885) and consideration of Seton Hall as the official national “principal seminary or university” for the United States, but ultimately the Catholic University of American (founded in 1887) became the ultimate choice.  Aside from these key historical footnotes on a local level Bishop Wigger working with Michael Augustine Corrigan, Bishop of New York (and second bishop of Newark previously) worked together with other church leaders within the New York Province to draft recommendations based on the Baltimore debates.  Among the documents found in the Wigger Collection include the following examples include various circulars fro the spring and summer of 1886 including one from April 15th which reads in part . . .

“We, the Archbishop and the Bishops of the Province of of New York, having met for consultation to-day in the Winand Wigger documentArchiepiscopal Residence, deem it advisable to address a few words of advice and counsel to you, Venerable Clergy and Beloved Laity, on the decrees of the Third Plenary Council of Baltimore.  In accordance with the will and wish of the Fathers of the Council, and with the approval of the Holy See, these decrees have been published and promulgated by the Apostolic Delegate, the Most Rev. James Gibbons, Archbishop of Baltimore, in anticipation of their publication in diocesan and provincial synods, and they are now binding and of full effect . . . A well-adjusted start will guarantee success from the beginning, and give promise of judicious development of Church government in the future.  It is our intention, therefore, to hold two or more conferences during the summer months as a help to secure the best means of giving effect to the wise precepts and injunctions of the Council, preparatory to their enforcement in diocesan synods to be held not later than the coming autumn.”

Bishop Wigger also sought to stress attention to academics throughout the Diocese of Newark from grammar school through Seton Hall College . . .

“The first chapter . . . on Parochial Schools, legislates clergy and definitely on the duty of bishops, priests, and laity with regard to the establishment and support of Christian and Catholic schools, especially of Parochial Schools, which constitute the majority of schools in which religion is not divorced from education. The question of the utility and necessity of these is no longer an open one.  The great educational problem of the day, in this country as in most countries of the world, is how best to promote the establishment and permanent efficiency and growth of schools in which secular learning and religious instruction shall be combined . . .   The cause of Christian education so strongly advocated in the Third Plenary Council, so fully endorsed by the Holy See, so lovingly presented to the whole world by the Holy Father in his Encyclical Letter directing a portion of the Jubilee aims to be set aside for such schools, is worth a priest’s best labors and the people’s unstinted generosity.”

 

Seton Hall College, South Orange, June 1, 1886These and other pronouncements issued by way of circulars to the clergy of the diocese, Seton Hall College, other institutions, and expressed to parishioners was part of the chain of messaging that kept the work and vision of the Church connected during the time of Bishop Wigger with the Councils being among the last major conferences aside from various diocesan synods and periodic intiatives that defined the American Catholic Church that arose above mission status by 1908 in the eventual wake of the Baltimore Councils.  More information about the administration and legacy works of Bishop Wigger as a church leader can be found within the following collection, the Winand Wigger papers, 1864-1919.

For more information about Bishop Wigger, or other queries regarding Catholic New Jersey please feel free to contact us by e-mail:Alan.Delozier@shu.edu  or via phone at: (973) 275-2378.  Thank you in advance for your interest.

NJCHC Spring 2013 Conference Announcement…

Have You Ever Wanted to Learn More About What Goes into Making a Book and Meet Local Authors in the Process? Then We Have a Program for You!

Please join the New Jersey Catholic Historical Commission and friends on Saturday, April 13th from 9:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Motherhouse located on the campus of Caldwell College, located in Caldwell, New Jersey for a conference entitled…

“The Art of the Printed Word – Historical Book Creation, From Prayer to Preparation to Publication.”

This program will serve as a showcase the recent publication of Catholic history oriented books, periodicals, and other print resources, but is also designed to show each the steps that go into making a book from idea, research options, the importance of writing and how to achieve a finished product. Speakers will present short talks on their work and will also welcome questions in relation to their expertise.  Noted authors including Father Augustine Curley, Carl Ganz, Father Michael Krull, Monsignor Raymond Kupke, Sister Margherita Marchione, Tom McCabe, Brian Regan, Greg Tobin, and others will be present to talk about their experiences and tell you more about the publication process. A major portion of this day will also be devoted for those interested in sharing their own research and interact with the speakers in more depth.

Those doing any type of publishing whether it be institutional and/or parish histories, articles, newsletters, and other specialized volumes are encouraged to attend.

Registration is now open. The cost for the day is $20.00 (students $10.00) per person and this includes a continental breakfast, lunch, and conference materials. You can register at the door, but advance notice is appreciated. To reserve a space and/or for more information please contact Alan DeLozier via e-mail: Alan.Delozier@shu.edu, or by phone at: (973) 275-2378.