Part 1: Cathedral’s Chapel window recalls the First Eucharistic Congress in the U.S.

Stephen Enzweiler, Cathedral Historian

Part 1 in a series

Sunny afternoons in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel are quiet times of whispering candles, prayerful pilgrims and streaming sunlight. Frank Duveneck’s murals gaze down through the silence as colored light splashes across the warm marble and stone columns. Five stained-glass windows in the chapel all tell stories along the theme of the Holy Eucharist — of offerings and prefigurement, celebrations and ritual set in glass upon which the faithful can contemplate and pray. Two windows tell stories from scripture, two contrast the Jewish seder meal and the first Corpus Christi feast celebrated in 1247. But one stained-glass window is different from all the rest.

On the western wall of the chapel is a window that depicts a procession of people with a priest in golden vestments carrying a monstrance. They all move in unison toward an elevated altar upon which an open Eucharistic throne of exposition awaits. At first glance, one might think the scene is a typical Corpus Christi procession such as parishes conduct each June. But this window isn’t about a Corpus Christi procession — it’s about a more profound event.

The window is titled the “First Eucharistic Congress in the United States of America” and it commemorates the first gathering of clergy in the United States who met in 1895 at Catholic University of America in Washington D.C. to bear witness to the real presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. Bishop Camillus P. Maes, third Bishop of Covington, played a leading role in organizing the Congress and served as its Secretary and presiding officer. The gathering was seen by the American prelature as essential to spreading the devotion of the real presence in the Eucharist, and it had the personal blessing of Pope Leo XIII. It was attended by more than 250 priests, bishops and archbishops, including the Vatican’s Francesco Cardinal Satolli and His Excellency James Cardinal Gibbons, Archbishop of Baltimore.

The window measures 21-feet high at its apex and 9-feet across at its base. In the scene, we see the priest in golden vestments processing amid a large crowd of faithful moving toward an altar beneath stone arches. Servers carry a large processional baldacchino above the priest as crowds of faithful follow behind. In the crowd is a cardinal and several bishops. Behind the baldacchino, a banner of the Virgin Mary can be seen. Three solitary figures in floral garments appear in the lower left corner of the window. One wears spectacles and bows reverently to the passing Eucharist; the other two, of distinctly Germanic appearance, gaze devoutly upon the holy Eucharist. High above, amid floral motifs of fig leaves are the armorial bearings of Pope St. Leo XIII.

The window scene was composed by Bishop Maes himself. In a Dec. 10, 1909 letter to Mayer & Company, the Munich firm that produced the window, he instructed, “The priests carrying the Baldachino as well as those walking in the procession are to be in cassock and surplices; the cardinal in rochet and cape; the Bishops in rochet and mantellata … a temporary altar for benediction to be shown on the porch of McMahon Hall.” In reply to Mayer’s query about whether the Bishop wished to be featured in the window, his reply was simple: “No, I do not want any portraits.”

Yet, Franz Borgia Mayer, the owner and director of Mayer & Company, had his sketch artist, George Daniels, render the Bishop’s face as the priest carrying the monstrance. Mayer and Bishop Maes were close, personal friends, and the window maker was often the recipient of his Apostolic blessings. Franz Mayer knew well of Maes’ deep humility, and he likely took the liberty to include his likeness as a way of honoring his friend for his great accomplishment of the Congress. He also had Daniels sketch in his own likeness and those of two other Mayer directors. Thus, in the window’s lower left-hand corner are these three additional figures (from top to bottom): Director Adolph Rau; Franz Borgia Mayer (owner of Mayer & Company); and Director Wilhelm Werberger as the bowing man wearing glasses.

Despite his earlier instructions, Bishop Maes did not seem to mind the changes. “The design … is original and unique,” he wrote in a letter to Mayer. “It is very acceptable.” History records that none of the Mayer directors attended the actual Congress, and Bishop Maes didn’t carry the monstrance in the actual procession. But for the Bishop, historical accuracy was less important than the deeper catechesis behind the window itself. In his heart, he wished the window might serve future generations in “recalling that the Eucharist is our heavenly food and our spiritual nourishment during our earthly pilgrimage.”

For anyone who knew him in life, to think of Bishop Maes was to think of the Holy Eucharist itself, for it was the treasure of his life, and the spread of its devotion became his lifelong ambition. It is said that to watch his reverence for the Sacrament at Mass had a profound effect on those in attendance. So devoted was he to the Blessed Sacrament that he became widely known among his fellow prelates as the “Bishop of the Blessed Sacrament,” just as Pius X was later called the “Pope of the Blessed Sacrament.”

This devotion to the Holy Eucharist began as a very young boy growing up in Belgium. It was instilled in him by his parents and reinforced by his aunt, a Carmelite nun, and two uncles who were priests. During his seminary years, he learned of the great figures of the Eucharist, especially St. Thomas Aquinas, “the poet of the Eucharist,” and St. Peter Julian Eymard (1811-1868), the Marist priest who founded the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament and later the Priest’s Eucharistic League in France. “The Eucharist is everything,” Eymard wrote, “because from the Eucharist, everything is.” Notably, Eymard’s later life was dedicated to renewing Eucharistic devotion in 19th-century Europe at a time when religion was declining precipitously in the wake of the French Revolution. It was a decline that spread as a materialistic secularism decorated with non-religious alternatives.

American historian Henry Adams witnessed a similar pattern of decline in the United States. In 1860, he recorded the profound cultural, social and intellectual shifts that had taken place since the time of the American Revolution, most notably the “disappearance of religion.” This decline was recorded in many other histories of the period as a time of growing secularization and deep, materialistic orientation. It is a period we have come to know as the Gilded Age.

One of Europe’s responses to the religious decline came in June 1881 with the first International Eucharistic Congress, held in Lille, France with the theme, “The Eucharist Saves the World.” The initial inspiration behind the idea came from a laywoman — Marie Marthe Baptisine Tamisier (1834–1910) who lobbied the clergy for more than a decade. More Congresses were held regularly throughout Europe, with attendance growing each year to more than 150,000 by 1888.

In the United States, devotion to the Blessed Sacrament was seen by clergy as the key to reviving religious devotion. By 1890, the effort to hold a Eucharistic Congress in the United States had been bantered about, but without any action. The “Associato Adoratorium,” under the leadership of Father Bede Maler, O.S.B. of Indianapolis had made little headway among clergy. Realizing something more was needed, Maler turned to his friend, the Bishop of Covington.

On the Feast of St. Thomas Aquinas, March 7, 1894, Bishop Maes met with five priests in his house on Eighth Street in Covington, one of whom was Father Maler. In the Bishop’s front parlor, the “Priests Eucharistic League of America” was formally founded. The following year, Maes was named “Protector of the Priests’ Eucharistic League” for life. The formation of the League accelerated interest among clergy nationwide, generating a greater reverence toward the Holy Eucharist. Within the year, Maes and his fellow bishops began making plans to hold the First Eucharistic Congress in the United States.

Bishop Maes knew from the start the effect such a congress would have, and we can see its effects in the historical record. In 1884, the Catholic population in the Diocese of Covington was about 40,000 with 52 parishes and roughly 800 children enrolled in schools. By 1903, it had grown to over 54,000 Catholics and 78 parishes with 7,137 children enrolled. New churches and schools were being constructed along with the establishment of seven new academies and the formation of new Catholic societies. More broadly, during this period Americans erected most of the country’s largest churches and religious monuments during a growing Gothic Revival movement, producing a vast wealth of religious paintings, sculptures and works of religious art.

Bishop Maes didn’t even begin thinking about creating the Eucharistic Congress window until late in 1908. Perhaps it was because he began feeling his years advancing and wished to leave his flock something of lasting importance. The window we see today is not as much a record of an event that happened on an eastern campus in some distant autumn as it is a message for our present age. It is a window that reaches out to us across time and speaks of a Eucharistic revival that began long ago as the American Church’s response to what was then considered a religious decline in America. Now a century later, another Eucharistic revival is underway with similar purpose, and we can thank our third bishop for showing us the way.

Coming up next: Part 2 — “Roots of 19th Century religious decline ran deep.”

Image: Original George Daniels sketch of the First Eucharistic Congress window. (Copyright Mayer’sche Hofkunstanstalt GmbH/Mayer of Munich) The completed window, which features the likeness of Bishop Camillus Paul Maes, third bishop of the Diocese of Covington, and depicts the first Eucharistic Congress, is visible within the Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption in Covington, Ky. 

Father Mark Keene and Deacon Jim Fortner begin new leadership roles in diocese

Laura Keener, Editor

The month of August opened and closed with two top positions being filled at the Curia. Bishop John Iffert has appointed Father Mark Keene vicar general and Deacon James Fortner chief operating officer for the Diocese of Covington.

“I look forward to collaborating with Father Keene and Deacon Fortner in leading the Curia staff and serving parishes of the Diocese of Covington,” said Bishop Iffert. “I am personally grateful for their willingness to put their substantial pastoral and leadership skills at the service of this local Church.”

Father Keene was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Covington in 1984 by Bishop William Hughes. In addition to his new assignment as vicar general, Father Keene’s current assignments include: pastor, St. Agnes Parish, Ft. Wright; pastoral administrator, Covington Catholic High School, Park Hills; dean, Northern Kenton County Deanery; and member of the Presbyteral Council and Priest Retirement Fund Committee.

Previous assignments included associate pastor, St. Catherine of Siena Parish, Ft. Thomas (1984–1987); and St. Joseph Parish, Crescent Springs (1987–1993); pastor, St. Benedict Parish, Covington (1993–1999) and chaplain, Covington Latin School (1997–1999).

A Louisville native, Father Keene attended Holy Spirit Parish and Holy Trinity High School where he earned an athletic scholarship to the University of Kentucky playing football. At UK, he was recognized as an Academic All-American and his team won the Peach Bowl. Upon graduating Phi Beta Kappa from UK in 1979, Father Keene studied pre-theology at St. Pius X Seminary, Erlanger, completing his seminary studies at Mt. St. Mary Seminary, Cincinnati.

The role of Vicar General is a canonical appointment in the Catholic Church. The Code of Canon Law requires a bishop to appoint at least one vicar general “who is provided with ordinary power … and who is to assist him in the governance of the whole diocese.” (475)

Bishop Roger Foys ordained Jim Fortner a permanent deacon for the Diocese of Covington in 2019. He is assigned to his home parish, Blessed Sacrament Parish, Ft. Mitchell.

Prior to being name COO for the diocese, Deacon Fortner was assigned campus minister at Covington Catholic High School. At Blessed Sacrament Parish he has taught in the Parish School of Religion, led the “That Man Is You” men’s spiritual development program and trained Altar Servers. Other responsibilities in the Diocese have included spiritual director, Cursillo; ministering at Madonna Manor; and preparing couples for the sacrament of marriage.

He and his wife, Julie, have been married for 34 years. They have been blessed with five children and five grandchildren, with two more expected by the end of this year.

Deacon Fortner received a Bachelor’s of Science in Economics and Information Systems from Northern Kentucky University in 1987 and a Masters in Finance from St. Louis University in 1989. In 2003 he earned a Lay Ministry Development Certificate from the Diocese of Covington. He com- pleted his diaconate studies in 2019 at The Athenaeum of Ohio, Mount St. Mary’s Seminary. Deacon Fortner is a life-long learner and continues to take classes at The Athenaeum of Ohio, on track to earn his Masters in Theology in 2023.

After 29 years at Procter and Gamble, most recently as senior vice president, chief information officer for Supply Chain, Research and

Development and Procurement Services Worldwide, Deacon Fortner retired in 2018. After his retirement and until 2021, he developed his own consulting firm, JAF Business Services Strategic Consultant, serving over 75 companies worldwide to improve business services.

The Chief Operating Officer (COO) is a new position developed by Bishop John Iffert to directly collaborator with the Bishop and Vicar General in planning and implementing goals in every pastoral and administrative area. The COO directs and supervises the offices of the Curia. Deacon Fortner will begin his new assignment as COO for the Diocese of Covington, Aug. 29.

Gone but Not Forgotten: MLB Unmarked Graves Project honors former Reds player Henry ‘Hank’ Gastright with a new headstone installed in Wilder cemetery

Maura Baker, Staff Writer

A crowd gathered to the Diocese of Covington’s St. Joseph Cemetery in Wilder for the installation of a headstone attributed to former Cincinnati Reds player, Henry “Hank” Gastright — whose grave was left unmarked until Aug. 18.

Those gathered included not only the descendants and family of the late baseball player, who passed away over 80 years ago in 1937, but also members of the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame and their associated historic baseball team, the 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings.

The idea to install headstones for these long-past baseball players was the brainchild of David Shannon, along with his partner Thomas Bucher, in a project they titled “Gone but Not Forgotten.”

“I enjoy visiting cemeteries, walking around reading grave- stones … I also love the history of Major League Baseball. I have discovered that some people think one or both of these activities are a bit odd,” said Mr. Shannon as he addressed those gathered for the headstone’s installation. “But, I’ve also found that there are many people who share the same interests.”

Hank Gastright’s headstone would be the second successful installation of Mr. Shannon and Mr. Bucher’s project, the first of which being the headstone for Theodore “Huck” Conover, another baseball player buried in an unmarked grave in Lexington, Ky. Both of these projects were funded by donations from supporters of the “Gone but Not Forgotten: MLB Unmarked Graves Project.”

Mr. Shannon thanked Brian Harvey, associate director, Buildings and Properties Office, who oversees several key cemeteries in the Diocese of Covington, for his contributions and support of this project.

“He is the one who has been my contact for getting permission and getting everything done. Brian appreciated what we are doing enough that he himself made a sizable contribution to our cause,” said Mr. Shannon, “So, we appreciate Brian Harvey and the staff here at the Diocese of Covington.”

Image: C&C Monuments, a company based in Lebanon, Tenn., installs the new headstone constructed for former Cincinnati Reds player, Henry “Hank” Gastright. The specially crafted monument features a baseball bat and glove and bears the signature tagline “Gone but not Forgotten.”

Diocese of Covington welcomes pro-life initiative ‘Walking with Moms in Need,’ aiming to ‘walk in the shoes’ of vulnerable mothers and families

Maura Baker, Staff Writer

Parish representatives and pro-life allies of the Diocese of Covington gathered, Aug. 10, to discuss new and ongoing initiatives in the diocese to support mothers and families in a post-Dobbs community.

The Supreme Court decision on Dobbs, which overturned Roe v. Wade and delegated the decision of abortion to individual states and their representa- tives, was a major step in ensuring the sanctity of life from natural conception.

However, in the wake of this decision, Bishop Iffert recognizes the needs of mothers and families in need and hopes to continue to assist in ensuring the safety and stability of both mother and child with the new initiative, Walking with Moms in Need.

Established by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), Walking with Moms in Need is described as “an opportunity for a time of service in which Catholic parishes and communities ‘walk in the shoes’ of local pregnant and parenting women and families in need.”

The initiative aims to “see parishes come together to help mothers and families in their own parish community,”and it began with the August 10 meeting, where Faye Roch, director of Pro-life Office for the Diocese of Covington, invited the gathered members of the community to take part in proceeding with this initiative in their parish and local communities.

“You can use whatever gifts that you have within your parish to place at the service of this mission,” said Mrs. Roch, encouraging parishioners to work with their parishes and pro-life leaders to participate in helping mothers. “And you know, our parishes are just so full of so many gifts, we have people who have so many different gifts and talents.”

“Thank you all for being willing to consider what your parishes might do to be a part of (Walking with Moms and Need), and what your parishes might always be doing,” said Bishop Iffert, “we’re going to put our resources where our mouth is!”

Resources for Walking with Moms in Need can be found online at or at

Photo: Faye Roch, director, Pro-Life Office, addresses community members gathered, Aug. 10, for a meeting discussing new and ongoing pro-life initiatives in the Diocese of Covington.

St. Patrick Parish celebrates 175 years among “a great cloud of witnesses”

Laura Keener, Editor

St. Patrick Parish, Maysville, kicked-off a year- long celebration of the parish’s 175th anniversary, Aug. 14, with Mass celebrated by Bishop John Iffert. Concelebrating priests included Father Andrew Young, pastor and parish son; Father Michael Black, parochial vicar; Father Joseph Gallenstein, parish son; and Father Albert Ruschman. A reception was held after Mass.

Reflecting on the day’s Second Reading “Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us and persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus,” (Heb 12:1-4) Bishop Iffert encouraged parishioners to share the stories of those parishioners who had come before them.

“I hope over this next year, as you celebrate your 175th, you will turn to the stories of the lives of those people who have come before us,” Bishop Iffert said. “Here in the 175 years of St. Patrick Parish, there must be those who knew the Scriptures inside and out and who lived them and who inspired you and others.

“There must be teachers who served here at St. Patrick’s Church who lived the faith and shared that with the coming generation.

“There must be parents who poured themselves out for the love of their children, dutifully passing on their faith to their loved ones.

“There must be those who cared for the sick during time of plague, time of epidemic, even at the risk of their own lives, who lived that love of Jesus Christ.

“There must be those here this place, where Catholics are minority, facing bias and the discrimination of community members around them, and with kindness and love they gave witness to the Catholic faith and formed those relationships with our Christian neighbors.

“There must be those pastors who led this com- munity with faith and diligence, with courage and devotion and love.

“There must be those people who practice generosity and were always there to care for the needs of the poor.

“There must be people who suffered losses and suffering and came through their own dark night and then found the courage in the Lord Jesus Christ to accompany others in their grief.

“There must be these holy people and examples and saints here in the life of St. Patrick Parish. I encourage you this year to raise them up, to talk about them, to share those stories; not only to remember them but also to understand that they are the crowd of witnesses with love for you and your own success and your own faithfulness and your own living out the fire of the Holy Spirit. You are supported by this cloud of witnesses who are there in the stands cheering you on as you run this race of endurance.”

Comparing those founding ancestors to an overly enthusiastic parent cheering on their child at a soccer game, Bishop Iffert said, “they are praying for us and shouting for us and encouraging us and singing hymns of praise. They’re here in this church with us today; this church is filled with saints and angels who accompany us and they are with you with every day of your lives when we have to make every little moral decision that is set before us. We’re not alone. Here in this parish we have more than 175 years of those examples.”

Father Young thanked Bishop Iffert for celebrating Mass and presented him with a gift from the parish — a miter. Bishop Iffert thanked the people for their generos- ity, acknowledging that the miter and crosier he was using that day was also gifted to him from the parish at his installation as Bishop of Covington. As a gift from the diocese on the celebration of the parish’s 175th anniversary and in acknowledging its German heritage (in addition to its Irish heritage), Bishop

Iffert presented Father Young with a relic of St. Boniface. St. Boniface was an English Benedictine monk whose mission and ministry in the eighth century to the German people gave him the popular title as “Apostle to the Germans.”

In a telephone interview, Aug. 16, Father Young said that a hallmark of St. Patrick Parish and its greatest strength is its family community.

“We try to cultivate a family environment with the school and with the parish,” Father Young said. “We all work together and we continue to build up what we have. I like to emphasize to people that this is a real gem that we’ve received from our ancestors and those who came before us and now it’s our job to maintain and grow and try our best to build on what we’ve been given.”

Father Young mentioned that during a recent school accreditation process, the surveyor mentioned that each person was asked to describe the school in one word. Every person’s response was “family.” “It was amazing to hear,” he said.

A big part of creating and maintaining that family atmosphere comes from the very active Knights of Columbus and its Ladies’ Auxiliary. “A lot of our parishioners are involved with that,” Father Young said. Another active ministry that receives parish- ioner support is the parish’s Pro-Life ministry, which hosts a pro-life walk each October. But by far the greatest ministry that receives the most parish support is St. Patrick School — the diocese’s only Pre-K through 12th grade parochial school. “It’s our main mission,” Father Young said about the school.

In its beginnings, St. Patrick Parish received a lot of support from other Christian churches in Mason County. Cooperation with area churches is still important to the parish. Father Young is an active member of the Limestone Ministerial Association, meeting monthly with about 30 church leaders from Mason County and the surrounding area.

“There’s a good core group that works well with each other and we share when we have events happening in our parishes and people attend each other’s events,” he said.

And St. Patrick Parish and School have a good reputation in the community.

“I pretty frequently get comments from people, thanking me,” Father Young said. “They will say, ‘I’m not Catholic, but I appreciate how the Catholic Church stands by what it believes.’”

Photo: At the consecration (from left) Father Joseph Gallenstein, Deacon Charles Hardebeck, Bishop Iffert, Father Andrew Young and Father Jordan Hainsey.

Father Comer to begin a series of talks on foundations of the Eucharist

Messenger staff report

The Church in the United States has begun a three year process of National Eucharistic Renewal. This process is in response to a very troubling loss of faith in the Eucharist, as the Catholic Church believes and teaches it, among the Catholic people. With a special focus on the Eucharist over these three years it is hoped that Church leaders will be able to help people to understand the Church’s teaching on the Eucharist, and to embrace it.

In an upcoming series of talks, Father Michael Comer, pastor, Mother of God Parish, Covington, is taking a foundational approach to catechesis on the Eucharist by inviting everyone to journey back in the Old Testament to uncover the roots of the Church’s teaching on the Eucharist. The series begins Thursday, Sept.8 with a morning session at 10:30 a.m. which is then repeated in the evening at 6:30 p.m., at Mother of God Church. This series will be based on the book, “Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist: Unlocking the Secrets of the Last Supper,” by Brad Pitre.

“This book, ‘Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist,’ is one of the best that I have read in a number of years about the Eucharist,” said Father Comer. “I especially like the way in which Pitre helps us to see that what Jesus did at the Last Supper — when he instituted the Sacrament of the Eucharist — was the fulfillment of a number of Old Testament prophecies and Old Testament pre-figurements.”

The Passover meal, the manna in the desert, the offer- ing of sacrifices in the Temple, the Old Testament prophecies concerning the Messiah, are all preparation for the coming of Jesus, and for the Eucharist, and the ongoing Real Presence of Jesus among us in the Blessed Sacrament, Father Comer said.

Brad Pitre has a doctorate in Scripture from Notre Dame University, and has been a professor of Scripture at Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans. He is the author of a number of books showing the inti- mate connection between the Old Testament and Christ. These include, “Jesus: The Bridegroom,” “The Case for Jesus,” “Jesus and The Jewish Roots of Mary,” and several more.

The book is available on Amazon and other booksellers, including regular book stores, and Catholic book stores, or it can be downloaded to Kindle, I-pad or other readers.