Dear Friends in Christ
The beginnings of our parish are intertwined with the missionary ministry of Jean-Baptiste Lamy. Born October 14, 1814, in Lempedes, Puy de Dome, in the Auvergne region of France, Lamy felt called to the priesthood at an early age. Discerning his vocation, he completed studies in the preparatory seminary of Clermont and theological coursework in the Grande Seminaire of Montferrand, where he was ordained to the priesthood on December 22, 1838. After a short time as an assistant priest in his home diocese, young Father Lamy asked for permission to be a missionary in the frontier of the new world. Pledging his obedience to his fellow Frenchman, Bishop Jean- Baptiste Purcell of Cincinnati, Jean-Baptiste Lamy began ministering to the few and far between Catholic souls of the Ohio and Kentucky frontiers.
While ministering to the Catholic families surrounding Mount Vernon, Ohio, Father Lamy is credited with building the first Catholic Church in Newark and naming it after his fellow countryman, Saint Francis de Sales, for the edification of the growing Catholic population of Licking County.
After just ten years of service to the faithful of Newark and the surrounding area, most unexpectedly Pope Pius IX named Father Lamy, on July 23, 1850, Bishop of the newly created Vicariate of New Mexico—territory ceded to the United States after the War with Mexico in 1849. Not knowing where New Mexico was or how to get there, he began a journey down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers to New Orleans. After an arduous journey across the vastness of Texas and Mexico, Bishop Jean- Baptiste Lamy reached Santa Fe of August 19, 1850 and was greeted by the Governor of the territory and many other citizens of that famous frontier outpost. Lamy’s life and ministry are immortalized in the classic American novel, Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather published in 1927, and the 1975 Pulitzer Prize winning biography Lamy of Santa Fe by Paul Horgan.
Bishop Lamy would not recognize the Ohio “frontier” any longer, nor would he be able to find the little church he constructed for the celebration of the Sacred Mysteries, long replaced by two ever more commodious churches built for the growth of the Catholic faithful of Newark. But he would recognize, at Saint Francis de Sales Church, the spirit of devout worship, faithful prayer and true Christian charity which reside in the hearts of those who make up this Catholic community and call Saint Francis de Sales their home.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
The Reverend JCP Sullivan