Kenrick, Francis Patrick (1796–1863), catholic archbishop in America, was born 3 December 1796 in the Liberties, Dublin, eldest of at least two sons of Thomas Kenrick, scrivener, and his wife Jane (née Eustace). Educated locally, and then by his uncle, the Rev. Richard Kenrick, he decided to enter the priesthood and in 1814 was sent to Rome where he studied scripture and classical and modern languages, receiving tuition from Pope Pius VII. Ordained in Rome (7 April 1821), he went to America, where he took the chair of theology at St Thomas's Seminary, Kentucky. With his thoughtful, inspired sermons he soon established a reputation as a scholar and controversialist, especially after he published The letters of Omega and Omicron on transubstantiation (1828).
Chosen to restore discipline in the diocese of Philadelphia, he was named coadjutor, and consecrated titular bishop of Arath on 6 June 1830. He soon took over the administration of the diocese, despite some opposition from the ageing bishop, Henry Conwell. Stability was quickly restored under Kenrick's good management, and he won widespread praise in 1832 during the cholera epidemic. Like many other Irish-born bishops in America, he was uncompromising in his Americanism, and hesitant about publicly supporting Daniel O'Connell (qv) and the repeal movement in Ireland. In 1833 he set up a diocesan paper, the Catholic Herald, but its moderate tone attracted some criticism.
The same year his younger brother, Peter Richard Kenrick (1806–96), joined him in Philadelphia. Peter (b. 17 August 1806) had been educated at Maynooth College, where he was ordained 6 May 1832. He soon became a leading church figure in Philadelphia and was appointed pastor of the cathedral, vicar general of the diocese, and editor of the Catholic Herald. Author of three books, in 1841 he was consecrated coadjutor bishop, succeeding as bishop of St Louis, Missouri, two years later. In 1847 he became archbishop when St Louis was raised to an archdiocese.
Francis Patrick, meanwhile, continued to cause controversy in Philadelphia with his cautious behaviour. When nativist riots destroyed much church property in 1844 he angered many in the diocese by closing the churches and handing the keys over to the authorities to ensure the properties were protected. Nevertheless, his actions bore dividends, and helped ease the tensions in the community. In 1851 he was raised to the see of Baltimore, becoming an archbishop. The following year he presided over the first plenary council, and in 1858 introduced the forty hours devotion in America. Kenrick was an ardent supporter of the federal union, and the outbreak of the American civil war in 1861 had a devastating effect on his life. He died 8 July 1863, his death hastened by the carnage at Gettysburg. He was considered a leading American churchman, and his translations of the Bible and other works were highly regarded.
His brother Peter went on to play a key role in the first Vatican council, where he opposed the principle of papal infallibility. His health declined after 1891 and he retired from his duties, becoming titular archbishop of Marcianopolis. He died 4 March 1896.