St. Francis Xavier Parish
Early Catholicity in Pendleton County centered around Falmouth, Foster’s Landing, Dividing Ridge, Stepstone and Butler. As early as 1851, Falmouth was visited by missionary priests from Frankfort and Lexington. The report of the Diocese for 1857 states that Falmouth had a church, although not completed. Falmouth at that time was being attended every two months from Paris. The first church at Falmouth was begun under the direction of Reverend Herman G. Allen. On November 4, 1860, St. Francis Xavier Church, a brick Structure, was dedicated by Bishop Carrell, assisted by Reverend Eberhard H. Brandts.
On August 17, 1876, Reverend Augustus Gädker began a pastorate at St. Francis Xavier Parish, which was to extend over the next nineteen years, until May 12, 1895. The congregation of Falmouth, under the guidance of Father Gädker, undertook to build a more worthy church. The new St. Francis Xavier Church, the brick structure which serves the parish today, was dedicated on Sunday, September 12, 1880.
The early congregation at Falmouth was predominantly Irish. Many Irish Catholics had taken up residence at Falmouth, while engaged in work on the railroad; others had settled there on farms. Thus it was that when Bishop Toebbe, in 1883, forbade the St. Patrick Benevolent Society of Falmouth to attend divine services on the Feast of St. Patrick in full regalia, the Irish of Falmouth were disturbed. Not giving any reason for his action, they put their own interpretation on the Prelate’s motive. They felt themselves deprived of the privilege of celebrating Ireland’s great Patron feast in accordance with time-honored custom. They ventured to surmise that the Bishop’s action was an anti-Irish policy, and was an attempt on the part of the saintly Bishop to Germanize Irish Catholic congregations.
In 1916 during the pastorate of Reverend Martin R. Delaney (1911-1917), extensive renovations were made on the parish church. When Reverend Declan Carroll left St. Francis Xavier Parish on September 26, 1918, to become an Army Chaplain, during World War I, Reverend Joseph M. Lelen, at that time pastor of St. Paul Parish, Florence, was appointed as his successor. Father Lelen has held the pastorate of Falmouth for the past thirty-five years. On September 19, 1948, he observed the Golden Jubilee of his ordination to the Priesthood.
Father Lelen is a widely known author and literary critic. He is the personal friend of many famous authors in America and Europe. He is the author of a number of books. Including Towards the Altar, written in 1908; Towards the Sanctuary, in 1908; The Agony of Our Lord, in 1920; The Gospel of a Country Pastor, in 1922; Mysterium Amoris, in 1935; Towards the Eternal Priesthood, in 1939; and My Key to Heaven, in 1950. From 1912 to 1915, he served as Editor of the diocesan paper, The Christian Year. He likewise contributes to a number of magazines and newspapers, including Emmanuel, The Priest, The Messenger, and the Falmouth Outlook, local weekly of Falmouth.
The parish at present has a congregation consisting of about seventy-five families.
by Rev. Paul E. Ryan, excerpted from his History of the Diocese of Covington, Kentucky, on the Occasion of the Centenary of the Diocese, 1853-1953