Thomas Francis Hendricken was born 5th May 1827 at the family home in Loughmerans on the Bleach Road, Dunmore, to John and Annie(nee Meagher) Hendricken. The ruins of the family home can still be seen today on the Holohan farm. He received his secondary education at St. Kieran’s College, going in 1847 to the National Seminary Maynooth, to study for the priesthood.
Bishop O’Reilly from Hartford, Connecticut visited the Seminary seeking volunteers willing to administer across the Atlantic. Thomas was ordained by the same bishop in All Hallows College, Dublin, in 1853.Leaving his home and widowed mother set sail for America. In the course of the voyage there was an outbreak of typhoid fever on board the ship. Those who were infected were isolated. Fr. Hendricken went amongst those who were ill to attend to their spiritual needs, this was against the Captain’s orders. He in turn had the priest taken to be thrown overboard, the intervention of some of the passengers saved him.
After landing safely in America he was appointed to various parishes where he showed great aptitude for hard work. In 1855 he was moved to Waterbury and appointed Pastor of the Church of the Immaculate Conception where he ministered for seventeen years. During his time there he built the costly Gothic Church, a school house, a pastoral residence, purchased and laid out a cemetery and founded a convent. Seeing that the parishioners were poor and unable to employ a teacher, he opened a school and appointed himself as school teacher. For many years he was a member of the Board of Education and served on it’s most important Committees, he was committed to the cause of education.
In due course he was consecrated the first Bishop of the Diocese of Providence in April 1872, an area about one third the size of Ireland. He returned to Kilkenny in 1873 where he celebrated the 7.00 a.m. Mass and presided at the noon Mass in St. Mary’s Cathedral. He was a generous benefactor to many worthy causes, donating £200 to the flood relief scheme in the Black Abbey. Other sums to the industrial schools on the Kells road and Waterford road, and £100 to the building of a new chapel in Maynooth College.
On leaving Kilkenny he travelled to Rome to meet the Pope and went on to the Holy Land. He returned to Kilkenny where he celebrated early Mass in the Friary and presided at the mid day Mass. After saying goodbye to his mother for the last time, she died the following year, he returned to Providence where such was his popularity he was greeted with great enthusiasm after his three month absence.
The construction of a cathedral for the Diocese of Providence was to be his greatest legacy. He spent more than a decade planning and fundraising, travelling through the diocese in a horse and buggy. On Thanksgiving Day 1878, a large block of Kilkenny marble, which he brought back as a souvenir of his native county, the corner stone of the new Cathedral was laid. Although the construction took longer than might have been the case due to his unwillingness to leave the diocese in debt.
In manner he was reserved but genial and witty happy to befriend other denominations. A lifelong sufferer from asthma he died at the early age of 59 on the 11th June 1886. His remains were entombed in the crypt of the unfinished Cathedral of SS Peter and Paul. But on December 8th 2006 were reinterred in a custom built Brazilian sarcophagus facing the high altar of the great Cathedral, he had helped to build. In his will he donated his ring and pectoral cross to the Diocese of Ossory.
His name lives on in the form of Bishop Hendricken High School, established in 1959 and now one of the top schools in Rhode Island.
To the left of the entrance porch of Dunmore church, an imposing stone monument bears the following inscription:
“John Hendricken of the Triangle, died in 1833. His beloved wife Annie Meagher died in 1874. The remains of their 3 children died young Mary, John and Tom. This monument is erected to their memory by an affectionate son and brother. Thomas F. Hendricken, Bishop of Providence, U.S.A.”