Entombment of a Shepard
Bishop Camillus Paul Maes, the Belgian-born missionary and longest-serving bishop of the Diocese of Covington, Kentucky, was moved to a new home at the Cathedral-Basilica of the Assumption. Nearly 700 people attended the requiem Mass, which was celebrated by the Most Reverend Roger Foys, the bishop of Covington.
Catholic Order of Foresters (COF) has a large presence in this Northern Kentucky area. General Agent Tom Kaelin of the local agency there – Northern Kentucky/Greater Cincinnati – first shared the news with us. Bishop Foys requested members of COF to participate in the 100-person procession. “It was a very powerful experience,” said Agent Rob McKay of Alexandria, Ky.
Two local religious who were adopted by COF Agents and members through COF’s Adopt-A-Seminarian program were also involved in this landmark event. Deacon Jordan Hainsey, who – at the time of this writing – is one of the seminarians studying for the Diocese of Covington at St. Vincent Seminary in Pennsylvania, is an artist. He – partnering with Fr. Joey Shelton – designed the tomb which now allows Bishop Maes to lay in peace at the Cathedral.
“Our thought process in designing the tomb was to create something beautiful to honor our third Bishop,” Deacon Hainsey says. “We weren't just creating a tomb that would be inside the Cathedral – though it is. For us, we were participating in the beautification of a space that began with Bishop Maes over a century ago. We were honoring his legacy and adding this generations contribution to God's house.”
Deacon Hainsey explained how Fr. Joey Shelton assisted in the design: “A lover of history, he was able to glean important details for inclusion in the sculptural group, like vesture, symbol, and feel.”
The Mass was a kind of homecoming for Bishop Maes who oversaw the construction of the majestic Gothic cathedral where he now lies. Bishop Maes’ journey, though, began in Belgian in 1846. At the age of 16, Maes felt a call to the priesthood, and seven years later, he ventured to Detroit as a missionary. There, he worked tirelessly to build up the diocese and serve the people. After more than 15 years of priestly ministry in Detroit, Fr. Maes was named the third bishop of Covington.
“It wasn’t an easy time for him when he first came to the diocese,” Bishop Foys said during his homily. “The diocese was only 30 years old.” During his time, Bishop Maes faced two problems in the diocese: financial burdens and the “narrow vision of parishes,” Bishop Foys said. Because the diocese covered such a large geographical area, parishes had an insular vision. Bishop Maes, though, wanted unity. Bishop Foys explained how Bishop Maes saw this happening: “He declared, ‘The narrow vision of the parishes will now be obsolete. We are one Church. We are one local Church. This portion of the Kingdom of God known as the Diocese of Covington.’”
Bishop Foys went on to say that the Cathedral is a testament to Bishop Maes’ ability to unify the people of the diocese. “He was much beloved,” Bishop Foys said. “When he dedicated the Cathedral, 10,000 people came.”
On the plaque adorning the outside of the crypt are Bishop Maes’ own words about the Cathedral. “It has been my ambition to give the public a token of my love for the city by erecting in it a monument which will speak for centuries to come of the love of Christ for souls,” it reads. It continues, “Indeed, the message of the Cathedral is the message of Christ himself.”
Bishop Foys said it was Bishop Maes’ desire to be buried in a Cathedral crypt, but there was not one ready at the time he died. “So now, in a small way, we return the favor,” Bishop Foys said.
“It is beautiful that the people of Covington to offer Bishop Maes a gift, just as he offered the Cathedral to the Covington people over a century ago,” Deacon Hainsey expressed.
Bishop Maes worked tirelessly to build up his Catholic community, and the members of Catholic Order of Foresters serve his memory well through all their charitable efforts.
Article by Michael Cesario and Nick Sentovich.