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1.8 Special Visitor Peter Kenney, S.J., 1819 - 1900


Scope and Contents

This subseries includes documentation of Peter Kenney, S.J.’s time serving as Special Visitor to the Jesuit Missions of the United States on behalf of the Superior General of the Society of Jesus in Rome. A prominent Irish Jesuit, Kenney visited the United States from 1819 to 1820, and again from 1830 to 1833. During his visits, he was asked to address questions regarding the organization of provinces, economic viability, and the application of the rules of the Society to local circumstances.

This subseries contains personal and official papers, including letters sent and received (July 31, 1819-January 18, 1833); reports related to the Mission of the American Federation and Corporation of Roman Catholic Clergymen (1819-1820, 1830-1833); proposals for the creation of the Missouri Province, and directives for its superiors (1830-1833); reports for the Superiors of the Houses at Goshenhoppen, Conewago, White Marsh, Frederick, and Bohemia (1830-1833); an account book (1830-1833); a travel log (1830); and an undated Jesuit custom book.

Kenney’s reports led to the establishment of the Maryland Province in 1833 and to the separation of the Missouri Mission into a Vice-Province in 1840. Kenney recorded his observations about the missions in the northeastern United States, Missouri Valley, and Kentucky in memoranda and directives addressed to the Jesuit Curia in Rome and to the Superiors, Consultors, and Rectors stationed in the United States. Broadly, in these reports, he considered: how the Jesuit Curia in Rome could establish its authority within a republic, the governance of the Corporation of Roman Catholic Clergymen, and the uses of the Society's property - including real estate and enslaved individuals - in Maryland and Pennsylvania. Kenney also wrote reports on the Jesuit Houses, focusing on the application of the rules of the Society within each House, for the Superiors and Rectors of the Missions of Maryland and Missouri. Kenney’s Ordinationes (binding directives that clarified rules), Consultationes (advice for Superiors regarding local circumstances), and Memoranda (observations of customary practices) addressed details of everyday life within the Houses, including procedures for daily prayer, provisions for meals, the appropriate use of coadjutors and domestic servants, relations with Protestants and Archdiocesan leaders, and the religious practices of enslaved individuals. These writings also addressed the finances of each House, especially in relation to Jesuit novitiates and the schools served by them. During his second visit to the United States (1830-1833), Kenney also served as Provincial of the Maryland Mission.

**Please note: the finding aid contains Scope and Contents notes for each folder. This folder-level description has been imported from an older finding aid. Researchers may encounter outdated or potentially offensive terminology and occasional inaccuracies. If you would like to notify Special Collections of any issues that need correcting, please contact us.**

Materials on Slavery

Some materials in this subseries contain references to slavery, slaveholding, and enslaved individuals. Relevant folders are noted in the finding aid.

Related Materials

During the organization of the Maryland Province Archives in the early twentieth century by Joseph Swinge, S.J., some of the papers of the Kenney visits were separated from each other; many of these papers were integrated into the Procurator Subject Files (now Subseries 2.1). The Provincial Correspondence subseries (Subseries 1.1. and 1.2) include records of his tenure as Superior of the Maryland Mission. Records of Kenney’s visit can also be found in two other collections: the records of the Archivum Romanum Societatis Jesu and the records of the Irish Provincial.

Provenance and Arrangement

The materials in this subseries were part of the initial 1977 deposit of materials. The arrangement of materials related to Kenney’s time as Special Visitor reflects the work performed by Joseph Zwinge, S.J. in the early twentieth century.


  • 1819 - 1900


From the Collection: 292 boxes (292 total boxes, plus 14 card catalog drawers (201 regular boxes, 25 oversized boxes, 53 restricted regular boxes, 13 restricted oversized boxes, 14 card catalog drawers))

Language of Materials

From the Collection: Multiple languages