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Fr Henry James Aerden

Photo added by Eman Bonnici

Fr Henry James Aerden

One of the Western Dominican Province's most interesting early foreign additions during the 1850's was Fr. Henry Aerden OP., of the Province of St. Rose in Belgium. He was born in that country on May 15, 1823, made his religious profession in September 1841, and was ordained to the priesthood at Ghent on December 20, 1846 after an indult from the Pope for being so young.

Soon after ordination he accepted the offer of Bishop Modeste DeMers of Vancouver Island to join his diocese. After several years of ministry mainly among the Indians, Aerden had unspecified difficulties with the Bishop which were serious enough to get him suspended. He moved to California on February 28, 1851, and for several years worked, as a layman, in the mines at Marysville and Grass Valley.

One Sunday, after the Mass he was attending, he introduced himself to the celebrant, Fr. Thomas J. Dalton, and corrected a point of doctrine in his sermon. Evidently Dalton was impressed with Aerden (if not with the correction!), for he wrote to Archbishop Alemany and told him of the suspended priest. Alemany invited Aerden to return to the exercise of his Priesthood and, the invitation accepted, the suspension was lifted. Fr. Vilarrasa welcomed him back into the Order in Benicia on November 4, 1856. From then on his name appears frequently in the documentation and records of the congregation, indicating an active and fruitful ministry, both internal to the Order and external in the archdiocese at large.

He was such a good missionary because he spoke French, Spanish and German, as well as English. After a time in Benicia, he was put in charge of St. Brigid's Parish in San Francisco, then far on the outskirts of the city and built the first church there. From 1864 to 1874 he was the pastor of St. Francis church, which is now the shrine. He then moved to Martinez, where he built the church. He died of a stroke in 1896 as the much loved first resident pastor of St. Catherine's in Martinez after long service there.


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  • Created by: Eman Bonnici
  • Added: 25 Apr 2011
  • Find A Grave Memorial 68883074
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Fr Henry James Aerden (15 May 1823–2 Mar 1896), Find A Grave Memorial no. 68883074, citing Saint Dominics Catholic Cemetery, Benicia, Solano County, California, USA ; Maintained by Eman Bonnici (contributor 46572312) .