John J. Jessing

From Ohio History Central
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Reverend John Joseph Jessing, circa 1880

John Joseph Jessing was born on November 17, 1836, in Germany. His father died while Jessing was still a boy. Jessing worked in a print shop to support his mother and two siblings. Upon reaching adulthood, he joined the Prussian Army, where he performed admirably.

In 1867, Jessing left his home in Münster, Westphalia, to immigrate to the United States. Upon arriving in America, Jessing enrolled at Mount Saint Mary's Seminary in Cincinnati, Ohio. In 1870, he was ordained as a Catholic priest and was assigned to Sacred Heart Church in Pomeroy, Ohio.

While at Sacred Heart Church, Jessing established the Saint Joseph Orphan Asylum to care for the many orphaned boys in the surrounding area. The Brothers of Saint Francis assisted him in these endeavors. To support the orphanage financially, Jessing began to publish a German-language newspaper. Originally the paper was known as The Ohio, but Jessing eventually renamed the publication Ohio Waisenfreund, which meant Ohio Orphan's Friend.

In 1877, Jessing moved the orphanage from Pomeroy to Columbus. His principal reason for doing so was to expand the circulation of his newspaper. Upon arriving in Columbus, Jessing also established an industrial school and the Josephinum Church Furniture Company to help teach the orphan boys a trade.

In 1888, Jessing established a theology school, which eventually became known as the Pontifical College Josephinum, in Columbus. Initially, Jessing intended to accept only two students, but when the institution opened on September 1, 1888, twenty-three boys enrolled. Jessing offered students six years of primary education, four years of high school, two years of college, and finally six years of theological training. In 1892, Pope Leo XIII formally made the Collegium Josephinum a pontifical seminary. The institution remains the only pontifical seminary located outside of Italy to this day. In June 1899, the first six students graduated with theology degrees, and were ordained priests.  On November 2, 1899, Jessing died.

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