ODN Item of the Week: Monsignor Joseph Jessing

John Joseph Jessing was born in Prussia (now Germany) in 1836. His father died when he was only 4 years old, so Joseph spent many hours of his childhood working in a printing shop to help support his family. The skills he learned in the printing industry would prove vital, but he had always wanted to be a priest, so after some time serving in the Prussian army, he emigrated to the Cincinnati area to study and train to work in the (Catholic) Diocese of Columbus Ohio.

Once Jessing was assigned to a church, he used his printing skills to run a German-language newspaper called The Ohio. Revenue from this paper allowed him to support a boys’ orphanage and to eventually move it to Columbus from Pomeroy where he had been located. With this move he was able to increase circulation of the paper, and use its profits to run the orphanage, and then trade school, for these boys.

This school morphed into a seminary when the boys expressed an interest in also becoming priests, and it grew enough that eventually Father Jessing sought out approval from the Holy See (the Pope) to ensure its ongoing status and success. When this was approved, the school officially became a Pontifical College – the first seminary of its kind outside of Italy.

Msgr. Joseph Jessing, courtesy Pontifical College Josephinum

With further success of the school, Jessing was designated a Monsignor by Pope Leo, just a few years before he died. Later, the school was moved to its current home on the far north side of Columbus. You can read more about the school online, and see their digitized collections on DPLA.