In mid-November 2011, the Most Reverend Michael Burbidge received a letter revealing a surprising connection to Father Thomas Frederick Price, first North Carolina native to be ordained a Catholic priest. Fr. Price is known to North Carolina Catholics as the “Tar Heel Apostle” for his pioneering missionary work in the State. After making an indelible mark for the Church in North Carolina, Fr. Price went on to co-found the Maryknoll Society, renowned for its foreign missionary efforts.
The letter to the Bishop came from Edward Price, a parishioner of St. Ann, Clayton, regarding his lineage to Fr. Price. Mr. Price explained that he had received a copy of the January/ February 2011 issue of the NC Catholics magazine that featured Fr. Price on the cover. Mr. Price sent the magazine to his parents, Carl and Gloria Price of New Jersey, who suspected a family connection to the priest. The Prices began many hours of genealogical research. With the help of the Maryknoll Society in New York, Mr. Carl Price confirmed his belief that he was related to Fr. Thomas Frederick Price as a third cousin.
The discovery came as the Maryknoll Society was celebrating its 100th anniversary. As a result of their connection, Carl and Gloria Price were invited to the Maryknoll Centennial Mass held at New York’s St. Patrick Cathedral on October 30, 2011. The couple was recognized at the Mass and invited to present Father Price’s Mission Cross during the Presentation of the Gifts.
Since 2002, the Maryknoll Society has also reopened the Cause for Canonization for Fr. Price. He is now known as a Servant of God, the first step on the road to sainthood. Since 2009, the Diocese of Raleigh has been assisting with the cause, gathering information and credible reports of favors or healing received through the intercession of Fr. Price.
Bishop Burbidge met with Mr. and Mrs. Price at the Catholic Center during Thanksgiving week on their first visit to North Carolina. After a private meeting, the Bishop led the couple to the location of the planned Cathedral Campus Facilities Project, to be built on a portion of the land purchased by Fr. Price more than 100 years ago.
“It’s so amazing at 82 years old to have the interest in my ancestry re-kindled beginning with the magazine, then the 100-year anniversary of Maryknoll Society, and now the building of the Cathedral -- all in one year,” said Carl Price. “I see the hand of God in all of this.
“I’m so honored by this connection,” he continued, “to know that my ancestor accomplished so much and that he walked this very ground.”
The Bishop said he hoped the Price family to be present for the opening of the Cathedral Campus.
After meeting with the Bishop, the Prices went to Wilmington to continue their quest for more information on Fr. Price. They located the Fr. Price historical marker on 3rd Street and visited Oakdale Cemetery where more than eighty Price family members are buried. They also visited the former St. Thomas Church, which was Fr. Price’s home parish.
The couple then met with Fr. Robert Kus, pastor of St Mary, Wilmington, who showed them around the historic church, describing the active Maryknoll lay ministry of the church.
“Spirituality has always been important to us through 54 years of marriage and nine children,” said Mr. Price. “We pray through St. Bernadette and our Blessed Mother for Fr. Price’s beatification.”
Above: Bishop Michael F. Burbidge during a visit with Gloria and Carl Price. Mr. Price is a third cousin of Fr. Thomas Frederick Price, first North Carolina native ordained to the Priesthood. (Click photo to view larger.)
Above and below: Bishop Burbidge showing Mr. and Mrs. Price the location of the planned Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral and associated facilities on land purchased by Father Price. (Click photos to view larger.)