Francis Fortenbaugh, 80, monsignor at St. Agnes

January 15, 2002|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN STAFF

Monsignor Francis W. Fortenbaugh, a retired Roman Catholic pastor, died Sunday of complications from diabetes at St. Elizabeth's Rehabilitation and Nursing Center on Caton Avenue. He was 80.

Associated with St. Agnes Church in the Catonsville-Woodlawn area for nearly 40 years -- much of that time as pastor -- he also headed Corpus Christi Church in Bolton Hill in 1967 and St. Clement I in Lansdowne from 1968 to 1973.

"He was a hard worker, a dynamo of energy -- a man of strong convictions and traditional values," said the Rev. Michael J. Ruane, a friend and the pastor of St. Michael's Church near Mount Airy.

Father Ruane said Monsignor Fortenbaugh was proud of St. Agnes School, which is for elementary and middle school pupils.

"He liked to keep the tuition down so the parents could afford it," Father Ruane said. "And he made it a point to teach religion to the second-grade first-communion class and to the eighth-grade confirmation class, too."

"In his day he was one of the most popular pastors in Baltimore and in the neighborhood," said the Rev. Milton A. Hipsley, pastor of St. Mary's Church in Cumberland. "When he preached, he spoke from the heart -- and bluntly."

"I think he'll always be remembered for his dogs," said Eileen Frazier, a former St. Agnes School pupil and a friend. "His black-and-white beagle, Mama Lou, sat on the side when he said Mass. When he left the altar, she followed him. When he drove a car, she sat on his lap."

Born in Baltimore and raised on North Kenwood Avenue, he was a graduate of St. Elizabeth's Parochial School. While a student at St. Charles Seminary in Catonsville, he played soccer on the school team and picked up a nickname -- Footsie -- that stuck for the rest of his life.

He completed his education at St. Mary's Seminary and University, where he received degrees at its Paca Street and Roland Park campuses.

He was ordained in 1947 at the Basilica of the Assumption, and in 1982 was given the honorary title of monsignor by Pope John Paul II.

He was a curate at St. Edward's Church on Poplar Grove Street in West Baltimore in 1947, where he spent six years. He was then assigned to Immaculate Heart of Mary in Baynesville and had a brief tenure at St. John the Evangelist, Valley and Eager streets, before arriving at St. Agnes in 1955, where he was a priest for 12 years. He was named pastor in 1973.

Monsignor Fortenbaugh retired in 1996, but remained in residence as pastor emeritus until health problems forced him to move to the nursing home about a year ago.

Monsignor Fortenbaugh enjoyed tennis and spent many hours overseeing boys and girls baseball and basketball teams. He organized a parish travel club and supervised tours to Israel, Egypt, Canada and Europe.

A Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 11 a.m. Thursday at St. Agnes Church, Baltimore National Pike and St. Agnes Lane.

He is survived by a brother, Joseph L. Fortenbaugh of Overlea; a sister, Virginia F. Smith of Willow Street, Pa.; and nieces and nephews.

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