seamus dubhghaill

Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA


Leave a comment

Death of John O’Reily, Archbishop of Adelaide

John O’Reily, the first Bishop of Port Augusta and the second Archbishop of Adelaide, dies in Adelaide, Australia on July 6, 1915.

O’Reily is born John O’Reilly on November 19, 1846, in Kilkenny, County Kilkenny, the son of Michael, a military officer, and Anne, née Gallagher. He completes his primary education at the parochial school of St. John’s Parish, and spends six and a half years at St. Kieran’s College. Due to poor health, he decides against pursuing a military career, and in 1864 he enters All Hallows College in Dublin to study for the priesthood. He learns the Irish language and studies mental philosophy, mathematics and ecclesiastical studies, achieving first prize in each of his classes.

After being ordained on June 21, 1869, O’Reily leaves Ireland for Western Australia in October, arriving in January 1870. Having served briefly in Newcastle (present day Toodyay) and Northam, he becomes a parish priest in Fremantle, establishing the West Australian Catholic Record in 1874 and serving as its publisher, editor and printer from 1883.

When the Diocese of Port Augusta is established in 1887, Pope Leo XIII names O’Reily as its first bishop. Concerned about the financial position of the diocese, which had inherited significant debt from the Diocese of Adelaide, he accepts the posting reluctantly. As bishop, he greatly improves the financial position of the new diocese, reducing its debt by half and earning a reputation as a competent administrator.

In 1894, O’Reily is appointed to replace the deceased Christopher Reynolds as Archbishop of Adelaide. The archdiocese he inherits is burdened with substantial debt, again left over from the old Diocese of Adelaide. Through the sale of church assets and a fundraising campaign, he is able to eliminate most of the Archdiocese’s liabilities while still investing in church infrastructure. He also actively participates in public discussions relating to education policy at a time when the role of the state in supporting religious education is topical. He publicly advocates government assistance for religious schools, stating that it is unfair Catholics pay taxes to support state schools, but receive no funding for their own.

In the later years of his life, poor health forces O’Reily to spend less time attending to his episcopal duties, and from 1905, he keeps to himself in his house in Glen Osmond, leading to the local press referring to him as the “Recluse of Glen Osmond.” Increasingly, his episcopal duties are fulfilled by Bishop of Port Augusta John Norton, who has to visit the more remote parts of O’Reily’s see on his behalf.

As he becomes more frail, O’Reily asks certain priests to accompany him when he travels, among whom is the Dominican prior Robert Spence. When O’Reily requests a coadjutor in 1913, he chooses Spence as his first preference for the role. Despite the reluctance of some clergy to the appointment of a religious as Archbishop, Spence is consecrated as coadjutor, with right of succession, in August 1914.

O’Reily dies at his house in Adelaide on July 6, 1915 and is buried under a large Celtic cross at the West Terrace Cemetery in Adelaide. He is highly regarded by many in South Australian society, with Adelaide’s daily newspapers praising his character, administrative ability and positive relations with non-Catholics.


Leave a comment

Birth of James Cardinal Gibbons, Archbishop of Baltimore

james-cardinal-gibbonsJames Cardinal Gibbons, American prelate of the Catholic Church, is born in Baltimore, Maryland on July 23, 1834 to parents Thomas and Bridget (née Walsh) Gibbons who had emigrated from Toormakeady, County Mayo. In his role as Archbishop of Baltimore from 1877 to 1921, he serves as a bridge between Roman Catholicism and American Catholic values.

Gibbons is taken by his parents from Baltimore to Ireland in 1837. Following his father’s death in 1847, at the height of The Great Hunger, his mother moves the family back to the United States. He spends the next eight years as a grocer in New Orleans. In 1855 he enters a seminary in Baltimore, becoming a priest in 1861. He rises through the ranks of the Roman Catholic Church quickly, and by 1868 he is the youngest bishop in the United States. During a short stay in North Carolina, he writes The Faith of Our Fathers (1876), a defense of Catholicism that proves exceptionally popular, selling more than two million copies. He is elevated to Archbishop of Baltimore in 1877. He assumes a leadership role as the presiding prelate at the Third Plenary Council of Baltimore in 1884, and in 1886 he is made a cardinal by Pope Leo XIII.

As a leader of the Catholic Church hierarchy in the United States, Gibbons is outspoken in his praise for American democratic institutions and he advocates Americanization — the rapid assimilation of Catholic immigrants into American culture and institutions — both as a means to counter Protestant Americans’ suspicions toward Catholics and to avoid the fragmentation of the Catholic Church in the United States along ethnic lines. He is also sympathetic to the cause of organized labour and works to overcome suspicions within the Catholic Church toward the Knights of Labor, which has been considered a secret society by many clergymen.

On education, as on other social issues, Gibbons seeks ways of harmonizing the tenets of the Catholic faith with the principles of American democracy. He enters the controversy over control of parochial and public schools in 1891 when he defends Archbishop John Ireland’s experimental plan for cooperation between Catholic and public schools in the Minnesota towns of Faribault and Stillwater. To the dismay of conservative bishops, he refuses to condemn public education and encourages efforts to find common ground between the two systems. The Faribault-Stillwater plan remains controversial despite Gibbons’s support, and acrimony between the plan’s supporters and conservative opponents lingers until 1893.

During World War I, Gibbons is instrumental in the establishment of the National Catholic War Council, and afterwards supports the League of Nations. Although initially opposed to women’s suffrage, when the Nineteenth Amendment passes Gibbons urges women to exercise their right to vote “…not only as a right but as a strict social duty.”

James Cardinal Gibbons dies at the age of 86 in Baltimore on March 24, 1921. Throughout his career he is a respected and influential public figure. Although nonpartisan, he takes positions on a variety of foreign and domestic policy issues and is personally acquainted with every U.S. president from Andrew Johnson to Woodrow Wilson.


Leave a comment

Birth of John Hughes, 1st Archbishop of New York

john-joseph-hughesJohn Joseph Hughesprelate of the Roman Catholic Church in the United States and the fourth Bishop and first Archbishop of the Archdiocese of New York, is born in the hamlet of Annaloghan, near Aughnacloy, County Tyrone in Northern Ireland on June 24, 1797.

Hughes is the third of seven children of Patrick and Margaret (née McKenna) Hughes. He and his family suffer religious persecution in their native land. He is sent with his elder brothers to a day school in the nearby village of Augher, and afterwards attends a grammar school in Aughnacloy. The family emigrates to the United States in 1816 and settles in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. Hughes joins them there the following year.

After several unsuccessful applications to Mount St. Mary’s College in Emmitsburg, Maryland, he is eventually hired as a gardener at the college. During this time he befriends Mother Elizabeth Ann Seton, who is impressed by Hughes and persuades the Rector to reconsider his admission. Hughes is subsequently admitted as a regular student of Mount St. Mary’s in September 1820.

On October 15, 1826, Hughes is ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Henry Conwell at St. Joseph’s Church in Philadelphia. His first assignment is as a curate at St. Augustine’s Church in Philadelphia, where he assists its pastor by celebrating Mass, hearing confessions, preaching sermons, and other duties in the parish.

Hughes is chosen by Pope Gregory XVI as the coadjutor bishop of the Diocese of New York on August 7, 1837. He is consecrated bishop at St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral on January 7, 1838 with the title of the titular see of Basilinopolis, by the Bishop of New York, John Dubois, his former Rector.

Hughes campaigns actively on behalf of Irish immigrants and attempts to secure state support for parochial schools. Although this attempt fails, he founds an independent Catholic school system which becomes an integral part of the Catholic Church’s structure at the Third Plenary Council of Baltimore (1884), which mandates that all parishes have a school and that all Catholic children be sent to those schools. In 1841, Hughes founds St. John’s College in New York City which is now Fordham University.

Hughes is appointed Apostolic Administrator of the diocese due to Bishop Dubois’ failing health. As coadjutor, he automatically succeeds Dubois upon the bishop’s death on December 20, 1842, taking over a diocese which covers the entire state of New York and northern New Jersey. He is a staunch opponent of Abolitionism and the Free Soil movement, whose proponents often express anti-Catholic attitudes. Hughes also founds the Ultramontane newspaper New York Freeman to express his ideas.

Hughes becomes an archbishop on July 19, 1850, when the diocese is elevated to the status of archdiocese by Pope Pius IX. As archbishop, he becomes the metropolitan for the Catholic bishops serving all the dioceses established in the entire Northeastern United States. To the dismay of many in New York’s Protestant upper-class, Hughes foresees the uptown expansion of the city and begins construction of the current St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Fifth Avenue between 50th and 51st Street, laying its cornerstone on August 15, 1858. At the request of President Abraham Lincoln, Hughes serves as semiofficial envoy to the Vatican and to France in late 1861 and early 1862. Lincoln also seeks Hughes’ advice on the appointment of hospital chaplains.

Hughes serves as archbishop until his death. He is originally buried in St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral, but his remains are exhumed in 1882 and re-interred in the crypt under the altar of the new cathedral he had begun.