Following up on the news last weekend that three Anglican bishops had crossed the Tiber, Patrick McNamara has an intriguing look back at the first Protestant bishop to do that since the Reformation. He was Bishop Levi Silliman Ives, from North Carolina. He joined the Catholic Church, along with his wife, in 1852. And, at a time before such converts could be ordained as priests, no one quite knew what to do with him:
For an Episcopal bishop to become a Catholic layman was no small step. There was the question of how he would support himself and his wife (who also converted). The American Catholic bishops felt a sense of responsibility for Ives, and they gathered a collection for him. One historian notes that they even discussed ordaining him a deacon and sending him to North Carolina as a sort of vicar to oversee Catholic life, but nothing came of this.
Ives moved to New York, where Archbishop John Hughes appointed him to the faculty of St. Joseph’s Seminary in the Bronx (on the present-day Fordham University campus). His home on 138th Street in Harlem became a meeting place for converts. Ives also taught at Manhattan College and the College of Mount St. Vincent.
It was in charity work, however, that he found his real niche as a Catholic. He served as President of the local chapter of the St. Vincent De Paul Society, a lay organization created to help the poor. In 1863, he founded the Society for the Protection of Destitute Catholic Children, which opened the New York Catholic Protectory to care for homeless orphans.
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