The Bishop That Never Got Here

Today marks the birth of Richard Luke Concanen (1747-1810), an Irish Dominican who was appointed first Bishop of the Diocese of New York in April 1808. (Archdiocesan status was conferred in 1850.) Born in Roscommon, Concanen left Ireland at age seventeen to join the Dominicans. Ordained in 1770, for the next 38 years he worked at the order’s central headquarters in Rome. In 1792, he was named assistant to the Dominican master general, doubling as the Vatican’s unofficial liaison to English-speaking bishops. From 1789 to 1808, one diocese (Baltimore) encompassed America. In 1808 four new dioceses were created: Bardstown (now Louisville), Boston, Philadelphia, and New York. Because Baltimore’s Bishop John Carroll offered no recommendations for New York, Concanen was named. But he never got there. The Napoleonic Wars were in full swing, and booking passage to America wasn’t so easy. So he had to administer his diocese from abroad. In 1810 he was finally able to get a ship leaving from Naples, but he died before he could embark and was buried there. (The window depicting Concanen is from St. Vincent Ferrer, a Dominican parish on Manhattan’s upper east side.)

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