Bishop Michael O’Connor, S.J. (1810-1872)

Today marks the death of Michael O’Connor, the only American bishop who ever gave up his see to join a religious order. Born in Cork, Ireland, he studied in France and Rome and was ordained in 1833. He returned to Ireland as a seminary professor. In 1839, he went to America as a professor at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia and soon thereafter he was appointed President. Two years later he was transferred to Pittsburgh. He planned to join the Jesuits, but in 1843 he was named the first Bishop of Pittsburgh, a diocese with 25,000 Catholics and 14 priests. Over the next seventeen years he brought in a number of religious communities, started a diocesan newspaper, and founded several churches and schools. He went to Rome in 1854 to take part in defining the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, and it was said that certain alterations in the wording of the decree were due to his advice. In 1860 he was permitted to resign his see, and entered a Jesuit novitiate in Germany, where only the novie master knew he was a bishop. After he returned to the United States, he became a theology professor at the Jesuit seminary in Woodstock, Maryland. He was afterward assistant to the Jesuit provincial, and preached and lectured in most of the great cities throughout the United States. He took much interest in African-American Catholics, and owing to his exertions, St. Francis Xavier Church was opened for them in Baltimore. His brother James became a Bishop in Nebraska.
(Adapted from Famous
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