RIGHT REV. THOMAS E. MOLLOY, Bishop of Brooklyn, when thirty-six years of age, was consecrated Bishop, in 1920. He was widely known as a capable executive and a profound student of theology and at the time was attached to the Queen of All Saints Church at Vanderbilt and Lafayette avenues. The appointment at the hands of Pope Benedict XV conferred the honor of Titular Bishop of Loria and made him Auxiliary to the Right Rev. Charles E. McDonnell, Bishop of Brooklyn, who was staying at the American College in Rome at the time and recommended the appointment. The honor was unusual inasmuch as he had never been in charge of a parish, yet a precedent had been established when both Bishop McDonnell, and Cardinal Mundelein of Chicago, were consecrated. Bishop Molloy succeeded Archbishop Mundelein, since made a Cardinal, when that prelate was assigned to take charge of the Archdiocese of Chicago.
Bishop Molloy was born in Nashua, New Hampshire, in 1884, and received his early education at the parochial school attached to the church his family attended. His parents had heard of St. Francis’ College in Butler Street, Brooklyn, and sent him there, placing him under the charge of the Franciscan Brothers. He boarded at the college until he was graduated. He decided to study for the priesthood and made application to Bishop McDonnell, who selected him as a student for the Propaganda and the American College in Rome. He stood highest in his class both at the Propaganda and at the College, and the professors there brought to the attention of Monsignor Bonzano, Apostolic Delegate to the United States, the brilliancy of the young American, giving him his excellent record for scholarship, and the Apostolic Delegate watched the career of the young priest with interest and pride. Dr. Molloy was ordained at the American College in September, 1908, and when he returned to Brooklyn five months afterwards, Bishop McDonnell appointed him curate of the Church of Queen of All Saints. When Cardinal Mundelein was appointed Auxiliary Bishop of Brooklyn he chose Dr. Molloy as his secretary. This was done as a result of a conversation the Auxiliary Bishop had had with Monsignor Bonzano. “I have not yet selected my secretary,” he remarked to the Delegate, “but I have in mind Dr. Molloy, a young priest educated at the American College.”
“One of the brightest students we ever had at both the Propaganda and the College,” Monsignor Bonzano replied, “and I recommend him highly.” This high commendation coming from the Apostolic Delegate, in addition to the knowledge of Dr. Molloy’s fitness Bishop Mundelein already possessed, decided the appointment. Dr. Molloy served as secretary to the Auxiliary Bishop during his term of office in this diocese; and when Bishop Mundelein was advanced to his high position in Chicago, he took Dr. Molloy along, and retained him as secretary until Bishop McDonnell requested his return to Brooklyn, Archbishop Mundelein was opposed to losing his valuable aid and expressed the wish to retain him in Chicago where high honors would come to him without a doubt; but the prior claim of Bishop McDonnell prevailed and Dr. Molloy returned East. Bishop McDonnell long before had discovered the qualifications of the young man as a teacher and chose him as a professor at the Cathedral College where boys with a leaning toward the priesthood are educated and encouraged. Dr. Molloy soon became Master of Studies at the College, and for three years preceding his elevation to the Bishopric was the guiding spirit of that institution. Afterwards, Dr. Molloy was appointed Spiritual Director of St. Joseph’s College on Washington Avenue, established in its present building a few years before.
Cardinal Mundelein was spiritual director of the Catholic Club during his residence in Brooklyn, an organization in which Bishop McDonnell was deeply interested. After the withdrawal of Cardinal Mundelein, Bishop McDonnell decided to take the post himself until a suitable successor to the Cardinal could be found. After about four months he appointed Dr. Molloy to fill it.
Bishop Molloy’s consecration took place in St. James’ Pro-Cathedral on Sunday, October 3, 1920, the Right Rev. Charles E. McDonnell, Bishop of Brooklyn, officiating. The ceremony was attended by the Right Rev. Michael John Hoban, Bishop of Scranton, and the Right Rev. Michael Curley, Bishop of St. Augustine, Archbishop Jeremiah Hoity, of Omaha, the Right Rev. John E. Conroy, Bishop of Ogdensburgh, and Bishop Walsh, of Trenton.
Bishop McDonnell died on August 21 of the following year and Pope Benedict XV appointed Bishop Molloy to succeed him announcing his choice on November 21. His installation occurred on February 15, 1922, almost at the celebration of the Centennial of the organization of the Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn. In the hundred years the number of Catholics in the diocese had grown from a bare seventy to more than a million. The ceremony occurred in St. James’ Pro-Cathedral, and Most Rev. Patrick J. Hayes, then Archbishop of New York, led the Bishop to his throne. He was thirty-seven. The personal qualities of Bishop Molloy, his attention to all who have any business with him, and his winning manners, coupled with his great abilities, won all hearts. He was always responsive to the spirit of the community and always expressed the ideals of Christian brotherhood.
Henry Isham Hazelton, The Boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens, Counties of Nassau and Suffolk, Long Island, New York, 1609-1924 (Four Volumes) (New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Company, 1925), IV, 225-227.
Thomas Edmund Molloy was Bishop of Brooklyn from 1921 until his death in 1956. As Bishop he founded 102 parishes. In 1951, he was named a Titular (honorary) Archbishop. It was said that during his lifetime he was offered several important archdioceses, but refused them. “When I die,” he was reputed to have said, “I want to go directly from Brooklyn to heaven.” In 1955, Molloy College on Long Island was named for him. Two years later in Queens, Archbishop Molloy High School was founded.