L.A.’s First Bishop

During the 1800’s, the Vincentians made some significant contributions to the American hierarchy: Joseph Rosati in St. Louis, Leo De Neckere in New Orleans, Jean Marie Odin in Texas, John Timon and Stephen Vincent Ryan in Buffalo. Today marks the birth of Thaddeus Amat (1811-1878), second Bishop of Monterey, which was created in 1850 as [Read More...]

Quite a Woman

An interesting if little known figure in Church History is a French Ursuline named Marie of the Incarnation (1599-1672), a mystic and an activist who worked as a missionary in Canada. A widow at an early age, she got interested in the missions after reading about the work of the Jesuits. After raising a son, [Read More...]

The Civil War General Who Became a Priest

Along with Church History, the Civil War has been a big interest of mine ever since I can remember. So I try to wrap the topics together whenever I get the chance. I knew that a number of Civil War veterans had joined the priesthood, but I never heard of any generals taking this route. [Read More...]

New History of Vatican II

Father John W. O’Malley is a Jesuit historian teaching at Georgetown University. He’s one of the best Church historians around (and he’s also a really nice person). If you’re interested in the history of the Jesuits and what makes them tick, I can’t do better than recommend his 1993 book The First Jesuits. Over at [Read More...]

The Man Who Would Be Cardinal

December 20 marks the birth of Bishop Thomas A. Becker (1832-1898), first Bishop of Willmington (1868-1886) and sixth Bishop of Savannah (1886-1899). Unlike most of his fellow bishops, Becker was not a “cradle Catholic.” Born Thomas Baker in Pittsburgh, he became a Catholic while studying at the University of Virginia. (His parents were so mad [Read More...]

No Way to Treat a Bishop

December 20 marks the death of Bishop John DuBois (1764-1842), New York’s third (and the only non-Irish) ordinary. A friend of the Marquis de Lafayette, he fled the French Revolution. Coming to America, he stayed with Patrick Henry, who taught him English. At that time Catholicism was a largely English and French community. When he [Read More...]

This Day in Brooklyn Catholic History

December 20 marks the birth of Brooklyn’s first Bishop, John Loughlin (1817-1891). Born in County Down, Ireland, on December 20, he studied for the priesthood in America. In 1840, he was ordained by Bishop John Hughes at Old St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Mott Street. A capable administrator, within a few years he was rector of [Read More...]

Evangelizing Appalachia

Today marks the birth of William Howard Bishop (1885-1953), a Harvard-educated Maryland priest who founded the Home Missioners of America (better known as Glenmary) in 1939, for the purpose of evangelizing rural America. Or as he put it, that “the backwoodsmen, the mountaineers, the farm tenants, sharecroppers and day workers might one day eat the [Read More...]

Betty Smith’s Brooklyn Roots

I knew that Betty Smith had Brooklyn roots, but until recently I didn’t know that she grew up a German Catholic in Williamsburg. Born Elizabeth Wehner in 1896, she describes her home parish in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (still a great book, by the way): “Francie thought it was the most beautiful church in [Read More...]

Priestwear, 1800′s Style

If you study Church History long enough, you find a lot of interesting trivia that never fits into books or lectures. One of them is the history of clerical garb. Many young priests today tend to be more traditional, and it’s not unusual to find some sporting a cassock, a biretta, or even the old [Read More...]