A permanent deacon in 1852?

A permanent deacon in 1852? January 4, 2011

Well, almost.

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.

Read the rest of the story here.

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7 responses to “A permanent deacon in 1852?”

  1. Levi Silliman Ives could have been ordained a Catholic priest, if his wife had made a vow of perpetual chastity. This happened in 1845 when Pierce Connolly, an Episcopalian priest and convert (along with his wife, Cornelia, and four children) was ordained in Rome. She founded a religious community, the Society of the Holy Child Jesus in England. He later renounced his priesthood and sued her in the English courts for resumption of marital rights. (He lost on appeal.) It was a big scandal in nineteenth century England.

    I am familiar with this story, because I was educated by members of the community through college and have a sister in the community.

  2. Very true, HMS! I’m glad you mentioned that story. It’s quite a tale (which I might take up in the near future!). Dr. & Mrs. Ives surely were familiar with the Connolly story, for as you note, it was indeed big news. But it doesn’t look like they wanted to pursue that option, as far as I can tell. Actually, Mrs. Ives (the daughter of one bishop and wife of another) took a little longer to cross the Tiber than her husband did.

  3. great piece! Technically at this time St Joseph’s Seminary at Rose Hill was located in Westchester County. The area where Fordham Univ is today did not become part of the city until 1876

  4. Hi Anthony, thanks for the kind words. And thank you for clarifying a long-held misconception! (You’d think I knew better, having done my undergrad at Fordham!)

    It’s interesting that you say this, because my wife teaches at St. Joseph’s School for the Deaf in the Bronx, which was founded in 1869 and also listed itself for many years as Westchester.

    The great thing about American Catholic history, as you know, is that you learn new things all the time!

  5. Pat McNamara;

    Actually Cornelia came into the Church in the U.S. before her husband. He wanted to go through the process in Rome! (As you can read, I am not too fond of Pierce Connolly.)

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