Father Patrick Dealy, S.J. (1827-1891), Fordham University

Father Patrick Dealy, S.J. (1827-1891), Fordham University December 14, 2011


Born April 7, 1827, in Rathkeale, County Limerick, Ireland
Joined the Jesuits October 31, 1846
Died December 23, 1891

Patrick Dealy was the first Fordham student who became a Jesuit, though he had no Jesuit teachers and had not received a Fordham degree. His education in the Jesuits required him to study not only at Fordham but also at Montreal, France, Austria, Belgium, and finally Rome.

His usual teaching assignment was English literature. He taught in Fordham (1853-1855; 1864-1866; 1881-1886; 1889-1891), Montreal, and the College of St. Francis Xavier in NYC. While at Xavier he founded the Xavier Union (later named the Catholic Club) which, with a thousand members, became a stimulating influence on many leading members of the Catholic laity. For many years he was the spiritual director of this group.

Fr. Dealy was President of Fordham during 1882-1885. One of his successors in the Fordham presidency, Fr. Robert Gannon, believed that under him “a new era began at Fordham,” since older, conservative views yielded to more modern ideas. During his administration the old seminary building was refitted, the Science Building (later called Thébaud Hall) was begun, military drill (R.O.T.C.) was introduced, sports (baseball and football) developed, the Fordham Monthly was started and the grounds beautified. During his presidency New York City by eminent domain began the process of annexing 26.85 acres of the campus, the part between Southern Boulevard and the Bronx River, for later use by the New York Botanical Gardens. By 1889 the city paid $99,366.25 for those acres, a sum regarded even then as “absurdly low.”

After Fr. Dealy retired from the presidency, he spent his remaining years in parish ministry in New York City, Boston, and Philadelphia. A characteristic or pattern of his ministry was his sponsorship of the local Sodality of Our Lady.

Fr. Dealy was distinguished as a professor, pastor, and administrator. He was one of the best known priests in New York, due to his charming personality and the interest he took in others. Cardinal McCloskey esteemed him highly, asked him to be his confessor, and regarded him as his best contact among New York Jesuits. The Cardinal also appointed him to lead the first American group pilgrimage to Rome.

Fr. Dealy died of pneumonia on December 23rd, 1891, at the residence of St. Lawrence O’Toole (later St. Ignatius Loyola) in NYC; he contracted the pneumonia after he had visited a dying person. He was buried at Fordham on Christmas Eve.

His name is well known to generations of Fordham students and alumni because an important multi-functioning stone structure in the center of the Bronx campus, Dealy Hall, honors his memory.

Thomas C. Hennessy, S.J., How the Jesuits Settled in New York: A Documentary Account (New York: Fordham University Press, 2003), 178-179.

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