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Home > Catholic Encyclopedia > B > Archdiocese of Baltimore

Archdiocese of Baltimore

The senior see of the United States of America, established as a diocese 6 April, 1789; as an archdiocese 8 April, 1808; embraces all that part of the State of Maryland west of the Chesapeake Bay (6,442 square miles) including also the District of Columbia (64 square miles), making in all 6,502 square miles. The entire population of this area is about 1,273,000. The Catholics numbering 255,000, are principally of English, Irish, and German descent. There are also Polish, Lithuanian, Bohemian, and Italian congregations, and six churches exclusively for black people, four in Baltimore, two in Washington. (See WASHINGTON, D.C..)

Colonial period

Politico-religious beginnings

Catholic Maryland, the first colony in the New World where religious toleration was established, was planned by George Calvert (first Lord Baltimore), a Catholic convert; founded by his son Cecilius Calvert (second Lord Baltimore), and named for a Catholic queen, Henrietta Maria, wife of Charles I of England. Except for the period of Ingle's Rebellion (1645-47) its government was controlled by Catholics from the landing of the first colony under Leonard Calvert (25 March, 1634) until after 1649, when the Assembly passed the famous act of religious toleration. The first three Lords Baltimore, George, Cecilius, and Charles, were Catholics. The last three, Benedict Leonard, Charles, and Frederick, were Protestants. Puritans who had been given an asylum in Maryland rebelled and seised the government (165868) and Catholics were excluded from the administration of the province and restrained in the exercise of their faith. When Lord Baltimore again obtained control (1658), religious liberty was restored until 1692.

Taking advantage of Protestant disturbance in the colony, William of Orange, King of England, declared the Proprietary's claim forfeited, made Maryland a royal province, and sent over Copley, the first royal governor (1692). The Anglican Church was then made the established church of Maryland, every colonist being taxed for its support. In 1702, religious liberty was extended to all Christians except Catholics. Catholics were forbidden (1704) to instruct their children in their religion or to send them out of the colony for such instruction (1715). Priests were forbidden to exercise their functions and Catholic children could be taken from a Catholic parent. Appealed to by Catholics, Queen Anne intervened and the clergy were permitted to perform their duties in the chapels of private families (9 December, 1704). Thus originated the manor chapels, and the so-called "Priests' Mass-Houses" The apostasy of Benedict Leonard Calvert (1713) was a cruel blow to the persecuted Catholics. In 1716 an oath was exacted of office-holders renouncing their belief in Transubstantiation. An act disfranchising Catholics followed (1718). Charles Carroll, father of the Signer, went to France (1752) for the purpose of obtaining a grant of land on the Arkansas River for his persecuted brethren. This plan, however, failed. To exterminate Catholicity an attempt was made to pass a bill confiscating the property of the clergy (3 May, 1754, Lower House Journal in manuscripts Maryland Archives). The missionaries, having received land from the Proprietaries upon the same conditions as the other colonists, divided their time between the care of souls and the cultivation of their mission supporting farms. The cutting off of these revenues, would therefore have been disastrous to the Church. Fortunately this attempt did not succeed. Such were the political conditions until the time of the Revolution (Archives Maryland Hist. Sec. Baltimore; Johnson, Foundations of Maryland, Baltimore, 1883; Johnston, Religious Liberty in Maryland and Rhode Island, Catholic Truth Society Publications; Browne, George and Cecilius Calvert, New York, 1890; Hall, The Lords of Baltimore, ibid., 1902).

The first missionaries

In the first colony brought over by the Ark and the Dove (25 March, 1634) were three Jesuits, Fathers Andrew White and John Althan, and a lay brother, Thomas Gervase (White, Relatio Itineris in Marylandiam, Baltimore ed., 1874; cf. Am. Hist. Review, April 1907 p. 584; Treacy, Old Catholic Maryland, Swedesboro, N.J., 1889; Hughes, Hist. of S.J. in N. America, 1907). The following year another priest and lay brother arrived. Fathers Philip Fisher (real name Thomas Copley) and John Knolles landed in 1637. In 1642, the Roman Congregation of the Propaganda, at Lord Baltimore's request, sent to Maryland two secular priests, Fathers Gilmett and Territt. Two Franciscans arrived in 1673, one of whom was Father Masaeus Massey a Santa Barbara, a truly apostolic man. There were not more than six Franciscans at any time on the missions in Maryland. Their missions ceased with the death of Father Haddock in 1720. In 1716 two Scotch Recollects (Franciscans) came to the Eastern Shore of Maryland. The title "Apostle of Maryland" belongs unquestionably to Father Andrew White, S.J., whose zeal was boundless. During Ingle's Rebellion (1645-47) Fathers White and Fisher were taken in chains to England where the former died. Father Fisher returned to Maryland in 1648, dying in 1653, leaving the Rev. Lawrence Stanley on the mission. Fourteen years after the first colony landed nearly all the natives south of what is now Washington had embraced the Faith, living in peaceful happy intercourse with the settlers. Father White said Mass and baptized the princess of the tribe in his wigwam on the Port Tobacco River. A chapel farther down the stream replaced the wigwam which was in turn succeeded by St. Thomas's Manor church built in 1798 by the Rev. Charles Sewell, S.J. Such was the glorious result of the wisdom and zeal of the first Jesuit missionaries of Maryland (a U. Campbell, in U. S. Cath. Hist. Magazine, Baltimore; Calvert Papers, Maryland Hist. Society, 1889-94; Treacy, op. cit.; The Catholic Cabinet, St. Louie, 1843-45. The Religious Cabinet, Baltimore, 1842)

In accordance with Lord Baltimore's instruction a church was built in the early days at St. Mary's, the capital of the province. William Bretton and his wife, Temperance, in 1661 deeded the ground for the chapel of St. Ignatius and the cemetery at Newtown. Newtown Manor was afterwards purchased by the Jesuits. In 1677 a Catholic college was opened by Father Foster, S.J., and Mr. Thomas Hothersall, a scholastic. In 1697 we finds brick chapel at St. Mary's; frame chapels at St. Inigoes, Newtown, Port Tobacco, Newport; Father Hobart's chapel (Franciscan) near Newport; one on the Boarman estate, and one at Doncaster in Talbot County. During this period (1634-1700) there were about thirty-five Jesuits in the missions of Maryland all of whom with two or three exceptions were English. They were men of apostolic zeal and disinterestedness. The mission at Bohemia, in Cecil County was founded by Father Mansell (1706) the priests of this mission carrying the Faith into Delaware. St. Inigoes house was established in 1708 end later a chapel was added. Hickory Mission, from which Baltimore was afterwards attended, was established in 1720, and St. Joseph's Chapel, Deer Creek (the Rev. John Digges, Jr.), in 1742. We find the Rev. Benedict Neale at Priest's Ford, Harford County, in 1747. St. Ignatius's Church, Hickory, was established (1792) by the Rev. Sylvester Boarman. About 1755, 900 Catholic Acadian refugees settled in Maryland, but the Catholics were forbidden to give them hospitality. Many of them lost the Faith, but some of their descendants still preserve the Faith for which their fathers suffered. An unfinished house in Baltimore (north-west corner of Calvert and Fayette Streets) was used by them as a chapel. A Catholic school was established in Baltimore (1757) by Mary Ann March, but was closed on account of the violent persecution of Protestant clergymen. The historic Whitemarsh mission was founded in 1760 by the Rev. John Lewis. Frederick Chapel (St. John's) was built by Father Williams, S.J.; the church was built in 1800 by the Rev. John Dubois, at that time the only priest between Baltimore and St. Louis. The present church was consecrated in 1837. In 1903 the Jesuits gave up the church and novitiate. The Jesuit novitiate was opened at Georgetown, D.C., 1806. During the War of 1812, it was at St. Inigoes and Frederick for a few years, then returned to Georgetown was removed to Whitemarsh about 1820, and to Frederick in 1833, whence in 1903 it was finally removed to St. Andrews-on-the-Hudson, near Poughkeepsie, New York.

In 1669, the Catholic population numbered 2,000; in 1708 it was 2,979 in a population of 40,000; in 1755 about 7,000. In 1766, the following missions were about 7 attended by Jesuits: St. Inigoes, Newtown, Port Tobacco, Whitemarsh, Deer Creek, Fredericktown, Queenstown, Bohemia and Baltimore. The twenty Jesuits on the Maryland mission at the time of their order's suppression (1773) remained at their posts. The first priest born in Maryland was the Rev. Robert Brooks (1663). His four brothers also became priests. Conspicuous for unselfish zeal at this period was Rev. William Hunter; whilst for over forty years Father George Thorold laboured in Maryland (170043). The clergy was, in general, self-supporting. (Treacy, op. cit.; Extracts from Letters of Missionaries, Baltimore, 1877; Sheet, Life and Times of Archbishop Carroll, New York, 1888.)

The Catholic colonists

The Catholic population, mostly rural, was generous to the Church and hospitable to the priests. We find many deeds and bequests for ecclesiastical purposes in the early records. Enduring one hundred years of persecution from the Protestants to whom they had offered asylum, proscribed, disfranchised, offered peace and emolument in exchange for apostasy, the Catholics generally continued faithful, and it is inspiring to read the list of Catholic names that survived the dark days, and that are still in evidence on the Catholic roll of honour — Brent, Lee, Fenwick, Boarman, Sewell, Lowe, Gardiner, Carroll, Neale, Jenkins, Digges, Bowling, Edelin, Matthews, Lancaster, Stonestreet, Boone, Mattingly, Brooks, Hunter, Coombes, Spalding Semmes, Dyer, Jamison, Queen, Hill, Gwynn, Wheeler, Elder, McAtee, Pye Miles, Abell, Camalier, Smith, Plowden, Freeman, Maddox, Greenwell, Floyd, Drury, Mudd, Hamilton, Clark, Payne, Brock, Walton, Doyne, Darnall. During the American Revolution, Catholics, with very rare exceptions, sided with the patriots; Maryland's best Catholic names are to be found on the rolls of the Continental army, both as officers and privates. The most prominent and influential citizens of Maryland during this epoch was Charles Carroll of Carrollton, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. At this time only Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Delaware had removed the disabilities against Catholics. The National Convention (Philadelphia, 1787) granted religious liberty to all. (McSherry, Hist. of Maryland, Baltimore, 1882; Scharf, Hist. of Maryland, Baltimore, 1879.)

American period

Such were the conditions in Maryland when the first bishop was appointed. Speaking of this period in 1790 Bishop Carroll said "it is surprising that there remained even so much as there was of true religion. In general Catholics were regular and unoffensive in their conduct, such, I mean, as were natives of the country" — but he complains bitterly of the injury to the Faith caused by those Catholics who came to the colony about this time (Shea, Life of Archbishop Carroll, 49). In fact the Church began to recover from this scandal only forty years after. Catholic Americans were subject spiritually to English Catholic superiors (the archpriests), until 6 September, 1665, when Innocent XI appointed Dr. John Leyburn, Vicar-Apostolic of all The British Colonies in America remained jurisdiction of Dr. Leyburn and his successors, Bishops Gifford, Petre, Challoner, and Talbot, until the appointment of Dr. Carroll. After the Revolution it was plain that the United States could not conveniently remain subject in spirituals to a superior in England. A meeting was called at Whitemarsh (27 June, 1783) by the Rev. John Lewis, Vicar-General of the Vicar Apostolic of London. This meeting was attended by the Revs. John Carroll, John Ashton, Charles Sewell, Bernard Diderick, Sylvester Boarman, and Leonard Neale. It resulted in a petition asking for the appointment of the Rev. John Lewis as Superior, with quasi-episcopal faculties. At this time the French Minister to the United States schemed to make the missions of the United States subject to France. Benjamin Franklin, United States representative to France, ignorant of the true state of affairs, at first supported this intrigue. Congress, however, informed Franklin that the project was one "without the jurisdiction and power of Congress, who have no authority to permit or refuse it". The American priests then presented a memorial to Pius VI. As a result the appointment of the Rev. John Carroll as Superior of the missions of the United States, with power to administer confirmation, was ratified (9 June, 1784). He received the decree appointing him Prefect Apostolic 26 November, 1784. At this time, there were, according to Dr. Carroll, 15,800 Catholics in Maryland (of whom 3,000 were negroes); 7000 Catholics in Pennsylvania; 200 in Virginia; 1,500 in New York. In 1782 the total population of Maryland was 254,000. There were nineteen priests in Maryland and five in Pennsylvania. Dr. Carroll made his first visitation in Maryland in 1785, and administered confirmation. About this time he took up his residence in Baltimore where the Rev. Charles Sewell was pastor. In 1788, the clergy petitioned Pius VI for the appointment of a bishop. Their request was granted. They were permitted to determine whether the bishop should be merely titular, or should have a see in the United States — and to choose the place for, as well as to elect the occupant of the see.

Election of Bishop Carroll

Twenty-four priests assembled at Whitemarsh. Twenty-three voted for Dr. Carroll, who was, accordingly, appointed first Bishop of Baltimore, subject to the Roman Congregation of the Propaganda. Dr. Carroll was consecrated in the chapel of Lulworth Castle, England, 15 August, 1790, the consecrator being the Right Rev. Charles Walmesley, Senior Vicar Apostolic of England. Before leaving England, Dr. Carroll arranged with the Sulpician Fathers to establish an ecclesiastical seminary in Baltimore at their own expense. Accordingly, the superior, the Rev. Francis Nagot with three priests and five seminarians arrived at Baltimore in July, 1791. The "One Mile Tavern" and four acres of land were purchased and on 18 July, St. Mary's Seminary was opened.

Progress of Catholicism

The next year the Revs. J.R. David and B.J. Flaget, afterwards Bishops of Bardstown (Louisville), Kentucky, with Mr. Stephen Badin who was the first priest ordained in Baltimore (1793), arrived. In 1787, the Rev. Joseph Mosley died leaving about 600 communicants on the Eastern Shore, where he had laboured twenty-two years. At this time there was only one other priest stationed there. The next, year the veteran John Lewis died, being the last of the original Maryland missions. In 1789 Georgetown College was founded. A frame church was erected at Westminster (1789), succeeded by Christ Church (1805) under the Rev. Joseph Zucchi. In 1791 the Diocese of Baltimore included all the territory east of the Mississippi, except Florida; in this vast territory there mere churches at Baltimore, New York (1785), Boston (1788), Charleston (1785); in Maryland at St. Inigoes, Newtown, Newport, Port Tobacco. Rock Creek, Annapolis, Whitemarsh, Bohemia, Tuckahoe Deer Creek, Frederick, Westminster; in Pennsylvania: at Philadelphia, Lancaster, Conewago, Goshenhoppen; in Delaware, at Coffee Run, also at Vincennes, Kaskaskia, Cahokia, and Prairie du Rocher. In 1790, a Carmelite community was established at Port Tobacco under Mother Frances Dickinson. The nuns remained there until 1831, when twenty-four sisters under Mother Angela Mudd removed to Baltimore. In 1791, the first diocesan synod in the United States was opened at the bishop's house in Baltimore. Twenty-two priests and the bishop were present. At this synod the offertory collections were inaugurated. Between 1791 and 1798 seventeen French arrived, some of whom became famous in the of the United States — the Revs. John Dubois (1791), Benedict Flaget, J.B. David, Ambrose Maréchal (1792), William DuBourg, and John Moranville (1794), and John Lefèvre Cheverus (1796). Until this time the burden of the missions of Maryland had been borne by the Jesuits. From 1700 to 1805 about ninety Jesuits had laboured on the mission, of whom about sixty were English, sixteen Americans, and the rest German, Irish, Welsh, Belgian, and French. They were apostolic men who devoted their lives without earthly reward to the service of others.

In 1792, Catholics in the eastern section of Baltimore, finding it inconvenient to attend the pro-cathedral, asked for a priest and rented a room in the third story of a house, corner of Fleet and Bond Streets, where the first Mass was said by Bishop Carroll. This congregation numbered about twelve persons. The Rev. Antoine* Garnier, from St. Mary's Seminary, visited them twice weekly until 17 December, 1795, when the Rev. John Floyd took charge. The first church was erected on Apple Alley near Wilks Street. Father Floyd dying in 1797, Father Garnier was again made pastor until 1803, when the Rev. Michael Coddy succeeded him. Dying within the year, his place was taken by the Rev. John Moranville, through whose zeal the cornerstone of St. Patrick's Church (Broadway and Bank Streets) was laid 10 July, 1804. It was dedicated 29 November, 1807, being then the most imposing church in the diocese. Father Moranville died in 1824, and was succeeded by the Rev. Nicholas Kearney (d. 1840), the Rev. John Dolan (d. 1870), and the Rev. John T. Gaitley (d. 1892). In 1898 the old church was replaced by the present handsome Gothic edifice. St. Patrick's School, begun by Father Moranville, preceded all public schools In Baltimore. The earliest German Catholic congregation was established 17 February, 1702, assembling for the first time for Divine service in a house near Centre Market. About 1800 Father Reuter* a priest in charge of the German Catholics, fomented a schism amongst them. They built a church where St. Alphonsus's now stands, called it St. John the Evangelist's, and defied the bishop, who carried the case to the courts, which decided in his favour (1805). Archbishop Eccleston confided the church to the Redemptorists in 1840. The cornerstone of the new church was laid in 1841, the name being changed to St. Alphonsus's. This church is distinguished for two pastors whose repute for sanctity entitles them to special mention, the Venerable John N. Neumann (Bishop of Philadelphia, 1852-60), the process of whose beatification is still pending in Rome (Berger, Life of Right Rev. John N. Neumann, D.D. New York, 1884); and the Rev. Francis X. Seelos who died in 1867, the first steps towards whose canonization were taken in 1901 (Zimmer, Life of Rev. F.X. Seelos, New York, 1887). St. Joseph's, Emmitsburg was founded in 1793, by the Rev. Matthew Ryan. The Revs. John Dubois and Simon Brute were afterwards pastors of this church. The first baptismal record of St. Mary's Church, Bryantown, was entered in 1793. Father David, the first pastor, was transferred to Georgetown in 1804. In 1794, the first church was built in Hagerstown, attended by the Rev. D. Cahill. About 1795 a log church (St. Mary's) was built at Cumberland; a brick church was substituted in 1838. It was replaced by the present church (St. Patrick's) begun in 1849 by the Rev. O. L. Obermeyer, and consecrated in 1883. St. Joseph's, Taneytown, was built by Mr. Brookes (1796). Its first pastor was the well-known Russian nobleman and convert, Father Demetrius A. Gallitzin.

It was soon seen that a coadjutor for the diocese was desirable in case of the bishop's death, and the Rev. Lawrence Graessel, a German priest of Philadelphia, was appointed to that office. This zealous priest dying soon after, the Rev. Leonard Neale, a native of Maryland, was selected, and was consecrated 7 December, 1800, at the Baltimore pro-cathedral. A notable event at this time was the marriage of Jerome Bonaparte, brother of Napoleon, to Miss Patterson of Baltimore, Bishop Carroll officiating (24 December, 1803).

Educational institutions

As already stated Georgetown College was opened by the Jesuit Fathers in 1791. (Centennial Hist. of Georgetown College, Washington, 1891.) In 1803 the faculty of St. Mary's Seminary instituted an undenominational college course which continued until 1852, when Loyola, College was opened. During this period it numbered among its students many who afterwards became prominent; among others Robert Walsh, A.B. Roman the Latrobes, the Carrolls, the Jenkins, the Foleys, S. Eccleston, J. Chanche, F.E. Chatard, C.I. White. S.T. Wallis, Robert McLane, C.C. Biddle, Reverdy Johnson, Oden Bowie, Leo Knott, Christopher Johnson. At one time (1839-40) it had 207 students. In the meantime an attempt was made to separate the college from the seminary, and in 1807 Father Nagot established a, college at Pigeon Hills, Pennsylvania, but in 1808, the sixteen students were transferred to a new institution begun at Emmitsburg by the Rev. John Dubois, a