The Bishops of Philadelphia


Since the foundation of the Diocese of Philadelphia, we have been blessed in having some of the holiest, most pastoral bishops anywhere in America. Provided below is some biographical information, but to get an insight into these great men from their quotes, click here.

The Most Reverend Michael Egan

(1761-July 22, 1814)

In the early 19th century, an Irish Franciscan came to American shores. His name was Michael Egan. After traveling up and dwon the east coast, he found his way to Philadelphia, the city where he lived for the rest of his life. He worked at St. Mary's Church, one of the four city parishes at the time and one of the wealthiest congregations in America.

In 1789, the Baltimore diocese was founded. At the time, it comprised all the thirteen colonies of the young union. The bishop, John Carroll, had a tough time, to say the least. For years he petitioned Rome to divide his diocese, but the answer to his pleas came nineteen years later.

In 1808, Rome announced that Baltimore was to become the Metropolitan See of the United States, and John Carroll was given the title Archbishop. To ease his herculanean burden, four new dioceses were created: New York, Boston, Philadelphia, and Bardstown, Kentucky. Pope Pius VII, on the advice of Carroll, chose Michael Egan to be the first Bishop of Philadelphia.

Due to slow and sometimes unanswered communications, he wasn't consecrated a bishop until 1810. But once he was enthroned, a period of conflict started that took almost a quarter of a century to calm.

St. Mary's Church, the Cathedral of the new diocese, was run by a board of trustees. These people had disagreements with the Bishop, who was senior pastor and chairman of the trustees. The disagreements turned into arguments that ended up with the Bishop being "ejected" from his place on the board and the stripping of the priests' salaries.

His visitations of his large diocese (it comprised all of Pennsylvania, Delaware and the southern half of New Jersey) and the instigation of the trustees almost certainly sped up his early death on July 22, 1814. He was fifty three.


For six years (1814-1820) Philadelphia had no bishop. Rome appointed two candidates over the period, and, due to the problematic trustees, they both refused. Eventually, Rome got fed up with the Philadelphia question, turned to the Irish hierarchy, who appointed our second bishop:

The Most Reverend Henry Conwell

(1747-April 22, 1842)

The decision to find a bishop for Philadelphia from Ireland was a catastrophic decision. It's consequences lasted for well over a generation. Whatever the case, Henry Conwell was a man who knew little or nothing of America. He was seventy three years old when installed as bishop in 1820. In his first address, he admitted that he was a poor speaker. This was a disadvantage from the outset. The schismatic trustees had charismatic preachers, the reason why they held power for so long. The squabbles continued and continued; the bishop would not use St. Mary's; the priests still had their salaries withheld; among other things. The troubles got so bad and frustrated Rome so much that Bishop Conwell was summoned to Rome in 1829 to report before the Congregation of the Propogation of the Faith (Propaganda Fide). Knowing that he was in danger of losing his see, he fled Rome. It was decided that he was to be suspended from episcopal authority. The Philadelphia question rose again. Conwell was to have a coadjutor, the coadjutor would have full power of administration, but Conwell was permitted to keep the title of Bishop of Philadelphia.


The Most Reverend Francis Patrick Kenrick

(December 3, 1797-1863)

The choice was Francis Patrick Kenrick, an Irish theologian, the first graduate of the college of the Propaganda Fide on American shores. But he had experience with the American people from living here. The Archdiocesan history states: "On the evening of May 1, 1830, Bishop Benedict J. Flaget of Bardstown received...the papal bulls naming Francis Patrick Kenrick Coadjutor-Bishop of Philadelphia... He delivered the documents to the bishop-elect the next evening, saying, 'Behold the certificate of the Cross you will have to carry'." The nationally infamous trustee battles were his first concern.

Kenrick was appointed to Philadelphia because of his knowledge of theology. To whom much is given, muchis expected. Kenrick did not let Rome down. Within months, using the never before seen steps of excommunication and interdict, Kenrick won a battle that raged for twenty years. But he did not end there. The diocese had many concerns. Among them: pastoral visitation; lack of priests and parishes and Bishop Conwell, who believed that he still had the authority as bishop. The latter problem came to a head when Conwell kicked Kenrick out of the residence they shared.

Among the achievements of Kenrick's tenure as coadjutor and after the death of Bishop Conwell, Bishop of Philadelphia: St. Charles Seminary, one of the greatest of it's kind in the world; the trustee problem, as stated before; and almost forty parishes. Two of the better known parishes founded by Kenrick: St. John the Evangelist, a church whose builder, Fr. John Hughes, became the first Archbishop of New York, and still a very popular city church; and the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul, the crowning achievement of his time and that of his two successors: St. John Neumann and Archbishop James Frederic Wood.

A sad note to this time: in 1844, a group of Protestants who called themselves Nativists burned St. Augustine's, the mother church of the Augustinians in America, looted Irish Catholic homes all over the city and killed many people.

Kenrick played a major role in the planning of the First Plenary Council of Baltimore in 1852, the result of which is the Baltimore Catechism we all know and love. But a year before the Council's opening, Samuel Eccleston, died.

Due to his knowledgeable mind and ability as shown in handling the trustees, Rome appointed Francis Kenrick Archbishop of Baltimore and Apostolic Delegate to the Council. Thus began one of the great reigns in the history of our primatial see. Gloria Deo; pax hominibus (Glory to God; peace to all men of goodwill).


Francis Kenrick served in Philadelphia for twenty one years. His final act here became his greatest legacy. Upon Kenrick's request, Rome sent another man of great knowledge who has been raised to the altars as:

Saint John Nepoumecene Neumann, C.SS.R.

(March 28, 1811-January 5, 1860)

The successor to Francis Kenrick was of an unassuming, saintly nature likewise, but due to his Germanic roots (he was born in Bohemia) he was disliked by many of the Irish bishops who wanted the American episcopacy to remain Irish.

John Neumann (pronounced NOY-man), came to Archbishop Kenrick's attention by being Kenrick's confessor when Kenrick was in Baltimore. The Redemptorist was the beloved, popular pastor of the Church of Saint Alphonsus in Baltimore, named for the patron of the Redemptorist order and patron of confessors.

As Bishop, his Redemptorist fervor enflamed his vast diocese. He visited all of it faithfully. In catechetical discipline, he was unparalled by his peers. He wanted an educated, holy Catholic people. In visitations, he heard Confessions, preached, said Mass in homes for people who had no Church within miles, and in one instance spent one day walking twenty five miles each way up a mountain to administer Confirmation to one child.

John Neumann was an apostle, not an administrator. Since he spent most of his time on the road, the diocese was left unattended for long periods of time. For this reason, Rome decided to give him a coadjutor with right of succession: James Frederic Wood, a native Philadelphian, a convert and protege of the Archbishop of Cincinatti, the Most Reverend John Baptist Purcell.

Soon after Wood's consecration as coadjutor, Neumann thought it would be a good idea to split his diocese up even more. Pennsylvania already had three dioceses: Philadelphia, Pittsburgh (founded in 1843 after years of begging by Bishop Kenrick) and Erie, in the northwest. The southern half of New Jersey was removed from Philadelphia with the foundation of the Diocese of Newark (1853). Neumann requested a see at Easton, in Central Pennsylvania. He said he would go to Easton, leaving Wood in Philadelphia. This provoked protests and arguments and letters crossing the Atlantic both ways ad infinitum.

This was truly a battle of titans: Kenrick, the Metropolitan; Neumann, the saintly Bishop with his ecclesiastical career up in the air and Wood, the coadjutor ever anxious to take over the episcopal throne of Philadelphia, the largest diocese in the United States. Behind the arguments and letters of the former three, the entire American hierarchy formes the backdrop. This was the biggest battle for power in Philadelphia since the trustees, and certainly no one wanted to see something like that again. Wood was suggested for Mobile, Alabama, a transfer that never materialized.

Weighed down with stress due to his visitations and the nagging of his coadjutor and several other bishops to resign, John Neumann collapsed and died on a sidewalk in Philadelphia on January 5, 1860. He was forty nine years of age.

With the end of Neumann's life came the end of the power struggle. As coadjutor, Wood became Bishop of Philadelphia immediately upon Neumann's death and a new era in Catholic Philadelphia began.

John Nepoumecene Neumann was buried in the Redemptorist church of St. Peter with his Redemptorist brothers. He was declared Venerable in 1921, beatifed in 1963, and on June 19, 1977, John Neumann of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, Fourth Bishop of Philadelphia was raised to the altars and declared a Saint. His feast day is January 5.

Three of his accomplishments are still a part of Catholic life in America today, or until recently: the Baltimore Catechism, which was his project from the start; Catholic schools, which he championed for not just Philadelphia, but the nation and the Forty Hours devotion, which had it's American debut at the Church of Saint Phillip Neri in Philadelphia, a devotion that Neumann brought over from Bohemia that manifested his love and devotion to our Lord present Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity in the Blessed Sacrament.


The Most Reverend James Frederic Wood

(1813-June 20, 1883)

On January 5, 1860, James Frederic Wood claimed the title that he had fought for for almost two years: Bishop of Philadelphia. But the city was a place not unfamiliar to him. He was born there a Unitarian, left for Cincinatti to become a banker. He befriended the first Archbishop of Cincinatti, the Most Reverend John Baptist Purcell, who converted the young entrepenur to Catholicism in 1836. He later went to Rome for seminary studies and was ordained there.

On February 17, 1857, James Wood was appointed Coadjutor Bishop of Philadelphia with the right of succession to Bishop John Neumann. Not long after his consecration as coadjutor, the power struggle broke out, which was already discussed.

When Wood took possession of his see, it was the largest in the United States. It encompassed the eastern half of Pennsylvania and all of Delaware, a heavy burden for the young bishop. There were 137 priests and 131 churches, numbers that would be unthinkable today, serving a Catholic population of 200,000.

Soon after Neumann's death, the Civil War broke out. Philadelphia became one of the top production towns in the North, but even though most of the work force was employed for the factories to keep the North going, Wood still kept going ahead with his ambitious plans, the greatest of which was the Cathedral.

Since 1846, it had been the dream of three Bishops of Philadelphia. In that year, Bishop Francis Kenrick had decided that the time was right for a cathedral church to be built. He found a site on Logan Square, one of William Penn's five major squares that Philadelphia was laid out on, an area that was then considered too westward. It was, almost literally, the suburbs. But, slowly, the building rose. It was designed by Napoleon LeBrun, the architect of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, in a Romanesque style that rivaled some of the great houses of worship in the world. John Neumann continued the project, but when Wood came, he gave the latter control over Kenrick's dream that would in time become Wood's reality. Neumann and Wood saw the cross placed on top of the Cathedral soon after Wood's arrival in 1857. But the climax came on November 20, 1864, when the Cathedral of SS. Peter and Paul was solemnly blessed by Wood in the presence of Kenrick's successor as Archbishop of Baltimore, John Lancaster Spalding. This was the first of many great ceremonies that would have the Cathedral as it's setting.

In 1868, the Diocese bought 124 acres of land near City Line Avenue, the main suburban border of Philadelphia, for a new seminary building. But it was so far from the old site of the seminary and the life of the city that it was dubbed "Wood's Folly". The Immaculate Conception Building at Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary, Overbrook, was opened in 1871.

But as Philadelphia was gaining young priests, some of it's most beloved were leaving. In 1869, the enitre state of Delaware and 28 counties of Pennsylvania were removed from Philadelphia with the foundation of the Dioceses of Wilmington, Scranton and Harrisburg. This left the Diocese with 10 counties, the same counties it would have until 1961.

In 1875, Philadelphia became an Archdiocese, along with Boston, Milwaukee and Santa Fe. But while Philadelphians were rejocing, New Yorkers and all of the Church in America celebrated the selection of it's first member of the Sacred College of Cardinals: Archbishop John McCloskey of New York. Cardinal McCloskey had a tie to Philadelphia: his mentor and predecessor, Archbishop John Hughes, one of the more outspoken Catholic voices of the last century anywhere, was a Philadelphia priest and Rector of St. John the Evangelist Church, still one of the great churches of the Archdiocese.

Archbishop Wood was in Florida, recuperating from a severe illness. He returned, however, to receive the pallium, the symbol of his Metropolitan authority, from the Archbishop James Roosevelt Bayley of Baltimore, a cousin of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, and in the presence of his new suffragans: the Bishops of Pittsburgh, Erie, Scranton and Harrisburg.

Archbishop Wood spent much of his last 10 years in Florida, because the weather there helped him from becoming more seriously ill than he already was. In 1882, he appeared for a celebration marking his Silver Jubilee in the Episcopacy. But he was never seen in public again. He died on June 20, 1883 and was buried in the crypt under the Cathedral he built.


The Most Reverend Patrick John Ryan

(February 20, 1831-February 11, 1911)

Over it's 76 years of existence, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia already had bishops of all kinds: holy pastors, charismatic teachers and competent administrators. But one kind of shepherd this vast flock did not have was an orator. This was soon to change.

On June 8, 1884, a new era dawned on the Archdiocese with the appointment of the Most Reverend Patrick John Ryan, Coadjutor Bishop of Saint Louis and Titular Archbishop of Salamis, as Sixth Ordinary and Second Archbishop of Philadelphia and successor to Archbishop Wood. Ryan was acclaimed as one of the greatest orators the Church in the United States had ever seen. When he came to Philadelphia, he already had an impressive resume: brought to our shores from Ireland to study for Saint Louis and it's aged head, Archbishop Peter Richard Kenrick (brother of Francis), preacher at the Seond Plenary Council of Baltimore, preacher of the Roman Curia's Lenten retreat, and in 1872, Kenrick's coadjutor.

After his episcopal consecration, he preached the dedication sermon of St Patrick's Cathedral in New York; and became a titular Archbishop. Quite an accomplishment for a man fifty-three years of age.

The Third Plenary Council in Baltimore was the new Archbishop's first concern. It was convened three months after he took posession of Philadelphia, but when he returned, twenty seven years of eloquent leadership that would see the Archdiocese grow by leaps and bounds began.

The immigrant boom was the one thing that charcterized Archbishop Ryan's tenure in Philadelphia. This was manifested in more priests and more parishes (among them Our Lady of Mount Carmel, my parish) to serve a steadily increasing number of faithful.

Another sign of the increase in population was the need for an Auxiliary Bishop. Archbishop Ryan found one in the person of Father Edmond Francis Prendergast, the wildly popular Rector of St. Malachy's Church in North Philadelphia. He became the first Auxiliary to the Archbishop of Philadelphia when he was consecrated Titular Bishop of Scillio.

The eloquent Archbishop presided over the start of the "Golden Age" of the Archdiocese. This was an age that lasted for four generations. The seeds he sowed in the many parishes and institutions he built continue to bear fruit over a hundred years later.

After twenty-seven years on the archiepiscopal throne of Philadelphia, the eloquent, paternal shepherd who was regarded as almost a father by his flock died on February 11, 1911. Besides the aforementioned institutions, he is also best remembered in Archbishop Ryan High School and the Archbishop Ryan School for the Deaf.


The Most Reverend Edmond Francis Prendergast

(1843-February 26, 1918)

In 1918, a new and glorious precedent occured: the servitor of the Archbishops of Philadelphia himself rose to the leadership of the third largest American See: Edmond Francis Prendergast was the first Auxiliary Bishop of Philadelphia and Vicar-General to Archbishop Ryan, Rector of St. Malachy's Church, a graduate of Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary, a priest of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. A native son...almost.

Edmond Prendergast was born in Ireland in 1843. He was born into a family of ecclesiastics, which eventually lead him to the United States and Philadelphia. He was one of the first priests to be ordained in the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul, and on that cold November day in that new Cathedral, it would've been hard for him to imagine that almost half a century later the cathedra (throne) that he was kneeling in front of for the imposition of hands by Bishop Wood would be his.

Then, as has been stated before, the Archdiocese still encompassed most of the state. So over it's vast terrain he served, until in 1874 the 31 year-old Father Prendergast was called back to his second home, Philadelphia, and St. Malachy's. In this position, he was not far from the chancery and Cathedral (the Seminary moved from behind the Cathedral to Overbrook in 1871). Here, he was used as valued counsel to Bishop Wood, who shortly after became the first Metropolitan Archbishop of the Philadelphia Province, and Archbishop Ryan.

In 1897, he was consecrated Titular Bishop of Scillio and Auxiliary to Archbishop Ryan (he was made Vicar General the year before).

When he was appointed Auxiliary Bishop, Archbishop Ryan did not want Bishop Prendergast to leave his work at Saint Malachy's. Therefore, he stayed as Rector. To this day, the active Auxiliary Bishops of Philadephia who do not posess chancery offices are made pastors of parishes. (As of this publication, Bishop Louis DeSimone is Pastor of Saint Monica's Church in South Philadelphia; and Bishop Robert Maginnis is Pastor of St. Colman Church in Ardmore (a suburb of Philadelphia).

As Archbishop Ryan's health failed, his auxiliary took up more and more administrative duties and, upon his death, was elected Administrator in the period of the Sede Vacante ad nunctum Sanctae Sedis (Vacant See). Then, the hopes and prayers of the people were answered with his appointment by Saint Pius X to the see that he already had administration over for three months.

Due to his elevation and old age (he was 68 upon his installation), he needed a successor to himself as Auxiliary Bishop. The choice was the Reverend John Joseph McCort, the Rector of Our Mother of Sorrows Church in Philadelphia, a former professor at the Seminary and one who was, in almost all ways, like his Archbishop: paternalistic, conservative, pastoral. He became Titular Bishop of Azotus with his consecration in mid-1912. (Before Archbishop Ryan's death, he served with then-Bishop Prendergast as Vicar General).

The Archdiocese continued to grow by leaps and bounds. And, in 1915, upon Archbishop Prendergast's Golden Sacerdotal Jubilee, the Cathedral was renovated and formally dedicated finally. This was the peak of Archbishop Prendergast's time as Archbishop, but afterward it fell steeply downhill. Over the next two years, in the face of war and adversity, he became gravely ill and died on February 26, 1918. Bishop McCort had many admirers who wanted to see him succeed to the See and continue the good works of Ryan and Prendergast. But another former Seminary professor was called home, one who revolutioned the whole Archdiocesan system.


His Eminence Dennis Cardinal Dougherty

(August 16, 1865-May 31, 1951)

A new dawn settled over the golden cross atop the dome of the Cathedral of SS. Peter and Paul on the morning of July 10, 1918. The horizions of this day were not seen until, almost thirty-one years later, they came unexpectedly before us. On that July day, a true native son, born and bred in this Archdiocese, assumed the throne of Ryan and Prendergast.

Dennis Joseph Dougherty, Eigth Ordinary and Fourth Archbishop of Philadelphia, was a native son, but his coming as Metropolitan was the start of a new acquaintance with Philadelphia for this young prelate.

He was born in the far reaches of the Archdiocese, the son of a coal miner and a homemaker who had emigrated from County Mayo in Ireland, on August 16, 1865. He was the fourth of 10 children in a small town with no Church, but even though physically the Church was far, the St. Joseph's Church was always in his heart. The priest was his first close spiritual confidant, it was the same priest who baptized him and gave him the Sacraments, the priest who led him on to great things, all from this little church.

Because he was too young for St. Charles, he went to College Saint Marie in Montreal. Here he excelled in his studies, a path that led back home, this time to Overbrook, where he, though the youngest in his class, was it's top student. Then, to Rome, the city that influenced all he lived, moved and did, where he was famous for his studious ways and once, so says the Archdiocesan history, waved away from an examination. The words of the Cardinal-Professor were, "We don't want you. Consider yourself examined". This was the city where he returned many times, for many new honors, but the first and greatest was when he was ordained in the Eternal City and said his First Mass at the Altar of the Chair of Saint Peter in the Basilica of his successor, the place where his heart always was.

Upon his return to the U.S., he was sent immediately to Overbrook, a place that he later was considered the "Second Founder" of. He taught Latin, English and history to many students who remembered him as a teacher who, although strict (he delivered entire lectures (with rebukes) in Latin), gave the Dogma of the Church in the most precise way possible. But the stay at Overbrook was not long. Thirteen years after his return, he was sent to Nueva Segovia in the Phillipines to be it's Bishop. The Spanish-American War (which the Americans won) gave the United States a chance to advise Rome on the selection of the new bishops in the Islands. The first name chosen was that of Dennis Dougherty. He was consecrated in Rome on June 14, 1903. (One of the co-consecrators was Bishop Pietro Gasparri, who later wrote the first Code of Canon Law and became Cardinal-Secretary of State, the author's great-great-great uncle.)

When he arrived, the diocese was in a shambles. Priests and people were in schism and the diocese was as messy financially as it was doctrinally. But, using skills that would one day come in handy in Philadephia, he imposed the doctrine of the Church, reopened the Seminary there and balanced the books. All these problems helped him become Bishop of Jaro in 1908. There, he faced problems just as severe, if not worse, as in Nueva Segovia. But again, he "imported" American priests, and gained the financial support of many American Catholics. The Diocese was left in superior shape when, through Gaparri, who had now become Cardinal-Secretary of State, he returned to America as Bishop of Buffalo in 1915. Even though his stay here was the shortest assignment of his life, he worked wonders again.

(*A sidenote: the Archdiocesan History tells that Auxiliary Bishop George Mundelin of Brooklyn was to go to Buffalo and Dennis Dougherty was to become Archbishop of Chicago, then the second largest See in the country. Due to the War and Armistice, the British Government protested the Vatican for political reasons.The appointments were switched, and Archbishop Mundelin became a Cardinal in 1924. But, as a concession,Dougherty was told that he would go to either Philadelphia or New York, whichever one was vacated first. As history went, it was Philadelphia, but not by much. John Cardinal Farley, the Archbishop of New York from the time, died less than two years after Archbishop Dougherty's arrival in Philadelphia.)

Three years later, the aforementioned dawn traced upon the Philadelphia sky. On April 30, 1918, Bishop Dougherty became Archbishop-elect of Philadelphia and two months later, he was installed.

The Archdiocesan History gives an interesting story. The day before, when Archbishop-elect Dougherty arrived in Philadelphia, he walked into his residence behind the Cathedral but left Bishop McCort out in the heat. For the majority of the priests of the Archdiocese who favored McCort as their new leader, this was a very frustrating, unintentional as it may have been, gesture.

The people soon learned that their new Archbishop was a man who ruled with an iron fist. He completely demolished and rebuilt the structure of the Archdiocese so it could suit his need for being kept abreast in all matters. As much as it helped him understand the needs of the people, it made those under him tremble, literally. He was exacting to the degree of frustration, but this was the way things were and (in the author's opinion) still should be.

Within a few months of Archbishop Dougherty's arrival, a crisis that affected most of Philadelphia struck with brutak force: the Influenza epidemic. His Excellency the Archbishop ordered the entire Archdiocesan system to be at the disposal of the City. Sisters became nurses, seminarians became gravediggers and the beauty of peole working together came to it's fullest fruition, but not without casualties.

Within three months, the epidemic had subsided, thanks in large part to the heroic measures taken by the Archbishop, and the care of the sisters, seminarians and priests. They were renowned for their compassion and service, even if they had to put themselves at great risk to do it, for the greater Glory of God and the salvation of souls.

On February 13, 1921, appropriately at the Seminary he so loved, the Archbishop of Philadelphia received a messenger from the Apostolic Delegation in Washington. Pope Benedict XV had done what Philadelphia had been waiting for: Archbishop Dougherty was to be created a Cardinal. The announcement of his appointment to the Senate of the Church was welcomed almost hysterically by Catholics not only in Philadelphia, but from sea to shining sea. At this time, America had only three Cardinals. This was the tradition for many years previously. Since, as was before mentioned, Cardinal Farley of New York died not long after Dougherty's arrival in Philadelphia, a place was left open, a place that was given to the American bishop who was and who probably always will be the most loyal servant of the Successor of Peter, the Pope.

He took with him to Rome many priests, his family and laymen who could make the pilgrimage. He received the biretta and galero with fifteen tassels, the signs of the Cardinalatial office, in ceremonies that will never be seen again (they were abolished after Vatican II). But, not long after the galero was touched to his head and he returned home, Pope Benedict died. He went for Conclave, but by the time he arrived at the Vatican, the Cardinals had already elected the Archbishop of Milan, Achille Cardinal Ratti, who started a new era by taking the name Pius.

While in Rome, His Eminence requested assistance in his episcopal duties. In September, 1921, he got the help he needed by consecrating Monsignor Michael Crane, one of the two Vicar Generals, as Titular Bishop of Curium and Auxiliary to the Cardinal. (Bishop McCort was sent to Altoona the previous January). This was his reward for a long career of service to the Archdiocese. He served at St. Malachy's with Archbishop Prendergast, involved himself in almost everything, and created a parish dynasty at St. Francis DeSales in West Philadelphia. But his appointment had it's down side: he was elderly. He would not be appointed now because he would be too close to the mandatory retirement age of 75 mandated for bishops. He was extremely ill toward the end and died the day after Christmas, 1928.

But this time, the Cardinal himself chose his new auxiliary. He would not be let down in Father Gerald Patrick O'Hara, and so this young priest, who possessed degrees in both Canon and Civil Law was consecrated Titular Bishop of Heliopolis and Auxiliary Bishop of Philadelphia less than five months after the death of Bishop Crane. He was the Cardinal's secretary and pastor of the Church of the Nativity of Our Lord before his consecration and after six years in Philadelphia was sent south to become Bishop of Savannah, Georgia and simultaneously, Apostolic Delegate to Great Britain and Nuncio to Ireland, the first Philadelphia priest to rise to the highest post in the diplomatic world.

The Cardinal' main concern was the Seminary at Overbrook. In it he studied, taught and, as Archbishop, presided over the Concorsus at the end of the year. But since 1871, the ever growing number of seminarians were cramped in the Immaculate Conception Building, which was growing old and was expanded on many times. The Cardinal had a solution: build a new preparatory seminary. This was the centerpiece of his Catholic Education masterpiece. He wanted this new seminary so much that each parish was assessed so this could be the gift of the people to the Cardinal on his Silver Jubilee in the Episcopacy. It was the largest seminary building project ever up to that time. It could still be today. It cost $4.5 million, which then was a pretty big sum of money. But on June 10, 1928, four days before the Cardinal's anniversary, his dream became reality with the dedication of the College Division Building at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary. It was witnessed by 200,000 people and the Apostolic Delegate. Since then, it has been the apple of the eyes of Dougherty (he would allow no trees to be placed on campus for fear that the building would not be seen by passers-by) his successors, and countless other priests, bishops, archbishops and cardinals, alumnus and non-alumnus alike, but most of all of the people who built it and sustain it with the annual seminary collection, one of the largest in the world.

After Bishop (later Archbishop) Gerald O'Hara left for Savannah, Cardinal Dougherty wasted no time in asking for more help. Rome chose Father Hugh Louis Lamb, who was also once the Cardinal's secretary and Superintendent of Schools. Four months after Archbishop O'Hara's departure, Hugh Lamb prostrated himself before the altar of the Cathedral and again the great edifice saw an episcopal ordination. And twelve years later, the Cardinal left a living legacy when he consecrated Msgr. J. Carroll McCormick, his nephew, as his last Auxiliary. Bishop McCormick was here through all of Cardinal O'Hara's time here, then sent to Altoona-Johnstown and later Scranton. There he died on November 2, 1996, one year short of his 50th Anniversary as a Bishop. He was 88.

After thirty-three years as Cardinal-Archbishop of one of the largest and most prosperous sees in the United States, Cardinal Dougherty died on May 31, 1951, the sixty-first anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood, a Prince of the Church to the end . He died two weeks after Bishop Hugh Lamb, the man who played the biggest role in the later Dougherty years, was sent to be the founding bishop of Greensburg. He was elected administrator, thus putting him in control of two dioceses at the same time.

Bishop Lamb was the eulogist at the funeral, and he captured the essence of Dougherty in one statement: "I venture to state that no man more orthodox, more devoted to the Holy See, ever ruled an American diocese". And as a last sign of how far that devotion to the Holy See brought him, not long after he was laid to rest in the crypt, the galero given him thirty years before was raised to the ceiling of the Cathedral to signify his jurisdiction, and left there to rot to signify that even he was a mere mortal.

The lasting monument he left with us was the Seminary, there is no doubt about that. But he emphasized Catholic Education, from First Grade to University. If a pastor would not put a Parochial School in his parish, he was removed. This was due to the fact that he was educated in a public school.

Cardinal Dougherty built the foundations of the Archdiocese upon which it now rests. May this devoted servant of God and His Son's Vicar on Earth rest in peace.


His Eminence John Cardinal O'Hara, C.S.C.

(May 1, 1888-August 28, 1960)

For seven months, the Archdiocese was left without a shepherd. This was a time that many of the faithful had not experienced before. They were not prepared for it either, as His Eminence's death was extremely sudden and the mind of Philadephia Catholics was that Cardinal Dougherty was immortal.

But the waiting was over at midnight on November 28, 1951. The Bishop of Buffalo, the Most Reverend John Francis O'Hara, C.S.C., would succeed his predecessor in Buffalo as Archbishop of Philadelphia. At the same time, a second appointment was announced that also brought much joy to the priests and people of the See city and beyond: The Most Reverend Gerald Patrick O'Hara, once Cardinal Dougherty's secretary and Auxiliary Bishop to the late Cardinal, was appointed Apostolic Nuncio to Ireland and received the title of Archbishop. At this time, he was Bishop of Savannah-Atlanta, Georgia.

Archbishop O'Hara arrived in Philadephia on January 8, 1952. After a visit to the Cathedral, he met with the Diocesan Consultors and presented the Papal bulla of appointment, thus giving him canonical control of the Archdiocese. The next day, in the presence of Archbishop Amleto Giovanni Cicognani, Apostolic Delegate to the United States (later Cardinal-Secretary of State), he took spiritual possession of his flock.

John Francis O'Hara was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan, on May 1, 1888, the fourth of ten children. He attended the School of el Sagrado Corazon (the Sacred Heart) in Montevideo, Uruguay, where his father worked in the American Consulate. His experience there gave him a love for Hispanic culture and it's children, a love that shone forth in Philadephia when he opened Casa del Carmen for the tide of Puerto Rican immigrants that came during his tenure as Archbishop.

Returning to the United States, he went to the school that was the love of those who shared the same ethnic heritage as he, a place steeped in legend: Notre Dame University. He was a student, but due to his knowledge of Spanish, he also worked as a tutor. Young John O'Hara admired the example of the Holy Cross Fathers, and so he decided to become one. He made his profession in 1912.

Staying on as a teacher, he was beloved by his students, who sought guidance from him. His reputation took him higher and higher thru the ranks of Notre Dame, culminating with his appointment as President of the University in 1934. During this time, he became aquainted with a frequent visitor to South Bend, a young Auxiliary Bishop from Boston, Francis Joseph Spellman. Spellman was a close friend of Eugenio Cardinal Pacelli, the Vatican Secretary of State. Spellman worked in the Secretariat but was recalled to Boston to become Auxiliary to the aging William Cardinal O'Connell, the Dean of the American Hierarchy. Spellman was consecrated by Pacelli before his return.

In 1939, the lives of these men would change dramatically. Pacelli was elected Pope and took the name Pius XII. The next month he apponited Francis Spellman Archbishop of New York, succeeding Patrick Cardinal Hayes.

The world was at war, and eventually the Americans would fall in. But this was extremely distressing to Spellman. Because, at that time (and until 1985), the Archbishop of New York was the head of the Vicariate for the Military Services. Control of one of the largest dioceses in the country was already too much for Spellman, so the solution was an Auxiliary Bishop. Seeing his success in working with young people, Spellman nominated John O'Hara.

John Francis O'Hara was consecrated Titular Bishop of Mylasa and Delegate to the Military Vicar on January 15, 1940 in the Chapel of the Sacred Heart at Notre Dame by Archbishop Spellman. His skill increased the number of military chaplains tenfold. He saw the world: a ship here, a base there. He gave the Catholic soldiers the momentum that helped them win the war. At its end, in recognition of his successful charge, he was appointed Bishop of Buffalo, a suffragan see to New York and, as before, his direct superior was Archbishop Spellman.

In November 1951, as previously stated, he was appointed Archbishop of Philadephia. This was a continuation of historical precedent: Cardinal Dougherty was Bishop of Buffalo before he returned to lead his home See. (See separate entry on Cardinal Dougherty.)

One of Archbishop O'Hara's first impressions was given to the seminarians. And what an impression it was! On February 2, 1952, Philadephia's new Ordinary made his first visit to Overbrook, and he lifted many of Cardinal Dougherty's restrictions. The first was that the seminarians would be allowed to smoke on campus. This caused a crush of students as they flooded the student store to buy the tobacco, which had been brought in before the announcement. Henceforth, they could also drive cars and hold summer jobs.

Throughout his years as Archbishop, he was never healthy. He never stayed for social functions, due to both his health and his opinion that the social life had nothing to do with his ministry. But he was very open at home. Priests could find him answering the door of his residence and they could drop in without notice.

He wished to retire to Notre Dame in the late '50s. But, in October, Angelo Cardinal Roncalli, the Patriarch of Venice, was elected to the Chair of Peter as Pope John XXIII.

In those days, the membership of the College of Cardinals was limited to 70. John XXIII was elected by a College that numbered 53. To fill the gaps in this depleted body, John named seventeen new Cardinals a month after his coronation. John O'Hara was on the list, as was another American, Richard Cushing, the Archbishop of Boston. The first position in the new class of Cardinals was a man who was the favorite son of Pope Pius XII, the man who many thought would break precedent and be the first non-Cardinal elected Pope, a statesman and true pastor, the Archbishop of Milan, Giovanni Battista Montini, who, five years after his entrance into the Sacred College became the Servant of the Servants of God, Pope Paul VI.

After Cardinal O'Hara returned from Rome, his health quickly slipped and he died after open heart surgery on August 28, 1960 in Misericordia Hospital, behind the Seminary he loved. His last words were, "I want to go home."

Among his accomplishments were the continuation of Cardinal Dougherty's tradition of excellence in Catholic education, and as a memorial to his predecessor, he built Cardinal Dougherty High School, the largest Catholic high school in the world. It accomodates 6,000 students and stands, like the man, a giant among giants.

These accomplishments are momentus, but Cardinal O'Hara played the pivotal role in the beatification of John Nepoumecene Neumann, his predecessor as Bishop of Philadephia. Even though he didn't live to see the beatification ceremony, he revived a dormant cause and the continuation and fufillment of the life of this holy man passed to his successor. May his role in giving Philadelphia it's first saint be rewarded in a way that is unfathomable to us here on earth.

He breathed new life into the Church of Philadephia. In the beginning of his tenure, Msgr. Joseph McShea, a Philadephia priest who worked in the Apostolic Delegation, became an Auxiliary Bishop and at it's end, Bishop J. Carroll McCormick, who was the bridge between the administration of his uncle, Cardinal Dougherty and that of Cardinal O'Hara, was sent to lead the diocese of Altoona-Johnnstown, in the western part of the state. (Bishop McCormick was transferred to Scranton in 1966, resigned his see in 1983 and died on November 2, 1996.)

John O'Hara, the Cardinal-Archbishop lived in Philadephia, but the heart of John O'Hara did not live anywhere near the Archbishop's Residence. It lived in the place he never wanted to leave, the place that made him desire the Holy Priesthood, and as his final request, John Cardinal O'Hara wanted his body to rest with his heart at Notre Dame. May this son of the Holy Cross and of the Mother of God rest in peace.

Ipsam Sequens Non Devias 

(If you follow her, you will not stray)- Cardinal O'Hara's motto


STILL TO COME:

His Eminence John Cardinal Krol

(October 26, 1910-March 3, 1996)


His Eminence Anthony Cardinal Bevilacqua

(b. June 17, 1923)


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