Boston, Archdiocese of
Boston, Archdiocese of
BOSTON, ARCHDIOCESE OF
The Diocese of Boston (Bostoniensis) was formed April 8, 1808 as one of four subdivisions of the original U.S. Diocese of Baltimore, and was raised to the rank of archdiocese in 1875. In 2001, the Archdiocese of Boston extended over five counties in Eastern Massachusetts, Suffolk, Essex, Middlesex, Norfolk, and Plymouth (with the towns of Mattapoisett, Marion, and Wareham excepted, in order to connect Cape Cod and the Islands with the mainland portion of the Fall River Diocese). Catholics numbered 2,038,032, 53 percent of the total population of 3,857,751. Suffragans of the Ecclesiastical Province of Boston, in addition to the Dioceses of Massachusetts, Fall River, Springfield, and Worcester, include the sees of Burlington, Vermont, Manchester, New Hampshire, and Portland, Maine.
1604 and 1605, while he was a colonist at Sainte Croix, Maine; a priest Nicholas Aubry was chaplain for the colony established in 1604. In this same period an Englishman named Waymouth also planted the cross in the region in preparation for the attempt under Lord Thomas Arundel to establish an English Catholic colony, a venture that proved unsuccessful. The French colonists were attacked by the English from Virginia in 1613, and all but a few left Sainte Croix for Cape Sable. On Nov. 3, 1620, the English crown granted a patent for a colony between 40 and 48 degrees North Latitude in the region to be called New England. Plymouth was settled in 1620, and Salem, and Boston in the following decade.
Colonial Anti-Catholicism. The only priests in the region at the time were beyond the Kennebec River. Although the Massachusetts Bay Colony had passed a law in 1647 to ban the presence of any priest in the colony, Gabriel Druillettes, SJ, was allowed to visit Boston in December 1650 to discuss trade proposals between Canada and the English colony. The antipriest law was reenacted in 1700, with a penalty of life imprisonment for offenders and death for a priest who might escape confinement. From 1685 the observance of Pope's Day (November 5) gave public expression to hatred of the Catholic Church. Recurring battles between the colonists and the combined French and Native American forces to the north culminated in the Norridgewok raid on Aug. 23, 1724, and the death, among others, of the Native Americans' chaplain, Sebastian rale, SJ. The victorious Boston captain brought the priest's scalp and those of 27 natives to Boston to claim the bounty of £100 from the Massachusetts Council. A peace treaty signed Aug. 6, 1726, assured the Native Americans religious freedom.
Meanwhile Massachusetts maintained a hostile attitude toward Catholicism, evidenced in the annual Dudleian Lectures at Harvard and the continued observance of Pope's Day. The latter custom was checked only during the Revolution by the action of General Washington, who ordered an end to its observance among his troops. On the eve of the Revolution, the Quebec Act, which in 1774 granted religious freedom in Canada, was resented in Boston, but hostility had to give way to the practical considerations of trying to win the cooperation of Canada. In addition, the aid given by France in the war and valiant military service of Catholics in the cause of liberty led to the granting of religious freedom in the Massachusetts constitution of June 15, 1780.
Beginning of Organized Church. French naval chaplains said Mass in Boston during the war years. The French officer Chevalier de St. Sauveur, killed in a riot in Boston, was buried in King's Chapel in September 1778, and before a parish was established Mass was offered by the occasional French visitors. The first native Bostonian to become a priest was John thayer, a convert in 1783 from Congregationalism and a Yale graduate, who was ordained in Paris, June 2, 1787. The first foundation of the Church in Boston was the work of a renegade French naval chaplain, Claude Florent Bouchard, who called himself Abbé de la Poterie. Born in 1751 at Craon and ordained for the Diocese of Angers in 1777, he served two terms as a naval chaplain before leaving the fleet when it sailed from Boston, Sept. 28, 1788. He offered the first public Mass in Boston, Nov. 2, 1788, in a church formerly used by Huguenots and Congregationalists. The relic of the true cross brought to Boston by the abbé is still preserved in the Cathedral of the Holy Cross. The superior of the Catholic Church in the U.S., John Carroll, extended faculties to Poterie until, after several months, the abbé's debts, troubles with the French consul, and damaging letters from French ecclesiastical authorities dictated that he be suspended. To replace the abbé, Carroll sent Father Louis de Rousselet, who found it difficult to work in harmony with Thayer. The latter's pastorate in Boston (1790–92) was troubled by controversies with Protestants as well as by disputes with Rousselet that led to open schism. The situation was settled by the departure of both under the direction of Carroll, now bishop, and the assignment to Boston of the French refugee priest, Francis Anthony matignon.
Arriving in Boston, Aug. 20, 1792, Matignon found only a few Catholics attending Mass because of the factional strife of the preceding years. He quickly healed the division, and Catholics in New England soon numbered 500. His appointment as Carroll's vicar-general for New England was followed by the arrival on Oct. 3, 1796, of his former student Jean Lefebvre de cheverus. Like Matignon, Cheverus had refused the oath supporting the civil constitution of the clergy in France and had escaped to England, where he received Matignon's invitation to Boston. There he aided the pastor in constructing Holy Cross Church according to plans drawn up by Charles Bulfinch. Cheverus was subjected to court trials over his right to perform marriages and to counsel people who were taxed to support local ministers. Despite these difficulties, when the new church was dedicated on Sept. 29, 1803, the Catholic flock in New England numbered 1,000. Indefatigable mission tours of the vast area invigorated religious life and attracted Protestants and Catholics alike. Father Cheverus was active in the process of conversions. He knew Dr. Stephen Cleveland Blyth of Salem who, after extensive study, was baptized in 1809, followed by Thomas Walley in 1814. The Barber family of Claremont, N.H., was responsible for scores of conversions, leading with their own turning to the faith and religious life, and the English consul in Boston requested Baptism on his deathbed. Elizabeth seton wrote to the Boston priests for guidance in her early years as a Catholic.
Establishment of the Diocese On April 8, 1808, Pope Pius VII erected a diocese for New England, which was to be a suffragan of Baltimore, and named Cheverus the first bishop of Boston.
Cheverus. The consecration of the new bishop was delayed for two years by the blockade of Papal States' ports. After authentic copies of the bulls reached Baltimore, he was solemnly consecrated there on Nov. 1,1810. He then conferred with his brother bishops, visited Mother Seton at Emmitsburg, and returned to Boston. The War of 1812 impaired the commerce of the city and hurt Cheverus's efforts to establish schools. Catholic groups helped build fortifications when the city was threatened by British troops. A legacy of Thayer, who died in Ireland, Feb. 17, 1815, provided for the foundation of an Ursuline school in the city. By 1820 the first nuns had arrived. Cheverus suffered a crushing loss in the death of Matignon on Sept. 19, 1818, a loss scarcely lightened by the tributes of the newspaper and the signs of public mourning.
Immigration brought Catholics to all parts of New England, where by 1820 political liberty for Catholics was fully realized. In 1823, although he had refused to accept nomination to the See of Montauban, Cheverus was commanded by the King of France to return. With great reluctance and over the protests of Catholics and Protestants in New England, he departed on Sept. 26, 1823. In 1826 he was named archbishop of Bordeaux and shortly before his death (July 19, 1836) was raised to membership in the College of Cardinals. Boston, numbering five priests and 4,000 Catholics, was administered by William Taylor, vicar-general, until a successor was named.
Fenwick. The second bishop of Boston, Benedict Joseph fenwick, was a native American of a Colonial Maryland family, who entered the Society of Jesus and was ordained June 11, 1808. Thereafter he served in New York for nine years, was twice president of Georgetown College, vicar-general for Georgia and the Carolinas, and pastor in Maryland. He was consecrated on Nov. 1, 1825, in Baltimore by Abp. Ambrose Maréchal and took possession of his diocese on December 4. He found that the number of priests had fallen to three, the number of Catholics had increased to 7,000, and that he had only eight churches in addition to the cathedral to serve them.
The bishop set about building more churches to meet the needs of immigrants attracted to New England by the development of manufacturing centers and the building of canals and railroads. In 1826 he moved the Ursuline school to Mount Benedict in Charlestown. He brought students into his own house to prepare them for the priesthood. Meanwhile, at Claremont, N.H., the convert Barber family led a flood of conversions. New churches sprang up to the south of Boston and in Vermont, with continued attention given to the Native Americans in Maine. Cheap rates of passage brought great numbers of Irish to New Brunswick and thence to New England. In 1833 Bishop Fenwick began his Catholic colony at Benedicta, Aroostook County, Maine, planning to have mills, homes, and schools. Two members of the new community of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary were obtained and aid for the growing diocese came from the Society for the propagation of the faith and the Austrian Leopoldine Society.
Fenwick's era counted many physicians as converts; as well as such ministers as George Haskins and William Hoyt; the artist David Claypoole Johnson; Ruth Charlotte Dana; and such members of the Brook Farm colony as Isaac Hecker and Mrs. George Ripley. Orestes Brownson was perhaps the most distinguished convert of the period. Unfortunately, however, the rapid growth in the number of Roman Catholics caused grave anxiety among native Bostonians, and led to sporadic episodes of violence. The revival of evangelical Protestantism after 1820 intensified attacks on the Church, both verbal and physical. Boston witnessed bloody street riots during the 1830s and 1840s, and the Ursuline Convent was burned to the ground on Aug. 11, 1834.
In 1843 Hartford was made a diocese, encompassing Connecticut and Rhode Island. Plagued by such troubles as trusteeism, nationalism, and bigotry (see nativism), Fenwick continued to expand his diocese. At his death in 1846 there were 39 priests, 48 churches, and 70,000 Catholics. He took special pride in the foundation of the Jesuit College of the Holy Cross at Worcester, Mass., June 21, 1843. To him goes the credit for the first clergy retreat in Boston and the first synod in 1842; regular catechism for the children of the diocese (four hours weekly); the establishment of homes for orphan boys and girls (the latter cared for by Sisters of Charity from 1832); the inauguration of a Catholic newspaper in 1829 (first called the Jesuit continued as the Pilot in 1836); approximately 2,000 conversions; and a significant role in the first five Provincial Councils of Baltimore. His death on Aug. 11, 1846, after an episcopate that was the turning point in the history of the Catholic Church in New England, was followed by a procession through the streets of Boston.
Fitzpatrick. Fenwick had consecrated his successor, Boston-born John Bernard Fitzpatrick, March 24, 1844, in the chapel of the Visitation nuns at Georgetown. During his two years as coadjutor of Boston, Fitzpatrick made visitations to Maine and Vermont and administered Confirmation in all parts of the diocese, where his charity made him a beloved figure, known to all as Bishop John. Gifted and urbane, he also won entry into the society of the Cabots and the Lodges. Five trips to Maine and two to Vermont led him to propose the separation of the northern states into two new dioceses in 1853, Burlington for Vermont, and Portland for the states of Maine and New Hampshire. This division gave eight churches to Burlington and 24 to Portland, leaving Boston with 63 churches. Fitzpatrick's schoolmate, Louis de Göesbriand, was named first bishop of Burlington, and until the choice of a bishop for Portland was settled in 1855, Fitzpatrick administered that diocese. He opposed as premature the proposal that Boston be raised to an archdiocese.
In 1854 he was the first Boston bishop to make the ad limina visit. In Rome he discussed with the Jesuit general and his council his hope of opening a college in Boston; and in Paris he obtained a renewal of aid from the Society for the Propagation of the Faith. With 57 priests in the diocese by 1854, the bishop named as the first chancellor and secretary, an African American priest, Father James Healy, who later became bishop of Portland. A clergy society was formed to aid sick and aged members of the clergy, and to parish life were added such new organizations as the Sodality, Propagation of the Faith, and the Association of the Holy Childhood. Generous contributions were made to relieve famine victims in Ireland, and the generosity of Yankee neighbors increased the total to $150,000. At home the needs of increasing numbers of immigrants were met. Hundreds of homeless children were sheltered in St. Vincent's Orphan Asylum and the House of the Angel Guardian. Through the generosity of Andrew Carney, the hospital that bears his name was opened (1863). Schools multiplied, and Boston College was established by the Jesuits in 1863. Bishop Fitzpatrick's prominence in the Boston community led to a number of significant conversions including George M. Searle, later Paulist general and director of the Vatican Observatory; Paul Revere's grandson; Nathaniel Hawthorne's daughter; and Longfellow's niece, Marion.
The remarkable influx of Irish-Catholic immigrants during the late 1840s and early 1850s as a result of the Great Famine produced a strong and angry reaction from native Bostonians, who resented the demands the newcomers placed on their social services and who feared the impact of their Catholic faith on their democratic institutions. During the mid-1850s, nativists formed the American Party—popularly known as the Know-Nothing Party—designed to preserve America from the "insidious wiles of foreigners." Hoping to put their political candidate in the White House in 1856, they planned to strengthen the national immigration laws, while keeping present immigrants in subservient positions. Nativists insisted that Catholic children read a Protestant version of the Bible in public schools, and refused to allow Catholic priests to minister to Catholics in public institutions. Bishop Fitzpatrick responded by avoiding public violence, and by regular appeals to the laws and to the courts, as well as a determined insistence on the constitutional rights of American Catholics.
During the Civil War, Boston Catholics fought proudly for the preservation of the Union. Three priests of the diocese served as military chaplains, and the patriotism of Boston Catholics, particularly in the 9th and 28th Regiments at Bull Run, Antietam, Gettysburg, and the Wilderness, scored a victory over bigotry in Massachusetts. In 1861 Harvard University conferred an honorary doctor of divinity degree on Fitzpatrick. Under his supervision plans were drawn by Patrick Keeley for a new cathedral; however, it could not be constructed until after the war. Fitzpatrick, an invalid during his last years, died Feb. 13, 1866, four days after the papal bulls arrived naming John J. williams his coadjutor with right of succession.
Williams. The fourth bishop of Boston and its first archbishop had served as pastor of St. James in Boston and vicar-general before his nomination as coadjutor cum iure Jan. 8, 1866. During the 40 years following his consecration (March 11, 1866, at St. James Church) churches and schools multiplied beyond any expectation. Diocesan synods were held in 1868, 1872, 1879, and 1886; the last was mistakenly numbered the fourth, when in fact it was the fifth synod in Boston. At Vatican Council I, Abp. Martin J. Spalding's proposal for a compromise solution of the debate on infallibility was endorsed by Williams. At his suggestion, the Diocese of Springfield was created June 14, 1870, embracing five counties of central and western Massachusetts and taking from Boston 52 churches, 40 priests, and 100,000 people. Two years later, when Rhode Island was separated from the Diocese of Hartford as the Diocese of Providence, Williams gave up four counties in southeastern Massachusetts and three towns in Plymouth County to assure sufficient population for the new diocese. Fifteen churches, as many priests, and 30,000 Catholics were affected by this transfer.
Establishment of the Archdiocese The rapid growth of the Church in New England was recognized on Feb. 12, 1875, when the New England states were constituted a province, with Boston as the archdiocesan see. Williams received the pallium from Cardinal John Mc-Closkey May 2, 1875. Following the dedication of the new Cathedral of the Holy Cross Dec. 8, 1875, the archbishop built St. John's Seminary, Brighton, blessing the first building on Sept. 18, 1884, and staffing it with Sulpicians headed by the Abbé John Baptist Hogan. A second building was opened in 1890, and the Romanesque chapel was completed in 1899. In response to the constant growth of his flock, which now included immigrants from Portugal (the Azores and Cape Verde Islands), Poland, Lithuania, Germany, Italy, and the Near East, Williams set up a matrimonial tribunal in 1893 and named a superintendent for archdiocesan schools in 1897. Through its branches of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, Boston by 1904 led the entire world in its contributions to the missions.
Carmelites were brought to Boston in 1890 and Franciscan Poor Clares, in 1899. The Little Sisters of the Poor established their apostolate, the Sisters of St. Joseph undertook teaching duties, and the Sisters of the Good Shepherd came with their protective mission. Hospitals were built in Cambridge (Holy Ghost), Lowell (St. John's), and Boston (St. Elizabeth's). When he was 82, Williams asked for a coadjutor with the right of succession. In 1906 Rome named Bp. William H. o'connell of Portland, Maine, who became second archbishop of Boston at Williams's death, Aug. 30, 1907.
O'Connell. Boston's fifth ordinary and second archbishop brought to his task not only experience as an ordinary in Portland, but Roman training and a worldwide comprehension of the Church. During his 37-year rule he undertook the reorganization of the archdiocese, an intensification of apostolic activities, and an adjustment of relations with the community. The centenary of the diocese was observed in 1908, the fifth synod was held Feb. 11, 1909, the duties of the chancellor were broadened, 32 new parishes were set up in four years, and annual retreats for the clergy ordered. The Pilot was purchased as a diocesan journal, Boston College moved from its original location in the South End to a new campus in suburban Newton, and the seminary was transferred from Sulpician to diocesan management. Several institutions were saved from bankruptcy. Father James Anthony walsh was released from the archdiocese to establish the maryknoll fathers, the American foreign mission society. Passionists and the Religious of the Cenacle came to Boston to direct retreats. On Nov. 27, 1911, O'Connell was created cardinal priest, with the title church of St. Clement; he took part in the election of Pius XII in 1939, having failed twice before to arrive in Rome in time to vote in the conclaves that ended in the elections of Benedict XV and Pius XI. During World War I he issued frequent messages on behalf of the war effort and gave over diocesan facilities in the influenza epidemic of 1918. The sixth synod, April 7, 1919, resulted in the naming of rural deans, synodal judges, and a diocesan building commission. Between 1907 and 1944, the number of churches grew from 248 to 375; parishes, from 194 to 322; priests, from 598 to 1,582; brothers, from 140 to 356; and sisters, from 1,567 to 5,469. Religious communities of men increased from 13 to 21; those of women, from 29 to 44. O'Connell remained well and active, without need of a coadjutor or more than one auxiliary bishop, until his death April 22, 1944.
Cushing. At O'Connell's death, his auxiliary, Richard James cushing, was named administrator and became archbishop of Boston Sept. 25, 1944. Born in Boston Aug. 24, 1896, he attended Boston College and St. John's Seminary, was ordained May 26, 1921, and consecrated bishop June 10, 1929. He was raised to the College of Cardinals Dec. 15, 1958, as cardinal priest, with the title church of Santa Susanna. Under his direction the number of colleges in the archdiocese doubled, from three to six: Boston (Newton), Cardinal Cushing (Brookline), Emmanuel (Boston), Merrimack (Andover), Regis (Weston), and Newton College of the Sacred Heart (Newton). Social works were inaugurated to meet the needs of the aged, the handicapped, and the homeless. The vast building program reached every corner of the archdiocese from seminary and chancery to hospitals, schools, catechetical centers, churches, convents, and rectories. An ecumenical committee was organized in 1963 to promote dialogue with Protestants and Jews. The Sacramental Apostolate of the Archdiocese offered lectures and information on liturgical topics. The Holy Name Society, the Sodality of Our Lady, and the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine expanded their influence to all parishes. The program of lending priests to other dioceses, which Cushing began soon after his installation, developed into the missionary society of st. james the apostle. Established, July 1958, the Society sent English-speaking diocesan priests from Boston and from elsewhere to Peru, Bolivia, and Ecuador. Cushing's apostolate included recitation twice daily of the Rosary by radio, televised Mass on Sunday, the first television channel allotted to a diocese in the U.S. (WIHS), local and long-distance pilgrimages, and personal visits to Protestant and Orthodox audiences. In 1952 the seventh synod was held. A year later the separation from Hartford left Boston a province with six suffragans. The Sons of Mary, a medical mission community of diocesan status, was founded by Edward Garesché, SJ, at Framingham in 1952. The first national seminary for late vocations, named for Pope John XXIII, with a capacity of 100 seminarians opened in Weston, Mass., in 1964.
Medeiros. In 1970, after a period of declining health, Cardinal Cushing resigned, and was succeeded by Humberto S. Medeiros, Bishop of Brownsville, Tex. Born in 1915 in the Portuguese Azores, Medeiros and his family moved to America in 1931 and settled in the town of Fall River, some 50 miles south of Boston. Ordained a priest in 1946, he pursued graduate theological studies, graduating with a doctorate in sacred theology from Gregorian University in 1949. Medeiros became the second bishop of Brownsville in 1966, before succeeding Cushing as Archbishop of Boston in 1970. In 1973, Pope Paul VI named him to the College of Cardinals. One of the first things that Medeiros addressed was the reduction of the archdiocesan debt of some $40 million, reducing it to a manageable level by 1977. Medeiros also reorganized the archdiocesan administrative bodies. He created three episcopal regions: the North Region, the South Region, and the Central, or Greater Boston Region. The number was later increased to four, with the addition of a West Region. Each region was under the supervision of a regional bishop who reported directly to the archbishop. To promote vocations and to stimulate greater lay involvement, Cardinal Medeiros restored and revitalized the office of the permanent diaconate. In May 1976, the first class of permanent deacons was ordained in the Cathedral of the Holy Cross. Medeiros also drew up new guidelines to reinvigorate the various campus ministries in the numerous colleges and universities in the Boston-Cambridge area. It was also Medeiros who brought the Catholic Church even closer to the laity by authorizing the appointment of eucharistic ministers in all parishes in the archdiocese. After trying in vain to come up with an equitable resolution to the bitter racial conflict over school desegregation and court-ordered busing that divided the city of Boston during the mid-1970s, Cardinal Medeiros died unexpectedly on Sept. 17, 1983.
Law. On Jan. 24, 1984, the Holy See announced that the Most Reverend Bernard F. Law, bishop of Spring-field-Cape Girardeau, would succeed Medeiros as the eighth bishop and the fourth archbishop of Boston. Born in Torreon, Mexico, Nov. 4, 1931, Law graduated from Harvard University in 1953, and pursued theological studies at The Pontifical College Josephinum at Columbus, Ohio, before his priestly ordination in May 1961. In 1973, Pope Paul VI appointed him bishop of the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau, Mo. In 1984, Law became archbishop of Boston, and a year later named to the College of Cardinals. As Archbishop of Boston, Law retained the system of four episcopal regions established by his predecessor, and also added a fifth episcopal region, Merrimack, incorporating parishes from the West, the South, and the Central region. He established a special committee to suggest ways to further modernize diocesan operations and reduce expenditures. On the basis of its recommendations, he created a cabinet system for the archdiocese, with a series of cabinet secretaries incorporating the work of some 87 agencies which had formerly operated as independent units. In place of a previous system of multiple archdiocesan collections throughout the year, Law established a single major fundraising event called the Cardinal's Appeal that provided the basis for an annual diocesan budget. Several firsts occurred under Law's episcopacy, including the appointment of a layman as chancellor of the archdiocese; a woman religious as judge on the archdiocesan marriage tribunal; and lawyers, business leaders, and physicians as cabinet secretaries. Law was a major influence in the publication in 1994 of the new Catechism of the Catholic Church, and he promoted a Catholic health-care network called Caritas Christi within the archdiocese. Law also took a keen interest in the affairs of the Church throughout Latin America, but especially in Cuba where, in January 1998, he led a group of pilgrims in support of the historic visit of Pope John Paul II to that country. In light of rapid demographic changes, Law was forced to close a number of old churches that were either in depopulated areas or had been serving older European national groups. At the same time, he created new parishes in suburban areas with younger families, as well as in urban districts where new Asian, Haitian, and Latin American residents had settled. The last years of Law's tenure were clouded by a major scandal over his handling of pedophiles in the priesthood.
Bibliography: r. h. lord et al., History of the Archdiocese of Boston … 1604 to 1943, 3 v. (New York 1944; Boston 1945). t.h. o'connor, Boston Catholics: A History of the Church and Its People (Boston 1998). w. h. o'connell, Recollections of Seventy Years (Boston 1934). a. m. melville, Jean Lefebvre de Cheverus, 1768–1836 (Milwaukee 1958). t. h. o'connor, Fitzpatrick's Boston, 1844–1866 (Boston, 1984). j. e. sexton and a. j. riley, History of St. John's Seminary, Brighton (Boston 1945). d. g. wayman, Cardinal O'Connell of Boston (New York 1955). j. m. o'toole, Militant and Triumphant: William Henry O'Connell and the Catholic Church in Boston, 1859–1944 (Notre Dame, 1992).
[t. f. casey/
t. h. o'connor]