Carr, Thomas Matthew

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Founder of the Augustinian Order in the U.S.; b. Dublin, Ireland, 1755; d. Philadelphia, Pa., Sept. 29, 1820. As the son of Michael and Mary (McDaniel) Carr, he was baptized Matthew. He was professed in the Augustinian Order in Dublin, Nov. 6, 1772, taking the name Thomas. He attended the order's house of studies in Toulouse, France, and was ordained there on June 13, 1778. After holding several offices in Dublin, including that of prior (1795), he answered Abp. John Carroll's plea for priests in America. He arrived in Philadelphia early in 1796, and spent the rest of his life in two main endeavors: mission work in the Philadelphia area and founding an American province of the Augustinians.

Upon his arrival Carr set about establishing the parish of St. Augustine. A tract of land was bought and construction began in September 1776. Despite financial help obtained from a state-approved lottery and from such prominent Philadelphia residents as George Washington, various difficulties delayed the dedication of St. Augustine until June 1801. In the meantime Abp. Carroll made Carr vicar-general for all of Pennsylvania east of the Susquehanna River (1799). In this capacity he healed the trustee schism at Holy Trinity Church in Philadelphia. On Aug. 27, 1796, his superior general in Rome appointed him prior of the Philadelphia community and superior of the American Augustinian missions, with the title of vicar-general. He was empowered to found new houses and to establish a novitiate. Legal recognition was obtained in 1804 when Gov. Thomas McKean of Pennsylvania signed the act of incorporation of the Brothers of the Order of Hermits of St. Augustine. Carr then spent some time in retirement at Conewago, Pa., and St. Mary's Seminary, Baltimore, Md., but he returned to St. Augustine and, in 1811, opened St. Augustine Academy, a secondary school of classical and religious studies. In 1812 he published a devotional book, The Spiritual Mirror. Before his death Carr willed all properties held in his name to the Order of St. Augustine, thus guaranteeing the order's permanency in the U.S.

[a. j. ennis]