Conaty, Thomas James

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Educator and bishop; b. Kilmallough, Cavan, Ireland, Aug. 1, 1847; d. Coronado, Calif., Sept. 18, 1915. He was the eldest of eight children of Patrick and Alice (Lynch) Conaty, who settled (1850) with their family in Taunton, Massachusetts. In 1867, after studies in the local public school and the minor seminary of Montreal, Canada, he entered Holy Cross College, Worcester, Massachusetts, graduating in 1869. He completed his studies in Montreal and was ordained for the Springfield diocese on Dec. 21, 1872. In Worcester, after assisting at St. John's, he became (1880) the first pastor of the Church of the Sacred Heart. He was a member of the board of the Worcester Free Public Library for 12 years and of the school board for 14 years. Besides actively participating in the Irish National Movement, he was president both of the diocesan temperance society (1877) and of the Catholic Total Abstinence Union of America (188789). His work as a founder and president of the Catholic Summer School of America attracted the attention of the hierarchy. In 1896, as an acceptable compromise candidate to replace the dismissed Bp. John J. keane, Conaty was appointed second rector of the catholic university of america, Washington, D.C. He was made a domestic prelate June 2, 1897, and consecrated titular bishop of Samos Nov. 24, 1901.

As rector, amid many controversies, Conaty coordinated the departments of the newly established schools. Into the university complex, he welcomed four major religious institutions and ably assisted the founding of the neighboring Trinity College. The national catholic educational association owes its origin (1904) to the unification of three groups formed by Conaty: the Educational Conference of Seminary Faculties (1898), the Association of Catholic Colleges (1899), and the Parish School Conference (1902). Under his leadership, Catholic University became a charter member of the Association of American Universities (1900).

At the end of his first term as rector Conaty was appointed sixth bishop of Monterey-Los Angeles on March 27, 1903 (see los angeles, archdiocese of). Conaty kept the Church abreast of the Los Angeles population growth between 1903 and 1915. Catholics increased from 65,000 to 178,000, priests from 118 to 271, churches and missions from 130 to 266, and educational institutions from 34 caring for 4,500 to 73 serving 10,545. He was active also in preserving the old missions and other historic Catholic landmarks of California.

Bibliography: p. e. hogan, The Catholic University of America, 18961903: The Rectorship of Thomas J. Conaty (Washington 1949).

[p. e. hogan]