Curley, Michael Joseph

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Archbishop, educator; b. Athlone, County West-meath, Ireland, Oct. 12, 1879; d. Baltimore, Maryland, May 16, 1947. Michael, first of ten children born to Michael and Maria (Ward) Curley, attended the Marist brothers' school before enrolling in the seminary division of Mungret College, Limerick, at the age of 16. After U.S. Bp. John Moore, of St. Augustine, Florida, visited Mungret, Curley chose Florida as his future mission field. He received his B.A. from the Royal University of Dublin at age 20, then entered Propaganda College at Rome where he earned the S.T.L. degree. Nervous strain forced him to discontinue his studies for some months, but he was at length ordained at the Church of St. John Lateran, Rome, on March 19, 1904.

Curley arrived in Florida in November of 1904, and after some months was named the first resident pastor of the city of De Land with a parish embracing 7,200 square miles. While there, Curley became a U.S. citizen. He built for the parish a rectory and several mission churches, as well as renovating the main church.

Curley's preaching talents influenced Theodore Basselin to endow a seminarians' foundation at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., for specialized training in sacred eloquence. At Bp. William John Kenny's death, Curley, at 34, was appointed ordinary of st. augustine; he was consecrated on June 30, 1914. During the next seven years, nearly 40 churches were built in the diocese as the Catholic population increased from 39,000 to 51,000.

When a convent-inspection bill was proposed in the state legislature, Curley announced that all convents in the diocese were open to all visitors. The bill failed to pass, but another was enacted forbidding white women to teach black children. The bishop refused to enforce the law and invited the authorities to arrest the offending nuns. He led the fight contesting the law and rejoiced to see it declared unconstitutional.

Five months after Cardinal James Gibbons of balti more, Maryland, died, Michael Curley was named his successor and installed in Baltimore's Basilica of the Assumption on Nov. 30, 1921the youngest archbishop in the U.S. As a supporter of Catholic education, he insisted that if the choice lay between a new church and a needed school, the latter was to take precedence. During his episcopate in Baltimore, 66 new schools were established and an estimated $25 to $30 million expended on educational growth. He sponsored the new St. Mary's Seminary in Baltimore, and helped to complete St. Charles College in Catonsville, Maryland. He also gave active attention to his role as chancellor of Catholic University.

During Curley's episcopate the Bureau of Catholic Charities was incorporated and various fund-raising devices employed, including the formation of the Confraternity of the Laity. He was an outspoken critic of the anti-Catholic forces in Mexico and Spain during the 1920s and 1930s. To build a militant laity, he promoted the lay retreat movement and endorsed numerous rallies of Catholic organizations. On July 22, 1939, he became the first archbishop of washington, D.C., remaining as archbishop of Baltimore and governing with a single curia. He was installed on March 25, 1940, in St. Matthew's Cathedral. His later years were burdened with a growing blindness and failing health. He died of a stroke and was buried in the Basilica of the Assumption.

Bibliography: v. de p. fitzpatrick, Life of Archbishop Curley (Baltimore 1929).

[j. j. gallagher]