Drumgoole, John Christopher

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Social worker, founder of the Mission of the Immaculate Virgin, Staten Island, N.Y.; b. Granard, County Longford, Ireland, Aug. 15, 1816; d. New York, N.Y., March 28, 1888. Coming to New York at the age of eight, he attended St. Patrick's Cathedral School, but was soon forced to leave to support his widowed mother. He worked as a shoemaker, a bookseller, and then as sexton at St. Mary's Church in New York City from 1844 until 1865. At the age of 49, Drumgoole entered Our Lady of Angels Seminary, Niagara, N.Y., and was ordained on May 22, 1869.

After parish work at St. Mary's, where he had been sexton, he became superintendent of St. Vincent's Home for Homeless Boys. By 1881 he had established the larger Mission of the Immaculate Virgin, first in Manhattan, and in the following year at Mt. Loretto, Staten Island, where he was able to care for 2,000 children. To finance his growing project, he founded St. Joseph's Union.

During the years of his activities, New York was filled with homeless children; as late as 1868 there were 40,000 uncared-for children in the city. Few laws existed to protect them and public money for their support was scarce. Many of them were Catholic children whose mothers had died in childbirth or as the result of epidemics. Many were sent by the authorities to homes where they were raised as Protestants. The homes and schools founded by Drumgoole to meet the situation were often imitated and brought him a world-wide reputation. He was influential also in the passage of a New York law that provided for homeless children to be placed in homes or in institutions of their own religion.

Bibliography: k. burton, Children's Shepherd: The Story of John Christopher Drumgoole (New York 1954).

[g. a. kelly]