Egan, Michael

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First bishop of Philadelphia, Pa.; b. Limerick, Ireland, 1761; d. Philadelphia, July 22, 1814. When he was 18, he entered the Franciscan Order of the Strict Observance at St. Anthony's College, Louvain, Belgium, and received minor orders and the diaconate at Malines, Belgium. He then went to Immaculate Conception College in Prague, where he was ordained and was awarded the lectorate in theology. A petition of Oct. 23, 1786, indicates that a Pater Michael Egan, one of seven Irish clerics, asked the Belgian government for clothing and funds to make this trip when they were obliged to leave Louvain because the Franciscan College there was closed.

From May 24, 1787, to May 18, 1790, Egan was guardian of St. Isidore's College, Rome. He then became guardian of the following Franciscan friaries in Ireland: Ennis, 1790 and 1794; Roscrea, 1793; and Castelyons, 1796. He immigrated to the U.S., and joined Rev. Louis de Barth at St. Mary's Church, Lancaster, Pa., in January 1802. He then went to Philadelphia, where his brother lived, and on April 12, 1803, the trustees of St. Mary's Church elected him one of their pastors. He was unsuccessful in his efforts to carry out an apostolic rescript, received Sept. 29, 1804, to found a province of the Franciscan Order in the U.S. He became a naturalized citizen of the U.S. in Philadelphia on Sept. 18, 1807.

In 1806 Bp. John carroll recommended Egan as ordinary for the new diocese he wished established at Philadelphia. According to Carroll, Egan appeared to be "endowed with all the qualities to discharge with perfection all the functions of the episcopacy, except that he lacks robust health, greater experience and a greater degree of firmness in his disposition. He is a learned, modest, humble priest who maintains the spirit of his Order in his whole conduct." When Pius VII established the Diocese of philadelphia in 1808, Egan was named its first bishop. Delayed because of the Napoleonic wars in Europe, the papal bulls did not arrive until 1810; Egan was consecrated by Archbishop Carroll in Baltimore, Md., on Oct. 28, 1810.

Egan's administration of Philadelphia was marred from the beginning by the trustee problem at St. Mary's, where Rev. William harold, OP, and his uncle, Rev. James Harold, openly led the trustees against their bishop. Despite poor health, Egan firmly opposed them; schism was averted when the Harolds returned to Ireland in 1813. Egan died in 1814 and was buried in St. Mary's churchyard. His remains were later transferred to the crypt of the Cathedral of SS. Peter and Paul, Philadelphia.

Bibliography: m. i. j. griffin, History of Rt. Rev. Michael Egan, First Bishop of Philadelphia (Philadelphia 1893).

[j. f. connelly]