McCloskey, William George
MCCLOSKEY, WILLIAM GEORGE
Fifth bishop of louisville, Kentucky, and first rector of the north american college, Rome; b. Brooklyn, New York, Nov. 10, 1823; d. Louisville, Ky., Sept. 17, 1909. He was the fifth son of George and Ellen (Kenny) McCloskey; two of his brothers, John and George, also became priests. He was educated at Mt. St. Mary's College and Seminary, Emmitsburg, Maryland. After ordination on Oct. 6, 1852, he spent a year in parish work in New York and four years teaching at his alma mater; in 1859 he was appointed first rector of the newly established North American College at Rome. Although the nine years of his rectorate were successful in the academic and spiritual spheres, the financial administration of the college was rendered difficult by the circumstances of the American Civil War.
On March 3, 1868, McCloskey was named bishop of Louisville, and he was consecrated in the college chapel May 24, 1868. He assumed his episcopal duties on Oct. 11, 1868, and for more than 41 years directed the growth of the mother diocese of the Middle West. During that time the Catholic population of the diocese, comprising 23,000 square miles of central and western Kentucky, increased from 80,000 to more than 155,000; the number of priests grew from 84 to 201; almost 100 new churches were built; and religious and charitable institutions were greatly expanded.
McCloskey's independent and authoritarian disposition led to several unfortunate conflicts with some of his priests over canonical details of their pastorates, as well as to periods of friction with religious institutes. Despite this, he held no rancor toward his contestants and was a zealous shepherd, making frequent visitations of his diocese, directing collections for various appeals even from outside his diocese, and exhibiting a constant personal concern for the poor and for the needs of his priests, especially the aged and infirm.
McCloskey observed his twenty-fifth episcopal anniversary on May 23, 1893, and his sacerdotal golden jubilee in October 1902; he lived to become the dean and nestor of the American hierarchy. He was buried in the cemetery of the Sisters of Charity at Nazareth, Kentucky.
Bibliography: Archives, Archdiocese of Louisville, Kentucky. r. f. mcnamara, The American College in Rome: 1855–1955 (Rochester 1956). j. b. code, Dictionary of the American Hierarchy, 1789–1964 (2d ed. New York 1964).
[c. c. boldrick]