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McElroy, John


Chaplain, founder of Boston College; b. Enniskillen, County Fermanagh, Ireland, May 14, 1782; d. Frederick, MD, Sept. 12, 1877. After arriving in the United States on Aug. 25, 1803, McElroy worked as a clerk in the port of Georgetown, D.C. He entered the Society of Jesus as a lay brother on Oct. 10, 1806. At the urging of his superior he studied for the priesthood and was ordained on May 31, 1817. He was an instructor at Georgetown until 1822, when he was transferred to St. John's Church at Frederick, Maryland, where he served for over 23 years. In 1937 he built the new church of St. John there and constructed a boys' school, St. John's Institute (1829), an orphanage (1827), a convent (1825), a girls' free school, and a novitiate for the Society of Jesus. McElroy, responsible for ten parishes in the perimeter of Frederick, was the pioneer of parish missions. A noted preacher, he made many converts and conducted annual retreats of diocesan clergy. He was the personal friend of many bishops and in 1840 served as theologian to Bp. John B. Purcell of Cincinnati, Ohio, during the Fourth Provincial Council of Baltimore.

In 1846 McElroy was chosen, along with Rev. Anthony Rey, SJ, as chaplain to General Zachary Taylor's army at Matamoros, Mexico. He served for 11 months but felt that his mission as chaplain was a failure because the enterprise had been conceived as a political entity. General Taylor, however, had only the highest praise for the two Jesuits who had started a grammar school for the drummer boys and the children of local merchants. In October of 1847, McElroy was appointed pastor of St. Mary's Church in Boston's north end. With the rapid growth of Boston's Catholic population, he saw the need for a school of higher learning and secured property on Harrison Avenue. Boston College, Massachusetts, opened in 1863 and a collegiate church dedicated to the Immaculate Conception was erected. McElroy served as pastor from 1861 to 1863, but he spent his last years in the novitiate at Frederick.

Bibliography: Archives, Georgetown University.

[l. b. kines]

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