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O'Brien, William Vincent


Dominican priest; b. Dublin, Ireland, c. 1740; d. New York City, May 14, 1816. He became a Dominican at S. Clemente, Rome, apparently making his profession there in 1761. He completed at least part of his ecclesiastical training at the Dominican house of studies in Bologna, Italy, where he was ordained. For 17 years he preached in the Dublin area and he became preacher general of the Dominican Order. In 1787 he went to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. While working there and in New Jersey, he supported the prefect apostolic, John carroll, against those who opposed the creation of a bishopric at Baltimore, Maryland. In October 1787 Carroll appointed him pastor of St. Peter's Church, Barclay Street, New York City. He organized and brought peace to that divided parish, and for 20 years he helped to keep order among Catholics in New York State. Under the auspices of Abp. Alfonso Núñez de Haro, O'Brien went to Mexico City, Mexico, about 1790, to raise funds for his church. He returned in 1792 with vestments, paintings, and money enough to install pews and erect a tower and portico. In 1800 he opened at St. Peter's the earliest free school and Catholic educational institution in New York State. During the yellow-fever epidemics of 1795 and 1798, O'Brien ministered to his people. Chronic illness forced his retirement in 1806, but he continued a limited ministry until the end of 1808.

Bibliography: v. f. o'daniel, The Dominican Province of St. Joseph (New York 1942).

[w. a. hinnebusch]

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