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Russell, William Thomas


Fifth bishop of Charleston, S.C.; b. Baltimore, Md., Oct. 20, 1863; d. Charleston, March 18, 1927. He was the son of William T. and Rose (Patterson) Russell. After completing his high school and preparatory seminary studies at St. Charles College, Ellicott City, Md., he entered the North American College, Rome, in 1884. Poor health forced him to return home after he had completed his philosophy course, and he took his theology at St. Mary's Seminary, Baltimore. He was ordained June 21, 1889, and appointed pastor of St. Jerome's Church, Hyattsville, Md. When the army of unemployed being led in a march on Washington by Jacob S. Coxey settled in that area, Russell visited their camp at least twice a week to bring food and clothing to the destitute men. While pastor at Hyattsville, he also attended The Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C., and received the licentiate in theology.

In 1894 Russell was appointed assistant at the Baltimore cathedral and secretary to Cardinal James Gibbons. Fourteen years later he was made pastor of St. Patrick's Church, Washington, D.C., where he founded the League of the Good Shepherd; inaugurated the Pan-American Mass, which has continued to be offered annually on Thanksgiving day; and instituted the Field Mass said annually on the grounds near the Washington Monument. He also acted as the Washington representative of Cardinal Gibbons.

In 1911 Russell was made a domestic prelate, and subsequently his name was mentioned as a possible coadjutor to Abp. Patrick W. Riordan of San Francisco, Calif. Instead Russell was named bishop of Charleston on Dec. 7, 1916. Having been consecrated on March 15, 1917, by Cardinal Gibbons, he was installed on March 22. Upon the entry of the U.S. into World War I, the National Catholic War Council was formed to coordinate Catholic activities, and Russell was one of the four bishops named to the board. When the organization was continued after the war as the National Catholic Welfare Council (later Conference), he served as a member of the executive board and as episcopal chairman of the committee on publicity, press, and literature.

During Russell's episcopate, many new parishes were opened, the number of priests increased, and the Holy Ghost Fathers and the Oblate Sisters of Providence were introduced. He built a modern fireproof building for St. Francis Infirmary. Many of his sermons appeared in pamphlet form, and he published Maryland, the Land of Sanctuary in 1908. He also wrote for the old Catholic Encyclopedia. He was honored by St. Mary's Seminary, Baltimore, with a D.D. degree and by Mt. St. Mary's Seminary, Emmitsburg, Md., with an LL.D.

[r. c. madden]

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