Help support New Advent and get the full contents of this website as an instant download. Includes the Catholic Encyclopedia, Church Fathers, Summa, Bible and more all for only $19.99...
A diocese established in 1808; made an archdiocese, 12 Feb., 1875, comprises all the city and county of Philadelphia, and the counties of Berks, Bucks, Carbon, Chester, Delaware, Lehigh, Montgomery, Northampton, and Schuylkill, an area of 5043 square miles, in the southeastern portion of the State of Pennsylvania. The population of this area, according to the United States Census, in 1910, was 2,712,708, of which number 1,549,008 belonged to the City of Philadelphia. This city, the capital of the archdiocese, was, until 1800, the capital of the United States. It is the third city in the United States in population; its wealth invested in manufacturing industries exceeds $500,000,000, and it is the leading American city in shipbuilding, the manufacture of locomotive engines, street-railway cars, carpets, leather, oilcloth, and several other important commodities. In 1909 the foreign commerce of Philadelphia amounted to $150,504,095.
Penn's colony, founded in 1682, as a "holy experiment", by which each man could without molestation worship God according to the dictates of his own conscience (see PENNSYLVANIA), soon became a welcome haven of refuge to the persecuted Catholics of the neighbouring colonies. Since the missionary priests, mainly Jesuits, watched over the movements of the members of their scattered flocks, it is not surprising that in their frequent journeyings between New York and Maryland they should find opportunity to gather the faithful in the house of a Catholic for the celebration of the sacred mysteries and preaching the Word of God. There was a steady growth in the number of Catholics throughout the colony, including some distinguished converts. Repeated complaints were made to London, that the "Popish Mass" was read publicly at Philadelphia; but Penn's "Fundamental" shielded the Catholics in his province from molestation. The first resident priest in Philadelphia was Father Joseph Greaton, S.J., who began his labours among the missions of Maryland and Pennsylvania in 1720. His first concern was to build a chapel and rectory. With this object he bought the ground where the first public chapel was erected in Philadelphia, and where still stands old St. Joseph's church, near Fourth and Walnut Streets. In 1741 Father Greaton received an assistant in the person of Rev. Henry Neale, S.J. Welcome financial aid came to the Pennsylvania missions through the bounty of Sir John James, of London, who made a bequest in their favour. The German immigrants were looked after by two missionaries from the Fatherland, Rev. Theodore Schneider of Heidelberg, who resided in Berks Co., at Goshenhoppen, and Father Wappeler of Westphalia, who attended the Catholics of Conewago and Lancaster. Father Neale died 5 May, 1748; and the aged Greaton retired to Maryland, where he ended his saintly career, 19 Aug., 1753.
The second pastor of Philadelphia was Father Robert Harding, born in Nottinghamshire, England, 6 Oct., 1701, who, having entered the Society of Jesus, came to America in 1732. He assumed charge of Philadelphia in 1749 and laboured with intelligence and success for twenty-three years. During the excitement of the French and Indian War charges of disloyalty were brought against the Catholics, but passed away without causing suffering. Father Harding estimated the Catholics of Philadelphia as about 2000. Another deserving labourer in the vineyard was the German Jesuit, Father Steinmeyer, known in the colony as Ferdinand Farmer. He laboured first at Lancaster among the Germans, afterwards as assistant to Father Harding. He is described as a philosopher and astronomer, and in 1779 was a trustee of the University of Pennsylvania. Father Harding purchased land for a new church and cemetery. The church was opened in 1763 as St. Mary's; it became the parish church, St. Joseph's remaining a chapel. Father Harding died 1 Sept., 1772, and was interred at St. Mary's. He was succeeded by the Rev. Robert Molyneux, who, together with Father Farmer, skilfully guided the infant Church during the stormy days of the Revolution. Like the majority of their flock, they remained neutral, till the coming of the French allies called for repeated services on occasions of joy or sorrow; the addresses, however, were mostly delivered by the chaplain to the French ambassador.
At the end of the war Father Molyneux opened the first Catholic parish school. In Oct., 1785, the sacrament of Confirmation was administered for the first time in Philadelphia by the Very Rev. John Carroll, prefect Apostolic. On 17 Aug. of the following year Father Farmer passed to his reward. His funeral was attended by the American Philosophical Society, the professors and trustees of the University of Pennsylvania, and by large numbers of non-Catholics. No one had done so much to make the Catholic religion respected by the residents of New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Father Molyneux soon after retired from active service and was succeeded by the Rev. Francis Beeston, who built the presbytery of St. Joseph's which is still occupied by the clergy. In 1788 a number of German Catholics agitated for a new distinctively German church: Dr. Carroll reluctantly consented, warning them against a feeling of separatism and admonishing them that they could not be permitted to name their own pastors. In 1795 the German church was ready for occupancy and was named Holy Trinity, being, it is said, the last building for public purposes erected in Philadelphia of alternate red and black glazed brick. This church gave great trouble to Bishop Carroll, on account of the pretensions of the trustees, and had to be placed under interdict. The three churches now built, St. Joseph's, St. Mary's, and Holy Trinity, were all in the southern part of the city. Provision had to be made for the Catholics living in what was then the extreme northern section. Opportunely, the Augustinians were seeking to found a house in the United States and to them the new congregation was entrusted. In 1796 the Rev. Matthew Carr, O.S.A., issued an appeal to the inhabitants of Philadelphia and received a generous response. President Washington figures in the list of subscribers, for $50, Commodore Barry, for $150, and Stephen Girard, for $40. After many vicissitudes, "the largest church in Philadelphia" was dedicated under the invocation of St. Augustine, 7 June, 1801. When Father Carr removed to his new residence near St. Augustine's, the trustees of St. Mary's petitioned the bishop to send them a pastor capable of sustaining the dignity of "the leading church in the United States". The bishop found them the priest they were looking for in the person of the Rev. Michael Egan, a Franciscan stationed at Lancaster. He had come to America in order to establish in this country a house of his order, but found the time premature and became a missionary priest under the jurisdiction of Bishop Carroll. He was ably assisted at St. Mary's by Father Rossiter.
The time having arrived when Philadelphia should be erected into an episcopal see, Pius VII, by Bulls dated 8 April, 1808, designated the diocese as including "the entire two States of Pennsylvania and Delaware, and the western and southern part of the State of New Jersey". An accompanying Brief appointed Father Michael Egan to be the first occupant of the see. Owing to the existing political conditions in Europe, the Briefs did not reach Baltimore until 1810, and during the interval Father Egan remained in Philadelphia as vicar-general to Bishop Carroll. On 10 Nov., 1808, there arrived in Philadelphia the Dominican Father William Vincent Harold, who came from Ireland recommended by the Archbishop of Dublin and other dignitaries. Bishop Egan accepted him with eagerness, and the eloquent preacher soon became a great favourite. Bishop Egan having been consecrated at Baltimore, 28 Oct., 1810, made Father Harold his vicar-general and took up his residence at St. Joseph's with him and an uncle of his, the Rev. James Harold, who had arrived from Ireland in March, 1811. Relations between the bishop and the Harolds became strained for domestic reasons not well explained. Trouble arose between the clergy and the trustees, and the Harolds returned to Europe. After a troubled administration of three years and nine months Bishop Egan died at the age of fifty-three. The trustees of St. Mary's had acquired for themselves such a reputation for insubordination, that it was no easy matter to find any one willing to take up the burden of the episcopate. Fathers Ambrose Maréchal, DeBarth and David declined to accept.
Finally, after an interval of five years, the Holy See selected the vicar-general of Armagh, Ireland, the Very Rev. Henry Conwell, seventy-two years old. He was consecrated in London by Bishop Poynter, 24 Sept., 1820, and arrived in Philadelphia on 25 Nov., of that year. A very disagreeable duty was awaiting him in the case of the Rev. William Hogan, a priest of Albany whom the administrator had imprudently admitted to the diocese without sufficient inquiry or credentials. Bishop England states that he was "deficient in the most common branches of an English education". But he was a man of fine personal presence, affluent talker, a born demagogue, and able to preach in topics which tickled the ears of men whose religion was a matter of fashion. A clear and impartial narrative of the Hogan Schism is found in Father Kirlin's excellent work, "Catholicity in Philadelphia". (See also HENRY CONWELL.) It remains a question whether the Hogan schism, which engrossed the interest of Catholics throughout the entire nation, did not do more good than harm. It focussed the attention of Catholics and non-Catholics on the important question of episcopal rights. While some lukewarm Catholics fell away from the Church, the body of the faithful rallied to their pastors with ardour and increased intelligence. The question of lay interference in the administration of the affairs of the Church was settled for all time in Philadelphia. The repudiation by the Holy See and by the hierarchy of the United States of the compromise of 9 Oct., 1826, in which Bishop Conwell surrendered to the already beaten trustees several episcopal rights, ended forever in these States the tyranny of trusteeism.
On 7 July, 1830, there arrived in the city of Philadelphia a man who was to shed lustre on the diocese and on the United States, Francis Patrick Kenrick. Having been appointed coadjutor of the diocese, he found a valuable lieutenant in the person of the Rev. John Hughes, a man five or six months his junior, who remained Bishop Kenrick's right hand and secretary until his own elevation to the See of New York. After fruitless admonitions to the trustees of St. Mary's, the administrator, on 16 April, 1831, closed the church and cemeteries of St. Mary's. On 18 May the trustees surrendered, and on 28 May the church was reopened. In 1832 Bishop Kenrick opened what eventually became the diocesan seminary of St. Charles Borromeo, the beneficent results of which were soon apparent. During the first two years of this administration the number of churches was doubled, the first addition being the church of St. John the Evangelist built by Father John Hughes and dedicated 8 April, 1832, which was soon followed by that of St. John Baptist, Manayunk, with the Rev. Thomas Gegan as first pastor. On 8 April, 1833, was laid the cornerstone of St. Michael's church at Kensington, organized by the Rev. Terence J. Donoghue.
When the awful cholera scourge visited Philadelphia in 1832, the intrepidity of the priests and sisters presented an example of heroic Christian charity which was long remembered. On 14 May, 1837, death called away one of the most valiant priests of the city, Father Michael Hurley, O.S.A., who almost from the beginning of the century had given great edification by his zeal and saintly life. Later in the same year the Rev. John Hughes was elevated to the episcopal See of New York. About the same time St. John's became the cathedral. In 1839 the parish of St. Francis Xavier was founded for the Fairmount district, and St. Patrick's church was organized for the Schuylkill suburb. The following year saw the founding of St. Philip's in the extreme south. Its first pastor was the Rev. John P. Dunn. In 1842 the Germans of Kensington were provided for by the building of St. Peter's and the installation of the Redemptorist Fathers. In 1843 the church of St. Paul was opened in Moyamensing by the Rev. Patrick F. Sheridan. To the north, the church of St. Stephen was built near the spot in Nicetown where the first Masses were celebrated by itinerant missionaries. On 15 Nov., 1846, St. Anne's church at Port Richmond was dedicated by Father Gartland of St. John's, Bishop Hughes of New York preaching the sermon. During the year 1845, St. Joachim's was founded at Frankford by the Rev. Dominic Forrestal. On the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, 29 June, 1846, the bishop issued a pastoral letter announcing his determination to build a cathedral. He chose for the site a plot of ground adjoining the seminary at Eighteenth and Race Streets. The architect was Napoleon Lebrun. It was the bishop's intention to avoid running into debt, so the cathedral was long in building. In 1848 he founded the church of the Assumption, with the convert, Charles I. H. Carter, for pastor. The ancient suburb of Germantown contained very few Catholics, but the Lazarist Fathers, who conducted the seminary, were willing to assume the risk of building a church in that section, and the church of St. Vincent de Paul was opened for worship on 13 July, 1851, the first pastor being the Rev. M. Domenec, afterwards Bishop of Pittsburg. In 1849 a church was built at Holmesburg and named St. Dominic, the Rev. Charles Dominic Berrill, O.P., being appointed pastor. In 1850 the parish of St. James, in West Philadelphia, was founded by the Rev. J. V. O'Keefe, who took a census and discovered forty Catholic adults in the district. The last evidence in Philadelphia of Bishop Kenrick's activity was the church of St. Malachy, the cornerstone of which he blessed 25 May, 1851. Before its completion he was transferred to the metropolitan See of Baltimore. The western portion of Pennsylvania was formed into the Diocese of Pittsburg, 8 Aug., 1843, with the Rt. Rev. M. O'Connor, D.D., for its first bishop. (For the burning of Catholic churches in the Philadelphia riots of 1844, see KNOWNOTHINGISM.)
The fourth Bishop of Philadelphia, John Nepomucene Neumann, was consecrated 28 March, 1852. (See JOHN NEPOMUCENE NEUMANN.) Ten churches sprang up during the first year of his episcopate. The constant topic of his exhortations was the necessity of parish schools. Failing to bring the contumacious trustees of Holy Trinity to their senses, he undermined their influence by putting up the church of St. Alphonsus. On 19 Oct., 1854, he left for Rome to assist at the proclamation of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, and he returned in March, 1855. On 26 April, 1857, the Rt. Rev. James Frederick Wood was consecrated in the cathedral of Cincinnati as coadjutor to the Bishop of Philadelphia. Bishop Wood was acknowledged by the financial world as thoroughly acquainted with every phase of the banking business, which had been the occupation of his earlier years. At a meeting of the clergy, Bishop Neumann announced that the work of completing the cathedral had been committed to his coadjutor. In October, 1857, he held his last synod: there were 114 priests present, and 32 had been excused from attendance.
James Frederick Wood, the fifth bishop of the diocese, was born at Philadelphia 27 April, 1813. His father, James Wood, was an English merchant and had his child baptized by a minister of the Unitarian sect. In 1827 James Wood and his family removed to Cincinnati, where the boy obtained a position as clerk in a bank. Eleven years later (7 April, 1838), in his twenty-fifth year, the future bishop was received into the Catholic Church by Bishop Purcell, and next year he was sent to Rome to prosecute his studies at the College of the Propaganda, where he was ordained to the priesthood by Cardinal Fransoni, 25 March, 1844. After a short term as assistant at the cathedral of Cincinnati, he was appointed pastor of St. Patrick's church. Though the main object of his appointment to Philadelphia was to relieve Bishop Neumann of the temporal cares of the diocese, yet he by no means confined his efforts to that sphere. He was zealous in preaching the Word of God and gave confirmation in all the churches. On the death of Bishop (Venerable John Nepomucene) Neumann, which took place on 5 January, 1860, the Catholic population of the diocese, which still included Delaware, was estimated at 200,000 souls. There were 157 churches (besides in course of erection) and 7 chapels, attended by 147 priests. The preparatory seminary at Glen Riddle, under the Rev. J. F. Shanahan, and the theological seminary adjoining the cathedral, under the Rev. Wm. O'Hara, D.D., were in a flourishing condition. There were 36 parish schools, attended by 8710 pupils. The diocese was well supplied with colleges, academies, asylums, hospitals, and religious orders of both sexes. In the first year of his administration Bishop Wood established, at the two extreme ends of the city the parishes of the Annunciation and All Saints, Bridesburg.
The bishop had the erection of the cathedral well in hand, when the outbreak of the Civil War came to retard its completion. Nothing daunted, however, he continued his efforts and on 20 Nov., 1864, had the happiness to sing the first Mass in the immense edifice. Scarcely had he finished the cathedral, when he purchased a large tract of land just outside the city limits, as the site of a new seminary. The pastoral letter in which he announced the purchase at Overbrook is dated 8 Dec., 1865; on 16 Sept., 1871, the beautiful building was filled with 128 students from the two old seminaries. During his visit to Rome, in 1867, he petitioned the Holy See for the creation of the Dioceses of Scranton and Harrisburg, and his wish was granted 3 March, 1868. He was prominent at the Second Plenary Council of Baltimore, and, indeed, at every assembly of the hierarchy his counsels were reverently listened to. He attended the Council of the Vatican, but being in poor health left Rome early in March. He took a great interest in the newly established North American College, wisely insisted that the funds of the college should be kept in America, and was unanimously appointed treasurer of the board.
On 15 Oct., 1873, with all possible pomp, Bishop Wood consecrated the diocese to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. In 1875 he was prostrated by rheumatism; a journey to the South gave him slight relief; and when the instruments arrived creating him archbishop and making Philadelphia a metropolitan see, it was with evident pain he went through the long ceremony of the conferring of the pallium. He had wonderful recuperative powers, however, and in 1877 went to Rome with $30,000 Peter's pence to assist at the celebration of the golden jubilee of Pius IX's episcopate. Recovering from another bad attack in Rome, he returned home. On 23 May, 1880, he presided over the First Provincial Council of Philadelphia. After this he was for the most part confined to his room, where, however, he continued to transact business with his usual energy. His end came on 20 June, 1883. The entire City of Philadelphia turned out to show its affection for one whom it regarded as its most distinguished citizen. Archbishop Wood is buried with the other bishops of the diocese in the crypt beneath the cathedral. He had administered the Sacrament of Confirmation to 105,000 persons. In 1868, in the curtailed diocese, there were 76 churches and 21 chapels; at his death there were 127 churches and 53 chapels. He found, in 1858, 33 parish schools in this section; he left 58.
The choice of a successor to Archbishop Wood demanded thought on the part of the Roman authorities, and they took a year to come to a decision. At first they seemed to consider favourably the venerable Bishop O'Hara of Scranton, who, as rector of the seminary and vicar-general of the diocese had done valuable service in Philadelphia. There is little doubt that he would have been selected, had it not been for his seventy odd years. The deliberations of Propaganda finally concluded with the choice of the coadjutor of St. Louis; the Rt. Rev. Patrick John Ryan, who was in his fifty-second year, had administered an important diocese for ten years, and seemed to lack no qualification demanded by so eminent a metropolitan see as Philadelphia. (See PATRICK J. RYAN.)
On 20 Aug., 1884, he took formal possession of his archiepiscopal see and received the homage of 250 priests of the diocese. In November of that year he opened the proceedings of the Third Plenary Council, and on 4 January, 1885, was invested with the pallium. After 24 Feb., 1897, he was ably assisted by his auxiliary bishop, the Rt. Rev. Edmond F. Prendergast. On the death of Archbishop Ryan, which took place on 11 February, 1911, Bishop Prendergast assumed the administration of the diocese.
There is probably no diocese in the world better provided with institutions of religion, education, and charity than Philadelphia. The parish school system is admirably organized. There are 141 schools teaching 63,612 children. There are 149 ecclesiastical students preparing for the priesthood, and there is never a lack of vocations. The Catholic population of the diocese was estimated in 1910 at 525,000, whose spiritual needs are supplied by 582 priests, regular and secular. There are 434 churches, chapels, and stations. The religious institutes established in the diocese are: Redemptorist Fathers (14), Augustinian Fathers (Villanova and six other establishments, 33 fathers), Congregation of the Holy Ghost (4 houses, 1 novitiate, 1 industrial school, 15 fathers), Vincentian Fathers (3 houses, 1 seminary, 24 fathers), Society of Jesus (2 houses, 1 college, 22 fathers), Christian Brothers (10 houses, 89 brothers). There are in the diocese (1911) 2565 religious women, novices, and postulants and 11 schools for girls under the care of religious women. The religious institutes for women are: Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, Sisters of Charity, Sisters of Christian Charity, Felician Sisters, Franciscan Tertiaries, Missionary Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis, Sisters of the Good Shepherd, Sisters of the Holy Child Jesus, Sisters of the Most Holy Family of Nazareth, Sisters-Servants of the Immaculate Heart, Discalced Carmelites, Sisters of St. Joseph, Sisters of Mercy (Philadelphia foundation and Scranton foundation), School Sisters of Notre Dame, Sisters of Notre Dame (Namur), Little Sisters of the Poor, Religious of the Sacred Heart, Sisters of St. Dominic, Bernardine, Sisters of St. Francis (Polish), Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart, Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ, Filiæ Mariæ.
SHEA, Hist. of the Cath. Church in the U. S. (New York, 1886-92); MAHONY, Historical Sketches of the Cath. Churches and Institutions of Philadelphia; KIRLIN, Catholicity in Philadelphia (Philadelphia, 1909); Catholic Standard and Times, files; Am. Cath. Hist. Researches; Official Cath. Directory (1911).
APA citation. (1911). Archdiocese of Philadelphia. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/11793b.htm
MLA citation. "Archdiocese of Philadelphia." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 11. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911. <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/11793b.htm>.
Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Douglas J. Potter. Dedicated to the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. February 1, 1911. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.
Contact information. The editor of New Advent is Kevin Knight. My email address is webmaster at newadvent.org. Regrettably, I can't reply to every letter, but I greatly appreciate your feedback — especially notifications about typographical errors and inappropriate ads.