Little Bits of History

The Most Reverend John Carroll

Posted in History by patriciahysell on November 6, 2010

Portrait of Bishop John Carroll, by Gilbert Stuart

November 6, 1789: Pope Pius VI appoints Monsignor John Carroll as the first bishop in the US, assigned to the diocese of Baltimore, Maryland. Carroll was born to Irish immigrant parents. His father was a merchant, his mother’s family wealthy landowners.

He was always a good student. At the age of twelve, he first attended a Jesuit school. The next year he attended the College of St Omer in French Flanders. He joined the Society of Jesus, another name for Jesuits, at the age of eighteen. He continued his studies in philosophy and theology and was ordained in 1769 at the age of 34. He remained in Europe teaching until he was nearly 40 years old. In 1773, Pope Clement XIV wrote a Bull “suppressing and dissolving the Society of Jesus.” Carroll wrote an essay supporting his order without the hoped for response coming from Rome.

He returned to the US to care for his widowed mother. However, at the time of his return he was seen as a missionary. Due to discriminatory laws, there was no public Catholic Church in the US. Through his uncle, Carroll became a friend to Benjamin Franklin and was instrumental in setting policy for some pre-Revolutionary War councils. When the constitutions for the newly formed Thirteen States were finalized, only four states had rescinded the discriminatory laws against the Catholics and their ability to practice their religion. Maryland was one of those states that permitted public worship. When Baltimore was elevated to an archdiocese, Carroll became archbishop, again the first in the country.

Carroll not only loved the Catholic Church and his Jesuit order, he also believed in education and liberty. He founded Georgetown University, the first Catholic school in the US and Georgetown Preparatory School, the first Catholic day and boarding school. John Carroll University in Cleveland, Ohio is named for the bishop.

“You do not lead by hitting people over the head – that’s assault, not leadership.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower

“No one’s a leader if there are no followers.” – Malcolm Forbes

“Real leaders are ordinary people with extraordinary determinations.” – John Seaman Garns

“Leadership is action, not position.” – Donald H. McGannon

Also on this day, in 1935 the British fighter plane, Hawker Hurricane, first flew.

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