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James Roosevelt Bayley

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James Roosevelt Bayley †
Senior posting
See Archdiocese of Baltimore
Title Archbishop of Baltimore
Period in office July 30, 1872—October 3, 1877
Predecessor Martin John Spalding
Successor James Cardinal Gibbons
Religious career
Priestly ordination March 2, 1844
Previous bishoprics Diocese of Newark
Date of birth August 23, 1814(1814-08-23)
Place of birth Rye, New York
Date of death October 3, 1877 (aged 63)
Place of death Baltimore, Maryland

James Roosevelt Bayley D.D. (August 23, 1814 – October 3, 1877) was the first Bishop of Newark, New Jersey, and the eighth Archbishop of Baltimore.

Early life

His Dutch and English non-Roman Catholic ancestors were locally notable. His father was the son of Dr. Richard Bayley, professor of anatomy in Columbia College, New York, and inaugurated the New York quarantine system.

Mother Seton (now St. Elizabeth Ann Seton), foundress of the Sisters of Charity in the United States, was his half-sister. He was named after his maternal grandfather, James Roosevelt, a merchant of large fortune, who made him his heir, but altered the will when Bayley became a Catholic priest, under the mistaken idea that priests could not possess property. A large part of the money went to build the Roosevelt Hospital in New York. Bayley's early schools days were spent at Amherst College, where he once thought of going to sea and obtained a commission of midshipman in the navy. He abandoned the plan, however, and continuing his studies, entered Trinity College (Connecticut), to prepare for the Episcopalian ministry.

He graduated here in 1835 and after receiving orders was appointed rector of St. Peter's church, Harlem, New York. He resigned this charge in 1841 and went to Rome, where on 28 April 1842, he was re-baptized and received into the Roman Catholic church in the room of St. Ignatius by Father Esmond, S.J. He then entered the seminary of St. Sulpice at Paris for his theological studies. Returning to New York, he was ordained priest by Bishop Hughes, 2 March 1844, and made a professor and the vice-president of the seminary at St. John's College.

He was acting president there in 1846 and was next given charge of the parish at the Quarantine Station on Staten Island, so long the residence of his grandfather, Dr. Bayley. Bishop Hughes then appointed him his private secretary, an office he held for several years and in which his administrative ability was specially manifested. He devoted some of his leisure to the collection and preservation of local historical data, much of which would otherwise have been lost. Part of this material he published in a small volume "A Brief Sketch of the Early History of the Catholic Church on the Island of New York" (New York, 1853; 2nd ed., 1870).

First Bishop of Newark

Bayley 1876

Archbishop Bayley portrait (circa 1876)

On October 30, 1853 Bayley was consecrated the first bishop of the Diocese of Newark. Bayley's mission for the fledgling Diocese was to establish Catholic education as he said, "In our present position, the schoolhouse has become second in importance to the House of God itself ... [our ambition is to have] ... every Catholic child in the state in a Catholic school."

Bayley realized that in order to be effective in his mission he needed the help of a Diocesan community; as he put it, "no one can fill that most important office so effectually as religious women." In 1857 a group of Benedictine Sisters arrived from Pennsylvania and in the following year Bayley sent five women to train with the Sisters of Charity. Many other communities of religious men and women joined the Diocese in the next decades.

When the Diocese of Newark was established he was named its first bishop and consecrated 30 October 1853, in St. Patrick's Cathedral, New York, by Archbishop Gaetano Bedini, the Apostolic Nuncio to Brazil, who was then en route to Rome. The Bishops of Brooklyn and Burlington were consecrated at the same time, the first occurrence of such an elaborate ceremony in the United States. Bishop Bayley's work of organizing the new diocese was not easy. He had more than 40,000 Catholics, mainly of Irish and German extraction, with only twenty-five priests to minister to them. There was not a single diocesan institution, no funds, and poverty on all sides. He therefore applied for help to the Association of the Propagation of the Faith of Lyons, France, and to the Leopoldine Association of Vienna and from both received material assistance.

Bishop Bayley saw need for a Catholic college, and on September 1, 1856 the need was filled by the opening of Chegary Academy (Old Seton Hall) in Madison. In 1860 the school moved to its present location in South Orange and was incorporated into a college by the state of New Jersey in 1861. The College also had a seminary which was necessary for educating new priests. Despite the original need, the number of new recruits exceeded the abilities of the seminary. Bayley was instrumental in the founding of the North American College in Rome at the request of Pope Pius IX, where he sent a young seminarian by the name of Michael Corrigan.

In a letter he wrote April 10, 1865, reviewing the condition of the diocese after his first ten years there he says:

I find that while the Catholic population has increased a third, the churches and priests have doubled in number. In 1854 there was no religious community. Now we have a monastery of Benedictines, another of Passionists, a mother-house of Sisters of Charity, conducting seventeen different establishments; two convents of Benedictine nuns, two others of German Sisters of Notre Dame and two others of the Sisters of the Poor of St. Francis. In 1854 there was no institution of learning; to-day we have a flourishing college and a diocesan seminary, an academy for young ladies, a boarding school for boys, and parish schools attached to almost all the parishes.
In addition to these he introduced the Jesuits and the Sisters of St. Joseph and of St. Dominic into the diocese, and was one of the strongest upholders of the temperance movement of the seventies. He made several journeys to Rome and the Holy Land, attending the canonization of the Japanese martyrs at Rome in 1862; the centenary of the Apostles in 1867; and the ecumenical Council in 1869.

Bishop Bayley served the developing Diocese for 19 years until he was appointed Archbishop of Baltimore on July 30, 1872.

Archbishop of Baltimore

James Roosevelt Bayley - Brady-Handy

Archbishop Bayley

At the death of Archbishop Spalding of Baltimore he was promoted, on July 30, 1872, to succeed that prelate. He left Newark with much reluctance. In 1875 as Apostolic Delegate he imposed the cardinal's biretta on Archbishop John McCloskey of New York. In May, 1876, he consecrated the Baltimore cathedral, having freed it from debt.

Convening the Eighth Provincial Synod of the clergy, August, 1875, he enacted many salutary regulations, particularly with regard to clerical dress, mixed marriages, and church music. Illness obliged him to ask for a coadjutor and Bishop James Gibbons of Richmond was appointed to that position May 29, 1877. The archbishop then went abroad to seek for relief, but in vain. He returned to his former home in Newark in August, 1877, and after lingering for two months, died in his old room, where he had laboured for so long in Newark, New Jersey, on October 3, 1877.

Shortly before Bayley died he spoke of himself by saying, "I am Archbishop; I have been Bishop; but I like Father Bayley best of all." At his own request he was buried beside his aunt, Mother Seton, at the convent at Emmitsburg, Maryland.

In conversation he once told the ultramontane Bishop Michael Corrigan that before his conversion he thought of becoming a Jesuit, and before his consecration a Redemptorist, but from both intentions his director dissuaded him. In addition to the volume on the Church on New York he wrote the Memoirs of Simon Gabriel Brute, First Bishop of Vincennes (New York, 1855), about Simon Bruté.

Episcopal Lineage and Apostolic Succession


Flynn, The Catholic Church in New Jersey (Morristown, 1904); Shea, History of the Catholic Church in the U.S. (New York, 1889 - 1892); Cathedral Records (Baltimore, 1906); Reuss, Biog. Cycl. Of the Catholic Hierarchy of the U.S. (Milwaukee, 1898).

External links

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Bishop of Newark
1853 – 1872
Succeeded by
Michael A. Corrigan
Preceded by
Martin John Spalding
Archbishop of Baltimore
1872 – 1877
Succeeded by
James Cardinal Gibbons


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