Created as a diocese April 8, 1808 by Pope Pius VII, the Archdiocese of New York was created July 19, 1850 by Pope Pius IX.
The Diocese of New York was founded when Bishop John Carroll was made Archbishop of Baltimore, and his diocese was divided into four suffragan sees. The first bishop was Richard Luke Concanen, an Irish Dominican who had lived in Rome. Bishop Concanen never reached New York, but died suddenly in Naples on his way to his new diocese. He had already asked Archbishop Carroll to appoint a Vicar General, and the appointee was Fr. Anthony Kohlmann, an Alsatian-born Jesuit. Fr. Kohlmann, S.J., soon established the New York Literary Institute, New York’s first Catholic educational institution, and erected St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral.
The first resident bishop of New York was a Dominican, Fr. John Connolly, O.P., who arrived on November 24, 1815. It was during his tenure that the Erie Canal was constructed, which made New York a prime East Coast port, and which created communities of largely Irish immigrant workers. New parishes were established in Utica, Syracuse, Auburn, Rochester, and Carthage, but the demand for priests was greater than the supply. Many of the immigrant workers remained in New York City. They lived in appalling poverty in Lower Manhattan, and alcoholism was rampant.
In addition to the Irish, there was a substantial German population on the Lower East Side, and also French-speaking immigrants from France and Haiti. The best-known member of this latter community was a black slave from Saint Domingue, Pierre Toussaint. Toussaint was emancipated in 1807 and became a prosperous hairdresser noted for his generosity to the poor, especially to the children in the Catholic orphan asylum. The institution was operated by the Sisters of Charity from Emmitsburg, Maryland. Their founder was Elizabeth Ann Seton, a widow and a convert from the Episcopal Church. Mother Elizabeth Seton was canonized in 1975.
Bishop Connolly died on February 6, 1825. The diocese was left without a bishop for twenty-one months, and was administrated by Fr. John Power, the Vicar General. Fr. Power established the first Catholic newspaper, the
Truth Teller, and established a third New York parish and a new orphan asylum.
Contrary to expectations, Fr. Power was not the next bishop, but rather Fr. John Dubois, a Sulpician Order priest from France and founder of Mt. St. Mary’s College in Maryland. Despite repeated difficulties with the Irish clergy and laity who could not understand why Fr. Power had not been appointed bishop, Bishop Dubois established several new parishes. He attempted unsuccessfully to establish a seminary. This period marked a rise in anti-Catholic sentiment.
In 1837, Fr. John Hughes was appointed coadjutor bishop of New York. Dubois died in December 1842; and Bishop Hughes immediately succeeded him as fourth Bishop of New York. For the protection of the immigrants, he encouraged the formation of the Irish Emigrant Society, the Emigrant Industrial Savings Bank and an immigrant commission of the state legislature. In 1847, the diocese was split by the erection of the Sees of Albany and Buffalo. The Diocese of New York was raised to an archdiocese in 1850, and Bishop John Hughes became the first Archbishop of New York. In 1853, the dioceses of Brooklyn and Newark were created. Under Archbishop Hughes, a great number of churches and chapels were erected, St. Joseph’s Seminary was established (1840) and St. John’s College (1841), both at Fordham. 38 free schools were established during his tenure. St. Vincent’s Hospital was established and the cornerstone laid for St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Archbishop Hughes died January 3, 1864.
Archbishop Hughes was replaced by Bishop John McCloskey, who had been consecrated coadjutor of New York in 1844, was transferred to Albany as its first bishop in 1847, and installed as fifth bishop and second Archbishop of New York in 1864. He became America’s first cardinal in 1875. During his tenure, the number of churches, clergy and schools doubled.
Cardinal McCloskey died on October 10, 1885 and was succeeded by his coadjutor, Bishop Michael A. Corrigan, who established the fifth diocesan synod, which organized the diocesan administration. During his tenure, the Catholic population doubled, St. Joseph’s Seminary in Dunwoodie was built and the cathedral spires and the Lady Chapel of the Cathedral were completed. Archbishop Corrigan died in 1902.
Auxiliary Bishop John M. Farley was installed as fourth archbishop on October 8th, 1902. He established more than 100 churches, over a third for Italian-Americans. Archbishop Farley was created a cardinal in 1911. During his tenure, the almost 2,000 Catholic school teachers were united in an association called The Workers for God and Country, the Catholic Encyclopedia was compiled largely under his patronage, and a local Society for the Propagation of the Faith was established.
On March 10, 1919, Auxiliary Bishop Patrick J. Hayes was appointed fifth Archbishop of New York. He was made a cardinal five years later. He founded Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York to incorporate all of the Catholic welfare agencies of the Archdiocese. He introduced the Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) to the archdiocese.
On March 10, 1919, auxiliary bishop Patrick J. Hayes was appointed fifth archbishop of New York. He was made a cardinal five years later. He founded the Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York to incorporate all of the Catholic welfare agencies of the Archdiocese. He introduced the Catholic Youth Organization into the diocese.
Bishop Francis J. Spellman, Auxiliary Bishop of Boston, succeeded Cardinal Hayes in 1939. He thoroughly reorganized the chancery and marriage tribunal, convoked a diocesan synod and established a central purchasing agency, insurance service and building commission for the diocese. He established 30 new parish units especially in the suburbs, and created the office of Coordinator of Spanish Catholic Action to accommodate the needs of a burgeoning Puerto Rican community.
The world reputation and influence Cardinal Spellman gained in this position eventually resulted in a large number of worldwide relief agencies such as NCWC Catholic Relief Services, the Catholic Committee for Refugees, the Catholic Near East Welfare Association and the Society for the Propagation of the Faith. In addition, he reorganized and revitalized Catholic Charities and sponsored the New Catholic Encyclopedia. Cardinal Spellman welcomed Pope Paul VI, the first pope to visit the United States, to the Archdiocese of New York on October 4, 1965. He died on December 2, 1967.
Cardinal Spellman was succeeded as seventh archbishop of New York by his auxiliary, Bishop Terence J. Cooke, who was appointed archbishop on March 8, 1968, and installed on April 4
th. He was elevated to the College of Cardinals on April 30, 1969.
In 1970, Cardinal Cooke established the Catholic Charities and Education Appeal, now known as
the Cardinal’s Appeal. 1979 marked the 100
th Anniversary celebration of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and 1983 marked the 175
th Anniversary of the Archdiocese of New York. In September, 1981, the first issue of the Archdiocesan newspaper,
Catholic New York was published. Cardinal Cooke hosted a Papal Visit of Pope John Paul II in October, 1979.
During the administration of Cardinal Cooke, St. Patrick’s Cathedral was restored. New shrines in honor of St. Elisabeth Seton and St. John Neumann were built; the Sacred Heart Altar and the baptistery were moved to a prominent position in the transept. Statues of Saints Peter and Paul and St. Stanislaus Kostka were added, as well as a statue of St. Jude; and images of Popes Paul VI and John Paul II were erected.
Cardinal Cooke died on October 6, 1983, following a long bout with cancer. His inspiring life and death lead to the introduction of his cause for canonization one year after his death.
Cardinal Cooke was succeeded by Bishop John J. O’Connor, Bishop of Scranton. He was appointed Archbishop of New York on January 31, 1984 and was installed on March 19. He was named to the College of Cardinals on April 24, 1985, and was created Cardinal on May 25.
During his tenure as Archbishop of New York, Cardinal O’Connor provided strong and public leadership for the Catholic Church. He wrote several books, including
In Defense of Life and
His Eminence and Hizzoner (the latter with Mayor Edward I. Koch). Cardinal O’Connor ministered especially to the handicapped, particularly handicapped children, as well as to the physical and spiritual needs of AIDS patients, and was a frequent visitor to their bedsides.
Cardinal O’Connor was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 1999. He continued to serve as Archbishop of New York until his death on May 3, 2000.
Cardinal O’Connor was succeeded by Bishop Edward Michael Egan, Bishop of Bridgeport on May 11, 2000. He was installed in the position on June 19, 2000. He was elevated to the Cardinalate on February 21, 2001.
Soon after his appointment, Cardinal Egan made it a priority to encourage vocations to the priesthood and to restructure the faculty at St. Joseph’s Seminary in Yonkers. He also established the John Cardinal O’Connor residence for retired priests in the Riverdale section of the Bronx.
At the request of Mayor Giuliani, Cardinal Egan was a constant presence in the wake of the September 11
th attacks. He began his service at St. Vincent’s Hospital where he met with the injured and their families. Cardinal Egan continued to offer daily Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and visited Ground Zero several times during the initial aftermath. The Archdiocese of New York continued to serve the community in any possible during this tragic time period. Cardinal Egan welcomed Pope Benedict XVI to the Archdiocese in April of 2008.
Cardinal Egan officially resigned from his position on February 23, 2009. He was the first Archbishop of New York to retire. During his retirement, Cardinal Egan lived in New York where he continued to assist the Archdiocese and serve on several offices of the Vatican. He died on March 5, 2015.
Cardinal Egan was succeeded by Timothy Michael Dolan, then serving as Archbishop of Milwaukee, who was formally installed on April 15, 2009.
During his tenure Cardinal Dolan has served as the Chairman of Catholic Relief Services (CRS), the President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and has spent much of his time as Archbishop of New York providing necessary aid to those in need and those affected by disaster.
Known for his friendly demeanor, Cardinal Dolan seeks to minister to his flock in an approachable manner.
In 2012, His Eminence oversaw the start of a comprehensive top to bottom restoration effort for St. Patrick’s Cathedral which will be mostly completed (with the exception of the geothermal mechanical plant) in July 2015, ahead of its scheduled December 2015 date.
After New York felt the devastation of Hurricane Sandy in 2013, Catholic Charities immediately began to provide food, shelter, and medical aid to some of the worst affected areas. The organization also manages the New York State Disaster Case Management Program, providing disaster information to nearly 22,000 households. The Archdiocese of New York continues to lead the recovery effort, providing assistance to families and communities still healing from the storm.
In 2015, the Archdiocese of New York is proud to welcome His Holiness, Pope Francis, during his trip to the United States.