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Mobile (Alabama)



Suffragan of New Orleans, comprises the State of Alabama (51,540 sq. miles) and western Florida (7281 square miles), and derives its name from Mauvila, the fort and chief city of the Gulf Indians, who with their "emperor", Tuscaloosa, "black warrior", were conquered by the Spanish soldier and explorer, Hernando de Soto, in 1540.


De Soto's expedition was accompanied by "twelve priests, eight ecclesiastics and four religious". Mass was certainly offered near the present city of Mobile as early as 1540. From 1540 to 1703 Dominican, Capuchin, and Jesuit missionaries went from post to post along the Mississippi Valley, ministering to the wants of the scattered Spanish, French, and English settlers and to the native Indian converts. The published records of their heroism, sealed at times with the martyrs' blood, are very meagre, their names even, in great part, being lost in the obscurity of that long and troublous period. Not until the beginning of the eighteenth century, have we anything like a historical account of this diocese. "Fort St. Louis de la Mobile" was founded by Iberville, the illustrious French-Canadian explorer (1702), at some distance from the present city of Mobile, the site of which was selected (1710) by Iberville's brother, Bienville. Mobile was formally erected into a parish (20 July, 1703), subject to the Seminary of Foreign Missions in Paris and Quebec.

The Rev. Henry Roulleaux de la Vente was the first parish priest (July, 1704), his curate, the Rev. Alexander HuvÈ. The first entry found in the records of the new parish is that of the baptism of an Apalache girl (6 September, 1703), by the Rev. A. Davion. The Rev. J. B. de St. Cosme was murdered by savages on his way to Mobile from Natchez late in 1706. The last record of the secular clergy (13 January, 1721), that of the Rev. Alexander HuvÈ, appears in the ancient register of Mobile. The work was resumed by the religious orders. The Quebec Act of 1774 conferred on the parish priest of Mobile among others, legal title to his tithes. With the surrender of Mobile to Spain (12 March, 1780), the records are kept in Spanish, and the church in Mobile is definitely known as the church of the Immaculate Conception. Pius VII erected the diocese of St. Louis of New Orleans (25 April, 1793), usually styled Louisiana and the Floridas. The jurisdiction, therefore, of the ordinaries of Quebec and Santiago de Cuba over that immense territory ceased with the selection of its first bishop, the Right Rev. Luis Peñalver y Cardenas, who arrived in New Orleans 17 July, 1795. From 1792 to 1800 the parish priest of Mobile was the Rev. Constantine McKenna, and its last incumbent under Spanish rule, the Rev. Vincent Genin.


(1) MICHAEL PORTIER, b. at Montbrison, France, 1795: d. at Mobile, 4 May, 1859. He came to the United States 4 September, 1817. Completing his studies at St. Mary's Seminary, Baltimore, Md., he was ordained priest by Bishop Dubourg at St. Louis (1818), and eight years later, in the same city was consecrated titular Bishop of Oleno by Bishop Rosati, and became first vicar Apostolic of the new Vicariate of Alabama and the Floridas. At the time of his accession he was the only clergyman in the vicariate and had practically only three congregations with churches, Mobile, Ala., and the old Spanish cities of St. Augustine, Fla. (founded 1565), and Pensacola, Fla. (founded 1696). The first priest who came to his assistance was the Rev. Edward T. Mayne, a student of Mt. St. Mary's College, Emmitsburg, Md., sent by Bishop England of Charleston, to take charge of the deserted church of St. Augustine. Bishop Portier began his administration by riding through his vicariate and visited Pensacola, Tallahassee, a nd St. Augustine, offering the Holy Sacrifice, preaching, and administering the Sacraments as he went. He sailed for Europe (1829) in quest of assistants, and returning with two priests and four ecclesiastics, found the vicariate raised to the Diocese of Mobile. His cathedral was a little church twenty feet wide by fifty feet deep, his residence a still smaller two-roomed frame structure. By 1850 there were churches and congregations in Mobile, Spring Hill, Summerville, Mount Vernon, Fish River, Pensacola, Tuscaloosa, and Montgomery. He was somewhat relieved in the same year by the detachment of the eastern portion of Florida and its annexation to the newly-created See of Savannah, Ga. To add to his relief the new cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, built mainly through the untiring efforts of the Rev. J. McGarahan, was finished at a cost of over eighty thousand dollars, and consecrated 8 December, 1850. About 1830 Bishop Portier established Spring Hill College and Seminary, at the head of which was the Rev. Mathias Loras until he was consecrated Bishop of Dubuque (10 December, 1837) by Bishop Portier, who also consecrated another president of Spring Hill, the Rev. John S. Basin, third Bishop of Vincennes, 24 October, 1847. Spring Hill College, for a time in charge of the Eudist Fathers, was taken over by the Jesuit Fathers (1846) and has since been managed successfully by them. Bishop Portier held there a diocesan synod (19 January, 1835). In 1833 he secured from the Visitation convent, Georgetown, a colony of nuns who established in Mobile a house and academy, which is in a very flourishing condition. He brought the Brothers of the Sacred Heart from France (about 1847), and the Sisters of Charity from Emmitsburg, Md., to manage orphan asylums for boys and girls respectively. One of his last acts was the foundation of an infirmary at Mobile conducted by the Sisters of Charity.

(2) JOHN QUINLAN second Bishop of Mobile, b. in County Cork, Ireland, 19 October, 1826; d. at Mobile, 9 March 1883. He came to the United States, 1844, studied' for the priesthood in Mt. St. Mary's College, Emmitsburg, Md., and was ordained by Archbishop Purcell (1853), with a fellow student, Richard Gilmour, afterwards second Bishop of Cleveland. He was consecrated Bishop of Mobile, 4 Dec., 1859, by Archbishop Blanc in St. Louis' cathedral, New Orleans, La. In his diocese he found twelve churches and fourteen schools for which he had only eight secular priests and he therefore brought from Ireland eleven young candidates for the priesthood. Two of the priests who came to Bishop Quinlan at this time are zealous workers in the diocese to-day, the Very Rev. C. T. O'Callaghan, D.D., V.G., pastor of St. Vincent's church, Mobile, several times administrator of the diocese, and the Very Rev. D. Savage, D.D., pastor of St. Peter's church, Montgomery, a member of the bishop's council. Bishop Quinlan's administration fell upon the storm days of internecine strife. After the battle of Shiloh, he hastened on a special train to the blood-stained battle-ground and ministered to the temporal and spiritual wants of North and South. After the war diocesan activities were crippled. Nevertheless, besides repairing ruined churches, Bishop Quinlan built the portico of the Mobile cathedral, founded St. Patrick's and St. Mary's churches in the same city, and established churches in Huntsville, Decatur, Tuscumbia, Florence, Cullman, Birmingham, Eufaula, Whistler, and Toulminville. April, 1876, Bishop Quinlan invited the Benedictines from St. Vincent's Abbey, Pa., to the dioc ese, and they settled at Cullman. The first abbot of the new settlement was the Rt. Rev. Benedict Menges, O.S.B., succeeded (1905) by Rt. Rev, Bernard Menges, O.S.B., under whose capable management the monastery and college are progressing and extending their influence considerably.

(3) DOMINIC MANUCY, third Bishop of Mobile, b. in St. Augustine, Fla., 20 December, 1823; d. at Mobile, 4 December, 1885. He was educated at Spring Hill College, and ordained (1850) by Bishop Portier, and for twenty-four years laboured in Montgomery and Mobile. He was consecrated at Mobile (8 Dec., 1874), Bishop of Dulma, and appointed vicar Apostolic of Brownsville, Tex., and was transferred to the Diocese of Mobile (9 March, 1884), without being relieved, however, from his duties as vicar Apostolic, but finding the burden too great he resigned and was appointed to the titular see of Maronea.

(4) JEREMIAH O'SULLIVAN, fourth Bishop of Mobile, b. in County Cork, Ireland, 1844; d. at Mobile, 10 August, 1896. He came to the United States, 1863, entered St. Charles College, Ellicott City, Md., whence he proceeded to St. Mary's Seminary, Baltimore, Md., was ordained priest (June, 1868) by Archbishop Spalding, and consecrated Bishop of Mobile (20 Sept., 1885), by Cardinal, then Archbishop, Gibbons. The present towers of the Mobile cathedral were built by Bishop O'Sullivan, who successfully strove to restore the mined financial status of the diocese. A gifted administrator, an admired orator, an extremely zealous and holy bishop, Bishop O'Sullivan travelled and laboured unceasingly in the diocese, and left to posterity a monument of noble results, temporal and spiritual, quietly and unostentatiously achieved.

(5) EDWARD PATRICK ALLEN, fifth and present Bishop of Mobile, was born in Lowell, Mass., 17 March, 1853, and educated at Mt. St. Mary's College, Emmitsburg, Md., where he was ordained priest by Bishop Becker, 17 Dec., 1881. He was appointed president of Mt. St. Mary's (1884), and filled that office most acceptably until his consecration as Bishop of Mobile, by Cardinal Gibbons, in the cathedral, Baltimore, Md. (16 May, 1897). Under the able and prudent management of Bishop Allen, the diocese has advanced with great strides, and is still developing at a rapid growth. Many churches and missions have been erected, hospitals, orphanages, and schools established, the number of priests more than doubled, and considerable property acquired with a view to the further development of his rapidly increasing charge. The diocese was sorely tried by a fearful storm and tidal wave (Sept., 1906). Many churches either totally or partially destroyed have been rebuilt or repaired. But the complete results of Bishop Allen's pro sperous administration are best noticed by a comparison between the standing of the diocese when he assumed control and its existing admirable state.


1897 (year of Bishop Allen's arrival).--Churches with resident priests, 22; parishes with parochial schools, 15; children under Catholic care in colleges, academies; and schools, 2526; hospitals, 2; orphanages, 2; baptisms, infants, 820, converts, 60; marriages, 163; Catholic population, 17,000; priests, secular and religious, 48.

1910.--Priests, secular, 49, religious, 52, total, 101; churches with resident priests, 43; missions with churches, 31; total churches, 74; stations, 149; chapels, 25; brothers, 41; religious women, 274; children under Catholic care, 5039; colleges, 3; high school, 1; academies; 7, schools, 31, and orphanages, 3; hospitals, 4; home for aged poor, 1; baptisms, infants, 1478, converts, 552; marriages, 302; Catholic population, 38,000.

Bishop Allen takes a lively interest in the Negro Missions, and is largely responsible for the good work being done by the Josephite Fathers in Mobile and vicinity, Birmingham, and Montgomery. Near the latter city is St. Joseph's College, founded (1901) by the Very Rev. T. B. Donovan, lately deceased, the primary object of which "is to educate young colored men to be catechists and teachers." With Bishop Allen's sanction a colored fraternal organization was instituted in Mobile, 1909, by the Rev. C. Rebescher, which gives promise of universal good.

Benefactors. The chief benefactors of the diocese were Messrs. Felix and Arthur McGill -- the McGill Institute, a high school for boys, bears their name. The Hannan Home for the aged poor is a tribute to the generosity of Major P. C. Hannan, who built it along the lines of Bishop Allen's choosing.

Religious Orders. In the Diocese of Mobile are the Jesuits, Benedictines, Josephite Fathers, and Brothers of the Sacred Heart. Also the Sisters of the Visitation, Sisters of Charity, Sisters of Mercy, Sisters of Loretto, Sisters of St. Joseph, Sisters of St. Benedict, Little Sisters of the Poor, and Sisters of Perpetual Adoration. There are three Catholic cemeteries, one in Mobile, one in Birmingham, and one in Montgomery. The intrepid Admiral Semmes and Father Ryan, the poet-priest, are buried in the Catholic Cemetery, Mobile. By a singular coincidence the first priest who came to labour in the new Diocese of Mobile and the last and ruling Bishop of Mobile were students of Mt. St. Mary's College, Emmitsburg, Md., while the first Bishop of San Antonio, Tex., the Rt. Rev. Anthony D. Pellicer, and its present coadjutor, the Rt. Rev. John W. Shaw, were native priests of the diocese, both having been consecrated in its cathedral (the former, 8 Dec., 1874, the latter, 14 April, 1910), of which each in turn was pastor.

HAMILTON, Colonial Mobile (Boston and New York, 1897); SHEA, History of the Catholic Church in the United States (Akron, O., New York. Chicago, 1886. 1892); IDEM, Defenders of Our Faith (New York, Chicago, 1886, 1893); MOTHER AUSTIN, A Catholic History of Alabama and the Floridas, I (New York, 1905); Metropolitan Catholic Almanac and Laity's Directory (Baltimore, 1850 sqq.); Official Catholic Directory (Milwaukee, New York, 1910); REGER, Die Benedictiner im Staate Alabama (Baltimore, 1898).


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