Hughes, John - Timeline Biography

Time Period

06-24-1797 - 01-03-1864

Description

Born in Ireland, John Hughes began his career in the United States as a Philadelphia priest. Eventually, Hughes served as archbishop during a time of critical demographic and institutional growth in American Catholicism that saw major waves of Irish immigration in the middle decades of the nineteenth century change the face of the church.

Hughes also was a pioneer of Catholic parochial education in the United States, and he waged a relentless fight to build New York’s Catholic school system. While not always receiving solid support from his fellow Catholic bishops, his focus on parochial education would prove influential in other major Catholic dioceses and become mainstream in the subsequent decades. Just after his death in 1864, three-quarters of the city’s Catholic churches operated such schools.

Some historians have identified Hughes’ episcopacy as an illustration of the trend away from republicanism and toward hierarchical government in the mid-19th century Catholic Church.

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Narrative

Born in Ireland, John Hughes began his career in the United States as a Philadelphia priest. He was appointed coadjutor bishop of New York in 1838, bishop in 1842, and archbishop in 1850. Hughes served as archbishop during a time of critical demographic and institutional growth in American Catholicism that saw major waves of Irish immigration in the middle decades of the nineteenth century change the face of the church. This period also played host to ethnic struggles between German and Irish Catholics that laid the groundwork of the national parish system, which would become a hallmark of the U.S. Catholic Church in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Hughes also was a pioneer of Catholic parochial education in the United States, and he waged a relentless fight to build New York’s Catholic school system. As part of this campaign, Hughes also ran up repeatedly against mostly public school advocates, and the two opposing sides battled one another over the place of religion in the classroom, with a particular focus on which version of the Bible would be taught to students. While not always receiving solid support from his fellow Catholic bishops, his focus on parochial education would prove influential in other major Catholic dioceses, including Baltimore, Cincinnati, and Louisville, and would enter the Catholic mainstream in subsequent decades. Just after his death in 1864, three-quarters of the city’s Catholic churches operated such schools.

Some historians also have identified Hughes’ episcopacy as an illustration of the trend away from republicanism and lay trusteeism and toward hierarchical government and papal authority in the mid-19th century Catholic Church. Hughes’ assertive leadership style also was reflected in his staunch public defenses of his church against nativism and charges that Catholicism was incompatible with American society as well as his readiness to engage in Democrat Party politics to secure power for his religious community.

Religious Groups

Catholicism (Western Liturgical Family): Other ARDA Links
Catholicism (Western Liturgical Family): Religious Family Tree

Photographs

John Hughes portrait- Library of Congress, LC-USZ62-118825 John Hughes portrait- Library of Congress, LC-USZ62-118825

John Hughes portrait- National Archives and Records Administration John Hughes portrait- National Archives and Records Administration

Book/Journal Source(s)

Dolan, Jay P., 1985.The American Catholic Experience: A History from Colonial Times to the Present Garden City, NY: Doubleday.
Gjerde, Jon, 2012.Catholicism and the Shaping of Nineteenth-Century America New York: Cambridge University Press. (Notes: Edited by S. Deborah Kang.).
McGreevy, John T., 2003.Catholicism and American Freedom: A History New York: W.W. Norton and Company.

Web Page Contributor

William S. Cossen
Affliated with: Pennsylvania State University, Ph.D. in History

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