First bishop of the hierarchy of the United States, first Bishop and Archbishop of Baltimore. His father, Daniel Carroll, a native of Ireland, was a successful merchant in Upper Marlboro, Maryland; his mother, Eleanor Darnall, was closely related to the wife of Charles Carroll of Carrollton; his brother, Daniel Carroll (1733 – 1829), was a member of the Colonial Congress (1780 – 1784) and of the new Congress (1789 – 1791) and was one of the two Catholic signers of the Constitution in 1787.
John Carroll was educated at the Jesuit school at Bohemia Manor in Maryland, and at the Jesuit College of Saint Omer in French Flanders. In 1753 he entered the Society of Jesus, studied at Liege, Belgium, and was ordained on 14 February 1761. Four years of teaching philosophy and theology at Liege and Bruges, Belgium and a winter spent traveling in Europe as tutor to Lord Stourton’s son, were followed by his return to Maryland in 1774 after the suppression of the Society. Volunteer missionary in Maryland and Virginia occupied his time.
In 1776, at the request of the Continental Congress, he accompanied Charles Carroll, Benjamin Franklin, and Samuel Chase on a mission to Canada in a vain endeavor to secure the cooperation, or the neutrality, of that country in the Revolution. At the close of the war his patriotism and wisdom were largely instrumental in reorganizing the infant Church of the United States, free of the jurisdiction of the Vicar-General of London, under which the Colonial Church had been for a century, and independent of any foreign power. As the choice of his associates in 1784, he was appointed by the pope as Superior of the Missions of the United States, which then included less than 30,000 Catholics. In 1788 his name was submitted to Rome, by permission of the Holy See, as an episcopal candidate selected by twenty-four out of twenty-six assembled priests, and he was named Bishop of Baltimore on 6 November 1789, his diocese reaching from Georgia to Maine and westward to the Mississippi River. He was consecrated in the chapel of Thomas Weld at Lulworth Castle, England, 15 August 1790, by the Right Reverend Charles Walmesley, Vicar Apostolic of London.
Among the difficulties with which he had to cope were the extravagant claims of lay trustees, the question of nationalism in parish churches, and the occasional intrusion of unworthy priests. In 1791 he called the first Synod of Baltimore, attended by 22 priests. The same year, the opening of Georgetown College, founded on his plans, took place, and Sulpicians from France inaugurated the beginnings of Saint Mary’s College and Seminary. Bishop Carroll conferred Holy Orders, for the first time within the territory of the thirteen States, on Reverend Stephen Badin in 1793. In 1800 he consecrated his co-adjutor, Right Reverend Leonard Neale. Appointed Apostolic Administrator of Louisiana and the Two Floridas on 1 September 1805. In 1806 he laid the corner-stone of the Cathedral of the Assumption which replaced Saint Peter’s pro-Cathedral in 1824. The suffragan sees of New York, Philadelphia, Boston, and Bardstown (now Louisville) were erected in 1808, and the pallium conferred on Archbishop Carroll on 8 April. He lived to see the restoration of the Society of Jesus in 1814, having reorganized it in his diocese in 1805. Active always in civic affairs, he was president of the Female Humane Charity School of Baltimore, head of the Library Company, and one of the three trustees of Saint John’s College at Annapolis, Maryland. At his death clergy in the United States numbered about 85.
- New Catholic Dictionary
We pray, Thee O Almighty and Eternal God! Who through Jesus Christ hast revealed Thy glory to all nations, to preserve the works of Thy mercy, that Thy Church, being spread through the whole world, may continue with unchanging faith in the confession of Thy Name. We pray Thee, who alone art good and holy, to endow with heavenly knowledge, sincere zeal, and sanctity of life, our chief bishop, Pope (name of pope), the Vicar of Our Lord Jesus Christ, in the government of his Church; our own bishop, (name of your bishop), all other bishops, prelates, and pastors of the Church; and especially those who are appointed to exercise amongst us the functions of the holy ministry, and conduct Thy people into the ways of salvation. We pray Thee O God of might, wisdom, and justice! Through whom authority is rightly administered, laws are enacted, and judgment decreed, assist with Thy Holy Spirit of counsel and fortitude the President of these United States, that his administration may be conducted in righteousness, and be eminently useful to Thy people over whom he presides; by encouraging due respect for virtue and religion; by a faithful execution of the laws in justice and mercy; and by restraining vice and immorality. Let the light of Thy divine wisdom direct the deliberations of Congress, and shine forth in all the proceedings and laws framed for our rule and government, so that they may tend to the preservation of peace, the promotion of national happiness, the increase of industry, sobriety, and useful knowledge; and may perpetuate to us the blessing of equal liberty. We pray for his excellency, the governor of this state, for the members of the assembly, for all judges, magistrates, and other officers who are appointed to guard our political welfare, that they may be enabled, by Thy powerful protection, to discharge the duties of their respective stations with honesty and ability. We recommend likewise, to Thy unbounded mercy, all our brethren and fellow citizens throughout the United States, that they may be blessed in the knowledge and sanctified in the observance of Thy most holy law; that they may be preserved in union, and in that peace which the world cannot give; and after enjoying the blessings of this life, be admitted to those which are eternal. Finally, we pray to Thee, O Lord of mercy, to remember the souls of Thy servants departed who are gone before us with the sign of faith and repose in the sleep of peace; the souls of our parents, relatives, and friends; of those who, when living, were members of this congregation, and particularly of such as are lately deceased; of all benefactors who, by their donations or legacies to this Church, witnessed their zeal for the decency of divine worship and proved their claim to our grateful and charitable remembrance. To these, O Lord, and to all that rest in Christ, grant, we beseech Thee, a place of refreshment, light, and everlasting peace, through the same Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Savior. Amen. – prayer for government, by Archbishop John Carroll