John Hughes: Eagle of the Church

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   Fired with a dream of priesthood, John Hughes, a penniless Irish youth, arrives in Maryland in 1817 and soon finds work as a gardener at Mount St. Mary’s College and Seminary. When the Seminary president discovers how hard John is studying his Latin on the side, he allows John to start learning with the seminarians. Nine years later John is ordained a Catholic priest, a vocation that would have been prohibited by the English rulers in his native Ireland. “My blood is Irish,” he once stated, “my spirit is American, my soul is Catholic.”    How John loves the civil liberties of his new country! He vigorously preaches the Faith to his flock and fearlessly presents it in the public press. In goodwill debates with spokesmen of other denominations he wins the respect of Catholics and many Protestants too. By 1842, appointed as bishop in New York while thousands of Irish stream into the city, he stands up forcefully against the rising anti-Catholicism and its threats of violence. Meanwhile he invites Sisters to establish schools, homes and hospitals, and religious brothers to found colleges still well-known today, such as Fordham University. As the first Archbishop of New York, Hughes lays both the cornerstone of the "new" (or uptown) St. Patrick's Cathedral and the ground floor of a widespread Catholic culture. U.S. presidents value him and fellow New Yorkers respect him; but the eagle-sighted John Hughes fixes his eyes foremost on divine majesty, as he tirelessly seeks honor for Christ.
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