In ‘The Irish College Rome and the World’, Four Courts Press, 2008, there is an interesting article by Colin Barr on the appointment of Irish Bishops in the USA, 1830-1851.

In 1830 the Irish comprised a substantial portion of the Catholic population of the US but were in a small minority of the hierarchy which was dominated by French and German prelates, in particular French with a background in the Sulpician order.

From around 1830 the Bishop of Charlestown, Corkman John England,                                                                       and Dublin born Francis Patrick Kenrick coadjutor bishop of Philadelphia made determined efforts to remedy what they perceived as this defect.  Bishop England went to Rome to campaign against the appointment of ‘foreign’ Bishops to American sees.  By this he meant French and German not Irish.

England stated ‘The Irish are easily amalgamated with the Americans and become American very quickly’ the ‘French can never become American; their language, manner, love of la belle France, their dress, air, carriage, notions and mode of speaking of their religion, all-all foreign’.

Bishops England and Kenrick began to import Irish priest and seminarians and urged others to do so also.

In their efforts they were assisted by the Irish College in Rome whose rector Paul Cullen was an influential figure in the Vatican.  He was later to return to Ireland in 1850 and transform the Irish church.


By the later 19th century the American church was predominantly run by Irish bishops and assumed an Irish character which to some extent it still retains.