James Whelan (bishop)

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Right Rev. James Whelan, O.P.
Bishop of Nashville
Church Roman Catholic Church
See Nashville
In office February 21, 1860 – February 12, 1864
Predecessor Richard Pius Miles, O.P.
Successor Patrick Feehan
Ordination August 2, 1846
Consecration May 8, 1859
Personal details
Born (1823-12-08)December 8, 1823
Kilkenny, Ireland
Died February 18, 1878(1878-02-18) (aged 54)
Zanesville, Ohio, United States
Previous post Coadjutor Bishop of Nashville (1859–1860)

James Whelan, O.P. (December 8, 1823 – February 18, 1878) was the second Roman Catholic Bishop of Nashville (1860–1864).


Whelan was born in Kilkenny, Ireland, and moved with his parents to the United States at age 10 or 12, settling in New York.[1] He joined the Dominican Order in 1839 at the novitiate in Springfield, Kentucky, and made his profession in 1842.[1] After studying philosophy and theology at the Dominican convent at Somerset, Ohio, he was ordained a priest by Bishop John Baptist Purcell on August 2, 1846.[2] He then worked as a missionary before serving as president of St. Joseph's College in Somerset from 1852 until 1854, when he became provincial superior of St. Joseph's Province (which included all the United States except the Pacific Coast).[1]

On April 15, 1859, Whelan was appointed Coadjutor Bishop of Nashville, Tennessee, and Titular Bishop of Marcopolis by Pope Pius IX.[2] He received his episcopal consecration on the following May 8 from Archbishop Peter Richard Kenrick, with Bishops John Baptiste Miège, S.J., and Henry Damian Juncker serving as co-consecrators, at the Cathedral of St. Louis.[2] He succeeded Richard Pius Miles, O.P., as Bishop of Nashville upon the latter's death on February 21, 1860.[2] He enlarged the cathedral and established an academy, boarding school, and orphanage.[1]

As a border state, Tennessee was the scene of some of the most severe battles during the Civil War (1861–1865).[3] While passing through the lines after a visit with Bishop Martin John Spalding at Louisville, Whelan was accused of making remarks within Union lines which the Confederates thought had influenced the movements of the Union Army.[1] These reproaches, combined with the sufferings, struggles, and sorrows of war, proved too much for Whelan, who resigned as Bishop on February 12, 1864; he was immediately named Titular Bishop of Diocletianopolis in Palaestina.[2]

Whelan briefly retired to St. Joseph's Convent before taking up residence at St. Thomas Church in Zanesville.[1] He devoted his time to theological, historical, and chemical studies, and published a defense of papal infallibility in 1871.[3] He later died at age 54.


  1. ^ a b c d e f Clarke, Richard Henry. Lives of the Deceased Bishops of the Catholic Church in the United States.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  2. ^ a b c d e "Bishop James Whelan, O.P." Catholic-Hierarchy.org. 
  3. ^ a b "Former Bishops of the Diocese of Nashville". Roman Catholic Diocese of Nashville. Archived from the original on 2012-02-16. 

Episcopal succession[edit]

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Richard Pius Miles, O.P.
Bishop of Nashville
Succeeded by
Patrick Feehan