James Whitfield (bishop)

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The Most Reverend
James Whitfield
Archbishop of Baltimore
See Baltimore
Appointed January 8, 1828 (Coadjutor)
Installed May 25, 1828
Term ended October 19, 1834
Predecessor Ambrose Maréchal SS
Successor Samuel Eccleston SS
Ordination July 24, 1809
by Claude Simon
Consecration May 25, 1828
by Benedict Joseph Flaget SS
Personal details
Born November 3, 1770
Liverpool, Merseyside, England, Kingdom of Great Britain
Died October 19, 1834(1834-10-19) (aged 63)
Baltimore, Maryland, USA
Buried Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Baltimore, Maryland, United States
Previous post Apostolic Administrator of Richmond (1828–1834)
Coadjutor Archbishop of Baltimore (1828)
Titular bishop of Appolonia (1828)
Signature {{{signature_alt}}}

James Whitfield (November 3, 1770 – October 19, 1834) was an English-born prelate of the Roman Catholic Church in the United States. He served as Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Baltimore, Maryland from 1828 until his death in 1834.


James Whitfield was born in Liverpool, Merseyside, England, to James and Ann (née Genders) Whitfield.[1] Following his father's death in 1787, James and his ailing mother traveled to Italy in the hope that the warmer climate would be better for her health;[1] he there embarked in commercial pursuits.[2] During their return to England, they were detained in Lyons, France, by one of Napoleon's embargoes against the English government.[1] Whitfield there studied theology under the Rev. Ambrose Maréchal, S.S.,[2] and was ordained to the priesthood by the Bishop of Grenoble, Claude Simon, on July 24, 1809.[3] His mother died shortly afterwards and Whitfield then returned to England, where he became pastor of St. Mary's Church at Little Crosby in 1811.[2]

In 1817 Whitfield accepted an invitation from Maréchal, then Archbishop of Baltimore, to come to the United States.[1] Arriving in Maryland in September 1817, he served as a curate (and later rector) of Assumption Cathedral.[2] He was named Vicar General of the Archdiocese in 1818.[1]

On January 8, 1828, Whitfield was appointed Coadjutor Archbishop of Baltimore and Titular Archbishop of Apollonia by Pope Leo XII.[3] Before he could be consecrated, however, Maréchal died on the following January 29 and Whitfield succeeded him as the fourth Archbishop of Baltimore.[3] He was consecrated on May 25, 1828 by Bishop Benedict Joseph Flaget, S.S., with Bishops Henry Conwell and John Dubois, S.S., serving as co-consecrators, at Assumption Cathedral.[3] In addition to his duties as Ordinary of the Baltimore Archdiocese, he served as Apostolic Administrator of Richmond, Virginia, from 1828 to 1834.[3]

Whitfield was invested with the pallium, a vestment peculiar to metropolitan bishops, on October 4, 1829, the same day as the opening of the First Provincial Council of Baltimore.[4] At this time, the Archdiocese comprised around 87,000 Catholics and 52 priests. He later convened a synod for the diocesan clergy in 1831, and the Second Provincial Council of Baltimore in 1833.[1]

Throughout his tenure, Whitfield worked for the welfare of the African American community.[1] He supported and authorized the foundation of the Oblate Sisters of Providence. He once said:

How distressing it is to be unable to send missionaries to Virginia, where there are five hundred thousand Negroes! It is indubitable that had we missionaries and funds to support them, prodigies would be effected in this vast and untilled field. In Maryland blacks are converted every day, and many of them are good Catholics and excellent Christians. At Baltimore many are frequent communicants, and three hundred or four hundred receive the Blessed Sacrament the first Sunday of every month. It is the same throughout Maryland, where there are a great many Catholics among the Negroes.[2]

His health failing, Whitfield received Samuel Eccleston as his coadjutor in 1834, and died some months afterward, aged 64.[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g "Most Rev. James Whitfield". Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Baltimore. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Clarke, Richard Henry. "Most Rev. James Whitfield, D.D.". Lives of the Deceased Bishops of the Catholic Church in the United States. 
  3. ^ a b c d e "Archbishop James Whitfield". Catholic-Hierarchy.org. [self-published source]
  4. ^ a b "Baltimore". Catholic Encyclopedia. 

External links[edit]

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Ambrose Maréchal
Archbishop of Baltimore
January 29, 1828–October 19, 1834
Succeeded by
Samuel Eccleston