Leonard Neale

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The Most Reverend
Leonard Neale, S.J.
Archbishop of Baltimore
Leonard Neale portrait.jpg
Archdiocese Baltimore
Appointed 1800 (coadjutor)
Installed December 3, 1815
Term ended June 18, 1817
Predecessor John Carroll
Successor Ambrose Maréchal
Ordination June 5, 1773
Consecration December 7, 1800
by John Carroll
Personal details
Born October 15, 1746
Port Tobacco, Province of Maryland, British Empire
Died June 18, 1817(1817-06-18) (aged 70)
Baltimore, Maryland, United States
Parents William Neale & Anne Brooke
Styles of
Leonard Neale
Mitre (plain).svg
Reference style The Most Reverend
Spoken style Your Excellency
Religious style Monsignor
Posthumous style none

Leonard Neale, S.J., (October 15, 1746 – June 18, 1817) became the first Roman Catholic bishop to be ordained in the United States. He served as the second Archbishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Baltimore, Maryland. He devoted considerable time to the establishment of the Visitation nuns to provide education to the girls of his diocese, and also served as President of Georgetown College.

Early life and ministry[edit]

Neale was born near Port Tobacco, then in the British Province of Maryland, on October 15, 1746, to William and Anne (Brooke) Neale. Six of their seven sons became Jesuits.[1] Neale attended Bohemia Manor School near his home in Maryland. At the age of twelve he was sent to the College of Saint-Omer, in northern France, and later continued his studies in Bruges and Liège.[2]

Neale became a member of the Society of Jesus, and after his ordination on June 5, 1777, he taught in colleges and officiated as pastor in different places in Europe. He was teaching in the Jesuit college of Bruges, then in the Austrian Netherlands, when that institution was seized by the Austrian imperial government, and along with the other Jesuits was expelled. He moved to England, where he had charge of a small congregation, but after four years he sailed in 1779 for Demerara, in British Guiana. At length his health was almost ruined by the inclemency of the climate and the severity of his labors. He left there in January 1783, and during the voyage, fell into the hands of British Royal Navy warships, which being at sea were unaware that the Treaty of Paris had ended hostilities between Britain and the American colonies. He arrived in Maryland in April, associating himself with his Jesuit colleagues, among them John Carroll.[2]

In June 1783, Neale attended a meeting of the Roman Catholic clergy of Maryland at Whitemarsh (northeast of Baltimore Town) and took an active part in its deliberations. He was stationed at St. Thomas Manor among his relatives until 1793. He then went to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and tended to victims of a yellow fever epidemic, even though his own health was in a delicate state. Ten percent of the population died, leaving many orphaned children. Neale established the first Catholic orphanage in the city to care for them.[3] He became pastor of St. Mary's in Philadelphia. Vigilant in his attentions to the sick and dying, on the reappearance of yellow-fever in 1797 and 1798 he resumed his former exertions until he was stricken by the disease. While he was in Philadelphia Bishop Carroll appointed him vicar-general for Pennsylvania and the other northern states.[2]

According to Jesuit[4] and slave[5] tradition Father Neale baptized former President and General George Washington on his deathbed at Mount Vernon in December 1799, however, eyewitness accounts make no mention of such an event.[6]

President of Georgetown[edit]

In 1799, Neale was appointed to succeed Louis William Valentine Dubourg, S.S. as the fourth President of Georgetown College in Washington D.C.[7] He acted in the dual capacity of President and tutor for several years. During his tenure, the institution was developed from an academy into a full college in 1801.

In 1799, Neale founded the Georgetown Visitation Preparatory School, under the direction of the Visitation nuns. Both the school and the Georgetown Visitation Monastery are still active more than 200 years later.

Carroll had some time previous to this applied to Rome to name Neale as his co-adjutor bishop. Neale was consecrated a bishop by Carroll in 1800 in the old St. Peter's Pro-Cathedral at the northwestern corner of West Saratoga Street and North Charles Street. As Carroll had been ordained bishop in England, this was the first ordination of a Roman Catholic Bishop in the United States. Neale however, remained as the President of Georgetown College until 1806.[7] The Pro-Cathedral, with its attached rectory, school and surrounding cemetery, served as the episcopal seat until the dedication in 1821 of the new New Baltimore Cathedral.

In 1809, his brother, Francis Neale, S.J., later became the President of the Georgetown College, being the sixth to hold the office. His nephew, William Matthews, also entered the Society of Jesus and become President of Georgetown College.[8]

Archbishop of Baltimore[edit]

Neale succeeded Carroll as the second Archbishop of Baltimore on December 3, 1815, and served until his death on June 18, 1817.[7] As Archbishop, he presided over his pro-cathedral of St. Peter's. He appointed French priest Joseph Clorivière to serve at St. Mary's Church. This decision was not welcomed by the Irish congregation and resulted in a schism (1815–1819).[9]

His other brother, Charles Neale, S.J., (died 1823) was the leader of the Jesuit Mission in America by the time he died.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Jesuit Family Album", Fairfield University
  2. ^ a b c McNeal, James. "Leonard Neale." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 10. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911. 6 Oct. 2014
  3. ^ "Old St. Joseph’s In The 18th Century", Old St. Joseph's
  4. ^ "Information", "Was Washington a Catholic?, Doran Hurley, January–February 1957, Vol. 71, pages 2-6.
  5. ^ quote = "These were not Catholic Negroes; it is part of the tradition that weeping and wailing occurred in the quarters that Massa Washington had been snared by the Scarlet Woman of Rome, whom they had been taught to fear and hate." | "Slaves Held Washington Died Baptized Catholic", - "National Catholic Register", February 27, 1957, page 11.
  6. ^ "George Washington and the Legacy of Character: He Died as He Lived". Fathom.com (on-line archive from Columbia University). Retrieved 2008-03-29. According to the extant historical documentary record of Washington's final hours, there was no reference to any religious words or prayers, no request for forgiveness, no fear of divine judgment, no call for a minister (although ample time existed to call one if desired), no deathbed farewell, no promise or hope of meeting again in heaven. 
  7. ^ a b c "Most Rev. Leonard Neale", Archdiocese of Baltimore
  8. ^ Currier, Charles Warren (1989). "Chapter V: The New World". Carmelite Sources: Carmel in America. 1 (Bicentennial ed.). Darien, Illinois: Carmelite Press. ISBN 0-9624104-0-3. Archived from the original on 7 October 2010. 
  9. ^ Georgetown University Archives

External links[edit]

Academic offices
Preceded by
Louis Guillaume Valentin Dubourg, S.S.
President of Georgetown University
Succeeded by
Robert Molyneux, S.J.
Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
John Carroll
Archbishop of Baltimore
December 3, 1815 – June 18, 1817
Succeeded by
Ambrose Maréchal, S.S.