Louis Sebastian Walsh

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Louis Sebastian Walsh (January 22, 1858 – May 12, 1924) was an American prelate of the Roman Catholic Church. He served as Bishop of Portland from 1906 until his death in 1924.


Louis Walsh was born in Salem, Massachusetts, to Patrick and Honora (née Foley) Walsh.[1] He attended Holy Cross College in Worcester for one year before entering the Grand Seminary of Montreal in Quebec, Canada.[2] After attending the Seminary of Saint-Sulpice in Paris, France, he furthered his studies in canon law and theology at Rome.[1] He was ordained to the priesthood by Cardinal Raffaele Monaco La Valletta on December 23, 1882.[3]

Following his return to Massachusetts, Walsh served as assistant pastor at St. Joseph's Church in Boston's West End.[2] In 1884 he became professor of church history, canon law, and liturgy at St. John's Seminary in Brighton.[2] He was named the first supervisor of Catholic schools for the Archdiocese of Boston in 1887.[1] He was also one of the founders of the New England Catholic Historical Society and the Catholic Educational Association.[1]

On August 3, 1906, Walsh was appointed the fourth Bishop of Portland, Maine, by Pope Pius X.[3] He received his episcopal consecration on the following October 18 from Archbishop John Joseph Williams, with Bishops Matthew Harkins and Thomas Daniel Beaven serving as co-consecrators, at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.[3] During his tenure, he established several new parishes and schools, and renovated the cathedral.[2] His tenure was also marked by a wave of immigrants from Poland, Italy, Slovakia, and Lithuania.[4] He met vocal opposition from groups of French Americans over the ownership of parish property, leading Walsh to place six of their leaders under interdict.[4] He supported the National Catholic Welfare Conference and founded the Maine Catholic Historical Magazine.[4]

Walsh's last years saw the rise of the Ku Klux Klan as a political force in Maine, and particularly in Portland. The Diocese's successful and expanding parochial school system became a Klan rallying point. Walsh personally led the fight against the Barwise Bill, a Klan-supported measure that would have prevented the Catholic Church from receiving state funds for any purpose. The measure, and two similar bills by State Senator (later Governor and U.S. Senator) Owen Brewster and Senator Benedict Maher, were defeated, the last in a statewide referendum.[5] Walsh's successor as Bishop of Portland kept a much lower profile on Klan-related issues, however, allowing anti-Klan politicians to defend the church and Maine's Catholic population.

After returning from a canonical visit to Rome and France in February 1924, Walsh was left exhausted and died two months later, aged 66.[2]


  1. ^ a b c d "Portland". Catholic Encyclopedia. 
  2. ^ a b c d e "Most Rev. Louis S. Walsh, D.D". Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland. 
  3. ^ a b c "Bishop Louis Sebastian Walsh". Catholic-Hierarchy.org. 
  4. ^ a b c "History of the Portland Diocese". Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland. 
  5. ^ '"Bishop Walsh Warns of Danger from Enkindling Religious Hatred Fires", Lewiston Daily Sun, Feb. 8, 1923, p. 1
Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
William Henry O'Connell
Bishop of Portland
Succeeded by
John Gregory Murray