Richard Phelan

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Richard Phelan
Bishop of Pittsburgh
Titular Bishop of Cibyra
Appointed12 May 1885
PredecessorJohn Tuigg
SuccessorRegis Canevin
OrdinationMay 4, 1854
by Michael O'Connor
ConsecrationAugust 2, 1885
by Patrick John Ryan
Personal details
BornJanuary 1, 1828
DiedDecember 20, 1904(1904-12-20) (aged 76)
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, US

Richard Phelan, D.D. (January 1, 1828 – December 20, 1904) was an Irish-born prelate of the Roman Catholic Church who served as the fourth bishop of the Diocese of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania, in the United States from 1889 to 1904.


Early years[edit]

Richard Phelan was born on January 1, 1828, in Sralee, near Ballyragget, County Kilkenny, Ireland, to Michael and Mary Keoghan Phelan. Of their nine children, four entered religious life. He was educated by private tutors, and at St Kieran's College in Kilkenny.[1]

In 1850, as a seminarian, Phelan was recruited by Bishop Michael O'Connor of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, to serve in the United States. Once in Pennsylvania, Phelan continued his studies at the Seminary of St. Michael and after two years entered St. Mary's Theological Seminary in Baltimore, Maryland.


Phelan was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Pittsburgh by Bishop Michael O'Connor in Pittsburgh on May 4, 1854.[2][3] After his ordination, Phelan was assigned to a mission in Indiana County, Pennsylvania, but returned to Pittsburgh later that year to assist during a cholera epidemic. He served in the Pittsburgh area based out of Saint Paul Cathedral. One parish he visited was St. Michael the Archangel in Elizabeth.[4]

After three years, Phelan was sent to Freeport, Pennsylvania, and in 1868, became pastor of St. Peter's Catholic Parish in Allegheny City, Pennsylvania. He built a new church at a cost exceeding $150,000. In 1876, this church became the pro-cathedral of the new diocese of Allegheny. He also completed the schools that his predecessor had begun. During the absence of Bishop John Tuigg in 1881, Phelan he was appointed administrator of the Dioceses of Pittsburgh and Allegheny, and he was subsequently made vicar-general.[5]

Coadjutor Bishop and Bishop of Pittsburgh[edit]

After Tuigg suffered a series of strokes, Pope Leo XIII on May 12, 1885, appointed Phelan as coadjutor bishop of the Diocese of Pittsburgh and titular bishop of Cibyra.[3] On August 2, 1885, he was consecrated by Archbishop Patrick John Ryan.[6] At that point, he handled the actual administration of the diocese, but continued to reside in Allegheny. On 1 July 1889, the Diocese of Allegheny was totally suppressed and folded into the Diocese of Pittsburgh.

The people of many nationalities who were coming in large numbers to find work in the mines and mills of Western Pennsylvania were formed into regular congregations, supplied with pastors who could speak their own languages. In May, 1901, the counties of Cambria, Blair, Bedford, Huntingdon, and Somerset were taken from the Diocese of Pittsburg to form, with several counties from the Diocese of Harrisburg, the new Diocese of Altoona.[7] Phelan automatically became bishop of Pittsburgh upon the death of Bishop Tuigg on December 7, 1889.[3]

Richard Phelan died on December 20, 1904, at age 76, at St. Paul's Orphan Asylum in Pittsburgh.[7] He was buried in St. Mary Cemetery in the city's Lawrenceville neighborhood.


  1. ^ Judge, Thomas E., "The Rt. Rev. Richard Phelan", Lives of American Prelates, Wm. J. McAssey, 1902, p. 96Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  2. ^ "Bishop Phelan Goes to His Final Rest" San Francisco Call, Vol. 97, Number 21, 21 December 1904Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  3. ^ a b c "Bishop Richard Phelan [Catholic-Hierarchy]". Retrieved 2022-11-19.
  4. ^ "The Beginning". St. Michael Parish, Elizabeth, Pennsylvania
  5. ^ Shea, John Gilmary. "Right Rev. Richard Phelan, D.D.", The Hierarchy of the Catholic Church in the United States, Office of Catholic Publications, 1886, p. 353Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  6. ^ Clarke, Richard Henry. "Rt. Rev. Richard Phelan D.D.", History of the Catholic Church in the United States from the Earliest Period to the Present Time, Gebbie & Company, 1890, p. 22Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  7. ^ a b Canevin, Regis. "Pittsburgh." The Catholic Encyclopedia Vol. 12. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911. 1 September 2019Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainHerbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Pittsburgh". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.


  • Glenn, Francis A. (1993). Shepherds of the Faith 1843-1993: A Brief History of the Bishops of the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh: Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh. ISBN none.

External links[edit]

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by Bishop of Pittsburgh
Succeeded by