Thomas Jerome Welsh

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The Most Reverend

Thomas Jerome Welsh
Bishop emeritus of Allentown
See Allentown
Installed March 21, 1983
Term ended December 15, 1997
Predecessor Joseph Mark McShea
Successor Edward Peter Cullen
Other posts Auxiliary Bishop of Philadelphia (1970–74)
Bishop of Arlington (1974–83)
Ordination May 30, 1946
Consecration April 2, 1970
Personal details
Born (1921-12-20)December 20, 1921
Weatherly, Pennsylvania
Died February 19, 2009(2009-02-19) (aged 87)
Allentown, Pennsylvania
Denomination Roman Catholic Church

Thomas Jerome Welsh (December 20, 1921 – February 19, 2009) was an American prelate of the Roman Catholic Church. He served as Bishop of Arlington, Virginia (1974–83) and as Bishop of Allentown, Pennsylvania (1983–97).

Early life and education[edit]

Thomas Welsh was born in Weatherly, Pennsylvania, one of five children[1] of Edward C. and Mary A. (née Doheny) Welsh.[2] Raised in a strict Irish Catholic family, he received his early education at the parochial school of St. Nicholas Church in Weatherly.[2] He then attended Schwab High School, also in Weatherly, and later began his studies for the priesthood at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Overbrook in 1937.[1]


On May 30, 1946, Welsh was ordained a priest by Cardinal Dennis Dougherty at the Cathedral of SS. Peter and Paul.[3] He was then sent to continue his studies at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., where he earned a doctorate in canon law in 1949.[4] During his summers at the Catholic University, he served as a curate at St. Paul Church in Philadelphia, Maternity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church in Philadelphia, and Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in Doylestown.[5]

In 1949, Welsh became a professor at Southeast Catholic High School (now St. John Neumann High School) in Philadelphia.[1] He was assigned as a curate at Holy Child Church in Philadelphia in 1951, and named a member of the Archdiocesan Metropolitan Marriage Tribunal in 1958.[2] He was appointed vice-chancellor of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia in 1963.[6] He was raised to the rank of Monsignor by Pope Paul VI in September 1965, and became rector of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in 1966.[6] During his tenure as rector, he oversaw an extensive revision of the curriculum, which earned the seminary accreditation with the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools; the construction of a new theology wing named Vianney Hall; and the establishment the School of Religious Studies and the School of Pastoral Studies.[5]



On February 18, 1970, Welsh was appointed auxiliary bishop of Philadelphia and titular bishop of Inis Cathaig by Paul VI.[3] He received his consecration on the following April 2 from Cardinal John Krol, with Bishops Gerald Vincent McDevitt and John Joseph Graham serving as co-consecrators, at the Cathedral of SS. Peter and Paul.[3] As an auxiliary bishop, he continued to serve as rector of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary.[4]


Welsh was appointed the first Bishop of the newly erected Diocese of Arlington in Virginia on June 4, 1974.[3] He was installed on August 13 of that year.[3] During his tenure, he established six new parishes and dedicated eleven new churches.[4] He established the Office of Migration and Refugee Services in 1975 and the Family Life Bureau in 1977.[4] In 1983, he founded Catholic Distance University.[7] The number of Catholics in Arlington increased from 154,000 to 179,000 under his guidance.[1]


Following the resignation of Bishop Joseph M. McShea, Welsh was appointed the second Bishop of Allentown in his native Pennsylvania by Pope John Paul II on February 3, 1983.[3] His installation took place at the Cathedral of St. Catharine of Siena on March 21 of that year.[3] During his tenure, he established a "Stand Up For Life" campaign to encourage pro-life efforts, and frequently joined local abortion protesters for their monthly vigil at the Allentown Women's Clinic in Hanover Township.[1] He held workshops on natural family planning and Humanae Vitae for the diocesan clergy.[2]

Welsh established the first Youth Ministry Office in the diocese and raised $13 million in an endowment campaign for diocesan schools and other educational efforts.[2] He was the founding president of the board of the Catholic Home Study Institute and a member of the Board of Trustees and Executive Committee of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.[2] Despite his reputation as a conservative, Welsh allowed girls to serve as altar servers at Mass, and gained recognition for his work to improve relations between Catholics and Jews.[1] He turned his home, a mansion purchased by Bishop McShea and bequeathed to the diocese upon his death, into a center for carrying on his pastoral work.[1]

Later life and death[edit]

After reaching the mandatory retirement age of 75, Welsh resigned as Bishop of Allentown on December 15, 1997.[3] He was succeeded by Bishop Edward Peter Cullen, who, like Welsh and McShea, served as an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia before his appointment to Allentown.[8] During his retirement, Welsh continued to administer the Sacrament of Confirmation at parishes around the diocese.[2]

Welsh later died at Lehigh Valley Hospital at age 87.[1] He was buried in St. Nicholas Cemetery in his native Weatherly.[2]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h "Thomas Welsh, Allentown bishop, dies ** Catholic leader: Weatherly native led the diocese from 1983-97. He was 87". The Morning Call. 2009-02-20. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h "Bishop Thomas J. Welsh, Retired Bishop of Allentown, Dies at Age 87". Roman Catholic Diocese of Allentown. 2009-02-19. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h "Bishop Thomas Jerome Welsh". David M. Cheney. Retrieved 21 January 2015. [self-published source]
  4. ^ a b c d Flach, Michael F. (1999-01-01). "Arlington's First Bishop: Thomas J. Welsh". Roman Catholic Diocese of Arlington. 
  5. ^ a b "Pope names Welsh to replace McShea". Reading Eagle. 1983-02-08. 
  6. ^ a b "Career MILESTONES". Lehigh Valley Live. 2009-02-21. 
  7. ^
  8. ^ "Bishop Edward Peter Cullen". David M. Cheney. Retrieved 21 January 2015. [self-published source]
Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Auxiliary Bishop of Philadelphia
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Diocese Erected
Bishop of Arlington
Succeeded by
John Richard Keating
Preceded by
Joseph Mark McShea
Bishop of Allentown
Succeeded by
Edward Peter Cullen