William A. Hickey

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Styles of
William Hickey
Mitre (plain).svg
Reference style The Most Reverend
Spoken style Your Excellency
Religious style Monsignor
Posthumous style none

William Augustine Hickey (May 13, 1869 – October 4, 1933) was an American prelate of the Roman Catholic Church. He served as Bishop of Providence from 1921 until his death.


William Hickey was born in Worcester, Massachusetts to William (d. 1917) and Margaret (née Troy) Hickey. His father served in both the army and the navy during the Civil War. Hickey attended Holy Cross College, and also studied at St. Sulpice Seminary in Paris. Upon his return to the United States, he attended St. John's Seminary and was ordained to the priesthood by Archbishop John Williams on December 22, 1893. He then held a variety of pastoral roles throughout Worcester County.

From 1903 to 1917, Hickey served as a pastor in Gilbertville, where he would preach in four different languages (English, French, Polish, and Lithuanian) every Sunday. He was then transferred to St. John's Church in Clinton, where he became much beloved for erecting a new parochial school and parish hall. His work in Clinton even earned him the praise of U.S. Senator David I. Walsh, who said, "Father Hickey has...been a soldier camping in the homes of the sick and the poor under the white banner of the Church, fighting for salvation; has battled for Christ in the trenches of humanity. Not a day has passed over his head since our boys first left Clinton that he has not prayed for his people."

On January 16, 1919, Hickey was appointed Coadjutor Bishop of Providence, Rhode Island and Titular Bishop of Claudiopolis in Isauria by Pope Benedict XV. He received his episcopal consecration on the following April 10 from Bishop Thomas Beaven, with Bishops Louis Walsh and Daniel Feehan serving as co-consecrators, in the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul. He was immediately pronounced Apostolic Administrator for the diocese by the incumbent Bishop Matthew Harkins, whom Hickey succeeded as the third Bishop of Providence upon Harkin's death on May 25, 1921.

In 1923, the Bishop initiated an ultimately successful, three-year-long drive to raise a million dollars to improve and create diocesan high schools. He also led fundraising efforts for the support of the diocesan newspaper, the widely popular Providence Visitor. However, a number of ultranationalist French Canadians in the diocese saw the Bishop's endeavor as a threat to the continuation of their distinct traditions and, in 1924, founded the newspaper La Sentinelle, which became the major organ of opposition to Hickey.[1] The Sentinellists, as the group became known, contested Hickey's fundraising procedures before both ecclesiastical and civil courts, leading to their excommunication in 1927 and the placement of their paper on the Index Librorum Prohibitorum. Hickey later lifted the excommunication after the group sought reconciliation.[2]

Hickey later died from a heart attack, aged 64.


External links[edit]

Episcopal succession[edit]

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Matthew Harkins
Bishop of Providence
Succeeded by
Francis Patrick Keough