William Hickley Gross

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The Most Reverend
William Hickley Gross, C.Ss.R.
Archbishop of Oregon City
Archbishop William Hickley Gross.jpg
See Oregon City
Installed March 31, 1885
Term ended November 14, 1898
Predecessor Charles John Seghers
Successor Alexander Christie
Other posts Bishop of Savannah (1873–1885)
Ordination March 21, 1863
by Francis Kenrick
Consecration April 27, 1873
by James Roosevelt Bayley
Personal details
Born (1837-06-12)June 12, 1837
Baltimore, Maryland,
United States
Died November 14, 1898(1898-11-14) (aged 61)
Baltimore, Maryland,
United States
Buried Most Holy Redeemer Cemetery,
Baltimore, Maryland,
United States
Parents Jacob Gross & Rachel Haslett

William Hickley Gross, C.Ss.R., (June 12, 1837 – November 14, 1898) was an American member of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer who was a prelate of the Roman Catholic Church. He served as Bishop of the Diocese of Savannah (1873–1885) and Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Oregon City (1885–1898).


Early life and education[edit]

William Gross was born in Baltimore, Maryland, to Jacob and Rachel Haslett.[1] His father was German and his mother was Irish;[2] his paternal ancestors came to the United States from Alsace during the nineteenth century.[3] Following his mother's death, his sister assumed responsibility for William and his five brothers.[1] He enrolled at St. Charles College in Ellicott City at age 13.[4] In 1853 he returned to work in his father's store after St. Charles decided that he was not suited for the priesthood.[5]

Ordination and ministry[edit]

In 1857, Gross entered the novitiate of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer (more commonly known as the Redemptorists) at Annapolis.[4]

Following the outbreak of the Civil War, the Redemptorists received permission from the Holy See to advance Gross to Holy Orders sooner than permitted in Church law in order for him to avoid the military draft.[5] He was ordained a priest by Francis Kenrick, the Archbishop of Baltimore, on March 21, 1863.[6] After six months of further studies,[1] Gross was assigned as chaplain to the wounded Civil War soldiers at Annapolis.[4] He was also charged with a chapel for Confederate prisoners on the outskirts of Baltimore, and worked among the freedman.[5] From 1865 to 1872, he served in a Redemptorist Mission Band, which performed parochial missions throughout Maryland, New York, Florida, and Georgia.[1][5] Gross, after recuperating his health in Baltimore over the next three years, returned to Georgia and thence continued his missionary work in Baltimore, at St. Alphonsus Church in New York City, and Boston, Massachusetts, where he served as superior of the Redemptorist community at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Mission.[5]

Bishop of Savannah[edit]

On February 14, 1873, Gross was appointed the fifth Bishop of Savannah by Pope Pius IX.[6] He received his episcopal consecration on the following April 27 from James Roosevelt Bayley, then the Archbishop of Baltimore, with Bishops Thomas A. Becker and James Gibbons (later a cardinal) serving as co-consecrators.[6] At age 36, he was then the youngest member of the American hierarchy.[5] He selected as his episcopal motto: "Lumen Aeternum Mundo Effudit" (Latin: "She gave forth to the world the Everlasting Light").[7]

During his tenure in Savannah, Gross laid the cornerstone of the Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in November 1873 and dedicated it in April 1876.[2] In addition to erecting several churches, schools, orphanages, and hospitals, he opened a men's college at Macon, introduced into the diocese the Jesuits and Benedictines, and established a diocesan newspaper, The Southern Cross, in 1875.[1][2][5]

Archbishop of Oregon City[edit]

Pope Leo XIII promoted Gross to the third Archbishop of Oregon City on February 1, 1885.[6] Installed as Archbishop on the following March 31,[6] he visited the 10,000 Catholics throughout the extensive Archdiocese by carriage, horseback, train, steamer, and even foot.[5] During his tenure, he dedicated St. Mary's Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in August 1885, acquired the Catholic Sentinel as property of the Archdiocese, and founded the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon in 1886.[5] Cardinal Gibbons, who had earlier assisted at Gross' episcopal consecration, invested him with the pallium in October 1887.

Archbishop Gross opened Mount Angel College in 1887, a minor seminary in 1889, and an elderly home in 1896; and presided over the Third Provincial Council of Oregon in 1891. In 1895 he ordained the first native Oregonian priest, Arthur Lane, the grandson of the Mexican–American War general and Oregon politician Joseph Lane.[5]


After falling ill while giving a retreat for Redemptorist students in Annapolis, he died shortly afterwards at St. Joseph's Hospital in Baltimore, aged 61.[5] He was buried at Most Holy Redeemer Cemetery in Baltimore.[8] His eloquence had led him to become known as "the silver tongued orator of the hierarchy."[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e DeLorme, Rita H (2008-09-25). "Recalling William Hickley Gross, C.SS.R., Fifth Bishop of Savannah, Archbishop of Oregon, and brother of Father Mark S. Gross" (PDF). The Southern Cross. 
  2. ^ a b c "RIGHT REV. WILLIAM HICKLEY GROSS, FIFTH BISHOP OF SAVANNAH". The Catholic Church in the United States of America. 
  3. ^ a b Candler, Allen Daniel and Clement Anselm Evans. Georgia.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  4. ^ a b c O'Donnell, John Hugh. "GROSS, WILLIAM H.". The Catholic Hierarchy of the United States, 1790-1922. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "Archbishop William Hickley Gross, CSsR". Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Portland. 
  6. ^ a b c d e "Archbishop William Hickley Gross, C.SS.R.". Catholic-Hierarchy.org. [self-published source]
  7. ^ "Coat of Arms". Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Portland. 
  8. ^ "Rev Fr William H Gross". Find A Grave Memorial. 

External links[edit]

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Ignatius Persico, O.F.M. Cap.
Bishop of Savannah
Succeeded by
Thomas Albert Andrew Becker
Preceded by
Charles John Seghers
Archbishop of Oregon City
Succeeded by
Alexander Christie