Archbishop John Ireland

John Ireland was born in Burnchurch, Kilkenny and baptised on the 11th of September 1838.

John's family immigrated to the United States in 1848 and eventually moved to Saint Paul, Minnesota, in 1852. One year later, Joseph Crétin, first bishop of Saint Paul, sent Ireland to the preparatory seminary of Meximieux in France. Ireland was consequently ordained in 1861 in Saint Paul. He served as a chaplain of the Fifth Minnesota Regiment in the Civil War until 1863 when ill health caused his resignation. Later, he was famous nationwide in the Grand Army of the Republic.

He was appointed pastor at Saint Paul's cathedral in 1867, a position which he held until 1875. In 1875 he was made coadjutor bishop of St. Paul and in 1884 he became bishop ordinary. In 1888 he became archbishop with the elevation of his diocese and the erection of the ecclesiastical province of Saint Paul. Ireland retained this title for 30 years until his death in 1918. Before Ireland died he burned all of his personal papers.

John Ireland was personal friends with Presidents William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt. At a time when most Irish Catholics were staunch Democrats, Ireland was known for being close to the Republican party. He opposed racial inequality and called for "equal rights and equal privileges, political, civil, and social." Ireland's funeral was attended by eight archbishops, thirty bishops, twelve monsignors, seven hundred priests and two hundred seminarians.

The influence of his personality made Archbishop Ireland a commanding figure in many important movements, especially those for total abstinence, for colonisation in the Northwest, and modern education. Ireland became a leading civic and religious leader during the late 19th and early 20th centuries in Saint Paul. He worked closely with non-Catholics and was recognised by them as a leader of the modernising Catholics.

He died on the 25th of September 1918.

Saint Pauls Cathedral, Minnesota

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