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Biography: Bishop P. J. Donahue

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Catholic Bishop of Wheeling Diocese

April 15, 1849-Oct. 22, 1922

-From the Journal of the American-Irish Historical Society, Volume 21, 1922, p. 243


The Right Rev. Patrick James Donahue, for twenty-eight years Bishop of the Wheeling diocese and senior Bishop of the province of Baltimore, died on October 4, 1922 after a prolonged illness which for the past year made it practically impossible for him to attend to his episcopal duties.

Bishop Donahue was the third Bishop of the Wheeling diocese, which was established in 1850 and was consecrated April 8, 1894, by the late Cardinal Gibbons, his close personal friend, and a member of whose household he had been for many years.

The late prelate was born in Malvern, Worcestershire, England, on April 15, 1849, and after graduating from the University of London in 1869 came to the United States in 1871. He studied law at and was graduated from Columbian, now George Washington, University in 1876 and practiced law in Washington previous to engaging upon his theological studies. He was ordained Dec. 23, 1885, and was chancellor of the archdiocese of Baltimore from 1886 to 1891. In 1891 he was appointed rector of the Cathedral in Baltimore, which position he held until his appointment as Bishop of Wheeling.

Under the administration of Bishop Donahue, the number of clergy in the diocese has been tripled, many new missions have been established and a thriving system of Catholic education has been built up.

Prior to 1895 there was but one religious order of priests, the Capuchin Fathers, and three religious orders of women, the Sisters of St. Joseph, the Sisters of the Visitation and the Sisters of Divine Providence, in the Wheeling diocese. Today the Benedictines, Marists, the Congregation of St. Charles Borromeo, the Pious Society of Missions, the Brothers of the Christian Schools and the Xaverian Brothers are listed among the religious communities of men established within its limits. The Dominicans, the Ursulines, the Carmelite nuns, the Sisters of the Pious Society of Missions and the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity of Refuge have been introduced into the diocese and are in charge of flourishing institutions, including the Home of the Good Shepherd for girls at Wheeling.

There are now five academies for young ladies and twenty-one parochial schools in the diocese, whose Catholic population is approximately 63,000.

At the request of Bishop Donahue, who felt himself handicapped because of his infirmities, the Right Rev. John J. Swint was appointed Auxiliary Bishop of Wheeling early this year and was consecrated in St. Joseph's Cathedral on May 11.

Traffic was suspended for two hours in the heart of Wheeling on October 10, and many business places were closed, during funeral services for the Right Rev. P. J. Donahue, Bishop of Wheeling.

Pontifical High Mass was celebrated at the Cathedral by Archbishop Michael J. Curley of Baltimore.

More than 10,000 persons, including thousands of school children, marched behind the hearse to Mount Calvary Cemetery, where the body was placed in a crypt.

Read the newspaper article "Funeral Rites for Bishop Donahue Today," Wheeling Intelligencer, Tuesday, October 10, 1922.   


No photographs at this time

Additional Resources

▶ Centennial, Diocese of Wheeling, 1850-1950, Wheeling Room, non-circulating, ask for access at Reference Desk. Call #: Wheeling Oversize 282.9754 C333
▶ Faith in the mountains: a history of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, 1850-2000, Wheeling Room, non-circulating, ask for access at Reference Desk. Call #: Wheeling 282.9754 P995f 2000

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