Bishop Richard Luke Concanen (1747-1810)


See the post on McNamara’s Blog about the Irish Dominican Richard Luke Concanen, the first Bishop of the Diocese of New York, who died after having been prevented by French naval officers from boarding a ship destined for New York.

Cardinal Egan tells the story this way:

Richard Luke Concanen, the first Bishop of New York, was born in Ireland in 1747. At the age of 17 he fled his native land to make his way to Italy where in 1770 he was ordained a Dominican priests in Rome’s Lateran Basilica. For the next 35 years, Father Concanen held numerous positions of leadership in the Order of Preachers, all the while serving as “agent” in the Vatican for several bishops in England, Ireland and the United States, one of them being Bishop Carroll of Baltimore.

The wars that followed upon the French Revolution and the ascendancy of Napoleon inflicted immense damage on the Church throughout Europe. Father Concanen lived through the tragic pontificate of Pope Clement XIV during which various religious orders, including the Jesuits, were suppressed for political reasons and the even more tragic pontificates of Pope Pius VI and Pope Pius VII, both of whom were imprisoned in Paris by Napoleon to the horror of Catholics across the world. He watched England oppress Ireland and the Church in Ireland. And to cap the climax, he spent the last two years of his life, from 1808 to 1810, trying to gain passage to New York in the face of embargoes by both the English and the French which made travel to the United States virtually impossible.

On June 19, 1810, Bishop Concanen, who had been consecrated in Rome in April of 1808, died in Naples after having been prevented by French naval officers from boarding a ship destined for New York. He was buried the next day in a Neapolitan church dedicated to St. Joseph where few, if any, even knew who he was.

For more information see the article by the historian of the Province of St. Joseph, V. F. O’Daniel, O.P., “The Right Rev. Richard Luke Concanen, O. P., the First Bishop of New York (1747-1810),” The Catholic Historical Review, Vol. 1, No. 4 (Jan., 1916), pp. 400-421.