Cardinal James Gibbons, Roman Catholic Prelate

On March 3, 1868, Cardinal James Gibbons was appointed the first vicar of North Carolina. At the time, he was the nation’s youngest Roman Catholic bishop.Cardinal James Gibbons

Born in Maryland in 1837 to recent Irish immigrants, Gibbons was forced to return to Ireland with his family shortly after his birth due to financial problems. After growing up there, he returned to the United States and entered seminary. He then worked as a pastor at a Baltimore church and as a chaplain at nearby military prisons before becoming secretary to the Archbishop of Baltimore and eventually getting the North Carolina post.

Although there were few Catholics in North Carolina at the time of his appointment, Gibbons undertook a tour of the state just after arriving in Wilmington in October 1868. He traveled extensively for the rest of his term, serving small Catholic parishes and preaching to larger congregations in Protestant churches as well as in courthouses and other public buildings.

Gibbons went onto serve as Bishop of Richmond and Archbishop of Baltimore before being named a cardinal in 1886. While Archbishop of Baltimore, Gibbons founded the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. and often counseled presidents and other public figures.

He died in 1921 and is buried in the crypt of Baltimore Cathedral.

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