Leonard Neale, S.J., (October 15, 1746 – June 18, 1817) became the first Roman Catholic bishop to be ordained in the United States. He served as the second Archbishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Baltimore, Maryland. He devoted considerable time to the establishment of the Visitation nuns to provide education to the girls of his diocese, and also served as President of Georgetown College.
Early life and ministry
Neale was born near Port Tobacco, then in the British Province of Maryland, on October 15, 1746, to William and Anne (Brooke) Neale. Six of their seven sons became Jesuits. Neale attended Bohemia Manor School near his home in Maryland. At the age of twelve he was sent to the College of Saint-Omer, in northern France, and later continued his studies in Bruges and Liège.
Neale became a member of the Society of Jesus, and after his ordination on June 5, 1777, he taught in colleges and officiated as pastor in different places in Europe. He was teaching in the Jesuit college of Bruges, then in the Austrian Netherlands, when that institution was seized by the Austrian imperial government, and along with the other Jesuits was expelled. He moved to England, where he had charge of a small congregation, but after four years he sailed in 1779 for Demerara, in British Guiana.
At length his health was almost ruined by the inclemency of the climate and the severity of his labors. He left there in January 1783, and during the voyage, fell into the hands of British Royal Navy warships, which being at sea were unaware that the Treaty of Paris had ended hostilities between Britain and the American colonies. He arrived in Maryland in April, associating himself with his Jesuit colleagues, among them John Carroll.
In June 1783, Neale attended a meeting of the Maryland Roman Catholic clergy at White Marsh (northeast of Baltimore Town) and took an active part in its deliberations. He was stationed at St. Thomas Manor among his relatives until 1793. He then went to Philadelphia and tended to victims of a yellow fever epidemic, even though his own health was in a delicate state. Ten percent of the population died, leaving many orphaned children. Neale established the first Catholic orphanage in the city to care for them.
He became pastor of St. Mary's in Philadelphia. Vigilant in his attentions to the sick and dying, on the reappearance of yellow-fever in 1797 and 1798 he resumed his former exertions until he was stricken by the disease. While he was in Philadelphia Bishop Carroll appointed him vicar-general for Pennsylvania and the other northern states.
According to Jesuit and slave tradition Father Neale baptized former President and General George Washington on his deathbed at Mount Vernon in December 1799, however, eyewitness accounts make no mention of such an event.
President of Georgetown
In 1799, Neale was appointed to succeed Louis William Valentine Dubourg, S.S. as the fourth President of Georgetown College in Washington D.C. He acted in the dual capacity of President and tutor for several years. During his tenure, the institution was developed from an academy into a full college in 1801.
In 1799, Neale founded the Georgetown Visitation Preparatory School, under the direction of the Visitation nuns. Both the school and the Georgetown Visitation Monastery are still active more than 200 years later.
Carroll had some time previous to this applied to Rome to name Neale as his co-adjutor bishop. Neale was consecrated a bishop by Carroll in 1800 in the old St. Peter's Pro-Cathedral at the northwestern corner of West Saratoga Street and North Charles Street. As Carroll had been ordained bishop in England, this was the first ordination of a Roman Catholic Bishop in the United States. Neale however, remained as the President of Georgetown College until 1806.
The Pro-Cathedral, with its attached rectory, school and surrounding cemetery, served as the episcopal seat until the dedication in 1821 of the new New Baltimore Cathedral.
In 1809, his brother, Francis Neale, S.J., later became the President of the Georgetown College, being the sixth to hold the office. His nephew, William Matthews, also entered the Society of Jesus and became President of Georgetown College.
Archbishop of Baltimore
Neale succeeded Carroll as the second Archbishop of Baltimore on December 3, 1815, and served until his death on June 18, 1817. As Archbishop, he presided over his pro-cathedral of St. Peter's. He appointed a French priest, Joseph Clorivière, to serve at St. Mary's Church. This decision was not welcomed by the mostly Irish congregation and resulted in a schism (1815–1819).
Another brother, Charles Neale, S.J. (died 1823), was the leader of the Jesuit Mission in America by the time he died.