John Carroll, 1735-1815
John Carroll was born on January 8, 1735, to a distinguished Irish merchant family in Upper Marlborough, Maryland. At the age of thirteen, he began studies at St. Omer, a Jesuit college, and entered the Society of Jesus following his graduation. Soon after, he began intensive studies in philosophy and theology in what is now Belgium. Fourteen years later, at the age of 34, John Carroll was ordained a priest. He dedicated the next four years of his life to teaching philosophy and theology in Belgium, and then returned to America in 1774.
Carroll was held in high esteem by many important leaders of his time, including George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. He was well-respected among them, and his opinion was valued and influential. John Carroll began the American custom of public prayer for governmental leaders, and drafted a now famous prayer for national leaders in 1791. He was particularly close to George Washington, and when the president died in 1799, Carroll delivered a fine tribute to his friend and fellow patriot. This speech is considered one of the finest ever composed about the nation’s first president.
As Carroll helped to politically influence the young and struggling republic, he also helped to engender a spirit of religious unity. As a strong and respected Catholic leader, he assisted in gaining acceptance for Catholics in America. In addition, Rome gave him the task of organizing the Catholic Church in the new nation. In November of 1789, he was named bishop of Baltimore by Pope Pius VI, thus becoming the first American bishop. Carroll’s new position enabled him to establish many fine schools in the nation, including Georgetown University, St. Mary’s College for Boys (which became Loyola), and Mount St. Mary’s College in Emmitsburg. He was also a major supporter of the establishment of many parochial schools, Catholic academies, and religious orders.
In 1791, Carroll called the first national synod, an assembly of Catholic Church delegates to discuss various matters facing the churches to which they belonged. The synod created many guidelines for the Catholic Church in the United States and was a pivotal event in the history of American Catholicism. These guidelines became the first Canon Law for the nation and were a great unifying force for the Church as it grew in America. Through this synod and his ministry as bishop, John Carroll was intrumental in organizing the Church’s life in the new nation. By 1810 there were five separate dioceses in the United States, and Carroll was appointed the nation’s first Catholic archbishop. Archbishop John Carroll remained a patriot, a strong religious leader, and an advocate for education until his death in 1815.
On Sunday, April 28, 1968, John Cardinal Krol formally blessed both Archbishop John Carroll High School for Boys and Archbishop John Carroll High School for Girls. Planned in a co-institutional style, these schools were joined into one co-educational high school in 1986. Our school mascot is the Patriot, in honor of all Carroll did to assist the Founding Fathers in achieving American independence and initiating a democratic form of government in the former British colonies. Since that day of blessing in 1968, the school has continued to provide quality Catholic education in the tradition established by John Carroll, whose name we bear.