Archdiocese of Boston (Dioc. 1808; Arch. 1875)
Archdiocese of Boston (Dioc. 1808; Arch. 1875)
In 1808, Boston was made a diocese, and Fr. Jean-Louis Anne Madelain Lefebvre de Cheverus (1808-1823), a refugee from the French Revolution who had been serving the area since 1796, was named Bishop. He was the right person at the right time to lead the new diocese. He was born on January 28, 1768 in Mayenne, France where his father was the general civil judge and lieutenant of police. He studied at the college of Mayenne, received the tonsure aged twelve, became prior of Torbechet while still little more than a child, then derived sufficient income for his education, entered the College of Louis le Grand in 1781, and after completing his theological studies at the Seminary of St. Magloire, was ordained deacon in October 1790. At the age of 22, he was ordained a priest of Montauban, France by special dispensation on December 18. He was immediately made canon of the cathedral of Le Mans and began to act as vicar to his uncle in Mayenne, who died in 1792. Cheverus refused to take the oath imposed by the Revolution and this cost him his parish, and very nearly his life. He escaped from Paris to London, in disguise. Offered aid on his arrival, he replied: "The little I have will suffice until I learn something of the language. Once acquainted with that, I can earn my living by manual labor, if necessary". In three months he knew English enough to teach, and within a year gathered a congregation. A letter from a former professor at Orleans, the Reverend Francois Antoine Matignon, now in charge under Bishop John Carroll of all the Catholic church and missions in New England, urged Cheverus to come there to help in the work of the church. Cheverus first emigrated to England in 1792, then to America, settling in Boston on October 3, 1796.
Cheverus, although at first appointed to an Indian mission in Maine, remained in Boston for nearly a year, and returned there after several months in the Penobscot and Passamaquoddy missions and visits to scattered Catholic families along the way. During the epidemic of yellow fever in 1798 he won great praise and respect for his courage and charity; and his preaching was listened to by many Protestants; indeed, the subscriptions for the Church of the Holy Cross which he founded in 1803 were largely from non-Catholics.
In 1808 the papal brief was issued by Pope Pius VII making Boston a bishopric, suffragan to Baltimore, and Cheverus its bishop. He was ecclesiastically ordained bishop of Boston on November 1, 1810 and was consecrated on All Saints Day in 1810, at St. Peters, Baltimore, by Archbishop Carroll.
In spite of the tension between Catholics and Protestants, Bishop Cheverus was well liked by both groups. He had earned respect with the work he did to care for people of all faiths during the 1798 yellow fever epidemic. He was at ease socially and seems to have been a natural diplomat.
Over the next 15 years, Bishop Cheverus laid the groundwork for the future of the Diocese of Boston. He traveled extensively throughout the diocese, which at that time included all of New England. Through his missionary work he continued to build respect for the Catholic Church. He defended Catholicism and tried to break down the prejudice of the day.
Under his leadership began the early institutional development of the diocese. He built St. Augustine Cemetery in South Boston. Up until that time, Catholics were buried alongside Protestants. On the cemetery grounds he built the second Catholic place of worship, the Seminary Chapel, in 1819.
In 1823, Louis XVIII insisted Cheverus return to France. Returning to France, Cheverus became bishop of Montauban, on January 13, 1823 where his policy of tolerance won respect from Protestant clergy and laymen of the city. He was made archbishop of Bordeaux on July 30, 1826; and was elevated to cardinal on February 1, 1836, in accordance with the wish of Louis Philippe. He died in Bordeaux on July 19, 1836 at the age of sixty-eight.
In 1825, Pope Leo XII named H. E. Benedict Joseph Fenwick (1825-1846) as second bishop of Boston. Fenwick was born in Maryland, and on June 11, 1808 was ordained a priest in the Society of Jesus.
On May 10, 1825 he was appointed Bishop of Boston, and on November 1, 1825 he was ordained by Archbishop Ambrose Maréchal.
In 1827, Bishop Fenwick opened Boston College in the basement of his cathedral and took to the personal instruction of the city's youth. His efforts to attract other Jesuits to the faculty were hampered both by Boston's distance from the center of Jesuit activity at the time in Maryland and by suspicion on the part of the city's Protestant elite. Relations with Boston's civic leaders worsened such that, when a Jesuit faculty was finally secured in 1843, Fenwick decided to leave the Boston school and instead opened the College of the Holy Cross 45 miles west of the city in central Massachusetts where he felt the Jesuits could operate with greater autonomy. He died on August 11, 1846 at the age of 63.
H. E. John Bernard Fitzpatrick (1846-1866) was the third Bishop of Boston. He was born in Boston, Massachusetts, to parents who came to the United States from King's County, Ireland in 1805. His father was a tailor and his maternal grandfather served in a Massachusetts regiment during the Revolutionary War. After attending local primary schools, he was a pupil at Boston Latin School from 1826 to 1829, during which time he distinguished himself for his studies and virtue. At the suggestion of Bishop Benedict Joseph Fenwick, S.J., he then enrolled at Montreal College, under the care of the Sulpicians, in Quebec, Canada. In addition to his studies, Fitzpatrick was named professor of rhetoric and belles-lettres during his fourth year. He was also fluent in Latin, Greek, and French by this time. After graduating from Montreal in 1837, he entered the Seminary of St. Sulpice in Paris, France, where he completed his theological studies.
While in Paris, Fitzpatrick was ordained to the priesthood on June 13, 1840. He returned to Boston the following November, and was assigned a curate at Holy Cross Cathedral and St. Mary's Church in the North End. At that time, St. Mary's was troubled by two feuding pastors and even placed under interdict after one faction interrupted a Mass of the opposing priest. In 1842 he became pastor of East Cambridge, where he erected a church.
On November 21, 1843, Fitzpatrick was appointed Coadjutor Bishop of Boston and Titular Bishop of Callipolis by Pope Gregory XVI. He received his episcopal consecration on March 24, 1844 from Bishop Fenwick, with Bishops Richard Vincent Whelan and William Tyler serving as co-consecrators, at Georgetown. Fitzpatrick then assumed many of Fenwick's duties, including administering Confirmation, conducting episcopal visitations, investigating parish affairs, and preaching at the cathedral. In 1844 he received philosopher and author Orestes Brownson into the Catholic Church. He also attended the Sixth Provincial Council of Baltimore (1846) in Fenwick's absence.
Fitzpatrick succeeded Fenwick as the third Bishop of Boston upon the latter's death on August 11, 1846. The native Bostonian was warmly received his parishioners, and became popularly known as "Bishop John." His visitations in 1847 extended over nearly all his diocese, which then included the states of Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. Following the outbreak of the Great Irish Famine, Fitzpatrick strongly encouraged Catholics to contribute to the relief effort in Ireland, declaring, "Apathy and indifference, on an occasion like this, are inseparable from crime!"; he later sent $20,000 to Archbishop William Crolly.
Fitzpatrick's tenure also coincided with anti-Catholic Know Nothing movement. He petitioned Mayor Josiah Quincy, Jr. to allow Catholic priests to visit dying inmates at Deer Island, and protested when Catholics were either forced to pay an extra tax or outright rejected when purchasing cemetery plots. When a Catholic child was beaten for refusing to recite a Protestant version of the Ten Commandments at a Boston public school, the Bishop encouraged the child's parents to pursue a lawsuit. Priests, such as Johannes Bapst of Ellsworth, were tarred and feathered, and churches were burned at Dorchester, Manchester, and Bath. Fitzpatrick cautioned Catholics to take non-violent forms of opposition to this discrimination, lest they should add more fuel to the Know Nothing movement. In 1853 the Dioceses of Burlington and Portland were carved out of the Diocese of Boston.
In June 1855 Fitzpatrick appointed Rev. James Augustine Healy, the first African American to be ordained a priest, as the first chancellor of the Boston Diocese. During the Civil War (1861-1865), he supported President Abraham Lincoln and the Union, and made a special effort to provide Catholic chaplains for the Massachusetts regiments. He visited Belgium in 1862 for what he claimed as health reasons; however, others (including Ambrose Dudley Mann and Henry Shelton Sanford) believed he was working for the Union cause in Europe. The diocesan newspaper declared, "Boston participates in the joy that pervades the whole country" when General Robert E. Lee surrendered to Lt. General Ulysses S. Grant at the Appomattox Court House.
During his 20-year-long tenure, Fitzpatrick raised the number of both priests and churches from 40 to 300; established an orphanage, hospital, college; and increased the number of religious communities fivefold. After his health began to fail, he received John Joseph Williams as his coadjutor and later died at age 53.
Pope Pius IX appointed H. E. John Joseph Williams (1866-1907) as fourth Bishop of Boston. He was born in Boston, and educated at the Sulpician College in Montreal and at the St Sulpice's seminary in Paris. After his ordination, he became assistant at Boston's Cathedral of the Holy Cross in 1845, and rector in 1855.
In 1857 he took charge of St. James's parish, and in 1866 became Bishop of Boston. His title was changed to Archbishop in 1875, when the see was raised to metropolitan dignity.
The fifth bishop and second archbishop of Boston was His Eminence William Henry O’Connell (1907-1944). William O'Connell was born in Lowell, Massachusetts, to John and Bridget (née Farrelly) O'Connell, who were Irish immigrants. The youngest of eleven children, he had six brothers and four sisters. His father worked at a textile mill and died when William was four-years-old. During his high school career, he excelled at music, particularly the piano and organ.
O'Connell entered St. Charles College in Ellicott City, Maryland, in 1876. At St. Charles, he was a pupil of the noted poet John Banister Tabb. He returned to Massachusetts two years later and entered Boston College, from where he graduated in 1881 with gold medals in philosophy, physics, and chemistry. He then furthered his studies at the Pontifical North American College in Rome.
O'Connell was ordained to the priesthood by Lucido Cardinal Parocchi on June 8, 1884. A pneumonia and bronchial congestion cut short his pursuit of a doctorate in divinity at the Pontifical Urban Athenaeum, forcing him to return to the United States in 1885 without his degree.
He then served as pastor of St. Joseph Church in Medford until 1886, whence he became pastor of St. Joseph Church in the West End of Boston. Returning to Rome, O'Connell was named rector of the North American College in 1895. He was raised to the rank of Domestic Prelate of His Holiness in 1897.
On February 8, 1901, O'Connell was appointed the third Bishop of Portland, Maine, by Pope Leo XIII. He received his episcopal consecration on the following May 19 from Francesco Cardinal Satolli, with Archbishops Edmund Stonor and Rafael Merry del Val, at the Lateran Basilica. Upon his arrival in Maine, he was given an official reception by Governor John F. Hill. He was presented with a reliquary of the True Cross by Pope Pius X after the latter's election in 1903.
In 1905, in addition to his duties as a diocesan bishop, O'Connell was named papal envoy to Emperor Meiji of Japan; he was also decorated with the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Sacred Treasure. He was made an Assistant at the Pontifical Throne in 1905 as well. He was also viewed has having actively campaigned to become Archbishop of Boston, donating to numerous Vatican causes and publicly expressing his loyalty to the pope.
O'Connell was named Coadjutor Archbishop of Boston and Titular Archbishop of Constantina on February 21, 1906. As coadjutor, he served as the designated successor of Archbishop John Williams, who was then in declining health. He later succeeded Williams as the second Archbishop of Boston upon the latter's death on August 30, 1907.
On November 27, 1911, O'Connell became Boston's first Archbishop to become Cardinal, and was given the title of Cardinal-Priest of S. Clemente. O'Connell managed to be late to two papal conclaves in a row, in 1914 and 1922, due to having to cross the Atlantic Ocean in the slower transportation of the day. He made a protest to Pope Pius XI, who in response lengthened the time between the death of the Pope and the start of the conclave. O'Connell was able to participate in the subsequent 1939 conclave.
His Eminence Richard James Cushing (1944-1970) was the sixth bishop and third archbishop of Boston. The third of six children, Richard Cushing was born in South Boston to Patrick and Mary (née Dahill) Cushing. His parents were Irish immigrants; his father was from Glanworth, County Cork, and his mother from Touraneena, County Waterford. He attended Boston College High School and graduated from Boston College in 1917. After, he attended St. John's Seminary in Brighton and was later ordained to the priesthood by Cardinal William Henry O'Connell on May 26, 1921.
Cushing then served as a curate at St. Patrick's Church in Roxbury and at St. Benedict's Church in East Somerville. He was also assistant director (1922-1929) and director (1929-1944) of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, and was raised to the rank of Domestic Prelate of His Holiness on May 14, 1939.
On June 10, 1939, Cushing was appointed Auxiliary Bishop of Boston and Titular Bishop of Mela. Cushing received his episcopal consecration on the following June 29 from Cardinal O'Connell, with Bishops John Bertram Peterson and Thomas Emmet, SJ, serving as co-consecrators.
Cushing was named the third Archbishop of Boston on September 25, 1944, following Cardinal O'Connell's death. During his tenure, Boston would see the excommunication of Fr. Leonard Feeney for his stringent interpretation of the Catholic doctrine that there is no salvation outside the Church. Feeney refused to back down from his position, although it has been reported that he was ultimately reconciled with the church before his death. After the death of Pius XII, Cushing published a moving tribute to him. In 1959, Cushing published a biography of the late Pope Pius XII (1939-1958), depicting the late pope as "Pope of Peace".
Cushing was created Cardinal Priest of S. Susanna by Pope John XXIII in the consistory of December 15, 1958. He was also one of the cardinal electors in the 1963 papal conclave, which selected Pope Paul VI.
Cushing resigned as Boston's archbishop on September 8, 1970, after 25 years of service. Less than two months later, he died from cancer in Boston at the age of 75 on the feast of All Souls Day, and was buried in Hanover, Massachusetts at the chapel of St. Coletta's School for Exceptional Children.
His Eminence Humberto Sousa Medeiros (1970-1983) was the seventh bishop and fourth archbishop of Boston. He was born in Arrifes, on the island of São Miguel, Azores, to Antonio Medeiros and Maria de Jesus Sousa Massa Flor. He was baptized in the parish of Nossa Senhora da Saúde on November 1, 1915.
In 1931, he and his family emigrated to the United States, settling in Fall River, Massachusetts. He swept floors in a local textile mill for $6.20 a day, studying English in his spare time. After graduating high school, he entered the seminary and obtained a Master's degree in philosophy in 1942.
Medeiros was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop James Edwin Cassidy on June 15, 1946. He then did pastoral work in the Diocese of Fall River, and furthered his studies at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., from where he obtained a doctorate in theology in 1952. He served as chancellor and vicar for religious in the Fall River diocese from 1952 to 1966.
On April 14, 1966, Medeiros was appointed Bishop of Brownsville, Texas, by Pope Paul VI. He received his episcopal consecration on the following June 9 from Bishop James Louis Connolly, with Bishops James Joseph Gerrard and Gerald Vincent McDevitt serving as co-consecrators, at St. Mary's Cathedral.
His appointment to the Southern Texas diocese came at the time of a threatened farm workers' strike. Since many members of the diocese were Mexican-American migrant workers, Medeiros became an advocate on behalf of the workers, supporting their demands for a minimum wage at $1.25 an hour. He also became known as an outspoken opponent of capitalism, denouncing na economic system that "considers profit the key motive for economic progress, competition the maximum law of economics, and private ownership of the means of production an absolute right that carries no corresponding social obligations."
During his tenure, Medeiros sold the episcopal limousine, converted all but one room of the episcopal residence into a dormitory for visiting priests, and often traveled with migrant workers to celebrate Mass in the fields during the harvest season.
Medeiros was later named the fourth Archbishop of Boston on September 8, 1970. Replacing the retiring Richard Cushing, he was formally installed on October 7 of that year and, to date, was the only non-Irish head of the Boston archdiocese. In 1971, Medeiros described abortion as "the new barbarism". As in Brownsville, he became an advocate for the poor in Boston as well. An opponent of the Vietnam War, the Archbishop condemned the bombing of Hanoi in a 1972 Christmas sermon.
Pope Paul VI created him Cardinal Priest of Santa Susanna in the consistory of March 5, 1973. Medeiros pleaded with the Vatican to lift the excommunication of Rev. Leonard Feeney, SJ, who disobeyed Church authority and took a strict interpretation of the doctrine of Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus. In 1974, the Cardinal refused to allow the baptism of the child of a Marlboro woman who supported the establishment of an abortion-information clinic. He strongly supported busing and refused to let parents enroll their children in parochial schools as a means of avoiding it. In May 1976, he spoke out against the racism in South Boston but apologized the following week. He served as a special papal envoy to the celebration of the 60th anniversary of the apparitions of Our Lady of Fátima in Portugal in May 1977.
Medeiros was one of the cardinal electors who participated in the conclaves of August and October 1978, which selected Popes John Paul I and John Paul II, respectively. Following John Paul I's sudden death, he said, "I've been trying to say to God, 'It's your doing, and I must accept it.'" Before the primaries for the 1980 congressional elections, Medeiros issued a pastoral letter that stated, "Those who make abortion possible by law cannot separate themselves from the guilt which accompanies this horrendous crime and deadly sin." His words were considered to be directed at pro-choice candidates James Shannon and Barney Frank, and criticized by some as violating the separation of church and state.
Medeiros died from heart failure during open heart surgery in Boston, at age 67. He was laid to rest in Saint Patrick's Cemetery in his hometown of Fall River.
The eighth bishop and fifth archbishop of Boston was His Eminence Bernard Francis Law (1984-2002). Law, an only child, was born in Torreón, Mexico on 4 November, 1931. His father, a career Air Force officer, was stationed at the Torreón United States Air Force base, making Bernard a so-called "military brat". His mother, Helen, was a convert to Roman Catholicism from Presbyterianism.
He attended schools in New York, Florida, Georgia, and Barranquilla (Colombia), and graduated from Charlotte Amalie High School in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands.
He graduated from Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts with a major in medieval history, before entering priesthood studies at St. Joseph Seminary in St. Benedict, Louisiana, from 1953 to 1955, and the Pontifical College Josephinum in Worthington, Ohio, from 1955 to 1961.
On May 21, 1961 Law was ordained a priest and worked as a priest of Natchez-Jackson, Mississippi. He served two years as an assistant pastor, and was made the editor of theMississippi Register, the diocesan newspaper. He also held several other diocesan posts from 1963 to 1968, including director of the family life bureau and spiritual director of the minor seminary.
Pope Paul VI named him bishop of Springfield-Cape Girardeau on October 22, 1973 and he was ordained as a bishop on 5 December, 1973. Law's predecessor in Springfield-Cape Girardeau was William Wakefield Baum, another future cardinal.
In 1975, he made the news when he arranged for the resettlement in his diocese of one hundred and sixty-six Vietnamese refugees who had arrived in the United States, and who were members of the Vietnamese religious order, the Congregation of the Mother Co-Redemptrix.
In continuing his ecumenical work, Law formed the Missouri Christian Leadership Conference. He was made a member of the Vatican's Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity and served from 1976 to 1981 as a consultor to its Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews. In the late 1970s, Law would also chair the U.S. bishops' Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs.
In 1981, Law was named the Vatican delegate to develop and oversee a program instituted by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in which U.S. Episcopal priests would be accepted into the Catholic priesthood. In the program's first year sixty-four Episcopal priests applied for acceptance. This brought married priests with their families into U.S. Roman Catholic dioceses for the first time (Eastern Catholic Churches, in keeping with their own traditions, have ordained married men to the priesthood for centuries).
In this period Law was also a pro-life activist and spoke out against abortion. During the 1984 presidential race, when Geraldine Ferraro, who was a Roman Catholic, was the Democratic vice presidential candidate, Law and then Archbishop of New York John Joseph O'Connor both denounced her support of abortion rights for women. Law called abortion "the critical issue of the moment".
On January 11, 1984, Cardinal Law was appointed Archbishop of Boston, by Pope John Paul II. He was installed as Archbishop on March 23, 1984.
Only a little over a year later on May 25, 1985, he was elevated in consistory as a member of the College of Cardinals, where he was also appointed the Cardinal-Priest of the Titulus S. Susannae.
It was his speech at the 1985 Synod of Bishops marking the 20th anniversary of the end of the Second Vatican Council, that led to development of the Catechism of the Catholic Church in which Law oversaw the first draft of the English translation.
In the mid-1980s, Law chaired the bishops' Committee on Pastoral Research and Practices at the time it distributed a major study report on Freemasonry. The bishops' report concluded that "the principles and basic rituals of Masonry embody a naturalistic religion, active participation in which is incompatible with Christian faith and practice."
In 1989 and 1990 Law visited Cuba. He met with Fidel Castro in 1990 and in January 1998 he led a delegation of two hundred and forty Bostonians to Cuba during the papal visit there. In 2000 he was part of an inter-American delegation of bishops that met with Castro for more than four hours.
During his time as Archbishop he continued to be a constant advocate of the right to life of the unborn. However, in 1995, when John Salvi attacked two Boston abortion clinics, he urged a moratorium on clinic protests.
Cardinal Law's reign as Archbishop of Boston began in popularity but quickly declined into turbulence towards the end of his term. Allegations and reports of sexual misconduct by priests of the Archdiocese of Boston became widespread causing Roman Catholics in other dioceses of the United States to investigate similar situations there. Cardinal Law's actions and inactions prompted public scrutiny of all members of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and the steps they had taken in response to past and current allegations of sexual misconduct at the hands of priests. The events in the Archdiocese of Boston exploded into a national Roman Catholic Church sex abuse scandal.
Grassroots public advocacy groups like Voice of the Faithful focused on Cardinal Law after documents revealed his extensive role in covering up incidents of sexual misconduct of his priests. For example, Cardinal Law moved Paul Shanley and John Geoghan from parish to parish within the diocese despite repeated allegations of molestation of children under the priests' care. Under questioning, the cardinal stated that, when a priest committed a sex crime, the cardinal said his practice was to seek the analysis of psychiatrists, clinicians and therapists in residential treatment centers before deciding whether a priest accused of sexually abusing a child should be returned to the pulpit.
As a result of the lawsuits, the Archdiocese of Boston lost millions of dollars in fines and settlements. It also funded the legal defense of accused priests. The archdiocese slipped into large financial deficits. The Archdiocese closed sixty-five parishes before Cardinal Law stepped down from service.
In response to the scandal, over fifty priests signed a letter declaring no confidence in Cardinal Law and asking him to resign - something that had never before happened in the history of the Roman Catholic Church in America.
Law submitted his resignation to the Vatican and Pope John Paul II accepted his resignation on December 13, 2002. After his resignation, John Paul appointed Law to a post in Rome, putting him in charge of the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore, with the title of Archpriest.
His Eminence Seán Patrick O'Malley (2003-present) is nineth bishop and fifth archbishop of Boston. Seán Patrick O'Malley was born as Patrick O'Malley in Lakewood, Ohio, the son of Theodore and Mary Louise (née Reidy) O'Malley. O'Malley, his sister, and his older brother grew up in South Hills of Pittsburgh, and Reading, Pennsylvania. At age 12, he entered St. Fidelis Minor Seminary in Herman, a boarding school for students considering joining the Franciscan order. While there, in addition to studying the normal high school subjects, he also studied Spanish, Greek, German, and Hebrew, and he was active in theater.
On July 14, 1965, at the age of 21, O'Malley professed his vows in the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin and took the name Seán in honor of St. John the Apostle. After he was ordained a deacon, he spent a brief period in Easter Island, Chile. He was ordained a priest on August 29, 1970, at age 26, by Bishop John B. McDowell, an auxiliary of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh.
After graduating from St. Fidelis, he attended Capuchin College in Washington, D.C. and The Catholic University of America, where he is now a member of the Board of Trustees. He graduated from CUA with a master's degree in religious education and a Ph.D. in Spanish and Portuguese literature. He once said of his alma mater, "I have a great affection for Catholic University. I studied there, received my doctorate there and even taught there for a couple of years. It’s always a joy to go back to see the progress that they have made." O'Malley served as a professor at The Catholic University from 1969 to 1973.
In 1973, he was asked to minister to Latinos living in the D.C. area at the Centro Católico Hispano (Hispanic Catholic Center), founded in 1967 by the Archdiocese of Wash, D.C. and headed by the Spanish missionaries, Fr. Rutílio and Sister Ana María, an organization which provided educational, medical and legal help to immigrants. He opened a Spanish bookstore and founded the first Spanish newspaper in the D.C. area. In 1978, Cardinal William Wakefield Baum appointed him episcopal vicar for the Portuguese, Hispanic, and Haitian communities, and became the executive director of the archdiocesan Office of Social Ministry. He was also named knight commander of the Order of Infante D. Henrique in 1974 by Portugal for his service to its people.
O'Malley was appointed coadjutor bishop of the Diocese of Saint Thomas on May 30, 1984 by Pope John Paul II. He received his episcopal consecration on the following August 2 by Bishop Edward John Harper, CSSR, with Archbishop James Hickey and Bishop Eugene Marino, SSJ, serving as co-consecrators.
He served as coadjutor for one year and then succeeded Bishop Harper as Bishop of Saint Thomas on October 16, 1985, upon Harper's resignation. While in the Virgin Islands, he worked with the homeless, and opened a home for people with AIDS. He was made an honorary chaplain of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta in 1991.
As a bishop in New England, O'Malley first attempted to settle the sexual abuse scandal in Fall River diocese. In Palm Beach, he tried to overcome the abuse scandal there too. He also worked closely with the Portuguese and Hispanic population, which make up a large percentage of the Catholics in the United States.
In 1998 John Paul II appointed O'Malley to the Special Assembly for Oceania of the Synod of Bishops. In 2003, he became the archbishop of Boston, succeeding Cardinal Bernard Law, who had resigned as a consequence of the scandal there.
Pope Benedict XVI elevated O'Malley and 14 others to the rank of cardinal in the consistory on March 24, 2006. O'Malley was one of two Americans to be elevated on that day (the other was William Joseph Levada, who succeeded Pope Benedict as the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 2005). The Pope announced the appointments during an audience on the Feast of the Chair of Saint Peter on February 22, 2006. O'Malley was created Cardinal Priest with the titular church of Santa Maria della Vittoria. In May 2006, he was named as a member of both the Congregation for the Clergy and the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life in the Roman Curia.