This site is dedicated to the memory of John England (1786-1842)
John England (1786-1842), a Cork man who was the first bishop of Charleston (USA) was an innovator who adapted the mass media of his day and placed them at the service of the Good News.
John England was born in Cork on September 23rd, 1786, and was baptised in the North Parish. He studied for the priesthood at St. Patrick’s College, Carlow, and was ordained by Bishop Francis Moylan on October 10th, 1808 in the Cathedral of St. Mary and St. Anne, Cork — the year in which the Cathedral was dedicated.
His first appointment in Cork was in the same North Parish as chaplain to the North Presentation Convent and Lecturer at St. Mary’s College. When Bishop Moylan acquired a plot of land in 1790 on which to build a Cathedral, he also envisaged plans for a seminary on the site. (The Irish colleges in France had been closed by the French Revolution and the Maynooth College issue had not yet been resolved.) His tenure at the North Parish coincided with one of the most troubled times in Irish history. As the repeal of the Penal Laws took effect, the future place of Catholicism in Irish society was being carved out in parliamentary debates in London, at meetings of Irish bishops, in ardent sermons and in wide-ranging debates — the most significant was the Veto question (the proposal that the English monarchy could veto the appointment of Irish bishops in exchange for funding a national seminary).
John England was a fiery opponent of the Veto and argued for religious freedom. He believed that education and information were key component of freedom. He established a free-circulation library in the Shandon area and began publishing a Catholic Monthly called the Religious Repository. He took on the trusteeship of the local Cork newspaper, the Mercantile Chronicle, and also became its most forthright columnist.
Bishop Moylan established St. Mary’s Seminary across the road from the Cathedral on September 12th,1813. Fr. John England was appointed as a lecturer and became its President from 1814-1817. It closed in 1820. In 1820, John England, who by then was parish priest of Bandon, was appointed first Bishop of Charleston (USA). He was consecrated bishop at a ceremony in St. Finbarr’s South Church, Cork on 21st September, 1820.
While Bishop of the new Diocese of Charleston, he continued to use print media as an essential in his ministry. He was the first publisher and editor of the Catholic Miscellany, the first Catholic publication in the US. Thus, he sowed the seeds for the American Catholic press, a movement that has since sprouted many branches.
This website is dedicated to his memory.