Eccleston, Archbishop Samuel
1851, April 22
Date of Birth: 1801, June 27
May 19, 1851
Fathers and Very Dear in Our Lord:
Without doubt, you have already heard of the death of Archbishop Samuel Eccleston, fifth ordinary of Baltimore, dead on April 22nd last. I recommend him to your prayers as one of our confreres; he had not ceased belonging to the Society.
Archbishop Samuel Eccleston was born in Kent County, Maryland, in the United States of America – on June 27, 1801, of Protestant parents. While still a lad, he lost his father. His mother, remarried to a Catholic, joined the Church a little after. He was entered into St. Mary’s College in Baltimore at the age of thirteen or fourteen. There, he himself became a Catholic. He made rapid progress and in 1819 he entered the seminary to study Theology, he was ordained priest on April 24, 1825. With the intention of entering the Society, he came the following September to the Solitude at Issy, where he remained for two years. Returning in July 1827, to Baltimore, he became a professor at the College; in October 1829, following the Visitation, he became President. For five years he administered that establishment with a great deal of prudence and ability, and stimulated piety, good order and studies there. In 1833, Archbishop Whitfield, ordinary of Baltimore, cast his eyes on Father Eccleston with a view to making him his Coadjutor; with the agreement of his suffragans – meeting that October for the Second Council of Baltimore – he so requested Rome. The Bulls were forwarded to him in May 1834, and the consecration took place on September 14th. Archbishop Whitfield died the next month. Archbishop Eccleston thus became the fifth Archbishop of Baltimore; and he administered that see for more than sixteen years. As an administrator he was placid and prudent. It was especially in the Provincial Councils that his aptitude shone. He held five of them: 1837, 1840, 1843, 1846 and 1849. He presided over them with such understanding, expertise and wisdom that he won the esteem of all the bishops of the United States.
By the dignity of his presence and the gentility of his conduct he drew to himself the respect and love of all. As soon as Archbishop Eccleston learned of his nomination, he insisted that he would accept only if he could remain a member of the Society of St. Sulpice. Father Garnier, then Superior General, believed it right to consent on this point by reason of special circumstances and by reason of the peculiar position in which Baltimore stood at that time. Indeed, the new archbishop was very faithful in offering the three masses for each deceased confrere; and the official visitors sent to Baltimore two years ago reported that he had given them on several occasions unequivocal evidence of his attachment to the Society.
I ask you, then, for the customary prayers and remembrances. I encourage you at the same time to pray the Lord that He will deign to place over the See of Baltimore a prelate according to His own heart, such a one as is called for by the needs of that diocese so vital to America and one under whom our little house may fruitfully advance in the good which it is called to accomplish.
Accept the assurances of the very sincere and affectionate attachment with which I am, Fathers and very dear in Our Lord,
Your thoroughly devoted in Our Lord,
Superior of St. Sulpice