Los Angeles County
JOHN JOSEPH CANTWELL, D. D.
priesthood at the age of twenty-five years, the Most Rev. John Joseph Cantwell
has become the Roman Catholic Bishop of the diocese of Los
Angeles and San Diego
and a distinguished prelate of his church.
His ecclesiastical duties have been performed not only with the zeal and
enthusiasm of a churchman, but with an appreciation of the beauty and
historical significance of the long record of Catholicism in California.
Therefore his constructive efforts have brought a vast increment to the
dignity and power of a church whose foundations were laid by Junipero Serra and
others of hallowed memory.
was born in Limerick, Ireland, December 1, 1874, a son of
Patrick and Ellen (O’Donnell) Cantwell, and represents a family prominent in
the annals of the church. Several of his
uncles were priests, and three brothers of the Bishop became honored members of
the clergy of California, namely: Very Rev.
Msgr. James P. Cantwell, chancellor of the archdiocese of San
Francisco; Rev. William J. Cantwell, pastor of St. Monica’s Church,
and Rev. Arthur J. Cantwell, pastor of St. Lorenzo.
obtained his academic education in Sacred
conducted by the Jesuit Fathers in Crescent, Limerick
County, and pursued his theological
studies in St. Patrick’s College at Thurles,
Ireland. Ordained to the priesthood, June 18, 1899, by
Bishop Browne of Cloyne, he at once came to California,
being assigned to the archdiocese of San Francisco,
and for five years was curate of St. Joseph’s
Church at Berkeley. His learning and eloquence gave him great
opportunities for service in that city, where he interested himself
particularly in the Catholic students at the University
of California, and through his efforts
brought about the organization of the Newman Club in Berkeley.
In 1904 he was appointed secretary to the late Archbishop Riordan of San Francisco and during
his ten years of service in that capacity was closely associated with the
clergy, laity and non-Catholics. This
work was a splendid preparation for the duties he was called upon to perform
after the death of the Rt. Rev. John J. Prendergast, vicar general of San Francisco. For three years, from 1914 until 1917, he
acted as vicar general to Archbishop Edward J. Hanna.
September 18, 1915, the revered Bishop Conaty was called to his reward. It was two years later that the decision as
to his successor came from Rome, announcing that
the vicar general of San Francisco
should continue the work of Bishop Conaty, who had labored untiringly in the
southwest for many years. On December 5,
1917, in St. Mary’s Cathedral at San Francisco,
the Bishop-elect of the diocese of Monterey and Los Angeles was consecrated
by Archbishop Hanna, the assisting bishops being the late Rt. Rev. Thomas
Grace, of Sacramento, and Rt. Rev. Joseph S. Glass, of Salt Lake. A week later, Bishop Cantwell assumed his new
duties, to which he brought ability of more than average scope and talents that
have make his labors more than ordinarily effective. After the close of the World War the power
and prestige of the church in Southern California
increased to a notable extent, and one result of this rapid growth was a
division of the diocese. The
announcement of this decision was made June 5, 1922, and on December 3 of that
year the new diocese of Monterey and Fresno was created. The remainder of the old diocese then became
the diocese of Los Angeles and San
Diego, the latter city having been designated in 1840 as the
residence of the first bishop of the Californias. Bishop Cantwell served as apostolic
administrator of the diocese of Monterey and Fresno until the new
bishop, the Most Rev. John B. MacGinley, was consecrated on March 27, 1924.
During the first
six years of Bishop Cantwell’s administration eighty new churches were built
and more than seventy parishes established in his diocese. In addition to these achievements numerous
parish schools and high schools were erected; also three modern hospitals and a
number of institutions for the care of children and unfortunates. He also takes an active interest in all civic
projects in Southern California.
accomplishments Bishop Cantwell was honored by the Patriarch of Jerusalem, who
made him a knight commander of the Holy Sepulchre wit the Grand Cross. In recognition of his work in the field of
religion and social service for the Mexican people he was appointed a
bishop-assistant to the Papal Throne by His Holiness, Pope Pius XI, in
September, 1929. The Mexican people also
expressed their gratitude and esteem by presenting Bishop Cantwell with the
“Golden Rose of Tepeyac” in December, 1930, - a distinction worthily bestowed.
Transcribed by Bill Simpkins.
Source: California of the South
Vol. II, by John Steven McGroarty, Pages 239-241, Clarke Publ., Chicago, Los Angeles, Indianapolis. 1933.
© 2012 Bill Simpkins.
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