Newspaper Archive of
Arkansas Catholic
Little Rock, Arkansas
October 24, 1998     Arkansas Catholic
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October 24, 1998
 

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Four Bishops of Little Rock Illustrate Legacy of Diocese By Judith Weaver Contributing Writer ishop Andrew Byrne: fist bishop, many firsts From the time Andrew Byrne Was born in Ireland in late 1802 until he was consecrated first bishop of the See of Little Rock, Arkansas was a wild and wooly missionary territory. Its few hundred Catholics were scattered and served by a series of traveling missionary priests, most of them of Spanish or French Origin. In 1770, Arkansas' ecclesiasti- cal status was determined and it became a part of St. Genevieve Parish, a village south of St. Louis, Which in turn was part of a dio- Cese whose seat was in New Orleans. Andrew Byme came as a semi- Mrian to the Diocese of Charles- ton and was ordained there on Nov. 11, 1827. He served as pastor Vicar general for the diocese ] fore transferring in 1836 to New 0rk. He pastored in three parish- diocese of Little Rock. As orator and organizer, he was a natural choice. Getting around to visit the out- posts and Indian territory in his new see was no easy matter, espe- cially on horseback for a large man. There was no transportation system and the new bishop had only two priests helping him serve some 700 people statewide. When spring floods didn't hinder him, lack of funds and personnel did. He tried to have the new diocese dissolved and placed again under St. Louis but that effort failed. The good bishop was destined to per- severe in difficuk beginnings. Consecrations and Ordinations On Nov. 1, 1846, Bishop Byme consecrated the first St. Andrew Cathedral in Little Rock and ordained Patrick Cavanan to the priesthood. By 1848 he had five priests, though he would lose s and recruited seminarians from s native country. In 1844, it was Andrew Byrne was chosen in 1844 l ther Andrew Byme who was to become the first bishop of the ChOsen for the office of first bish- newly established Diocese of Little 0p of the new frontier southern Rock. two in a few years. Building the diocese with a base of priests and religious was a primary concern. To fill the need, Bishop Byrne turned again to Ireland, traveling there for recruitment purposes. On one of these trips, he persuaded Mother Catherine McAuley's new order, the Sisters of Mercy, to come to his strug- gling diocese in 1850. A year later the sisters opened the Academy of St. Mary in Little Rock. Other new Catholic institu- tions sprung up under Bishop October 24, 1998 15