Edward Fitzgerald (bishop)

The Most Rev. Edward Mary Fitzgerald
Bishop of Little Rock
Church Roman Catholic Church
See Little Rock
In office February 3, 1867February 21, 1907
Predecessor Andrew Byrne
Successor John Baptist Morris
Ordination August 22, 1857
Consecration February 3, 1867
Personal details
Born (1833-10-28)October 28, 1833
Limerick, County Limerick, Ireland
Died February 21, 1907(1907-02-21) (aged 73)
Hot Springs, Arkansas, United States

Edward Mary Fitzgerald (October 28, 1833February 21, 1907) was an Irish-born prelate of the Roman Catholic Church. He served as Bishop of Little Rock from 1867 until his death in 1907.


Edward Fitzgerald was born in Limerick to James and Joanna (née Pratt) Fitzgerald. He was one of eight children one of whom, Joseph, also became a priest.[1] In 1849 he and his parents immigrated to the United States in the aftermath of the Irish potato famine.[2] He attended St. Mary's of the Barrens Seminary at Perryville, Missouri from 1850 to 1852, and then completed his theological studies at Mount St. Mary's Seminary of the West in Cincinnati, Ohio and at Mount St. Mary's College in Emmitsburg, Maryland.[3]

Fitzgerald was ordained to the priesthood by Archbishop John Baptist Purcell on August 22, 1857.[4] His first and only assignment was pastor of St. Patrick's Church in Columbus, Ohio, where he healed a divisive ethnic schism between the Irish and German immigrants.[2] He gained his American citizenship in 1859.[2]

On April 24, 1866, Fitzgerald was appointed the second Bishop of Little Rock, Arkansas, by Pope Pius IX.[4] However, he initially refused the appointment but was commanded by the Holy See to accept in December.[5] He received his episcopal consecration on February 3, 1867 from Archbishop Purcell, with Bishops John Joseph Lynch, C.M., and Sylvester Horton Rosecrans serving as co-consecrators, at St. Patrick's Church.[4] At age 33, he was the youngest member of the American hierarchy.[5]

Fitzgerald presided over a period of great growth in the Little Rock Diocese. Arriving in Arkansas by steamboat in March 1867,[5] he found four parishes, five priests, and 1,600 Catholics; by the time of his death in 1907, there were 41 churches with resident priests, 32 missions, 60 priests, and 20,000 Catholics.[3] He first rebuilt the churches and missions ravaged by the Civil War.[5] From 1869 to 1870, he attended the First Vatican Council. At the Council, Fitzgerald was one of the only two bishops (the other being Aloisio Riccio) to vote against papal infallibility.[2] While he believed in the theological grounds for infallibility, he feared that its dogmatic definition would hamper the conversion of non-Catholics in Arkansas.[5] However, he fully submitted to the Council's decision when the tally ended.[2]

Fitzgerald encouraged Catholic immigration to Arkansas from Germany, Italy, and Poland; introduced the Benedictine Sisters and the Sisters of Charity; and established St. Benedict's Priory.[5] He laid the cornerstone of St. Andrew's Cathedral in July 1878, and dedicated it in November 1881.[2] He delivered the opening sermon at the Third Plenary Council of Baltimore in 1884, and opened St. Vincent's Infirmary (the first hospital in Arkansas) in 1888.[2] In 1894 he dedicated the first Catholic church in Arkansas for African Americans, at Pine Bluff.[3]

Fitzgerald suffered a stroke in January 1900, and was subsequently paralyzed.[5] He received John Baptist Morris as his coadjutor bishop in June 1906.[6] He also suffered from depression, once writing, "I find in me a growing dislike in making exertions of any kind, a bad sign in me, no longer a young man...I am overwhelmed with despondency and gloom."[7] Fitzgerald later died at St. Joseph's Hospital in Hot Springs,[5] aged 73. He is buried in a crypt under St. Andrew's Cathedral.[2]


Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Andrew Byrne
Bishop of Little Rock
Succeeded by
John Baptist Morris
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