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KEANE, James J.

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KEANE, James J. (Joliet, IL, Aug. 25, 1857--Dubuque, IA, Aug. 2, 1929). Keane was educated at St. John's Seminary in Collegeville, Minnesota, St. Francis Xavier College in New York and the Grand séminaire de Montréal. (1) He was ordained to the priesthood at Montreal, Dec. 23, 1882 and began as an assistant pastor in St. Paul, Minnesota. His talents for educational work were quickly recognized and he was made a member of the faculty of the St. Thomas seminary. From 1888 to 1892 he was president of the St. Thomas college in St. Paul, a position which he gave up to take over the important pastorate of the Immaculate Conception church in Minneapolis. (2)

Father Keane became bishop of Cheyenne, Wyoming in 1902 making him one of the pioneer bishops of the great west. Keane came to Dubuque on September 13, 1918 as the successor to Archbishop John J. KEANE. (3) Although the two men shared a common last name, they were not related or given the same disposition. John J. Keane was well liked in the community and known as "Sugar" for his kindly manner. James J. Keane was known as "Hickory" for his sternness. (4) Having been a professor at St. Thomas Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota, Keane took an immediate interest in COLUMBIA COLLEGE which then had an enrollment of 330 and a staff of 20.

Archbishop Keane took great interest in education and moral upbringing. It was his belief that if Catholics ignored the "scandal and sin of the late night Saturday night and the Sunday dances" they should be denied the sacraments. (5) Catholic schools were considered essential for the safeguarding of the Faith and insisted that Catholic education be available for all. All Catholic schools were to be supported by all Catholics in the community and not just be those having children enrolled. In 1922 the parochial system of archdiocesan schools was organized under a superintendent, Father John Wolfe. Father Wolfe appointed the first director of the Diocesan Bureau of Mission Societies. Other educational events during his tenure included the dedication of Mary Frances Clarke Hall (1924), MT. ST. JOSEPH COLLEGE renamed CLARKE COLLEGE (1928), and ACADEMY OF THE VISITATION (THE) became the first high school in the archdiocese accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools. (6)

Archbishop James Keane also believed in supporting the papacy financially and established a special fund for the Holy Father in the archdiocese. (7)

During his eighteen years, Keane saw the college grow to an enrollment of seven hundred, excluding enrollment in summer school courses, with a faculty of forty-eight. Columbia became only one of seven Catholic educational institutions in the nation to boast an endowment fund of one million dollars or more. The fund was begun in 1917 at the archbishop's direction, and his personal efforts led to a $200,000 donation from the Rockefeller Foundation. Locally he founded WITNESS (THE).

In November 1918, Archbishop Keane finalized the purchase of the Frank D. STOUT home at 11th and Locust for the archdiocese. The residence, purchased for a reported $23,000 to $25,000, had been owned for nearly two years by Joseph J. NAGLE who had attempted to find a buyer.

A figure of national prominence, Keane held membership in the Irish Peace Commission of 1920 that was concerned with the strife between Ireland and England. In 1926 he was one of the chief speakers at the annual meeting of the World Alliance for International Friendship, held at Pittsburgh. The speech was carried by radio nationally. He was such a popular speaker at Iowa’s state educational institutions that his lectures at the University of Iowa and Iowa State University were broadcast by radio. (8)

Card announcing the death of Archbishop James J. Keane. Photo courtesy: Bob Reding



1. "James Keane," Online: http://www.whoislog.info/profile/james-keane.html

2. Archbishop Keane Dies--Suffers Stroke Friday, Dubuque Telegraph Herald, August 3, 1929. Online: http://www.iowaoldpress.com/IA/Allamakee/1929/AUG.html

3. Ibid.

4. Catholic Mass Times. "Discover the Archdiocese of Dubuque," Online: http://catholic-mass-times.com/discover/iowa/dubuque.html

5. Gallagher, Mary Kevin. Seed/Harvest: A History of the Archdiocese of Dubuque. Dubuque: Archdiocese of Dubuque Press, 1987, p. 74

6. Ibid., p. 73

7. Ibid., p. 74

8. "James J. Keane," The Political Graveyard. Online: http://politicalgraveyard.com/bio/kaufmann-keast.html