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SMYTH, Clement

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Bishop Clement Smyth

SMYTH, Clement. (Finlea, near Killaloe, County Clare, Ireland, Jan. 24, 1810-Sept. 23, 1865). Second bishop of Dubuque. Father Smyth founded the monastery of New Melleray near Dubuque. With a group of monks from the Abbey of Melleray, County of Waterford, Ireland, Father Smyth came to America in 1849 and moved to Dubuque where they were received by Bishop Mathias LORAS. The failing health of Father Loras made a coadjutor necessary. Father Smyth, the unanimous choice, was consecrated on May 3, 1857, and became a diocese administrator. He assumed all the duties of bishop when Loras died in 1858.

It would have been difficult for anyone to maintain the speed by which the Catholic faith grew under Loras. Bishop Smyth time in Dubuque was affected by hios poor health, the Panic of 1857 and the CIVIL WAR. Yet the fact that services at ST. RAPHAEL'S CATHEDRAL still had to be held in the basement three years after the death of Loras suggests that Smyth did not have the organizational skills of his predecessor. The church in Dubuque was also faced with an unexplained loss of priests during this time.

Bishop Smyth's support of the Union before and during the Civil War undoubtedly contributed to his problems. The lay leaders of the Dubuque diocese were traditionally Democratic and supported candidates like George Wallace JONES who had attitudes support the South. The influential Catholic Dennis MAHONY wrote such extreme editorials against the Lincoln administration that he was eventually arrested without a warrant and jailed without a trial. Lincoln carried Iowa easily in the election of 1860 but the two predominantly Catholic counties of Dubuque and Lee voted for the Democratic candidate. Smyth openly opposed any Catholics participating with the COPPERHEADS and threatened excommunication to those who joined. When he expressed grief at the death of President Lincoln, an arsonist burned his barn destroying two horses, a coach and a sleigh.

Smyth saw the accomplishment of many goals during his tenure. He established two laymen's organizations. The Sodality of the Blessed Virgin Mary attracted one hundred thirty members in Dubuque. The Society of St. Vincent de Paul was organized at St. Raphael's in 1858. At the end of its first year, the Society of sixty-nine active members had spent $1,437 in assistance to 201 families. A school of higher education for boys was established. A strong proponent of his faith, Smyth saw eighty churches built, twenty "out-missions" established, and forty-six priests ordained in the Diocese of Dubuque before he died.

Gallagher, Mary Kevin B.V.M. Seed/Harvest: A History of the Archdiocese of Dubuque. Dubuque, Iowa" Archdiocese of Dubuque Press, 1987