James Gibbons was born in Baltimore on July 23, 1834, the son of Thomas Gibbons, a clerk, and Bridget Walsh Gibbons. He was baptized in the cathedral from which he would be buried.
Gibbons’ parents had come to the United States about 1829 but returned to Ireland in 1837. There his father ran a grocery in Ballinrobe, County Mayo, until his death in 1847. The widow and children returned to the United States in 1853, establishing their residence in New Orleans. There James worked in a grocery store until inspired by a Redemptorist retreat to become a priest.
In 1855 he entered St. Charles College, the minor seminary in Baltimore, and in 1857 St. Mary’s, the major seminary. On June 30, 1861, he was ordained by Archbishop Francis Patrick Kenrick of Baltimore, who had accepted him for his archdiocese. For six weeks Gibbons was assistant at St. Patrick’s parish, then appointed first pastor of St. Bridget’s, originally a mission of St. Patrick’s. There he served as a chaplain for Fort McHenry during the Civil War.
In 1877 James Gibbons became archbishop of Baltimore, the oldest and most prestigious archdiocese in the United States (which included Washington, D.C.). In 1886 he was created a cardinal, the second American to receive the red zuchetto. From that time until his death in 1921, he was the unofficial leader of the Church in the United States, honored and extolled by all Americans.
In 1917 Theodore Roosevelt wrote to him, Taking your life as a whole, I think you now occupy the position of being the most respected, and venerated, and useful citizen of our country.
His zucchetto is a very valued asset to the Collection.
The other items presented here are a large medallion commemorating the 25th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood, and a box with an image of him on the cover.
The second photo depicts a note card, written and signed by him. In part it reads, My dear Sr. Agathai, the enclosed paper was sent to me by Mother Placide for my signature which I gladly affix. I hope to have the pleasure of meeting you on the occasion of….on May 19. J. Card. Gibbons
A third item, a portion of his cassock is included here.
Papal Artifacts honors the memory and gift to our Church of Cardinal James Gibbons.