Today is the anniversary of the establishment of the Diocese of Baltimore and the anniversary of a rather unique circumstance, the episcopal election of Father John Carroll (January 8, 1735 – December 3, 1815) as the first bishop of the Roman Catholic Church in the United States of America. As bishop of Baltimore he set the stage for Catholicism’s vitality in the new nation.
So, on this date, 6 November 1789, by the pontifical brief Ex hac apostolicae, Baltimore was made the first diocese of the United States. Father John Carrol was elected the first bishop by the clergy in the USA by a vote of 24 out of 26. Pope Pius VI approved the election and he was consecrated to the episcopacy by Bishop Charles Walmesley, in England, on August 15, 1790.
Among his many accomplishments for the Church he was the founder of Georgetown University, held the first diocesan synod in 1791, invited the English Dominicans to serve here and established the Order of the Visitation. By 1804, the Holy Father entrusted the Church in the Danish West Indies and other nearby islands to Carroll; and by 1805 the Louisiana Territory became part of the Baltimore Province. In April 1808, Pope Pius VII established Baltimore as the first US archdiocese with suffragan diocese of Bardstown, Boston, New York and Philadelphia.