William Matthews (priest)
William Matthews was the fifth Catholic priest ordained in the United States. He was influential in establishing Catholic parochial and educational institutions in Washington, D.C. He believed that because Catholics enjoyed the freedom to practice their religion in the U.S. under the Constitution, they had a duty to contribute to the moral and physical good of their communities.
About William Matthews (priest) in brief
William Matthews was the fifth Catholic priest ordained in the United States. He was influential in establishing Catholic parochial and educational institutions in Washington, D. C. Matthews was born into a prominent Maryland family and became a close adviser to Archbishop John Carroll. He believed that because Catholics enjoyed the freedom to practice their religion in the U.S. under the Constitution, they had a duty to contribute to the moral and physical good of their communities. He staunchly opposed slavery. Matthews’ matrilineal ancestry traces its origins to the noble O’Neills of Ireland. His cousin, Charles Carroll of Carrollton, was the sole Catholic signatory of the Declaration of Independence. He also was the maternal uncle of Senator Richard T. Merrick and Judge William Matthews Merrick, and the brother-in-law of Senator William Duhurst Merrick. Matthews died in Washington in 1805. He is buried in Mount Vernon, Maryland. He had a daughter, Mary, and a son, Joseph, who died in the Second World War. Matthews is buried at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Philadelphia. He died in Georgetown, Washington, in 1815. His son Joseph was the sixth president of Georgetown College, later known as Georgetown University. Matthews also served as vicar apostolic and apostolic administrator of the Diocese of Philadelphia during a period of ecclesiastical turmoil. He served as president of the Washington Catholic Seminary, which became Gonzaga College High School, and oversaw the continuity of the school during suppression by the church and financial insecurity.
He played a significant role in the founding of Washington Visitation Academy for girls and the parish that now includes the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle. His father, William Matthews Sr.’s ancestry traces to the English landed gentry, and includes Thomas Matthews—an early settler of the Maryland colony who was granted 4,000 acres of land in Port Tobacco, Maryland, by the Lords Calvert. His uncle, Bennett Neale, was one of the first Jesuits in the English colony. Six of his mother’s seven brothers became Jesuits, and one died during the Jesuit novitiate. His aunt, Ann Mathews, and two of his sisters—Susanna and Ann Teresa —became Ann Teresa and Carmelite nuns. He attended St. Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore in 1797, where he was educated at an English Jesuit school. He returned to America in his early twenties to study briefly theology at Georgetown College in 1796. While at Georgetown, he was chosen to be the first student to greet President George Washington upon his visit to the college. He became a student at St Mary’s Seminary and was a member of its board of trustees. He later became a trustee of the D.C. Public Schools and served as one of its superintendents. He founded St. Peter’s Church on Capitol Hill and St. Vincent’s Female Orphan Asylum and the co-founder and president of St.-Vincent’s Male orphan Asylum.