Black Catholicism Newsbriefs:

Bishop Healy Vaulted From Slavery to Servant of God

WINDSOR TERRACE — Anthropologist Tom Riley did not understand why his grandmother, in the mid 1950s, resisted an interview with a priest working on a biography of the family’s famous ancestor, Bishop James Augustine Healy.

Bishop Healy — the eldest brother of Riley’s great-grandmother, Martha — was born into slavery in Jones County, Georgia. He moved north for education as a young boy and later became a priest. In 1875 he was consecrated as the second bishop for the Diocese of Portland, Maine.

But Healy is also known as the first bishop of African American heritage in the U.S.

Healy, son of an Irish cotton planter and a multiracial slave, also made history in 1854 as the first ordained priest in the United States with African heritage. However, historians note that, because Healy “passed for white,”