The first Archbishop of San Francisco: Joseph Sadoc Alemany

October 31, 2015 | By | Reply More
Joseph Sadoc Alemany

Joseph Sadoc Alemany

The Franciscan phase of religious activities, as evidenced in the Mission Dolores story, has already been indicated.

Here it is proposed to confine the discussion to the first years of what may be called the American period of San Francisco’s past.

That period as applied to California started effectively with the discovery of gold. 

The American period of Roman Catholicism in California may be dated from December 6, 1850, when the American vessel Columbus entered the bay bearing a new bishop appointed to California, Joseph Sadoc Alemany, O.P.

Alemany was born July 3, 1814, in Vic,  north of Barcelona, Spain.

He entered the Dominican Order in 1830 and was ordained a priest on March 11, 1837.

The Dominicans sent him to the United States in 1840. For the next eight years, he engaged in missionary activity in the East and South of the United States, eventually becoming a naturalized United States citizen.

Summoned to Rome, Alemany met on June 11, 1850 with Cardinal Giacomo Franzoni, informed of his appointment as Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Monterey in California.

Alemany replied, “No.”

Pope Pius IX ordered Alemany to a private audience on June 16.

Pius IX told Alemany, “You must go to California….Where others are drawn by gold, you must carry the Cross.

Cardinal Franzoni consecrated Alemany, Bishop of Monterey on June 30, 1850, in Rome; thus, becoming the first American bishop in California.

Before leaving Europe, Alemany determined that he would need the help of a community of religious women for the education of the children of his new territory. He traveled around, visiting various monasteries of Dominican nuns. When he arrived in Paris, he went to the Monastery of the Cross there, where he presented his request for volunteers among the Dominican Sisters.

He had one recruit, Sister Mary of the Cross Goemaere, O.P., a Belgian novice.

He soon set sail with her and a fellow Dominican friar, Francis Sadoc Vilarrasa, O.P., arriving in San Francisco on December 6, 1850.

Goemaere then founded a community in Monterey which was to become the Dominican Sisters of San Rafael.

He bore the tile of Bishop of Monterrey (his jurisdiction included all of California, though) from 1850 to 1853 and was named first archbishop of San Francisco in the latter year, serving in that important capacity until 1884.

One who examines the Alemany years is quickly forced to the pleasant conclusion that the earlier Franciscans such as Serra, Palou, Lausen, and others, had worthy successor in the humble Dominican friar who riled the Catholic Church in San Francisco for thirty-four years.


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Category: Fog City - City of Fog, History

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