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The Diocese of Savannah comprises the State of Georgia and was created as such by Pius IX, 1850. The first bishop, Rev. F.X. Gartland, V.G. of Philadelphia, was consecrated, 10 September, 1850; died, 20 September, 1854; succeeded by Rev. John Barry of Augusta, who was consecrated, 2 August, 1857, and died, 21 November, 1859. Rev. Augustus Verot, Vicar-Apostolic of Florida, was appointed to succeed Bishop Barry but resigned in 1870 and returned to Florida where he died, 10 June, 1876. Rt. Rev. Ignatius Persico, then in the Diocese of Charleston, was transferred to Savannah, 11 March, 1870, resigning two years after through ill health. On 27 April, 1873, Rev. William H. Gross, C.SS.R., was consecrated but transferred to the Archiepiscopal See of Oregon City in 1885, and was succeeded by the Rt. Rev. Thomas A. Becker, who was transferred from the See of Wilmington, 16 May, 1886. He died, 27 July, 1899, and was succeeded by the present incumbent Very Rev. B.J. Keiley. Bishop Keiley was born in 1847; went to school at Petersburg, Va.; entered the Confederate service in 1864; went to St. Charles College, Ellicott City, Md., for a brief period in 1868; went to Rome in 1869; was ordained priest, 31 December, 1873; appointed pastor of New Castle, Delaware, 24 September, 1873; transferred to rectorship of pro-cathedral, Wilmington, Delaware, August, 1880. On the transfer of Bishop Becker to Savannah in May, 1886, he obtained permission from Rome to go to that diocese, where he was made pastor of Immaculate Conception Church and vicar-general, 3 December, 1886. Called to Savannah, 12 July, 1896, he was made rector of the cathedral, appointed Bishop of Savannah, 19 April, 1900, and consecrated by Cardinal Gibbons, 3 June, 1900, in St. Peter's Cathedral, Richmond.

The Bishop of Savannah is a corporation sole and title to church property rests in him. A majority of the secular priests are of Irish descent, with a few German and French. There is no diocesan seminary; students are sent to St. Bernard's, Rochester, Dunwoodie, N.Y., and Belmont, N.C. The present cathedral, that of St. John the Baptist, was finished during the administration of the present bishop upon the ruins of the one completed by Bishop Gross, destroyed by fire, 6 February, 1898. The cornerstone of the first church of St. John the Baptist was laid, 30 May, 1800. There are academies in Savannah, Mâcon, Augusta, Columbus and Washington under the care of the Sisters of St. Joseph and Sisters of Mercy; day colleges for boys: in Augusta, under the Jesuit Fathers; in Savannah, under the Benedictine Fathers; and in Atlanta under the Marist Fathers. There is an orphanage for girls in Savannah, in charge of the Sisters of Mercy, and for boys, in Washington, in charge of the Sisters of St. Joseph. Hospitals, at Savannah and Atlanta, are under the Sisters of Mercy. Under certain restrictions, Mass is said in the Federal prison at Atlanta, where a Catholic priest exercises the duties of chaplain under a salary from the Government. Under the administration of Bishop Keiley the entire charge of the coloured people has been given to the Fathers of the African Mission, who have established churches in Savannah, Atlanta, and one at Mâcon, adjoining the novitiate of the Jesuits. Diocesan collections are taken annually. The Eucharistic League is widely established, St. Vincent de Paul Conferences and Holy Name Societies are local throughout the diocese, as well as Sodalities of the Sacred Heart and of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In addition to the orders mentioned there are Sisters of St. Francis for the coloured people at Savannah and Augusta, and Little Sisters of the Poor at Savannah. The annual retreats are attended by every priest in the diocese. The statistics in May, 1911, were: priests, regular and secular, 74; churches with resident priests, 19; missions with churches, 14; stations regularly attended, 81; chapels, 14; colleges, 3; academies, 10; parish schools, 16; white orphanages, 2; coloured, 2; home for aged poor, 1; hospitals, 2; population, 15,583.


SHEA, History of the Catholic Church in the U.S., IV (New York, 1892), passim.

About this page

APA citation. Keiley, J. (1912). Savannah. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.

MLA citation. Keiley, Jarvis. "Savannah." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 13. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912. <>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by John Fobian. In memory of James Tiernan.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. February 1, 1912. Remy Lafort, D.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.

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