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10 Famous Catholics 4 - 6

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John F. Kennedy (1917–1963)
John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the 35th President of the United States of America, was the first Roman Catholic to hold the highest office in the land.

Born in Brookline, Massachusetts, on May 29, 1917, to Joseph P. Kennedy and Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy, he was one of nine children in this affluent and influential family. His father was the head of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and later became the Ambassador to Great Britain.

John graduated from Harvard in 1940 and a year later enlisted in the U.S. Navy before the attack on Pearl Harbor and the declaration of war. The boat he commanded (PT-109) in the Pacific theater was attacked and sunk by the Japanese. He saved his crew but seriously injured his back. He was discharged in 1945 and ran as a Democrat for the U.S. Congress in 1946. He was re-elected twice.

On September 12, 1953, he married Jacqueline Bouvier, who gave him three children (Caroline, 1957; John, Jr., 1960; and a son who died in infancy). He became a U.S. Senator from Massachusetts in 1953. Seven years later, he ran against Vice President Richard M. Nixon and won the presidency.

Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman (1801–1890)
One of the most famous converts to Catholicism from England, he was initially an Anglican priest and pastor of St. Mary’s Church, Oxford, England. Here he ministered to countless university students. It was his studies of the Early Church Fathers that lead to his intellectual conversion, which resulted in his conversion to Catholicism. Newman was famous for his long sermons that he delivered at St. Mary’s Anglican Church. He joined and was instrumental in the Oxford Movement, a grassroots effort to restore certain Catholic elements of worship so as to reinvigorate the Anglican Church. The deeper he studied and prayed, the more he came to the conclusion that conversion to the Catholic Church was not an option for him but a necessity.

He was received in the Catholic Church in 1845 and ordained a Catholic Priest in 1847. This resulted in his being ostracized by the Anglican community, Oxford University, and many of his intellectual friends. He established the Oratory of St. Philip Neri, Birmingham, England, and continued to write and publish works on apologetics, all while establishing a Catholic University in Dublin and a school in Birmingham.

As an Anglican in Oxford, Newman ministered to the intellectual elite. In Birmingham, he served the poor Irish immigrants. Pope Leo XIII promoted him to Cardinal in 1849. After his death, about a century later, during the visit of Pope Benedict XVI to England, Newman was beatified on September 19, 2010. He is considered a genius and at the same time a humble pastor.

Bishop John Carroll (1735–1815)
Carroll was the third son of Daniel Carroll and Eleanor Darnall. In 1753 he entered to the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) and was ordained a priest in 1769. After the Jesuit order was suppressed temporarily (1773–1814), Fr. Carroll returned to Maryland, only to find strict anti-Catholic laws and no parish assignment.

In 1776 the Continental Congress asked Carroll to go to Quebec and persuade the French Canadians to help the American Revolution. He was able to influence some of the founding fathers to prohibit discrimination against religion in the Constitution. Only four states ratified this in the beginning: Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Delaware. Years later (1791), religious liberty would be enshrined as the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights.

Pope Pius VI appointed him the first bishop of Baltimore (1789), the very first diocese of the United States of America. He battled anti-Catholicism throughout his life and showed personally that Catholics, especially clergy, could and should be patriotic citizens while still being faithful to their religion. Archbishop Carroll encouraged St. Elizabeth Ann Seton to move from New York to Baltimore and then later to Emmitsburg, Maryland, where she established the Sisters of Charity (now the Daughters of Charity). With his blessing and support, she established the foundation of the Catholic (parochial) school system in the United States.


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