Papal Nobility in the United States

This article (San Francisco Call, Volume 102, Number 121, 29 September 1907) has been transcribed from the original scan. I have added comments and biographical notes to provide more information about the titled persons. The article gives insight in the social background of the new nobility.

The Papal Nobility of America

Ida Ryan

Mrs. THOMAS FORTUNE RYAN has been made a countess by Pope Pius X. This announcement comes close on the heels of the report that her husband is to be made a prince of the church. It has been whispered in high church circles in New York and in Rome that for the flrst time in years the red hat of a cardinal would be bestowed upon -a man of the world – and an American. While this report may be groundless, the fact has come to light that during the last few years what may possibly be termed a papal nobility has been created in the United States. Theoretically Pope Plus IX was a friend of the United States and an admirer of the church in this country, but not until the reign of Leo XIII and of the present pontiff has there been any acknowledgment of the high standing of the church in this country other than the creation of two cardinals in a hundred years. “Nobility lies not in heritage alone, but in the deeds of the living generations.” was one of the epigrams of Leo XIII. Taking this for his maxim, he placed the ancient titles of Rome upon men and women whose lives distinguished them among the good doers of the generation. Pius X has followed his policy. During the four years of his reign he has created an unprecedented number of nobles in recognition of both scientific achievement and – philanthropic work. While Pope Pius has accepted the precedent set by Leo XIII, which accorded to Cardinal Gibbons the distinction of being “the American cardinal,” and has intimated that during the life of his eminence no other prelate will be given the red hat, he has in every other way possible elevated the standing of the American church.

Thomas Fortune Ryan, 1913 painting by Joaquín Sorolla

Thomas Fortune Ryan (1851–1928) was an American tobacco, insurance and transportation magnate. Although he lived in New York City for much of his adult career, Ryan was perhaps the greatest benefactor of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Richmond in the decades before the Great Depression. In addition to paying for schools, hospitals and other charitable works, Ryan’s donations paid for the construction of the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Richmond, Virginia. Ryan also made significant donations to Catholic institutions in New York City and Washington, D.C. (source: Wikipedia). As her husband’s wealth grew exponentially, Ida Barry Ryan began making large benefactions to Catholic charitable organizations in New York, Virginia, and across the country. The Ryans funded churches, convents and hospitals in Manhattan, including the architecturally important St. Jean Baptiste Catholic Church on the Upper East Side. In Washington, D.C., they paid for a gymnasium and dormitory at the Jesuit-founded Georgetown University. Pope Pius X recognized the couple’s generosity by naming him to the papal nobility and giving Ida Ryan the cross Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice for her work in the Diocese. The couple’s lifetime contributions to Catholic charities around the country totalled $20 million.

Ida Mary Barry Ryan (1854 Baltimore, Baltimore City, Maryland – 1917 (aged 62) Suffern, Rockland County, New York). Although there was a place for her in the crypt of Richmond’s Sacred Heart Cathedral, she was ultimately interred in the cemetery at St. Andrews-on-Hudson Seminary in Hyde Park, New York (now The Culinary Institute of America). Photo by R.C.

The raising of Mrs. Ryan (1854-1917) to the Catholic nobility was expected by many prelates in this country during Pops Leo’s administration. Decorations and privileges were accorded to her, but the rank of countess was held in the country only by Mils Annie Leary. Mrs. Ryan, the builder of churches and iiospitals and schools, the story of whose remarkable life was recently told in the Herald, never has sough any recognition for her deeds. While it Is known that she gives away $1,000,000 a year for charitable purposes, little Is known of her philanthropy. She has built more churches  and schools in the United States than any other person in the entire world. The number of these gifts alone exceeds 30 and there is hardly a Catholic church or Institution In the eastern states or in the southwestern section to which she has not lent material aid. In placing the title of “Countess Ida” upon Mrs. Ryan Pope Pius is said to have remarked that it was not alone for the cathedrals and churches and public institutions with which Mrs. Ryan has enriched the church in this country that she has been made a member of the Vatican nobility, but more especially because of the daily Christian life she leads. Few religious orders require from their nuns more of abstinence and labor and prayer than Mrs. Ryan gives every day of her life. She begins her morning by attending mass, and from that time until she retires at night her mind and her hands are ever busy in some good work. She is a lover of working men and women, and her munificence has done much to relieve the burdens of hundreds In New York and In the far west, where she has materially aided destitute consumptives. She gave to Virginia Its cathedral at Richmond, which cost $ 1.000.000.

Annie Leary

Annie Leary (b. 1832 – d. 1919), philanthropist, was born in New York City, daughter of James and Catherine Leary, who were also born in New York. She is descended on her mother’s side from The Netherlands, while her paternal grandfather came from Ireland to the United States during his boyhood.

The only other papal countess la the United States is the Countess Annie Leary, whose title was ctven by Pope Leo XIII, and expired at the pontiffs death. One of the first acts of Pope Pius’ administration waa to renew the Countess Leary’s title, with that of from other temporary nobility. Countess Leary received the title because of her extensive work for the “Welfare of working girls and emigrants. Years ago, when she very young girl, before the emigrants bureau was as well organized as it is now and prior to the time when State street was lined with homes for emigrant girls, terrible stories of the snares and temptations which were laid In the way of young girls coming as strangers to this land reached the ears of Miss Leery. She was horrified at such conditions and determined to try to find a remedy for the evil. She possessed an ample fortune and she resolved to share it with her less fortunate sisters. She gave freely to the support and management of the Irish emigrants’ home, at No. 7 State street, and also aided the German and Italian homes around Castle Garden, where a housed that steady stream of friendless girls coming to these shores to seek true honest living. But even those homes where the girls were taken on their arrival here did not solve the problem. Places of employment were found for them, and yet too often they went out Into a world they so little understood, unlearned of the ways of the world, unfitted to cope with the conditions friendless girl has to meet. Many ol those girls were of simple faith and trusting natures, and the stories which reached the ears of the clergy and those interestet in the question necessitated some action.

Countess Leary learned some of these facts from her own servant girls. She became Interested, made Investigations and then resolved upen a line of action. She was the mind and often the means of establishing working girls’ clubs and homes, there being a regular network of them throughout, the east and lower west sides. She has devoted most of her life to this work, giving her personal attention and encouragement to these institutions. She goes, among the girls and hears their stories, their little problems and their great troubles. Any woman’s heart oppressed finds eympathy and encouragement from Countess Leary. Her heart has a b!g place in it for all wage earning women.

Countess Leary is a stanch American and, realizing that the future of the state lies In the children of today, she spends much of her time and her wealth for the boys and girls of the poor. She has established boys’ clubs and gymnasiums and girls’, clubs and reading rooms and sewing clubs and playrooms for the youth of the other half. At Christmas and New Year’s and Thanksgiving and national feast days the countess arranges celebrations In the various Institutions she is interested in. Christmas eve of every year she assembles several hundred little tots and gives to each of them a warm, pretty cap and coat, besides candies and a book of some kind. “The Man Without a Country” Is one of her favorite books for boys, and she has given many copies of it. In addition to her charities among children and working women, Countess Leary has lent much aid to hospital work for the poor. She Is a patron’ of all the children’s hospitals and goes often with flowers and dainty foods and pleasing toys to visit  the unfortunate young folk. Countess Leary presented to Bellevue-hospital the fine chapel which was built there several years ago. Another pretty charity of hers is to send a beautiful quantity of pure, rich cream for the ward patients at various hospitals on hot days.

Annie Leary (1832 – 1919) was the daughter of the hatter James Leary who was a childhood friend of William Backhouse Astor Sr., then, later bought many beaver pelts from William’s father John Jacob Astor and operated a shop in the basement of the original Astor House Hotel across from New York City Hall. She had three brothers Arthur, Daniel, and George who made a fortune in shipping during the U.S. Civil War. Arthur was a bachelor who Annie accompanied to society functions in New York City as well as Newport, Rhode Island. It has been suggested that James friendship with the Astors is what led to Arthur and in turn Annie’s being the only Catholics to be included on Caroline Astor’s “The 400”. When Arthur died she inherited his fortune as well as his social prominence and recognition via the aforementioned 400 list. Coming into large sums of money Annie Leary soon became an ardent philanthropist. Among her notable bequests was the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament at Bellevue Hospital (dedicated 1897 – razed 1938 in order to make way for a Bellevue administration building which encompasses a new chapel where the original stained glass panels including nine made in Munich remain today) the first Catholic chapel at Bellevue. It was dedicated in memory of her late brother Arthur (source: Wikipedia).

Archbishop Farley

To Archbishop Farley, whom Pope Pius greatly esteems, the pontiff has given a court of monsignor, which lends to any diocesan ceremony a dignity of splender which is found nowhere outside Rome. At the consecration of the cathedral, which occurs, it is planned, soon after the work is entirely finished on the Lady chapel, there will be, in addition to the archbishop and his coadjutor, Bishop Cusick, the archbishop’s seven diocesan bishops, 25 purple robed monsignori and seven lay nobles around the episcopal throne.

John Murphy Farley (April 20, 1842 – September 17, 1918) was an Irish-born prelate of the Roman Catholic Church. He served as Archbishop of New York from 1902 until his death in 1918, and created a cardinal in 1911 (source: Wikipedia).

Joseph Florimond Loubat

Loubat was born in New York City to Alphonse Loubat and Susan Gaillard Loubat. His father was a French inventor and businessman who was engaged in transport infrastructure development in New York City and Paris.

The only papal duke the United States has ever claimed is the duke de Loubat., the last son of the aristocratic family of that name. The title was conferred by Pope Leo in recognition of the duke de Loubat’s generous support of Catholic and nonsectarian schools and colleges. Duke de Loubat lent his aid to every Catholic college in this country and to many in France. He gave a million dollar endowment to Columbia university at the time when is was in financial straits. He also added much to Columbia library. He was made duke in 1898.  He decides his time between New York and Paris and swell known in France as a man of great learning and philanthropy. Is a graduate of the University of Paris.

Joseph Florimond Loubat (January 21, 1831 – March 1, 1927) was a French and American bibliophile, antiquarian, sportsman, and philanthropist. He was ennobled as Duc de Loubat by Pope Leo XIII in 1893 (source: Wikipedia).

Loubat was a philanthropist who gave in 1898 Columbia University a gift of $1.1 million in property, and later gave Columbia money to fund the Loubat Prize. He also endowed chairs at several universities across Europe and the United States, including Columbia. He donated a statue of Pope Leo XIII to The Catholic University of America in 1891.

Loubat contributed monetary funds towards the founding of the Musée d’Ethnographie du Trocadéro and Musée de l’Homme in Paris. Loubat also donated to the American Museum of Natural History a large collection of Mexican archaeological artifacts assembled on his behalf by Edward Seler in the State of Oaxaca, Mexico; a series of casts of the original Cotzumalhuapa sculptures from the ruins of Santa Lucía Cotzumalguapa, Guatemala, kept in the Ethnological Museum of Berlin; a photographic copy of the “Codex Legislatif,” an ancient Aztec codex, preserved in the Library of the Chamber of Deputies, Paris; and a facsimile of the “Codex Vaticanus, No. 3773,” an ancient Aztec book preserved in the Vatican Library, Rome (source: Wikipedia).

 John D. Crimmins

Crimmins had entered his father’s construction contracting business at the age of 20. He took over the firm in 1873 and by now the boy with a public school education was a director in at least a dozen corporations or banks. His company was responsible for constructing the Croton Aqueduct, multiple gas facilities, most of the elevated railroads and would construct the early subway system—what the New-York Tribune called the “underground trolley system.”

John D. Crimmins has recently made a count by Pope Pius X. Mr Crimmins is a trustee of St. Patrick’s cathedral and is a member of nearly all the boards of importance in archbishop’s Farley’s diocese. The scarlet cloak of the Knight of St. Gregory was given to Mr. Crimmins as a token of the pope’s of his work for the church in New York. Count Crimmin’s most distinguished gift in the diocese is the splendid monastery at Hunts point, where he established the Dominican Sisters of Perpetual Adoration. These nuns devote their lives to prayer, and some one of their order kneels every hour of the night and day before the chapel alter in the monastery.

Born in New York City to Irish immigrant parents, John Daniel Crimmins attended the College of St. Francis Xavier (now Xavier High School). After graduating he took a job at his father’s contracting firm, eventually taking over the business. His firm employed some 12,000 workers. It built more than 400 buildings in New York City and most of the elevated railways. He was also involved in local politics, serving as New York City Parks Commissioner. Crimmins was one of the few Catholic millionaires of his time and he was an active benefactor of the Archdiocese of New York. Among the building projects he aided was that of St. Joseph’s Seminary, Yonkers. Crimmins was named a Knight Commander of the Order of St. Gregory the Great and a Papal Count. He was active in Irish-American organizations, particularly the American-Irish Historical Society. He wrote two books on Irish-American history (source: Pictures of his house van be found here.

Martin  Maloney

Marquis Maloney, beter known to the political and financial world as Martin Maloney, received his title about six years ago at the request of cardinal Satolli, whom the marquis met when the cardinal was papal delegate for this country. A strong friendship developed here between the prince of the church and the American millionaire. Some time after Cardinal Satolli was called back to Rome, Marquis Maloney went to Italy on a visit and the friendship was renewed. The American when taken to the dilapidated ruins of St. John’s cathedral asked how much it would take to reconstruct the ancient structure.

“How much money?” asked Cardinal Satolli. “Why, who ever thought about that? It would take at least $ 50.000 and that amount might be spent to better advantage.”.

“It might, but it won’t” remarked Martin Maloney, and the very next day saw work begun on the cathedral. It is said that twice $50.000 was spent on the work. While this gift is accredited as the cause of the bestowal of the noble title on Marin Maloney, it is by no means his largest gift to the church.

He has just given to to Pennsylvania a home for aged men and women, the building alone of which will cost $ 150.000. This home will be dedicated to Martin Maloney’s father and mother, who, when they emigrated to this country from Ireland many years ago, made their first humble home in Scranton. It was here that Marquis Maloney spent his boyhood.

At the time of the expulsion of the nuns in France four years ago Marquis Maloney went abroad with a definite purpose in mind. He purchased many of the small convents with the nuns had been ordered to vacate and held them as his private property in order that the religious might not be disturbed. Among the larger convents he purchased was that of the Little Sisters of the Assumption in Paris, where Marquis Maloney’s two daughters, Margaret and Katherine, were educated. After the death of the older daughter, Margaret, Marquis Maloney built near his summer house at Spring Lake N.J. one of the handsomest churches in this country, which he dedicated to his daughter and called St. Margaret’s.

Maloney Hall is the home of the Busch School of Business and Economics at The Catholic University of America. It is located on the southeast corner of Catholic University’s main campus. Maloney Hall was named for Martin Maloney, a Philadelphia philanthropist and papal marquis (a layman who has received a high title of nobility from the reigning pope), who gave $120,000 for the main building and $100,000 for the auditorium. The building originally housed the Martin Maloney Chemical Laboratory, the laboratory where the chemical weapon lewisite was first invented by Julius Nieuwland and later Winford Lee Lewis, with the help of CUA and Army researchers, developed it into a now-banned chemical weapon. It served as a laboratory for Armyresearchers developing chemical munitions for World War I (source: Wikipedia).

John Goode

Count John Goode of Brooklyn and Dr. Thomas Addis Emmet of New York aro the only two Americans who, have been titled by Rome in recognition of signal scientific achievements. Count Goede, well known as an inventor, was given his title after evolvIng a machine for the making of ropes. Until this time all the rope made was twisted by hand, and for this labor young boys and girls were employed, the wages paid being too small for the employment of men. Count Goode at that time was a very rich man, having amassed a fortune in the cordage business. He used to stand and watch the boys and girls at the hard labor of rope twisting, and determined to evolve a method for lightening this work. The machine he invented resulted in revolutionizing the cordage enterprise In the world. Count Goude Is a very devoted Catholic and has given much of his wealth to the Brooklyn diocese. He enriched Brooklyn by the church of St. John.

Thomas Addis Emmet

Thomas Addis Emmet is the latest member of the papal knighthood. He was vested, with the scarlet cape and sword In Archbishop Farley’s residence last spring and will appear in his regalia at the formal celebration In the cathedral this fall. Dr Emmet is a proud descendant of Robert Emmet. He was Knighted in recognition of his medical research.

Charles Astor Bristed

Charles Astor Bristed, grandson of William Astor has for a ‘number of years been conspicuous at all the state ceremonies at St. Patrlck’s cathedral, where. with his cape and sword he has, according to the privileges of his title, knelt in the sanctuary to participate in the ‘ceremonies. Sir Charles Brlsted was knighted for his widespread philanthropies and his strict adherence to his church.

William J. Onahan

Onahan quickly became prominent in that Chicago’s civil affairs. He was a member of the city school board, president of the public library, city collector for six terms, city comptroller and jury commissioner. He was the chief architect of the American Catholic Congress at Baltimore in 1889.  This gathering of 1,500 Catholic lay people from all over the United States discussed and planned for the future of the Church in America. Photo: Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society. 

William J. Onahan of Chicago who was made a knight of St. Gregory by Pope Leo, has enjoyed the actual privileges of his title probably more than any other member of the nobility in this country. He spends a great  deal of his time abroad and is a frequent visitor at the Vatican. Accordingly to his rank, he can I enter the Vatican at any time without seeking permission for asking an audience. He was in the Vatican at the time of the death of Pope Leo and was in the very room where the late pontiff’s body was carried to be laid in state. According to ancient customs, the gates were locked at that time and Sir William Onahan was cloistered in the Vatican the remainder of the night.

After ,the death of his mother the family struggled along in Liverpool for a while. Then the voice that had called them from Ireland called again. The little home was again broken up and the Onahan family set sail for America. The voyage took six weeks in a sailing vessel and they reached the harbor of New York on St. Patrick’s day. There was a small boyish figure in the prow of the ship, and two little girls by his side all looking eagerly to the land in which their lot was to be cast. Bands were playing, men were marching, the green flag was flying everywhere. It was a happy omen to the young Irish lad whose staunch Americanism was to be all the hardier for the Celtic root from which it sprang.

Arrived in New York he immediately got a job in a lawyer’s office, sweeping and dusting and doing the usual office chores for the munificent sum of $1.00 per month and his board and clothes. Once in later life when he was testifying in a lawsuit the judge said to him: Mr. Onahan, from your answers you must have studied law.” No. your honor,” he replied, ^Hhe only law I ever studied was what I picked up in the sweepings of a lawyer’s office in New York when I was a lad.” But he had the legal mind (source: Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society (1908-1984) Vol. 11, No. 4 (Jan., 1919), pp. 636-653).

John Creighton

Count John Andrew Creighton (October 15, 1831 – February 7, 1907)

Count John Creighton of Omaha. Neb., who died, last month, was ono of the best known members of the papal nobility. He donated to Nebraska the Creighton university, the largest university In that state, and also gave several hospitals and a number of churches to Omaha.

Count John Andrew Creighton (October 15, 1831 – February 7, 1907) was a pioneer businessman and philanthropist in Omaha, Nebraska who founded Creighton University. The younger brother of Edward Creighton, John was responsible for a variety of institutions throughout the city of Omaha, and was ennobled by Pope Leo XIII in recognition of his contributions to Creighton University, the Catholic community in Omaha, and the city of Omaha in general. From its founding in 1878 to the time of his death in 1907 Creighton was said to have donated at least $2,000,000 to Creighton University. In 1888 Creighton financed the Creighton University Observatory, and in 1898 he gave money towards a medical school, which was named in his honor. In 1904 he created the Edward Creighton Institute.Creighton is also credited with establishing Omaha’s St. Joseph’s Hospital and bringing the first monastery of the Poor Clares in the country to the city. He paid for almost the entire cost of St. John’s Parish at Creighton, where the cornerstone was laid in 1888. Today Creighton University in Omaha is viewed as being named in honor of the entire Creighton family, particularly John and his brother Edward, as well as their wives Sara and Emily.He was named a Knight of St. Gregory on January 15, 1895 by Pope Leo XIII, and in 1898 was titled a Count by the same. In 1900 Creighton received the Laetare Medal from the University of Notre DameOmaha’s John A. Creighton Boulevard was named after him immediately after his death in 1907, as is the existent “John A. Creighton University Professorship” at Creighton University (source: Wikipedia).

Adrian Iselin

John Singer Sargent, Eleanora O’Donnell Iselin (Mrs. Adrian Iselin) 1888 oil on canvas.

Adrin Iselin Is amons the prominent New York men who have received titles from Rome. Mr. Iselin was vested with the cape and sword of the Knights of St. Gregory soon after the beginning of the present administration. One of Sir Adrian Iselin’s most valuable gifts to New York is the $150,000 chapel at New Rochells. This was presented to the diocese after the crest of St. Gregory was bestowed upon him.

Adrian Georg Iselin (January 17, 1818 – March 28, 1905) was a New York financier who invested in and developed real estate, railroads, and mining operations. For many years during his early business career he was engaged in importing with his brother, William Iselin, being one of the most successful merchants of New York in the middle of the century. After retiring from the importing trade, he established the banking house of Adrian Iselin & Co. He is considered the founder of the Iselin family in the United States.

Eleanora O’Donnell Iselin (1821–1897) was born into one of Baltimore, Maryland’s most prominent and wealthy families. In 1845 she married Adrian Iselin, an affluent banker and dry goods merchant. The Iselins lived in New York City, where they were active members of high society and supporters of the city’s cultural centers, including the Metropolitan Opera House, the American Museum of Natural History, and The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Eleanora’s daughters Georgine and Emily commissioned the portrait from Sargent in the spring of 1888, as the artist’s first professional visit to America was nearing its end (source: National Gallery of Art). 

According to family tradition, when Sargent arrived at the Iselin home for the sitting, Mrs. Iselin entered the drawing room followed by a maid carrying an armful of ball gowns and asked him which one he wanted her to wear. To her dismay, Sargent insisted on painting her exactly as she stood without even removing her hand from the table. Some art historians have suggested that this interaction explains the sitter’s somewhat severe expression. When late in life Sargent was asked if he remembered Mrs. Iselin, he diplomatically replied, “Of course! I cannot forget that dominating little finger.” (Source: National Gallery of Art).

Richard C. Kerens

Richard C. Kerens (1842 – September 4, 1916) was an American contractor and politician.

Richard C. Kerens of St. Louis, railroadman and politician. Is a chamberlain to Pope Pius-X. Mr. Kerens, who came to America a poor emigrant boy, went west and amassed a fortune, has carried through his life the strong Roman faith instilled to him by his Irish mother. With his Increased prosperity he has given accordingly to his church. He has enriched the St. Louis university, which is under the direction of the Jesuits, and the Catholic university of America, at Washington, and has aided nearly every charitable institution in St. Louis. He has also done much for institutions in his native land and for Irish charitable enterprises in this country. It Is said that Mr. Kerens is trying to purchase a strip of land in Rome which will reach from the Vatican to the sea, in order to give to the pope a greater freedom and to relieve his present restrictions, which forbid him leaving the Vatican grounds. It is understood that Mr. Kerens has offered $5,000,000 for this purpose.

Kerens was born in Killberry, County Meath, Ireland, and was brought to the U. S. in infancy. He was educated in the public schools of Jackson Co., Iowa. Throughout the Civil War he served in the Union army. After the war he lived in Arkansas and at San Diego, Cal., and was contractor for the Overland Mail. In 1876 he moved to St. Louis, Mo., and thereafter was interested in the construction of railroads and was active in the Republican politics of Missouri. In 1892 he became a member of the Republican National Committee. From 1909 to 1913 he was Ambassador to Austria-Hungary (source: Wikipedia).

Eugene and Thomas Kelly

Among the younger members of the nobility in the United States areEugene and Thomas Kelly, sons of the late Eugene Kelly, a New York banker, who gave the white marble Lady Chapel to St. Patrick’s cathedral. Eugene and Thomas Kelly were made Knights of St. Gregory, with the title of sIr.

The Order of the Knights of St Gregory was reorganized by Pope Gregory XVI In 1831 since which time Catholics who are not of the state nobility or aristocracy have been vested with the title.

Ellen Ewing Sherman and Mary Caldwell

The late Mrs. Tecumseh Sherman was decorated several times by pope Leo for her charitable work. Mary Caldwell, the Virginia, beauty, now the Marquise de Merinville (Mary Gwendolen Caldwell, Marquise de Merinville, Laetare Medalist, VOL_0032_ISSUE_0023, 1899), and who before her marriage presented to the hierarchy of the United States the funds for the establishment of the Catholic university at Washington, was also decorated.

Ellen Ewing Sherman (October 4, 1824 – November 28, 1888), was the wife of General William Tecumseh Sherman, a leading Union general in the American Civil War. She was also a prominent figure of the times in her own right. Like her mother, Ellen was a devout Catholic and often at odds with her husband over religious topics. Ellen raised her eight children in that faith. In 1864, Ellen took up temporary residence in South Bend, Indiana, to have her young family educated at the University of Notre Dame and St. Mary’s College. One of their sons, Thomas Ewing Sherman, became a Catholic priest. She also took an ongoing interest in Indian missions and was credited as the principal organizer of the Catholic Indian Missionary Association. In “the most absorbing and monumental work of her life,” Ellen played an active role in U.S. observances of the Golden Jubilee of Pope Pius IX (May 21, 1877) for which she later received the personal thanks of the Pope (source: Wikipedia).

Mary Elizabeth Breckenridge and Mary Guendaline Byrd Caldwell were the daughters of William Shakespeare Caldwell who made his fortune building and operating gas plants throughout the Midwest. Both daughters married titled European aristocrats. Mary Guendaline was first engaged to the Prince Joachim Murat, the grandson of the King of Naples, who was not only twice her age but an invalid. The engagement was canceled when the couple could not agree on how much of Miss Caldwell’s fortune was to be given to the Prince.




Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Kulage

Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Kulage of St. Louis, Mo, are the latest additions to the Catholic nobility in the country. They were both knighted by Pope Pius X on August 20 with the Order of St. Gregory, and the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre. Mr. Kulage is created a knight commander of the Gregorian Order, a distinction to few men outside of Rome, and Mrs. Kulage is termed a “Matronae” or lady knight of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre. This is the first tlma this honor has been conferred upon a woman.

The Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher, is one of the most ancient orders in existence, having been founded in the thirteenth century during  the crusades. The pope himself is the supreme master of the noble order. The insignia of the order is a Jerusalem cross, which is really a combination of five crosses In one. The insignia, is almost entirely of gold, but the obverse and reverse sides are overlaid with crimson enamel. In addition to the cross Mrs. Kulage will appear at all state functions in a mantle of white cloth upon which is embroidered in gold the Insignia of her rank. Mr and Mrs. Kulage been elevated to the Catholic nobility in recognition of their charitable and educational work, especially among the children of the poor in Rome. [the original article ends here]

Sarita Kenedy East (1889-1961). Mrs. East, like her mother and grandmother, gave generously to the Catholic Church, especially to the Diocese of Corpus Christi. She also gave many anonymous donations to museums, hospitals and other charitable organizations throughout South Texas. Mrs. East received two special honors from the Pope – the medal Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice and membership in the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem. She founded the The John G. and Marie Stella Kenedy Memorial Foundation; her parents (source: The John G. and Marie Stella Kenedy Memorial Foundation).

The historical origins of the Order are somewhat obscure, although according to an undocumented tradition they are traced back to the First Crusade. In fact, the first documentary evidence of an investiture of Knights referred to as “of the Holy Sepulchre” dates to 1336. Since this first testament to the Order’s existence, that is, from the  XIV century, the popes gradually and regularly expressed their desire to juridically annex the organization to the Holy See.

The Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem has always benefited from the protection of the Popes who, over the centuries, have reorganized it, augmenting and enriching its privileges. Clement VI entrusted custody of the Holy Sepulchre to the Franciscan friars in 1342, but that was still during an era when Knights alone had the right to create other members of the Order. Alexander VI declared himself the supreme moderator of the Order in 1496, and delegated to the Franciscans the power to bestow a knighthood upon nobles and gentlemen pilgrims on pilgrimage to the Holy Land (power of investiture). Confirmation of this Franciscan privilege, either verbally or by papal Bull, was renewed by Pope Leo X in 1516, by Benedict XIV in 1746, until the restoration of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem by Pius IX in 1847.

Thus the pontifical delegation was transferred to the Patriarch when, in 1868,  Pius IX issued Apostolic letters announcing the restoration of the Order. The Order of Knights opened up with the appointment of the Dames of the Holy Sepulcher thanks to Leo XIII, in 1888. Moreover, in 1907 Pius X decided that the title of Grand Master of the Order would be reserved to the Pope himself.

In 1932 Pius XI approved the new Constitution and permitted Knights and Dames to receive their investiture in their places of origin and not only in Jerusalem. In 1940, Pius XII named a cardinal as Protector of the Order and centralized the organization in Rome, as part of the Grand Magisterium, transferring the title of Grand Master to Cardinal Canali. John XXIII approved the new Constitution presented by Cardinal Tisserant in 1962.

With the renewal of the Second Vatican Council, a new Constitution was approved by Paul VI in 1977.  Following this, John Paul II made the Order a legal canonical and public personality, constituted by the Holy See. Today the Order seeks to garner the commitment of its members in local churches hopeful for their sanctification. This is the essential and profound reason that motivated the revision of the Constitution during the “Consulta” that took place in 2013 (source: The Vatican).


Most persons that were ennobled, were of Irish catholic descent. Emigration to the United States increased exponentially due to the Great Famine in the mid 1800s. In the 19th century United States, Irish catholics faced hostility and violence. By the 20th century, Irish Catholics were well established in the United States. The extremely wealthy ones, who were also devoted to catholicism and donated large amounts of money to the church and other good works, were ennobled or obtained a knighthood from the church.  In this context it cannot be said that nobility was ‘bought’. Spiritualism and good works, in most cases, led to the rewards. The titles are part of this spiritual experience. Women played an important role in this context.