Most Rev. Michael A. Corrigan, D.D.
Most Reverend Michael A. Corrigan, D.D., was consecrated the Second Bishop of Newark on May 4, 1873. Corrigan, unlike his predecessor, came from a Catholic family. He was educated in Catholic schools and attended St. Mary’s College in Delaware where he was confirmed by St. John Neumann who was at that time the Bishop of Philadelphia. His seminary studies (1863) and his Doctorate in Divinity (1864) were achieved in Rome. Upon returning to Newark, he was appointed director of the Seminary at Seton Hall where he would later serve as President. In 1873, he received word that he would be the Second Bishop of the See of Newark. This appointment made him the youngest bishop in the country at 34.
Bayley said of him, “Dr. Corrigan had learning enough for five bishops and sanctity enough for ten.” Within five months of taking office, the Panic of 1873 began a depression which caused problems for Catholics and non-Catholics alike. Despite the hardships of this time the people of the Diocese gave to the Church and its many charities.
Corrigan met another great challenge when the religious needs of Catholic boys in reform school became an issue. These boys were forced to attend Protestant Services and were not allowed access to Catholic Mass. The Bishop offered the services of his clergy to the state, but he was refused. The Catholic Protectory was the result of this situation. One was set up in Denville for boys and one in Newark for girls. These youths were not only taught in their religion but were also taught skills and trades.
Bishop Corrigan’s 1876 Report to the Diocese addressed the urgent need for the state to be divided into two Dioceses and nominated Trenton be the seat for the new one. This happened after Corrigan left for New York. Before Corrigan was elevated, St. Peter’s College opened in Jersey City in September of 1878. Corrigan was named Coadjutor to Cardinal McCloskey in New York and left on November 9, 1880. Bishop Wigger wrote of him in the Diocesan register, “The Diocese loses a Bishop whose zeal and piety are worthy of an Apostolic Age, whose gentleness receives the memory of his patron St. Frances de Sales, and whose faith makes him the worthy Son of his predecessor and Father in Christ.”