John Nagy '00 | November 10, 2014
When three Sisters of Loretto processed into Notre Dame’s Log Chapel for Mass this summer, their delivery of a treasured artifact marked a moment evocative of the more than 200-year history of the Catholic Church in the United States.
The sisters were carrying a Bible bound in tooled, gold-lettered calfskin in three volumes — two for the Old Testament, one for the New. Printed in Philadelphia in 1790 by Mathew Carey, an Irish émigré who had apprenticed under Benjamin Franklin, the book was one of only 400 first-edition Catholic bibles Carey produced to serve what was then a tiny, far-flung and not especially wealthy population of American Catholics. Only a few dozen copies are accounted for today.
Among Carey’s customers was Father John Carroll, soon to be ordained — in England — as the first U.S. Catholic bishop. Carroll ordered 20 copies, each one costing about a month’s wages for a skilled artisan of that time. One copy he gave to 24-year-old Stephen Badin when Carroll ordained him in 1793 as the first man to become a Catholic priest on what was then U.S. soil.
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