Boston College Newton Campus

In 1825, Benedict Joseph Fenwick, S. J. , a Jesuit from Maryland, became the second Bishop of Boston. He was the first to articulate a vision for a “College in the City of Boston” that would raise a new generation of leaders to serve both the civic and spiritual needs of his fledgling diocese. In 1827, Bishop Fenwick opened a school in the basement of his cathedral and took to the personal instruction of the city’s youth. His efforts to attract other Jesuits to the faculty were hampered both by Boston’s distance from the center of Jesuit activity in Maryland and by suspicion on the part of the city’s Protestant elite. Relations with Boston’s civic leaders worsened such that, when a Jesuit faculty was finally secured in 1843, Fenwick decided to leave the Boston school and instead opened the College of the Holy Cross 45 miles (72 km) west of the city in Worcester, Massachusetts where he felt the Jesuits could operate with greater autonomy. Meanwhile, the vision for a college in Boston was sustained by John McElroy, S. J. , who saw an even greater need for such an institution in light of Boston’s growing Irish Catholic immigrant population. With the approval of his Jesuit superiors, McElroy went about raising funds and in 1857 purchased land for “The Boston College” on Harrison Avenue in the Hudson neighborhood of South End, Boston, Massachusetts. With little fanfare, the college’s two buildings—a schoolhouse and a church—welcomed their first class of scholastics in 1859. Two years later, with as little fanfare, BC closed again. Its short-lived second incarnation was plagued by the outbreak of Civil War and disagreement within the Society over the college’s governance and finances. BC’s inability to obtain a charter from the anti-Catholic Massachusetts legislature only compounded its troubles.

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