In Baltimore, Maryland, Father Stephen Theodore Badin becomes the first Catholic priest to be ordained in the United States. Badin was ordained by Bishop John Carroll, an early advocate of American Catholicism, and appointed to the Catholic mission in Kentucky.
In colonial America, there were few English-speaking Catholics outside of Maryland, which was established in 1634 as a haven for Roman Catholics persecuted in England. In 1735, some 100 years after the establishment of Maryland, John Carroll was born in Baltimore into a prominent Catholic family. As secondary Catholic education was forbidden by the British colonial authorities, Carroll traveled to Europe, where he was ordained in 1769. Returning to America, he was sympathetic to the Patriot cause during the Revolutionary War and in 1790 was chosen by the Vatican to become the first bishop of the American Catholic Church.
Carroll supported the separation between church and state, and advocated an autonomous American clergy that would elect its own bishops and carry out its own training. In his early years as bishop, he endorsed the use of English in the liturgy, and on May 25, 1793, presided over the first ordination of a Catholic priest on U.S. soil. Although the American Catholic Church grew substantially under Carroll’s leadership, it was the mass emigration of Catholics from Ireland, Germany, Italy, Poland, and the Balkans during the 19th and 20th centuries that made Catholicism a major force in U.S. religious life.