O’Reilly, Bishop-Elect James


July 26, 1887

Personal Info

  • Date of Birth:  5 February 1847
  • Place of Birth in Ireland: Killyfana, Redhills
  • County: Cavan
  • Date of Ordination: 16 February 1874
  • Place of Ordination: Leavenworth, KS
  • Education: St Francis de Sales Seminary, St Francis, WI (near Milwaukee)
  • Ordained by: Bishop Louis Fink of Leavenworth, KS for the Vicariate Apostolic of Kansas

Diocesan Appointments

  • Assistant – Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Leavenworth, KS and attended the missions of Sacred Heart, Kickapoo and St Ignatius, Fort Leavenworth – 1874 to 1878
  • Chaplain – St John’s Hospital, Leavenworth – 1878 to 1881
  • Rector – Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception – 1880 to 1881
  • Pastor – Assumption Parish, Topeka, KS – 1881 to 2 August 1887
  • Bishop-elect – Diocese of Wichita but never took possession as he died before the official papal bull reached him

In a letter written to The Most Reverend Francis P. Leipzig, Bishop of Baker Oregon by the Rector’s Secretary at St Francis de Sales Seminary on 16 March 1966, it was reported that Father O’Reilly entered their seminary in Wisconsin and graduated on 16 February 1874.

In July, 1887 an article published in The Topeka Daily Press, stated that when Father O’Reilly became ill, his illness was not considered serious however, soon he became worse and medical attention was sought. Father O’Reilly became delirious, “his mind dwelling much upon the deplorable condition of his native country, while eloquent pleas for the deliverance of Ireland from English rule, addressed as it were to an imaginary tribunal or audience frequently issued from his feverish lips, drawn at times as in pain.”

In the same article, Father O’Reilly’s personality was described in the following manner. “He was a type of the ideal clergyman. No purer or more unselfish nature ever labored for the good of a congregation in the Roman Catholic Church. Gifted with mental powers of a high order, possessing a fine education, with a lofty aspiration for the good of the church, Father O’Reilly at the time he was stricken down was just entering upon a broad and inviting field of usefulness. If his life had been spared there is no doubt he would have passed beyond even the bishopric within his grasp to fill a yet higher and more dignified position in the ‘mother church’ of the world. Father O’Reilly was an industrious and constant hard worker, and the fruit of his labor is witnessed in the increased size of his congregation, and the completion of the new church and the erection of a parsonage.”

According to the local media, Father O’Reilly’s funeral was the “most imposing” ever held in the city of Topeka. In the Topeka Daily Capital paper it stated “…Never in Topeka has there been such a general turn-out of all classes of people to perform the last sad rites. People in all stations of life – the wealthiest business men, state and county officers, professional men, mechanics and laboring men alike – turned out to do honor to the man who had been the friend of all. Creeds and doctrines were forgotten, and all denominations gathered at the Church of the Assumption to pay respect to the honored dead, and as was remarked by one of the oldest and most esteemed citizens of Topeka, when as good and useful a man as Father O’Reilly dies in Topeka, there is no Romanism and no Protestantism. There was widespread grief and sorrow over the sudden death of their kind and loving pastor.”

  • Date of Death: 26 July 1887
  • Place of Death: Topeka, KS
  • Age of Death: 40
  • Cause of Death: Malarial typhoid fever
  • Funeral Celebrant: Rt Rev Bishop Louis Fink
  • Burial: Mount Calvary Cemetery in Topeka, KS

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