Thursday, October 23


The Amazing Healy Brothers

We briefly encountered these unique characters of American Catholic history below, and they throw light on all manner of unusual aspects of the Faith's history in the US. A handy visit to Wikipedia informs us that Bishop James Augustine Healy was indeed multiracial, and born (technically) a slave, to Mary Eliza Healy, a former slave woman of mixed parentage, though his father, Michael Healy (an Irish-born Southern planter) recognized him and his brothers and sent them north to safety. Even more interesting is the fact his parents were married, though Georgia law at the time considered such a marriage illegal, and the children slaves.

Both he and his brothers acknowledged their mixed background openly (indeed, brother and fellow priest Fr. Patrick Francis Healy was the first known American of mixed ancestry to receive a PhD.) though they also appear to have essentially self-identified as white and Irish. (Unfortunately, Bishop Healy appears to have kept quietly out of the spotlight when opportunities to condemn racism came up).

At the very least, it's an intriguing story, further sharpened by the fact that in addition to a priest and a bishop, the Healy brethren also included Michael "Hell Roaring" Healy of the U.S. Coast Guard (a friend of environmentalist John Muir, and, apparently the inspiration for Jack London's The Sea Wolf!), and three nuns, one of whom rose to the rank of Mother Superior.

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