182 • Part II. The Sacraments: The Faith Celebrated
Songs from the Southern Seas
. He also wrote articles for
He used the
as a platform for defending an independent Ireland
and addressing the rights of African Americans and Native Americans.
He compared the oppression that these minorities were suffering to that
which the Irish immigrants were experiencing. These oppressed groups
had a friend in this man. He openly campaigned in the
candidates who were for social reform. He joined several charitable orga-
nizations and was an outstanding proponent of Catholic education. He
received honorary doctorates from Georgetown University, in Washington,
D.C., and Notre Dame University, in South Bend, Indiana.
His unexpected death from a heart attack in 1890 was termed a “pub-
lic calamity” by Cardinal Gibbons of Baltimore. “When he died,” observes
historian Mark Schneider, in
Boston Confronts Jim Crow
, “the opportu-
nity slipped away for some kind of progressive association between Irish
Catholics and members of Boston’s small African American community.
The light of ‘green and black’ unity flickered and died.”
Because of his forceful public presence and outstanding Catholic wit-
ness, the wake for O’Reilly was held in St. Mary’s Church, in Charlestown, a
neighborhood in Boston, where mourners by the thousands came to pay
says that all who are reborn as children of God in
Baptism “must profess before men the faith they have received from God
through the Church and participate in the apostolic and missionary activ-
ity of the People of God” (CCC, no. 1270). God gave John Boyle O’Reilly
the grace to live out, in a vigorous and inspiring manner, his baptismal
commitment to the cause of Christ, the Church, and God’s Kingdom.
He showed how the laity can bring the Gospel to society and can make
13 Cited in Thomas H. O’Connor
(Boston: Northeastern University
Press, 1998), 145.