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Bishop Bayley’s Conversion and Legacy in the Church in New Jersey  

Bishop Bayley’s Conversion and Legacy

Church of Gesù in Rome

The Department of Catholic Studies at Seton Hall University, the Priest Community, and the Office of Mission and Ministry are pleased to host a lecture in celebration of the 180th anniversary of Bishop James Roosevelt Bayley's conversion to the Catholic faith. Rev. Msgr. Raymond Kupke, PhD, presenting "Bishop Bayley's Conversion and Legacy in the Church in New Jersey," will discuss this watershed event in the life of the Catholic Church in America—and in particular, of our state and University. The lecture will take place on Wednesday, April 27, 2022, from 2:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m., in the Walsh Library - Beck Rooms. It will also be available on Zoom. Click here to join on zoom.

About the event:
April 28, 2022, marks the 180th anniversary of the conversion of James Roosevelt Bayley to Catholicism. The former Episcopal minister, of a prominent New York family, had been called to conversion through his work among poor Irish immigrants and through his collaboration with the Catholic priests in Harlem, and he was encouraged in his conversion by his cousins, the children of St. Elizabeth Ann Bayley Seton. After three years of prayer and discernment, he was received into the Church at Chiesa del Gesù in Rome.

Bayley's life would have been remarkable just for his conversion—from Episcopal minister to Catholic layperson, at a time when and in a place where such conversions were not the norm. However, Bayley proceeded to seek formation for the Catholic priesthood. He was ordained a priest for the Diocese of New York in 1844, consecrated the first bishop of Newark in 1852, installed as the archbishop of Baltimore in 1872. What Bishop Bayley did during his time in New Jersey set the trajectory of Catholic life in New Jersey, and the effects of his work and ministry are still felt today.

For 20 years, Bishop Bayley devoted himself to Catholic education in New Jersey. He encouraged religious orders to establish houses in New Jersey, and he himself founded Seton Hall College (now University) and Immaculate Conception Seminary. The demand for seminary education grew, and he eventually was instrumental in founding the Pontifical North American College in Rome. He is known for saying: "In our present position, the schoolhouse has become second in importance to the House of God itself…[our ambition is to have] every Catholic child in the state in a Catholic school." Bishop Bayley's work laid the foundation for Catholic education's outreach to children of all faiths, from preschool through the graduate level. All the while, Bishop Bayley followed his own spiritual exercises each day, dedicating himself to integrity and practicing his own Rule of Life.

In this lecture, Msgr. Kupke will discuss Bishop Bayley's conversion, shedding light on historical elements of his experience as a new Catholic who rose through the ranks and became one of the most influential American Catholics of his day. Msgr. Kupke will also address Bishop Bayley's legacy, of which Seton Hall University is a cornerstone.

"Bishop Bayley's conversion to Catholicism is a focal point of our Catholic Studies programming this spring, as we mark the 180th anniversary of his conversion," said Ines Murzaku, PhD, Director of the Department of Catholic Studies. "I recently returned from a study abroad trip to Italy with Catholic Studies students, and one of the highlights of our trip was the Chiesa del Gesù in Rome, where Bishop Bayley was received into the Church. Also, our Catholic Studies essay contest for New Jersey high school students this year focuses on the theme of Bishop Bayley's model for reflection and action in Catholic education. We are very fortunate to have Msgr. Kupke, an expert on Church history in New Jersey, giving a presentation about Bishop Bayley during this important anniversary year in the history of the Church in New Jersey."

About the speaker:
Rev. Msgr. Raymond Kupke, PhD, is adjunct professor of Church history at Immaculate Conception Seminary School of Theology, Seton Hall University. He was ordained a Catholic priest for the Diocese of Paterson in 1973 and was named a Prelate of Honor (Monsignor) by Pope John Paul II in 1998. Having earned his BA and MDiv at Seton Hall University, Msgr. Kupke went on to earn his MA and PhD at the Catholic University of America. His doctoral dissertation, James J. Norris. An American Catholic Life, focuses on the only layman to participate in the debates at the Second Vatican Council. At ICSST, he teaches the general courses in Church History, as well as electives in New Jersey Church, the Medieval Church, the Counter-Reformation, and Vatican II, and the practicum in Homiletics. Msgr. Kupke has served as parochial vicar and pastor at several parishes in the Diocese of Paterson. Since 1976, after completing archival studies at New York University, he has served as the archivist of the Diocese of Paterson. Also, in the Diocese of Paterson, Msgr. Kupke has served vice chancellor and secretary to the bishop, as a dean, and as a member of the Theological Commission.

Msgr. Kupke has taught in the Education for Parish Service Program of Trinity University in Washington, D.C., and the permanent diaconate programs of both the Archdiocese of Newark and the Diocese of Paterson, as well as in several parish adult education programs. He is the author of Living Stones. A History of the Catholic Church in the Diocese of Paterson (1988); and co-editor of American Catholic Preaching and Piety in the Time of John Carroll (1995) and Building the Church in America. Studies in Honor of Monsignor Robert F. Trisco on his Birthday (1999). He is also the author of articles in several publications, including The New Catholic Encyclopedia and The Encyclopedia of American Catholic History. He writes a column on New Jersey Catholic History for The Beacon, the newspaper of the Diocese of Paterson. Msgr. Kupke is a member of the New Jersey Catholic Historical Commission, the Association of Catholic Diocesan Archivists, and the American Catholic Historical Association.

About Catholic Studies:
The Department of Catholic Studies at Seton Hall University offers an innovative, interdisciplinary curriculum for students of any creed who are interested in deepening their knowledge of Catholicism's rich intellectual tradition and living heritage. Combining the study of history, philosophy, theology, literature, art, sociology, and other disciplines, Catholic Studies focuses on the Church's dialogue with culture and encounter with the world. Students interested in Catholic Studies have the option to pursue a major, minor, or certificate that complements and enhances the university's other degree programs and fields of study. Over 20 years the academic program and its variegated activities have stayed true to and fulfilled the Catholic mission and vision of the University. For more information, please contact Ines Murzaku, PhD, Director of the Department of Catholic Studies, at, or Gloria Aroneo at

Categories: Faith and Service

For more information, please contact:

  • Gloria Aroneo
  • (973) 275-2808