Consecrated second Bishop of Providence
Consecrated April 14, 1887- Died May 25, 1921
Bishop Matthew Harkins was born on November 17, 1845 in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Patrick and Margaret (Krauitch). He attended public schools in Boston and graduated from Holy Cross College in Worcester. He continued his studies at the Douai College and the Seminary of St. Sulpice in France. He was ordained by Bishop Maret of St. Denis Abby in Paris on May 22, 1869.
After ordination he was sent to Rome for further studies in theology and canon law at the Gregorian University. He served as a parish priest in the Archdiocese of Boston from 1869-1887.
His first assignment upon returning to Boston was in October, 1870 when he was appointed curate of the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Salem, which then included Beverly and Manchester-by-the-Sea. For five and one-half years, until April, 1876, he served as assistant, then was installed pastor of St. Malachi’s Church, Arlington, Massachusetts, to which was attached the missions of Lexington and Belmont. He served St. Malachi’s until 1884 when he was appointed pastor of St. James of Boston, then the largest parish in New England.
He was named Bishop of Providence by Pope Leo XIII on February 11, 1887 and consecrated on April 14, 1887 by Archbishop John Williams in the Cathedral of SS. Peter and Paul, Providence.
During Bishop Harkins’ years, the Diocese of Providence grew to be among the largest in the country and having one of the highest percentages of Catholics. The growth of the diocese was such that, in 1904, he asked Rome to divide the diocese by setting off the Massachusetts part as the new Diocese of Fall River.
There were thirty-nine parishes in Rhode Island when Bishop Harkins arrived and upon his death in 1921 there were ninety-five in addition to twenty-one missions which could become parishes in the future.