American Elite, Papal Aristocrat

September 29, 2016

Countess Annie Leary

Countess Annie Leary

Leary, Annie, philanthropist, was born about 1860, in New York City, daughter of James and Catherine Leary, who were also born in New York. She is descended on her mother’s side from Holland—Dutch ancestors, while her paternal grandfather came from Ireland to the United States during his boyhood.

In early childhood Miss Leary became deeply interested in the mission work of the Roman Catholic Church and decided to devote both her time and fortune to that noble cause. Purchasing four houses on Charlton Street, she furnished them artistically as well as comfortably, called the nuns and priests of that sordid neighborhood to her assistance and opened a mission that was destined to accomplish inestimable good among the myriads of needy and sadly neglected Italian children. She clothed them when they were naked, fed them when they were hungry and taught them the doctrines of the Catholic Church, until she became well known and blessed throughout the crowded tenements of that district.

Countess Leary Fifth Avenue Mansion.

Countess Leary Fifth Avenue Mansion.

For many years Miss Leary was president and is now honorary president of the Society of the Children of Mary, attached to the Ladies of the Sacred Heart, and is also president of the latter’s sewing circle, or Tabernacle Society, where women congregate to make vestments, altar-cloths and other objects for the church. She was responsible for securing through Archbishop Corrigan the society’s affiliation with the nuns of the Via Nomentana in Rome.

Saint Jean Baptiste Church, also known as the Église St-Jean-Baptiste Upper East Side of Manhattan, New York City. A relic of St. Anne is housed here also. Photo taken by Steven Kelley.

Saint Jean Baptiste Church, also known as the Église St-Jean-Baptiste Upper East Side of Manhattan, New York City. A relic of St. Anne is housed here also. Photo taken by Steven Kelley.

When the Fathers of the Blessed Sacrament decided to come to the United States Miss Leary carried out the necessary arrangements and brought them to the Church of St. Jean Baptiste in New York City, soon afterwards presenting a magnificent altar to that church. She also brought the Marie Reparatrici order of nuns from Rome to this country for the perpetual adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.

The Marie Reparatrici order of nuns was founded by Blessed Émilie d'Oultremont de Warfusée (1818-1878).

The Marie Reparatrici order of nuns was founded by Blessed Émilie d’Oultremont de Warfusée (1818-1878).

The late Arthur Leary, notable in social as well as financial circles, was her brother, and to perpetuate his memory she built the beautiful Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament at Bellevue Hospital. Its windows imported from Munich, represent the saints of every country, its interior decorations are rich, but quiet, and before its shrine the outcast poor of every nation flock for comfort and devotion.

Among the many other good works she has accomplished may be mentioned the founding, in connection with her mission, of the Christopher Columbus Holy Cross Society of America, which has already taken deep root and begun to spread.

ArthurLearyChapelBellevueHospitalNYC-1897

In 1901, in recognition of her life’s devotion to the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Leo XIII, through Archbishop Corrigan, created her a Papal countess. Besides her residence on Fifth Avenue, New York, the Countess has a beautiful summer home in Newport, where she entertains with great munificence. Her personality is sympathetic, kindly and tolerant. Her knowledge of life is broad and understanding, while beneath her quiet pose one is always conscious of the burning ardor of her faith which at every opportunity has blazed forth in deeds that insure a lasting monument to her name.

Subscription1

The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography, Vol. 14 (New York: James T. White & Company, 1910), 556-559.

Short Stories on Honor, Chivalry, and the World of Nobility—no. 544

 

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