Biography: Edward O'Dea

Born in Boston to Irish immigrants, Edward O'Dea moved to Portland, Oregon as a child in 1866. After education in Calfornia and Oregon, O'Dea travelled to Canada to attend the Grand Seminary of Montreal and was ordained to the priesthood in 1882. He returned to Portland, where he served as private secretary to the Archbishop of Seattle, William H. Gross, until 1892. In 1896, O'Dea received episcopal consecration and appointed to the Diocese of Nesqually, which was reorganized as the Diocese of Seattle in 1907. As the first American-born bishop of the diocese, Bishop O'Dea encountered several obstacles, including financial ddebts, the turmoil of World War I, and anti-Catholic sentiment sparked by "Initiative 49", a Ku Klux Klan-backed proposal to make private and parochial schools illegal in Oregon. (For more information on the history of Initiative 49, please see the American Catholic History Classroom: Catholics and Education website.) O'Dea was also active in fostering the Americanization of Catholic immigrations, and in building Catholic institutions on the West Coast. Bishop O'Dea died on Christmas Day in 1932.