Rev. James J. McGovern, Doctor of Sacred Theology and Canon Law, the Author, Editor and Compiler of "The Manual of the Holy Catholic Church," was born in Chicago, March 25, 1839, and attended the first Catholic free school established in Chicago by Bishop Van de Velde. At eleven years of age he entered "The University of St. Mary's of the Lake," then occupying a part of the present site of "The Cathedral of the Holy Name," Chicago. In 1853 he was sent to Rome to study in the Propaganda College, where he received his degrees of "Doctor of Theology" and "Doctor of Canon Law."
In 1862 he was acting secretary to Cardinal Barnabo. Upon returning to his native city he was appointed Vice-President of "The University of St. Mary's of the Lake," Rector of the Ecclesiastical Department and Professor of Sacred Theology.
In 1868 he entered the Missionary life and was located at Fulton, Bloomington, Rock Island, Lake Forest and Lockport, Illinois, in each of which Missions he left monuments of his priestly zeal in Church edifices and schools.
He introduced into the Archdiocese of Chicago the great Teaching order of the Sisters of Providence, Mother House at St. Mary's of the Woods, near Terre Haute, Indiana, and in addition to his pastoral duties, has always devoted some of his time to literary work. In this connection he was Co-Editor with Bishop McMullen, of "The Catholic Monthly," published in Chicago in 1865, and later was Editor in Chief of "The Chicago Catholic Home," published under the auspices of the late Archbishop Feehan, afterwards merged with "The New World." He has contributed from time to time many articles, not only to Catholic magazines and weeklies, but also to the public press.
As an Author his first book was "The Life of Bishop McMullen." Then followed "Studies of the Scriptures," or "The Royal Scroll," "The History of the Catholic Church in Illinois" (the Souvenir Volume of Archbiship Feehan's Silver Jubilee), "The History of the Catholic Church in Chicago," "The Life and Letters of Eliza Allen Starr," and he also aided in the publication of "The Life of Mother Theodore of the Sisters of Providence" and "The Life of Rev. Mother Frances Mulholland of the Sisters of Mercy."
In 1902 he wrote "The Life and Life Work of Pope Leo XIII," of which over fifty thousand copies were sold in six weeks and which was undertaken by Doctor McGovern upon the receipt of a personal letter from the late Archbishop Corrigan of New York urging him to undertake the work.
The following extract from the Archbiships's letter is of interest:
"I hope that in the near future you will write a popular Life of Pope Leo XIII and record his magnificent work in behalf of the American people, whom he ardently loves. No one is better fitted to write this than yourself, having been so long a resident of Rome, and meeting as you did the present Holy Father, the Cardinals and Bishops at the Vatican, while acting as secretary for Cardinal Barnabo. Such a work would, I am sure, meet the approval of His Holiness and the entire Catholic world. I leave this for your mature consideration."
After the completion and publication of "The Life of Pope Leo XIII," Doctor McGovern saw his way open to undertake and complete another important work which he had in view for many years, the editing and compiling of "The Catholic Dictionary and Cyclopedia," a much needed work of reference for both the Clergy and Laity, which is now ready for publication.
In the meantime Doctor McGovern assumed the greatest work of his literary labors when delegated to undertake the publication of "The Manual of the Holy Catholic Church" as Author, Editor and Compiler.
The writing and compiling of "The Manual of the Holy Catholic Church," was an endeavor to obey the call of The Sovereign Pontiff Pius X, promulgated in a letter addressed
"TO THE BISHOPS OF THE UNIVERSAL CHURCH ON THE TEACHING OF CHRISTIAN DOCTRINE."
The Manual was published with the approval of His Grace, The Most Reverend James Edward Quigley, D.D., Archbishop of Chicago, with the intention to provide the Catholic people with one complete work containing all the Teachings of the Church.
It was decided to publish "The Manual" in two parts, the first, "The Beautiful Teachings of the Holy Catholic Church," in the form of Questions and Answers; the second, "Light from the Altar, or the True Catholic in the Church of Christ," to embrace not only chapters on Ceremonies and Devotions, but also "The Religious and Moral Training of Children, or Christian Education in the Catholic Home," with a "Review of Church History," and including "A Catholic Home Dictionary and Cyclopedia." After consulting many authorities and performing literary labors sufficient to tax the powers of a much younger man, "The Manual" was completed.
DUE ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS ARE MADE TO THE FOLLOWING WRITERS:
His Eminence James, Cardinal Gibbons; The Right Rev. Bishop Hay; The Right Rev. Doctor Challoner; Rev. Arthur Devine, C.P.; Rev. Daniel O'Loan; The Right Rev. Joseph Oswald Smith; Mother M. Loyola; Mother Mary Salome; Dom. Morrell; O.S.F.; Rev. D. V. Phalen; Rev. T. B. Scannell, B.D.; Rev. T. F. Galwey; Rev. Joseph Wilhelm, D.D., and other eminent authorities.