Roman Catholic Protectory

Protectories are institutions for the shelter and training of the young, designed to afford neglected or abandoned children shelter, food, raiment, and the rudiments of an education in religion, morals, science, and manual training or industrial pursuits. (New Advent Roman Catholic Encyclopedia)


The Roman Catholic Protectory of New York was formed in 1863 to provide care, training, and supervision for poor, homeless, or neglected Catholic children. The founders of the protectory intended to create a Catholic alternative to the many public and private institutions and organizations focused on children that they believed were providing Protestant indoctrination.


The impetus to create the Catholic Protectory—as with the founding of the Juvenile Asylum and the Children’s Aid Society—was the continuing presence of children living and working on the street. The founders of the protectory, however, wanted to create an explicitly Catholic environment to care for such children. Levis Silliman Ives, the leading advocate for this new institution, made that intention clear. “All other institutions organized for the protection of destitute children are Protestant,” wrote Ives, “having Protestant directors, Protestant superintendents, Protestant teachers, Protestant worship, and Protestant instruction and teaching.  Under such circumstances,” Ives asked, “can it be thought surprising or unreasonable that poor Catholic parents should have a settled aversion to these Protestant institutions as the Christian home of their children?”

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Levi Silliman Ives


Levi was born at Meriden, Connecticut and was brought up on his father’s farm in Turin, New York. Levi served during the first year of the War of 1812 and studied at Hamilton College, but in 1819 left thePresbyterian for the Episcopal Church, and studied in New York under Bishop John Henry Hobart, whose daughter, Rebecca, he married in 1822. That year he was ordained a deacon by Bishop Hobart.[1] In 1823 he was ordained a priest in Philadelphia by Bishop William White.

Episcopal Church career

Ives was rector of Trinity Church, Southwark, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, from 1823 to 1827; later he served as assistant minister at Trinity Church, New York, and as rector at St. James Church, Lancaster, Pennsylvania, until 1831.[2]

Ives was elected bishop of North Carolina on May 21, 1831  He was the 25th bishop of the ECUSA, and was consecrated by bishops William White, Henry Ustick Onderdonk, and Benjamin Treadwell Onderdonk. As a bishop he took great interest in the education and religious training of the black community. Having become deeply attracted to the Oxford Movement while studying Church history, Ives founded a religious community called the Brotherhood of the Holy Cross at Valle Crucis, North Carolina. Its members, a few clergymen and zealous laymen, observed a community rule and preached Tractarian ideas.  Observers grew worried, however, that Ives had started to move away from the teachings of the Episcopal Church and was embracing “Romish” practices such as private confession to a priest and prayers to the Virgin Mary and the saints. In 1848 he was arraigned before the Episcopal Church for heterodox practices, but was pardoned after dissolving the Brotherhood  and providing a written pledge that he would prohibit any liturgical practice not authorized by the Episcopal Church in the Book of Common Prayer.

Conversion to Roman Catholicism

Despite these concessions, Ives’s theological convictions continued to evolve until he was no longer able to accept that his denomination was a branch of the true Catholic church. In 1852, after obtaining a six-month leave of absence, the 55-year-old cleric left for Europe with his wife. They went to Rome, where, on December 22, 1852, he sent a letter to the Convention of the Protestant Episcopal Church in North Carolina resigning his office of Bishop of North Carolina in view of his decision to join the Catholic Church.   Ives was the first Protestant bishop since John Clement Gordon, Anglican Bishop of Galloway, to convert to Catholicism. Signaling his prominence, it was Pope Pius IX who received him into the Church on December 26, 1852. Some months later, his wife, too, converted to Catholicism.

In the spring of 1854 Ives published his apologia, The Trials of a Mind in its Progress to Catholicism. The book was met with at least one extensive, critical review by an anonymous ex-clergyman.

After two years in Rome, the Iveses returned to New York. As a lay Roman Catholic, whose marriage barred him from the priesthood, Ives spent his last years as a professor of rhetoric at St. John’s College (now Fordham University). He also lectured at St. Joseph’s Seminary and the convents of the Sacred Heart and Sisters of Charity, as well as concerning himself in charity work. He was also one of the founders of Manhattan College (a Catholic College now located in Riverdale, New York) and served as the first Chairman of its Board of Trustees (1863-1867).

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