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Thomas S. Preston

    PRESTON, Thomas Scott; R. C. priest, was born at Hartford, Conn., July 23, 1824, the son of Zephaniah Preston, who was of Puritan stock. Though brought up a member of the Protestant Episcopal church, young Preston entertained against it many of the traditional prejudices of his ancestors. He was graduated from Trinity College in 1843, and in 1846 from the General Theological Seminary of the Protestant Episcopal church, to the ministry of which he was duly ordained. He was appointed an assistant at the Church of the Annunciation, under Dr. Seabury, and was subsequently made assistant to Dr. John M. Forbes at St. Luke's church, then one of the most prosperous Episcopal churches in New York city. In 1849 he became a convert to Catholicism, having, as he said later, begun to weigh the tenets of Protestantism even as a child. Finding them wanting, he eventually decided to adopt the Catholic faith. In a magazine article, written a few years ago, he said, "All human influences around me would have kept me where were all my earthly ties, but I felt that the voice of my conscience was more to me than any earthly attraction. If there was one church founded by the Lord I must seek and find it. There were some worldly sacrifices, but, although they sombered my face a little, they did not drive the sunshine from my heart.

 

At last I was in my Father's house, and never from that moment have I had one doubt of the truth of the Catholic religion." The young convert, placing his services at the disposal of Archbishop Hughes, was sent for a course of study to the Roman Catholic seminary at Fordham, and" on Nov. 16, 18.",0, was ordained a priest by Cardinal MeCloskey, then bishop of Albany. Father Preston's first appointment was at the old cathedral in Mott street, whence he was subsequently transferred to the parish of the Immaculate Conception at Yonkers. Being recalled to the cathedral in 1853, he was appointed private secretary to Archbishop Hughes, and in 1855 was made chancellor of the diocese, which office he held until his death. The present flourishing condition of the diocese is a testimony of his able administration. He showed himself an exact and thorough business man, a strict disciplinarian and a rigid upholder of ecclesiastical authority. In 1861 he was appointed pastor of St Ann's church, then located on Eighth street. He erected the present church and school-houses in East Twelfth street, at a cost of $175,000, and also established the "House of the Holy Family" for befriending children and young girls. In 1874 Cardinal MeCloskey appointed him one of the two vicar-generals of the diocese. He was subsequently made monsignor, and in 1888 was honored by being named a prothonotary apostolic. In 1886 he was, by reason of his position, called to take action in the case of Dr. McGlynn (q. v.). The monsignor's position was supported in every particular at Rome, and when Dr. McGlynn refused to answer the charge, he was promptly excommunicated by Pope Leo XIII Monsignor Preston was a brilliant theologian, an able pulpit orator, and the author of a number of controversial and religious books. A zealous and uncompromising believer in the enforcement of every ecclesiastical rule, it is probable that, when the history of the Catholic church in America of today comes to be written, it will be found that no ecclesiastic of less rank than a bishop, and few, even of that exalted order, have left so deep an impression on it as Monsignor Preston. The characteristics that made him a marked man when he entered the Catholic priesthood, and ever continued to draw to him more attention and higher honors, were his intellectual force, his power as a preacher and controversial writer, and the simplicity and earnestness of his life." Monsignor Preston had never been seriously ill until attacked with what proved a fatal illness. He died in New York City Nov. 4, 1891.  [Source: The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography, Volume 2; Publ. 1906, by James T. White, George Derby; Transcribed and submitted by Andrea Stawski Pack.]



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