Cardinal Anthony Joseph Bevilacqua, Archbishop emeritus of Philadelphia (USA), was born on June 17, 1923 in Brooklyn, New York. Like many Italian-Americans he has close ties with his mother country. His father, Luigi Bevilacqua, was born April 12, 1884 at Spinazzola, in Puglia near Bari; his mother, Maria Giuseppina Codella, at Calitri, in the province of Avellino.
Luigi, like his father before him, was a bricklayer by profession. While he worked on the construction of a new aqueduct in Calitir he met Maria, who worked in her parents’ bakery. They were married on February 27, 1909. Life in Calitri was not easy for a young couple and in 1910, like others before them, Luigi decided to emigrate to the United States. He lived with relatives of Maria in New Rochelle and then was reunited with his wife and son Michael. The family moved several times, settling on the east coast. They lived for some time in Hartford, Connecticut, in Brooklyn, New York, and finally in Woodhaven, Queens. Luigi was not successful in finding work as a bricklayer in America because of union conflicts during this period. To maintain his wife and ten children he held varied jobs until he finally opened a hair dying shop and a shoe shine shop. Luigi Bevilacqua died November 24, 1961 at the age of 77. His wife, Marie, died August 24, 1968 at the age of 75.
Luigi and Maria Bevilacqua had 11 children. Their fifth child Josephine died of meningitis at age 2. Not being able to read or write English, they brought up their children with a sense of responsibility. With the help of their parents and the aid of others, the Bevilacqua children achieved considerable success. The oldest, Dr. Michael Bevilacqua, was the only one born in Italy. The others are: Isabella Clifford Cameron, Virginia Larsen (deceased), Angelo M. Bevilacqua, Dr. Rocco P. Bevilacqua, Mary Jo Alesandro, Frank Bevilacqua, Gloria Bittner and Madeline Langan.
Anthony Bevilacqua answered the call of priesthood at a young age, thanks to the inspiration of a priest, Fr. A. Francis Klarmann, whom he met for the first time when he was five years old. He completed his studies at Cathedral College in Brooklyn: four years of high school and then seminary training. At Cathedral College he proved himself a precocious student. He won three prizes out of four, first prize for his general performance, first prize in mathematics and science, and a trip to Washington for an essay on the Immaculate Conception of Mary.
After graduating from Cathedral College in 1943, Anthony Bevilacqua entered the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception in Huntington, New York. There he took the required philosophy and theology and was ordained to the priesthood June 11, 1949 at the Cathedral of St. James, in Brooklyn.
After having served in two parishes, he spent three years teaching at Cathedral High School and was sent to Rome to study Canon Law. In 1956 he obtained a doctorate in Canon law "summa cum laude" at the Pontifical Gregorian University. While he worked at the diocesan tribunal of Brooklyn, he attended Columbia University where he earned a masters degree in political science in 1962. Ten years after he began his studies in civil law and in 1975 he earned a Doctor of Laws degree from the faculty of St. John’s University in Queens, New York. He was then entitled to practice civil law in the courts of New York State and Pennsylvania.
Fr. Bevilacqua began his ministry as an associate pastor at the Sacred Heart parish, St. Stephen’s in Brooklyn, and St. Mary’s on Long Island. He then returned to his "alma mater" Cathedral College, as professor of history and social studies from 1950 to 1953. After his doctorate of canon law in 1956, he served as chaplain at the mother house of the Sisters of St. Joseph in Brentwood, New York. In 1965 he was named vice-chancellor of the Diocese of Brooklyn. During the period of 1968-80 he taught canon law at the Immaculate Conception Seminary. In 1971 he founded the Brooklyn Catholic Office for migrants and refugees. In 1976 he was nominated Chancellor of the Diocese of Brooklyn and in the same year he was awarded the title of Prelate of Honour of His Holiness. From 1977 to 1980 he taught Immigration Law as adjunct professor on the law faculty of St. John’s University.
He was appointed Titular Bishop of Acquealbe of Bizacena, nominated auxiliary of Brooklyn on October 4, 1980, and was ordained November 24, 1980. He continued his activity as auxiliary bishop and chancellor until Pope Paul II nominated him Bishop of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, October 10, 1983. On December 12, 1983 he assumed responsibility of nine dioceses of which he was their tenth bishop.
On February 11, 1988 Pope John Paul II named Mons. Anthony Bevilacqua Archbishop of Philadelphia. At Philadelphia one of the most significant ministries of Archbishop Bevilacqua was being present to his parishioners. Without sparing himself, he visited priests, religious, parishes, schools, institutions, and above all people. He reached people of all faiths with his visits to state hospitals, prisons, Christian churches and synagogues. His strong ties with other religious leaders, developed through monthly meetings, are well known around Philadelphia.
Organizationally he divided the Archdiocese into six vicariates, each with a general vicariate, and subdivided the central administration into six secretariats. In 1990 campaigned to bring more students to Catholic schools, and to consolidate schools, parishes and St. Charles Borromeo Seminary. In 1991 the Archdiocese announced a nine year spiritual renewal program to prepare the Archdiocese for the third Christian millennium.
He worked untiringly on behalf of the marginated, defenceless, and the aged. From 1983 to 1984, while President of the Migration Committee of the U.S. National Catholic Conference of Bishops, he visited the refugee camps of Southeast Asia and Africa. From 1981 to 1984 he was also president of the Committee for Canonical Affairs of the NCCB.
At present he is a member of various committees of the U.S. Bishops’ Conference: Pro-Life Activities, Canonical Affairs, Migration, Evangelization and Science and Human Values. He is also president of the "ad hoc" committee entitled Pastoral Response to the Challenge of Proselytism.
Archbishop emeritus of Philadelphia, July 15, 2003.
Created and proclaimed Cardinal by John Paul II in the consistory of June 28, 1991, of the Title of SS. Redentore e S. Alfonso in Via Merulana (Most Holy Redeemer and St. Alphonsus on Via Merulana).