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Second Archbishop of Baltimore, b. near Port Tobacco, Charles County, Maryland, 15 Oct., 1746; d. at Georgetown, D.C., 18 June, 1817. He was a descendant of Captain James Neale, the founder of the family in America, who settled in Maryland as early as 1642. At twelve Leonard was sent to the Jesuit College at St. Omers in French Flanders. Thence he went to Bruges, and later to Liege, where he was ordained a Jesuit priest. On the suppression of the Society of Jesus, Father Neale, together with the English Jesuits, repaired to England, where he engaged in pastoral work for four years, but in response to his petition for a foreign mission, he was assigned to Demarara, in British Guiana, South America, where he laboured from 1779-83. Discouraged by the slow improvement of the people and with health impaired by the climate, he set sail for America in January, 1783, arriving in Maryland in April, associating himself with his former Jesuit brethren of the Society of Jesus, among them the Rev. John Carroll. During the yellow fever epidemic in Philadelphia, in 1793, the two priests of that city were stricken and Father Neale gladly took their place. For nearly six years he remained there, acting as vicar-general to the then Bishop Carroll of Baltimore. During the second visitation of the yellow fever to Philadelphia in 1797-8, he was overtaken by the dread disease. In 1798 Bishop Carroll called Father Neale from Philadelphia to succeed Rev. Dr. Dubourg in the presidency of the college at Georgetown. He acted in the dual capacity of president and tutor for several years and under his guidance the institution was developed from an academy into a college in 1801. The venerable Bishop Carroll had some time previous to this applied to Rome to name Father Neale as his co-adjutor. He was consecrated by Bishop Carroll in 1800, but remained as President of Georgetown until 1806 when he was succeeded by the Rev. Father Molyneux.
Upon the death of Archbishop Carroll on 3 December, 1815, Bishop Neale succeeded him and received the pallium from Pius VII the following year. Already nearly seventy years old he lived most of the time at Georgetown in quiet and retirement, but when is his duties as the highest dignitary of the Church in the United States called him to Baltimore, he was remarkably energetic for one of his age and feeble health. While in Philadelphia Father Neale had made the acquaintance of Miss Alice Lalor, through whose aid he started a small school conducted by three ladies, which was destined to be the seed of a great religious order of female teachers in America. This school was broken up by the ravages of yellow fever, but the project was revived by Bishop Neale who requested Miss Lalor with another lady from Philadelphia to come to Georgetown. They assciated themselves with the Order of St. Clare, or Poor Clares. In 1805, on the death of their Abbess, the Poor Clares returned to Europe, selling their convent property to Bishop Neale, who conveyed it to Miss Lalor and her associates, whom he permitted to enter into simple vows in 1813. After his accession to the See of Baltimore, the archbishop petitioned Pius VII for the regular establishment of a monastery of the Order of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Georgetown, which request was readily granted.
His health failing, Archbishop Neale applied to Rome to have Bishop Cheverus of Boston associated with him in governing the Diocese of Baltimore with the right of succession. But Bishop Cheverus objected, proposing instead that a coadjutor be appointed with the right of succession. To this the archbishop agreed, and Rev. Ambrose Marechal was selected by Archbishop Neale, who proposed his name to the Holy See. By a brief of Pius VII, dated 24 July, 1817, Father Marechal was appointed coadjutor with right of succession, under the title of Bishop of Strauropolis in partibus infidelium, but before the arrival of the brief the venerable archbishop had already died.
CLARKE, Lives of deceased Bishops, I (New York, 1872); SHEA, History of Catholic Church in U. S. (New York, 1890); SCHARF, Chronicles of Baltimore (Baltimore, 1874), p. 386.
J. PRESTON W. MCNEAL