Martin John Spalding was born in Washington County, Kentucky, May 23, 1810, the son of Richard and Henrietta (Hamilton) Spalding, Maryland-born Catholics. He was educated at St. Mary’s College and St. Joseph’s Seminary in Kentucky before he was sent to the Urban College of the Propaganda Fide in Rome to finish his theological studies. There he was ordained on August 13, 1834.
During his time in Kentucky he was a pastor, and later served as President of St. Joseph’s College in Bardstown before he was appointed as vicar general of the Diocese in Louisville in 1844. Just six years later, in 1850, he became their bishop. Throughout his four years as bishop in Louisville he was responsible for building their impressive cathedral, still standing today, and assisting in the formation of The American College of Louvain (a Roman Catholic seminary in Leuven, Belgium). He also began, and championed for, their parochial school system.
Recognized by his peers for his talents, he was recommended to be successor to Archbishop Francis Patrick Kenrick of Baltimore. Martin Spalding was appointed as the seventh Archbishop of Baltimore on May 3, 1864. With his role as head of the nation’s oldest diocese, he held a right of precedence over all other archbishops and bishops in the country.
As Archbishop of Baltimore, Spalding founded the House of the Good Shepherd, St. Mary’s Industrial School, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, and the Association of St. Joseph. He worked to launch more parishes and institutions per year and introduced more religious orders than any of his predecessors. Other notable work was done following the end of the Civil War, when he fought to support the newly freed African Americans. In 1869 he attended the First Vatican Council.
Archbishop Martin Spalding died on February 7, 1872, at the age of 61. At Archbishop Spalding High School we are proud to commemorate him and honor his contributions to the Catholic faith.